The Gatsby Kids and the Outlaw of Sherwood by Brian Michaud. Book Review.

This is the first book in a series of time traveling adventures.  Three Gatsby siblings, the youngest in the 6th grade, are targets of some pretty extreme bullying at school. As a  retired teacher, it horrifies me that anything so obvious could be happening but I’m sure it does somewhere. The three kids stick together but seem to be resigned to the horrific treatment they receive from older violent students. However, they show great courage, pluck, and ingenuity when they travel back in time.

The author has come up with a  unique way of having a having the kids go back to the 13th century. Here they must rescue Robin Hood before he has joined the merry-men. The story is fairly gentle and without gore. It suits children aged seven and up although some might find the vocabulary bit of a struggle.

 The story comes to a conclusion but the  school bullying is not resolved. I suspect there will be more time travel and this will help the children overcome the challenges at school.

 The best part of this book and the most enjoyable is the humor. The children are hilarious, especially the youngest. Kids will laugh out loud at their banter and behavior.

Toy Review – 48 Lego Compatible Homecoming Community Figures

Durability Four stars. They are made out of hard plastic. Only time will tell if the paint is durable or not.
 
Play quality Three stars. A big part of the fun of Lego characters is taking them apart and creating new characters. My granddaughter loves to switch heads, bodies, capes and accessories. Unfortunately, these are brutally difficult to put together and probably just as hard to get apart. Switching the pieces is not something a child will be able to do.  They are also quite stiff and it is very difficult to move the arms. Needs even more diversity.
 
Safety  Five stars. They seem pretty safe but are definitely not for children under 3 years of age.
 
Age interest Three stars. Children will definitely miss the fun of taking them apart and be frustrated by their rigidity. Accessories seem random. Where’s the torch for the statue of liberty and the paint brush for the artist?
Storage and portability Four stars.  They are small enough to put in a pocket or packsack however they should be stored in their own little bag. Small pieces would be easy to lose.
Price Five stars. At less than $2 each for the final cost they are a steal.
 
Cautiously recommended.
For pictures of all the characters and how they are assembled please go to my short YouTube video here. https://youtu.be/OBkl1I8nkGs

Soccer School – Where Soccer Saves the World Season 2 by Alex Bellos and Ben Lyttleton. Book Review.

 

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This unusual book explains the science, and more, behind soccer. It covers such topics as why the soccer ball is round, how to have healthy grass for the soccer field, languages around the world, and filming the event. There is a class schedule at the beginning that lists such subjects pertaining to soccer as biology, math, art, religious studies, psychology, business studies, and engineering. How the authors connect all of these topics to soccer is impressive and interesting.

Just in case your child resists reading an educational book disguised as entertainment, the authors have extensively discussed vomit and urine as it relates to soccer. You will learn more than you expect.  Although there is a fair bit of humor interjected into the content, it is extensively well researched and written. Each chapter ends with a quiz of five or six multiple choice questions. The level of knowledge is quite high. The answers are in the back of the book.

Some tidbits that caught my attention were:

  • The lawn mower was a spinoff of an invention to cut off the tufty bits  of cloth from soldiers uniforms.
  • Some languages have original words that exist nowhere else. For example in the Philippines they have a word for taking a bath with your clothes on.  In India and Bangladesh they have a word for the sound, sight, or motion of a big person’s buttocks rubbing together as they walk.
  • Since cameras broadcasting a soccer game are scattered in and around the field, they receive different lighting and so must be color adjusted to match each other.

The book also contains helpful information on meeting personal goals and motivation. It’s quite amazing how much has been packed into this 198 page book. Although the vocabulary is quite rich and some of the concepts  are a bit challenging, I think kids aged eight and up who enjoy trivia, science, and soccer will love this book. More than a few adults we’ll find something interesting  here as well.

Mich and Moose Adventures by Vince Cleghorne. Book Review.

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This 8 by 10 picture book is a humorous take on problem solving and helping others. Mich is a girl and Moose is, well, a moose. They are best friends and love snowy days. At the beginning of the book they show us all the wonderful ways they enjoy winter snow. Note: the child is not dressed for winter. As a northerner,  I snorted at the picture of her with bare legs and no coat or hat making a snow angel. Point out to children that this is not reality and they do have to dress for the weather.

Anyway, Moose and Mich find someone who is not enjoying winter at all. Spinner the spider is unable to stick her web anywhere because everything is icy. Mich and Moose try to attach it to a dozen places, each more zany and imaginative than the last. At this point the author changed the writing style to rhyme. At first I thought this wasn’t necessary but on subsequent reads I realized it adds a sense of fun and adventure to the quest even though some rhymes are a bit of a stretch. At the end, they find the perfect spot for the web.

This book is a  fun journey into silliness but can also be used as a jumping off point to learn about spiders. Where are spiders in the winter? Why don’t children see their webs anywhere?

The illustrations are cheerful and expressive. Some will make children laugh out loud. If you have a  reluctant reader who has a taste for silliness, this is a book that will grab their attention.

Best Books I’ve Reviewed in 2018

These were my favorite books I reviewed in 2018. Click on the titles to go to the complete review.

Adult Books

When by Daniel H. Pink. 

It will give you insights into time that you never considered and strategies that will make your days more successful.

The Sherrif’s Catch by James Valla-Bardon. The Sassana Stone Pentalogy. 

This is a robust and gruesome tale of a Spanish soldier, Abel de Santiago, a gifted sharpshooter, seeking revenge for the murder of his wife. Anything and everything horrible that can happen to this man, does.

Young Adult/Junior Grade Books

Laura Monster Crusher by Wesley King. 

This will be a favorite with readers who love fantasy and unusual female heroes.

Picture Books

Bloom – A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli by Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad.

