Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Amy's Review of Andrea and the 5-Day Challenge by Cindy K. Green

High school junior Andrea Jamison, self-proclaimed change-o-phobic and, incidentally, a fabulous pianist in her own right has lost faith in herself and her abilities.  At the exact moment when her parents begin pressuring her about an opportunity that just might lead to Julliard, Andrea's friend Amy meddles in her personal life trying to pair her up with the cute, transfer jock Luke Ryan. Will Andrea learn to accept her parents often repeated word FOCUS or will she finally start trusting in God's strength instead of cowering in her own weaknesses?
Andrea and the 5-Day Challenge
by Cindy K. Green

Genre:  Religious fiction
Content: Clean
Publisher: Watershed Books
Release date:  March 2015
Number of Pages:  252

My Opinion:
I had a little bit of a hard time getting into this book at first, but it ended up getting my attention.  It dove me back into some of my high school memories and "crushes."  It is a "fairy tale" romance complete with the too-good-to-be-true Prince Charming that she falls in love with.  The ending was a little too predictable, but a happy one.  Maybe it has been too long since I have been a teenager, but her emotions seemed to be ridiculously all over the place - which is probably all too normal!  One disappointment - the book builds up to this BIG piano recital throughout the whole story.  But then when it actually comes to it, it gets skipped over with a, "I did it! It's over."  There could have been a lot done with that section of the story.  All in all, I think teenagers will love it!
Rating: ****

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Amy's Review of Too Safe for Strangers and Too Smart for Bullies by Deputy Sheriff Robert Kahn and Sharon Chandler

Too Safe for Strangers, Too Smart for Bullies
by Deputy Sheriff Robert Kahn and Sharon Chandler
illustrated by Sue Lynn Cotton

Genre:  Children's Safety - Nonfiction
Content: Clean
Publisher: Future Horizons
Release date:  October 2001
Number of Pages: 24

Book Blurb:

Most children, especially children on the autism spectrum, accept adults' friendliness at face value. Sometimes it can have tragic consequences. Written by a Deputy Sheriff, this book is credited with foiling at least 22 stranger abductions. Characters Bobby and Mandee explain stranger danger in a way that is accessible, but not frightening, for children. Read it to your child and role-play different scenarios. Create a password only you and your child know, label backpacks on the inside (so strangers won't know your name). Strangers can be men or women, old or young. Adults should not touch, give gifts to, or ask for help from children. If they do, don't keep it a secret! Tell an adult! Arm your child with the knowledge that may save his or her life.

Book Blurb:

Bullies, Beware! This is a little book is going to have a big impact! In this moral-driven story, Mandee tells big brother Bobby how a bully took all her money. Bobby stresses that she needs adult help, and explains what to do if it happens again. Don't argue; just walk or run away; tell a trusted adult, or call 911. If the adult doesn't believe you, tell another adult until you find someone who understands. A quiz at the back of the book helps the reader remember what to do, and there's a place to write the phone numbers of ""safe grown-ups"" to call.
Amy's Opinion:
I read these books to my kids and it opened up some questions and good discussions.  It covered a lot of good information and helped kids to understand the difference between being impolite and being safe.  They are taught to respect adults, but not all adults are safe and the book points that out.  I do think the book is a little outdated in that it didn't discuss anything about not talking to strangers online.  Especially in reference to the "Too Smart for Bullies" book, they only talked about physical bullies.  They didn't discuss emotional bullies or cyber bullies.  Kids today face bullying in a whole new way - mostly through email, text and social media.  I think it is necessary to include that in these books as well, or perhaps make another book all about computer and technology safety. 
Rating: ****
Another book by this author
Good Touch Bad Touch
by Robert Kahn
Illustrated by Chris Hardie

