Back home by Dan L. Walker- Book Review

This novel takes place in 1968 and focusses on two brothers who live in Alaska and are affected by the Vietnam war. The older brother, Joe, signs up to fight while the younger brother, Sam, becomes involved with the peace movement. When Joe is injured and returns home he is suffering from PTSD. He cannot understand his younger brother’s actions and their relationship suffers. Sam just wants to live a happy life fixing his car, dating girls, and hanging out with his friends. Life is complicated and major events affect everyone’s life. Unfortunately, the story ends with a cliffhanger. I hate not knowing the outcome of something so that always impacts my review of the book.

The voice is quite easy to follow and Sam is a likeable protagonist, not a perfect young man but a good guy. It’s easy to see viewpoints of both brothers. Perhaps a bit more background on the history of the war in Vietnam we help the reader understand Sam’s opinion better. Young readers may not know what triggered the peace movement.

It is it easy to read book about brothers, coming of age, family dynamics, and the impact of war on those who fight it and those who love those fighters when they return. It creates a fairly good picture of the 60s.

Suitable for grade 6 and up. There are a few fights but nothing too drastic and the encounters with girls are PG.

All in all a good read.

4/5 stars.

Book Review – Leonard (My Life As A Cat) by Carlie Sorosiak

Buy Link https://amzn.to/3mTrZBI

Leonard (My Life As A Cat) by Carlie the Sorosiak is one of the best children’s books I’ve read in a long time. I chose to read this to my granddaughter and found myself struggling not to read ahead when she wasn’t around. The author has a wicked sense of humour and a profound sense of humanity. We laughed out loud more than once.

Leonard is actually an alien who meant come to Earth as a human and spend one month in Yellowstone Park working as ranger. Unfortunately, something went wrong and he arrived hundreds of miles away, in the middle of a flash flood and in the body of a cat. He was rescued by a ten-year-old named Olive who is also a unique individual and going through tribulations of her own.

Leonard can type to communicate and can understand every species on the planet. It becomes Olive’s mission get him to the rendezvous point within a month’s time so that he can continue his immortal, hive-like, logical life. Olive tries to enrich his stay by fulfilling his unusual bucket-list, unusual that is, for a cat. However, a lot can change in a month. Both Leonard and Olive develop deep feelings for each and as the date approaches, we also find ourselves torn.

There are complications galore included the near impossibility of getting to the rendezvous point on time. Sorosiak builds the suspense and our angst over how this story will end. But she handles it like a master.

This story is about family, friendship, acceptance, love, courage, and sacrifice. My granddaughter and I were in tears when it was over, realizing that there could never be a more perfect ending.

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Be Patient, Little Chick – Little Animal Adventures – by Patricia Jensen – Book Review

This charming picture book tells us about the hatching of an independent-minded and curious little chick. He  boldly sets out to explore the world without his mother. He wants to fly like the robin, swim like the duck, eat bones like the dog,  and face down the big scary rooster. In the end mother hen has to drive off the rooster and the little chick finally excepts her wisdom that growing up takes patience.

The illustrations are realistic but lack any originality or pizzazz. It could have been more humorous.

The story ends with two pages of facts about baby chicks and hens.

This is a good book to teach a child that chickens are more than just meat and egg producers. They are living beings with relationships and personalities. As well, most children can relate to the little chicks impatience at not being able to do everything the grown ups do. It’s suitable for ages 4 to 7.

 This is a good book to stimulate discussion about animals and about maturing at a safe and reasonable  pace.

Buy link https://amzn.to/36ho6jm

 

Chick toy purchase link https://amzn.to/37eCvMg

Bathtime for Biscuit by Alyssa Satin Capucilli. Illustrations by Pat Schories. Book review.

Buy link https://amzn.to/2Vhcgz2

The Biscuit series of books are classed as “I can read!”. They are perfect for very beginning readers. Biscuit is an adorable puppy who does the kinds of things real dogs do. In this story, he resists getting into the bath.

The little girl wants Biscuit to get into that tub but he wants to dig instead. She struggles to manipulate him into the water but, after a short emmersion, he escapes and chases another puppy named Puddles. The two of them dig in the mud and play in the water. Then they roll in the flower bed where the girl tries to catch them with a towel. Both puppies latch on and a tug-of-war ensues. It ends with the little girl falling into the bathtub herself. Children laugh out loud at this ending.

It is difficult to find emergent reading books that have engaging, logical stories children can relate to and enjoy reading. The Biscuit stories are perfect. Capucilli captures the mischievous and endearing nature of puppies while Schories draws them with simplicity and charm.

Highly recommended for emergent readers in Kindergarten and first grade.

I am accepting books for review. For information on how to submit, go here: https://bferrante.wordpress.com/2016/07/09/get-featured-on-my-blog/

Fairy in Waiting by Sophie Kinsella. Illustrated by Marta Kissi. Book Review.