This is a 8X10 picture book that tells the story of a fascinating and unique individual, Elsa Schiaparelli. It begins in early childhood where we learned that Elsa was a disappointment to her parents because they wanted a boy and she wasn’t as pretty as her sister. This compelled Elsa her to examine the concept of beauty.

Davy’s Pirate Ship Adventure by Danual Berkley. Illustrated by Amariah Rauscher. 

I knew I’d like this author the moment I read the dedication. Simple words with a powerful, important message.

Backyard Fairies by Phoebe Wahl. 

This is a delightful picture book for the imaginative child. There are only a few words on each page; the detailed and intriguing gardens filled with secretive hidden fairies dominate.

Duck, Duck, Moose by Joy Heyer.

This is a delightful picture book about missing a friend.My granddaughter found this book very engaging and loved the humorous bits as well as the emotional moments. Highly recommended.

Kameko and the Monkey-king by Melissa Addey and Claire Loescher. Book Review.

Kameko is told by the Buddha statue that in order to cure her seriously ill mother she must obtain the jewel from the Monkey-king’s crown. On her way to The Monkey-king’s Kingdom she meets and befriends several characters. They warn her not to drink, eat, or sleep in The Monkey-king’s Palace or she will wake up a monkey herself.

She pretends to go to sleep but creeps in and steals The Monkey-king’s jewel. He pursues. In spite of being helped by her new friends, the monkey regains the jewel. Kameko returns home heartbroken but the magic from the jewel has saturated her hands and her touch cures her mother. She grows up to be a renowned doctor and healer.

The story has a lyrical quality as though it is being told by an oral Storyteller of old. The print illustrations suit the story line perfectly. The illustrations seem simple at first glance but are actually quite complex for lino cuts. They are black and white with touches of red giving it an historic Japanese flavor.

Kameko’s interactions with the people she meets are positive especially when she takes time from her trip to help an elderly woman gather wood. However, as a Buddhist myself, I find the fact that her only strategy was to steal disappointing. I’m not sure if this is based on a traditional story or original, but to be cross-culturally relevant I think it needs to be updated.

The Monkey-king has a right to be enraged. We have no proof that he is actually going to bring harm to Kameko and, even so, Kameko goes there by choice. I had hoped she would use her wits to gamble and win the stone or win a challenge from the Monkey-king. Simply stealing it in the night does not comply with true Buddhist ethics. Neither  would I want a child to go away with the idea and stealing is the first and best response.

Good Morning, Snowplow! by Deborah Bruss. Illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson. Book Review.

 

Buy link http://a.co/d/0IgU5rc

Good Morning Snowplow! is a gently engaging and reassuring picture book about a snow plow operator clearing the streets at night while everyone else sleeps. It has a poetic rhythm with rhyming couplets and smooth cadence.

It begins with a snowplow worker leaving his home. He carries a small lunch box and is accompanied by a doleful looking brown dog. The worker carefully checks his machinery before moving the vehicle and then step by step begins his methodical, important  routine.

The lines are beautifully poetic as the plow breakthrough obstacles.

“Waves of white curl off the blade.

 In its wake, a trail is  laid.”

As someone who has spent a great deal of time driving after dark through snow, I can connect easily with the text, but anyone who has never experienced a northern winter would feel as though they were sitting in the passenger seat.

I especially like that this book draws attention to an overlooked but essential job. Sometimes the snowplow worker is vilified instead of honored for his/her tremendously important work. Children should be taught to appreciate everyone who contributes to the safety and well-being of others.

The illustrations are an ideal match to the text. You can almost reach out and catch a snowflake. The muted colors and a dominant blue portray a silent winter evening perfectly.

I like that when the snowplow worker exited the truck to see what was happening, he kept his dog on a leash. Small details like that are important in children’s books.

One thing that struck me as odd was the necessary use of commas  in parts.

“Goodnight, homes, and goodnight, cars.”

The words and the pictures worked together to slow the pace and give the other world sensation of a night job. Extra commas just seemed awkward.

 All in all, this is a wonderful book to add to a child’s library. A different take on that fierce and fascinating season called winter.

Little Miss History Travels to the North Pole by Barbara Mojica. Book Review.

This is another picture book in the series by Barbara Ann Mojica where a character named Little Miss History journeys to interesting places in the United States and around the world. She doesn’t just focus on history but also explores  the environment, culture, and more. In this book she shares the factual and the mythic facets of the North Pole.

Children will be fascinated by some of the facts in this text. For example, unlike Antarctica the North Pole has no land mass. It also has no time  Zone. There are a surprising number of living creatures in this frigid place. Kids who like to learn unusual information will enjoy this book.

No one owns the North Pole. Mojica examines the history and politics in a simple and informative way.

Mojica writes: “Sunrise and sunset come once a year. The North Pole receives six months of daylight and six months of darkness.” You will have to explain that this is not the same in the entire Arctic Circle. There, people experience months of Twilight where it is halfway between night and day. There is even some disagreement between scientists as to whether the North Pole has full darkness for 6 months and full light for 6 months.

 Of course, since this is a picture book for small children, the inevitable question of Santa Claus will come up. Mojica talks about the various Saint Nicks through history and in different cultures without damaging a child’s belief.

The book ends with the one-page glossary of words such as indigenous and mammals.

Another fun and informative book that would make a great gift.

BUY LINK http://a.co/d/gWxCyP1

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Check out my video with your child.

A Christmas wonderland made from Legos tells short visual stories while the music for We Wish You a Merry Christmas plays. Words appear on the screen. Then the music takes a more lively twist while the history of the song is revealed. Lego enthusiasts will be inspired to make their own winter town.

 

Notice that the carollers have the actual words to the song on the booklets.