Book Blurb:
Educate, before it’s too late!
In this simple and engaging guide, Mandee and Bobby explain "good touches" (hugs and kisses from family members, a pat on the back, a handshake, or a high 5) and "bad touches" (a hit, slap, punch, kick, bite, hard pinch, shove, or grabbing, tugging, scratching, tripping, or choking). They describe how to recognize each kind of touch, the differences between them, and how to respond.
Then Bobby and Mandee talk about private areas and what to do if someone touches you in those places (“Tell a trusted adult! It isn’t your fault!”). They explain that it’s not okay to keep a secret about private areas, even if the person who touched you says that bad things might happen if you tell.
When it comes to bad touches, Bobby triumphantly concludes, “Whether it is a stranger, or someone you know well, the rules to be safe are always the same: Say no! Run Away! And find a grown up friend to tell!”
Author and former Deputy Sheriff Robert Kahn recommends that parents read this book with their children and encourage teachers to share it with the class!
Helpful features include:
  • Bobby and Mandee’s Touch Test – an 8-question quiz along with page numbers for each answer
  • 911 Tips for Parents – a guide for teaching kids when and how to dial 911
  • My List of Safe Grown-ups to Call – a blank form that parents and children can fill out together

Monday, April 27, 2015

Quote of the Day

"Don't tell me the moon is shining;
show me the glint of light on broken glass."  ~Anton Chekov

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Amy's Review of Stranded by Nathan Huffaker and GIVEAWAY

Kazakhstan is on the brink of civil war, and Elders Schofield and Johnson need to get out ASAP. But when their train explodes, all the evidence points to the missionaries! With terrorists on their trail and the whole country against them, the elders' only refuge is the US Embassy in Astana-800 miles away. Fans of The Saratov Approach will love this jaw-dropping thriller.
by Nathan Huffaker

Genre:  LDS Fiction
Content: Some violence and intense sequences
Publisher: Bonneville Books
Release Date:  April 2015
Number of Pages:  272

My Opinion:
This book reminded me a bit of the Saratov Approach, but it actually ends up being very different.  I liked it from the beginning, I can see it being turned into a movie.  There were a couple parts that I found to be a little predictable, but there were also several parts that had some unexpected twists and turns.  The author does a good job from the religious aspect and ties in points of the gospel throughout the story.  It gets you thinking about what you would do and how you would react if you were in a similar situation.  Try it out!
Rating: ****

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

2014 Children's Choice Book Awards Grades 5-6

2014 Children's Choice Book Awards Grades 5-6
where kids, parents, and teachers
vote on their favorite books.
Battling Boy
by Paul Pope

Battling Boy is a graphic novel. It's the latest thing, you know, very popular with boys.
It is definitely not my cup of tea, but I can see 11-year-old boys getting into this. It's action packed and full of monsters.

Myths Busted
by Emily Krieger

I have a couple of grandsons who really enjoy this kind of book. It is interesting and I learned a few new things as well. The illustrations are kind of a whacked photo collage type pics.
Definitely a fun book!

Prince Puggly of Spud and the Kingdom of Spiff
by Robert Paul Weston

I have to say this author is some kind of Brilliant! The entire story rhymes like a really long Dr. Seuss-type book. The author manipulates the words in such a way that everything rhymes but makes sense and doesn't feel contrived. Besides having an extensive vocabulary himself, he must have one really nice Thesaurus.

Initially, I thought this would be a lot of nonsense and I planned on skimming through it. As I read I discovered some well developed characters, and a plot. I had to find out what happened to them. There is a moral to this clever story and a twist at the end.

The printed font is crazy. The words become their own pictures, like the word CLIMB would actually go up the page one letter at a time. The beginning of each chapter sports a fanciful illustration using the first letter in the chapter.

I think kids of all ages would enjoy reading this or having it read to them, but parents will be the ones who truly appreciate its cleverness.

Hokey Pokey
by Jerry Spinelli

Book Blurb:
Hokey Pokey is a place where the kids reign and grownups are nowhere to be found. Days are spent running, leaping, playing, chasing, shrieking, hopscotching, etc.

Life in Hokey Pokey is the only one Jack has ever known. He cruises the dreamlands of Hokey Pokey on Scramjet, his beloved bike.

Until his bike is borrowed...

Definitely a fantasy, but not my cup of tea. I read the first four chapters and just couldn't get into it. However, I can imagine children would love reading about a place like Hokey Pokey.

by Jeffrey Salane

First off, this is a very well written book, one of the best that I've read in a long time. I wasn't sure about reading a book that glorifies the criminal way of life and even teaches some tactics along the way...but, let's just say, "don't judge a book by its cover".

The story builds line upon line. The mystery and suspense make gradual climbs to small crescendos maintaining the suspense from one predicament to the next. There are plenty of surprise twists.

