Midnight Fairy Craft & Party Book by Tracy Marsh. Book Review.

This book has more ideas than you will ever possibly use for a party. There are chapters on making dolls, wands, books, wish boxes, and even fairy wings. Marsh gives details on preparing for the party, sending out invitations, food, cake, tablecloths and napkins, and even place cards. There is a whole section on games and activities most quite physically active.

Some of the creations require a great deal of effort and some are fairly simple. Many of them are quite beautiful and worthy of becoming a permanent keepsake.

Of course you can simplify everything and change things to suit your energy level, income, and needs. I used it as inspiration for a fairy night with my five-year-old granddaughter who was sleeping over. Here are some of the decorations we did using materials we already had and a few things from the dollar store.

Any physical activities outside were out of the question since we were experiencing a heat wave and it was excruciating hot at 9 pm. Instead we played table and word games with fairy themes such as “A fairy took from my house.”  We did two rounds of took and two of left.

Our fairy door in the garden was too damp so we put one on the deck.

To see our decorations, games etc. check out this short video.

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

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. If you are uncomfortable with abasement, torture, and bloody fights, you might have to take this book one small piece at a time as I did. The historical authenticity is both unnerving and fascinating . It definitely makes this reader grateful to be living in this time and this country.
The hero is resilient, determined, and completely believable as he and his brother-in-law search for the four men, former colleagues, who are responsible for the slaughter of his wife and her family. This is a truly epic vengeance novel.
I thought I knew quite a bit about England in the 1500s but seeing it through the eyes of soldiers gives a whole new perspective. If you can handle the brutality, this is definitely a page turner.
I do think the title and cover could have been more relevant to this particular novel but I realize this is the beginning of the series. I’m curious to know where the story could possibly go from here as the hero has gone through more than any human should ever have to bear.
The writing flows well. The novel has enough detail to keep the reader aware of the historical context without becoming boring. Fight scenes are detailed and suspenseful. The story is told through the eyes of the Spanish soldier having just enough linguistic flavor to make it feel authentic without becoming cumbersome.
If you like swashbuckling historical adventures, this is a series you will want to look into.

Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton. Book Review.

This  young adult book is about a middle grade student who has experienced  sudden onset severe schizophrenia. He has been moved to a new school for fresh start. His parents demand that the staff keep his medical condition secret. Adam falls in love with an intelligent and strong young lady named Maya. He is terrified that when she finds out about his illness, she will drop him.
Adam is on a trial drug because the standard medications do not work to control his  hallucinations which can be so severe that he has acted on them in the past including severe self injury. To complicate matters, his father has abandon him and his stepfather is nervous around him. Add to the fact that his mother becomes pregnant and we see that there are no simple solutions to a complicated issue.
The story was deeply introspective and this made it a little difficult to connect with the other characters who seemed flat in comparison.
This book is sure to elicit discussion and disagreement but it is also extremely informative as far as getting inside the head of a young man trying to cope with a extremely challenging condition. Adam is a likable and decent young man who deserves a better break than what life has given him. No matter how you feel about his family’s decisions with regard to Adam’s care and inclusion, you are bound to empathize and feel great compassion for this individual.

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

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

Davy’s Pirate Ship Adventure is a fun family picture book.  It is a gentle adventure of a family of four, mother, father, 7 year old Davy, baby Kai,  and two animated toys, one an alien and  one a teddy bear. It features a family of African descent which I don’t get to see very often. However,  families of all backgrounds will easily relate. What child doesn’t want their family to go for an adventure on a pirate ship?

During their search for gold, the family encounters  a giant fish monster which Davy handles with confidence. When a huge storm comes up and flips the boat over it transforms into a submarine. Of course they find the gold and everyone cheers. On the last page we find that this is a beautifully imaginative story created during bath time.

Rauscher’s illustration style perfectly suits the story. The pictures, which seem to be pencil and watercolor, are gentle and endearing. Every character shines with personality.

Children who love imaginative play and pirate stories will want to hear this book over and over. It is reassuring  with just a touch of suspense. I look forward to more work from this new author. Watch for an upcoming interview with Danual Berkley on this blog.

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Upside Down Babies by Jeanne Willis and Adrian Reynolds. Book Review.

 
The Illustrations in this book are engaging and adorable. The animal’s expressions are priceless.
It begins, “Once when the world jturned upside down”. We see animal babies and human babies spinning through the air wearing concerned expressions. On the next page, piglet lands in a parrot’s nest. On the following, the baby tortoise lands in an otter’s home, the lion cub lands beside a cow, and it continues. The expressions on the faces of the mothers and babies are priceless.
The foster mothers try their best but there are insurmountable odds. The cow cannot provide meat for the lion. The baby elephant can’t jump like the monther kangaroo. This sloth baby cannot keep up with the cheetah.
But then the world goes upside down again and everything returns to as it was. The families are happy to be reunited except for two. My granddaughter and I were disconcerted that the gorilla keeps the human baby and the mother keeps the gorilla baby. There seems to be no reason for this and most children will probably find it funny but there is a undertone of discomfort with the idea. However, children who don’t think too deeply on the subject will just just think it’s silly.
The follow-up to this could be a discussion of new pairings of mothers and babies. Which ones could work and what ones could never be compatible?

Silly Scientists Take a Peeky at the Solar System by Lindsey Craig. Illustrated by Marianella Aguirre and Ying Hui Tan. Book Review.