Buy link https://amzn.to/3fIfPrI

 This  popular humor writer now has two children’s books. Both feature a girl whose mother is a fairy and father is  a mortal. This isn’t your typical fairy story however, as she uses a computerized wand and presents herself as a normal woman most of the time. The husband is reminiscent of the early Bewitched  television series. He’s not too crazy about her using magic.

  Kinsella  uses humor and suspense  effectively and engages a young audience from the first page. My almost six year old granddaughter listened eagerly as I read this book to her in four sittings.  This early chapter book is supplemented with many pictures.

 If you are a traveler to resorts, you’ll chuckle at the scene where two fairy mothers have a wand battle over reserving poolside seats with their towels. There is also a chapter with wacky monkeys that children will love.

All in all, this is a light-hearted romp through modern magic and family dynamics.

 

I am accepting books for review. For information on how to submit, go here: https://bferrante.wordpress.com/2016/07/09/get-featured-on-my-blog/

Buy link https://amzn.to/3ljMNj4

Pushball A Game That’s Tasty to Eat! by Thomas Leavey. Illustrated by John Buck. Book review.

 

I procrastinated reviewing this book for quite some time because I was unsure what to  say about it. I read it a few times to my granddaughter and  solicited feedback from others.

The storyline is quite peculiar. A duck tries to get a groundhog to play Pushball with a giant ball. The groundhog dislikes the game and wants to eat the ball. The game does not go very well; the groundhog thinks it is too rough. At the end the groundhog eats the entire ball which swells him to four times his natural size.

The story is written in humorous rhyme abcb. Each page has from 1 to 3 quatrains. Here’s an example.

 The groundhog was puzzled

And stopped in his tracks.

He said, *that’s what I get (sic)

 for playing with quacks!”

 There are 42 quatrains in total which seems more than necessary for such a simple story.

The author explains on the last two pages that the moral of the story is “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.” Then he explains  each animal’s secret for success.  This felt a little awkward.

However, the other reviews on Amazon  are all five stars. But the people I shared this with felt more like I did. My granddaughter thought it was funny and strange but long and wasn’t interested in subsequent readings.

 The illustrations are great. Vivid, lively and funny.

I have mixed feelings about this book.

Tear Me Apart by J.T. Ellison. Book Review.

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Buy link https://amzn.to/3lhcgtH

This is a typical suspense novel about a 18 year old in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant. Because of this, it comes to light that neither her mother or father are her biological parents. This leads into a kidnapping and murder mystery that connects to correspondence between two teenage girls in a mental hospital.

Unfortunately the writing style is rather flat and, although this can be quite common in this kind of novel, the characters are two dimensional and the dialogue is a bit awkward. I found myself skimming quickly through the book in order to finish it and being reluctant to pick it up.

The premise is intriguing but halfway through the book you have pretty much  figured out everything. In a good mystery suspense the reader is  often lulled into thinking they have solved the plot and then comes the twist. It can be a variation on what the reader has surmised or it can come completely out of left field. This book went with the first  style but it  was a bit weak on surprise and punch. I found quite predictable.

It’s an easy beach read with an interesting basic plot if you’re  just looking for something relaxing.

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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.

 

Soccer ball buy link https://amzn.to/3q9DLJ7

Petscapade (Mystery Book Club 1) by Nadishka Aloysius. Book Review.

Buy link https://amzn.to/39o3qrG

Petscapade is the story of four girls and a boy, 9 years old, who form a mystery book club. When a purebred kitten goes missing they decide to use their knowledge to solve the mystery of whether the cat has wandered off or been stolen. The novel starts out quite slowly and the reader needs to show patience as this is a gently paced book. The cover fails to inform or interest the reader.

About a quarter of the way through the novel I discovered it was taking place in Sri Lanka. I’m not sure if I missed that indicator earlier on. It’s important to realize this as the way that children speak is unusually articulate and adult for 9 year olds.

“Yes, it is rather,” agreed Lal, with a grin.

There are several cultural behaviors that may strike North Americans as unusual if they are not aware of the context. For example, the children are not allowed to bring fiction books to school to read and their social interactions are strictly controlled. Once the reader realizes the environment, it becomes quite intriguing to learn new customs and terms.

The story is told in a straightforward manner with little emotion. However, There are moments of humor.

Cara laughed. “If every grumpy person is a criminal, we would all be in jail!”

The author doesn’t shy away from controversial viewpoints.I think this book should launch some interesting discussions about our abysmal treatment of animals such as supporting pet stores, eating meat, and abandoning pets.

I’m not sure political remarks belong in a book for 9 year olds though.

“And she is Tamil…” Amal broke off.

There is one beautiful paragraph that will give food for thought.

“I have taught my son that sometimes, you need to intervene to help others. I don’t believe in sitting on the sidelines watching the world fall apart. Children must be taught to take whatever action they can to make the world a better place.”

The case of the missing cat, which turns out to be cats actually, is resolved positively even though the children are discouraged and sometimes condemned for their actions in trying to locate the missing kitten. The lesson of perseverance is worthwhile.

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.