What I learned as a writer:
The action varies in intensity but it is always there.
Character description is given one trait at a time over a few chapters.
Reveals are given gradually and they are logical with what we already know.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Cover Reveal and GIVEAWAY for Homecoming: Safe Haven by Heather Justesen

This is the cover reveal for Heather's new book Homecoming: Safe Haven.

Book Blurb
When the US Marshall sends the newly-married Bo and Tosca into hiding in a little Montana town, they settle in for a safe, quiet life while they prepare for the court case against Tosca's former boyfriend. Charles has other plans, though—he wants her dead before she can testify. And he's
found their safe haven.

Safe Haven is the fourth and last story in the Homecoming series, though not the last book using the Juniper Ridge, Colorado characters and it's a follow-up to the romance/suspense book Identity where the couple meet.

Makes me want to read the whole series...

Links to the book:
On Amazon it is available in ebook and paperback.

Heathers Facebook Page:

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

7 Ways Parents can Inspire Young Writers

A busy mom of seven once asked me what she could do to encourage her son's interest in writing. Wow! What a great mom! She recognized her child's interest and is asking questions. She knows that a child's imagination knows no bounds. They are not limited to earthly experiences. They are open to any possibility. So Brooke, here's my list of 7 Ways Parents can Inspire Young Writers:

1.  Go to the Library at least once a month.
During the summer consider going every two weeks.
This encourages more reading while decreasing boredom.
It also increases vocabulary--a very necessary tool.

2. Check out some graphic novels and see if
your kids can make up one of their own.

3.  Buy a bunch of those cheap composition notebooks.
Remind them to write something everyday.
 Turn it into a game or treasure hunt, not a chore.
Look at our "Journaling" page or under our "Journaling" label for prompt ideas.

4.  Show your kids interesting pictures.
a. Ask them to describe what they see.
b. Ask them to describe what no one else can see.
c. Who lives there?
d.  What are they like?
e. What has happened in that world?

5.  Encourage your kids to draw pictures to go with their stories.
Ask them to tell you about their pictures.
FYI--This is a snowflake making machine.
6.  Make time to read and encourage their efforts.
Never brush off the opportunity to read their thoughts--it gives you a rare glance into their world.
Some kids have difficulty verbalizing their concerns. Their pictures and stories can help parents identify needs and provide opportunities for reassurance.
Encourage them to enter contests like Reflections whenever possible.
7.  Never read your child's journal without their permission.
You might not agree with this one and that's okay. There are a lot of kids with special needs and you are the parent who has to make that call. BUT, do what you can to protect their privacy.
Personally, if someone read my journal, I'd feel violated.
It's a matter of trust. Journals should be the one safe place where children are
free to express themselves without criticism.
If you do #6, most children will be eager to share their creations with you.
Trust is something that is earned and each child learns trust in their own time.

Just a side note: There are a lot of benefits to writing. Writing and drawing pictures are so therapeutic for everyone. It helps children and adults sort through some of life's trickier problems.

One of my grandchildren was making up some of the most outlandish works of fiction, I'm talking about real whoppers. With a tear in her eye, she'd relay these stories as truths, convincing many adults and friends. We finally talked her into writing these stories instead of telling them. That way she could get her ideas out of her head and onto paper. In my opinion, writing helped her grow out of that phase.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Quote of the Day

There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
Albert Einstein

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Children's Choice Book Awards 2014 Grades 3-4

This award isn't like the Caldecott or Newbery awards. Children, parents, and teachers get to vote for their favorites. It's the Children's Choice Book Awards for 2014.

The Stubby Pencil Reviews
 the 2014 winners for grades 3-4
We used the Public Library for these reviews but I ended up buying some of them. We were not compensated in any way for these reviews.
Bugs in My Hair!
by David Shannon

Book Blurb:
Is something bugging you? Bestselling award-winner David Shannon shows the funny side of waging war against--oh no!--head lice.

This book is guaranteed to make you laugh--and itch! From the opening picture of a happy, oversized louse appearing with his suitcases, you know these bugs are determined to stay, and Mom is about to go nuts!

Nobody talks about them, but they are everywhere. (Some estimate 20 million children a year host them.) Oh the shame and humiliation of having bugs in your hair! But if you go to school, or have play dates, chances are good you might meet them someday. Maybe you already have! Lucky for you, the unwelcome bugs in this story are so funny you will be laughing aloud--even when Mom attacks them with battle-tested anti-lice weapons.