This is the second in the silly scientists series wherein Lindsey Craig uses humor to teach children about nature and science. This time the aliens travels through our planetary system. The illustrations are a mixture of wacky drawings and photography from NASA.
The text is written in rhyme such as “Uranus is an ice giant that has a wonky ride. Its seasons last forever since it orbits on its side.” The beat is quite musical.
There is humor in the text as well as the illustrations. For example Jupiter’s red spot is compared to a zit.
The last two pages contain information for parents and older students on our solar system. The best part about this book is that you can also go online and listen to a catchy song with highly professional animation that reinforces learning the planets. It enriches and supplements the text.
Kids who like space and aliens will enjoy this picture book.

Laura Monster Crusher by Wesley King. Book Review.

This book is suitable for middle-grade to early young adult. This will be a favorite with readers who love fantasy and unusual female heroes.

Laura is a big girl who has been bullied since childhood about her size. Her family moves to a new town and enrolls her in a different school to give her a fresh start. Unfortunately the bullying begins again but this time two other victims befriend her. When Laura fails to stand up for one of them, her new relationship is at risk.

But the real challenge is navigating the secret world Laura can only access through a hidden elevator in her closet. She discovers she is destined to be a monster crusher and without her rising to the challenge, her family, friends, and world are in great danger. Laura, however, is neither athletic nor nimble. Night after night, for this is when she can secretly train, Laura fails to acquire the necessary skills of a monster crusher.

The danger rises to the point of crisis when her beloved blind little brother is kidnapped by the monsters. Betrayed and vastly outnumbered, Laura must pull off a miracle in order to save her family.

The affectionate relationship between Laura and her humorous little brother, her struggle with self-identity and confidence, her desire for friends, and her reluctant courage make her an endearing and interesting hero. An enjoyable read that picks up pace and increases in suspense as it progresses. Although it has a satisfying ending, the danger is still imminent and a sequel or series is possible.

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Bonjour! Let’s Learn French by Judy Martialay. Book Review.

This part textbook part picture book would be an excellent addition to a French Immersion or Core French classroom. It would also be wonderful for a parent to share with a child who is learning French.

While it tells the story a group of children building a sandcastle and a little snail declaring himself king of Le Chateau, the child is exposed to basic French vocabulary.  It employs humor and a bit of drama to old a child’s interest. Also included are list of common words, a skit, information on French culture, a song, and even a section on Monet the artist and a follow-up activity. There is enough information and plenty of activities to make this book a favorite.

The best thing about this book is the site that goes along with it. http://www.Polyglotkidz.Com expands on the information in the textbook. For those of us whose French is less than bilingual, an hour long download is available that gives the correct pronunciation for everything in the book.

I was dismayed to learn “only 25% of public and private elementary schools in the US offer any form of language instruction.” Because Canada is a dual-language country, French instruction begins generally in grade 4 unless you enroll your child in immersion which begins in senior kindergarten. The cultural, mental, social, and economic benefits of second languages are irrefutable. This book would be valuable in any situation working with children 10 years old and under.

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Blackflies by Robert Munsch. Illustrated by Jay Odjick. Book Review.

This book follows the typical style for Robert Munsch of silliness and repetitive phrases. The thing I loved about it was that it takes place in the  Canadian North, in a community similar to many around Thunder Bay. It starts off in such a familiar way that it made me laugh out loud.

Helen gets up one morning and is thrilled to find the snow is gone and it is finally spring. But when she opens the door the black flies and mosquitoes drive her back inside. While it usually doesn’t all happen on the same day, this is a sadly repetitive scenario for those of us who live in the North. Children who live in this area, and similar locations across Canada, will completely identify with the protagonist. Although the family is of Aboriginal descent, the insect attacks will connect with everyone  who has had similar experiences.

I was happy to see that the family in this book was First Nations and the artist was from the Kitigin Zibi Anishinabeg Algonquin community. While Aboriginal children are used to seeing native artists, it is inspiring to see someone using their talent to create picture books for the very young.

It would make a great gift for anyone who’s been driven indoors by mosquitoes and blackflies. Northern blackflies are not what you might be thinking. They are tiny insects that can get through needle size holes. In spite of their tininess, they take a good chunk out of your skin when they bite.

It is also terrific that Helen is the hero who saves her family from being overcome by the blood-sucking bugs of the North. I’m gratified to see more books with female heroes.

It is very difficult to find funny, picture books that feature First Nations families but connect with everyone. This is sure to become a classroom or camp favorite.

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Sunny Days by Jesse Byrd. Illustrated by Anastasia Ku. Book Teview.

This large 8 by 10 inch picture book is printed on sturdy glossy paper. The large format would make it ideal to share with children. The illustrations are double-page spreads featuring an expressive and lovable little girl named Martine.

Martine is a shouter. She is so happy that she inadvertently startles her neighbors with herenthusiasm. In spite of this, she is well-liked. She loves her neighborhood and the people in it. One day disaster strikes when a terrible rain storm damages much of the neighborhood. It loses its beauty and sense of community. People become depressed and isolated.

Martine refuses to succumb to despair. She walks around naming the sunny days the way the meteorologists named the storm. When she tells the barber this, he talks to others and people’s  attitude slowly changes. They begin to prepare their community. Martine helps whenever possible. Then they throw a neighborhood party to celebrate.

Although this is a story of great loss and recovery, the tone is upbeat and funny. There are so many things to discuss especially with regard to attitude, support, and rebuilding. In an era where climate change is bringing wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, ice storms, and more, this is a timely book to share with children and to remind adults that we are only as strong as we think we are.

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