Shannon peppers his hilarious scenes with fun, "nitpicking" facts about these "lousy" critters and pokes fun at common denial: "It's probably ash from that volcano in Pogo Pogo."

Soon the party's over--Bye bye, Little Nasties! Once again Shannon has created a fresh, highly entertaining read-aloud classic that begs to be read again and again.
My Opinion:
I don't know that I would read this over and over, but it was funny, educational, and the illustrations are way over the top, which adds to the humor. Some of my grandkids had to deal with head lice and they were mortified. I think this book would've helped allay their fears.
Parents panic, we all do it because lice is one of those social stigmas attached to "being a bad parent" or being "unclean". The fact of the matter is, if your kids go to school they're bound to get lice.
If you know of someone who gets lice, or when your own kids come home with nits, go check this book out of the library. It'll help you see that it's not the end of the world.
Bean Dog and Nugget: The Ball
by Charise Mericle Harper

Using simple text and cartoon-style illustrations, Charise Mericle Harper introduces young readers to a new graphic novel series, Bean Dog and Nugget. These two engaging characters capture young kids' actions, reactions, conversations, imagination, and humor with spot-on accuracy. Kids will want to follow Bean Dog and Nugget and their adventures in each and every book in the series.

In The Ball, the first book in this series, Bean Dog and Nugget lose Bean Dog's shiny new ball in a bush. They dream up elaborate and silly ways to get it back while they argue about who is actually going to go and get it. Enter Superdog and Ninja Nugget for a hilarious ending that kids will love and relate to.

My Opinion:
Very quirky and fun. It is written and illustrated like a comic book. The idea is simple and the dialogue is very simple but hilarious. Most 3rd graders could read this by themselves.
The Matchbox Diary
by Paul Fleischman
illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
Book Blurb:
Newbery Medalist Paul Fleischman and Bagram Ibatoulline tell a breathtaking immigration tale with appeal across generations."Pick whatever you like most. Then I’ll tell you its story."
When a little girl visits her great-grandfather at his curio-filled home, she chooses an unusual object to learn about: an old cigar box. What she finds inside surprises her: a collection of matchboxes making up her great-grandfather’s diary, harboring objects she can hold in her hand, each one evoking a memory. Together they tell of his journey from Italy to a new country, before he could read and write — the olive pit his mother gave him to suck on when there wasn’t enough food; a bottle cap he saw on his way to the boat; a ticket still retaining the thrill of his first baseball game. With a narrative entirely in dialogue, Paul Fleischman makes immediate the two characters’ foray into the past. With warmth and an uncanny eye for detail, Bagram Ibatoulline gives expressive life to their journey through time — and toward each other.

My opinion:
The illustrations are more like pieces of art, you just have to open the canvas. The story is about an Italian immigrant who couldn't read or write, but wanted to keep a diary. He collected match boxes to hold his memories.
Years later his great granddaughter comes to visit and he tells her the story of his life through the bits and pieces he collected. It's very poignant, maybe more for adults. I don't know that many children would enjoy that much history. What a great lesson for everyone to learn their family stories before it's too late.
Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote
by Duncan Tonatiuh

Book blurb:
In this allegorical picture book, a young rabbit named Pancho eagerly awaits his papa’s return. Papa Rabbit traveled north two years ago to find work in the great carrot and lettuce fields to earn money for his family. When Papa does not return, Pancho sets out to find him. He packs Papa’s favorite meal—mole, rice and beans, a heap of warm tortillas, and a jug of aguamiel—and heads north. He meets a coyote, who offers to help Pancho in exchange for some of Papa’s food. They travel together until the food is gone and the coyote decides he is still hungry . . . for Pancho!
Duncan Tonatiuh brings to light the hardship and struggles faced by thousands of families who seek to make better lives for themselves and their children by illegally crossing the border.

My Opinion:
Very symbolic and very one-sided, it does show the lengths a good father will go to, to provide for his family. The illustrations are in keeping with Pancho's heritage. It is both very well written and well illustrated. It is curious to compare these last two books, one about the struggles of a legal immigrant family and the latter, the illegal immigrant family; very similar in their struggles.