Busy Bunny Days: In the Town, on the Farm, and at the Port will keep kids busy. Originally three books, each book divided by hour segments. 6 AM start...moreBusy Bunny Days: In the Town, on the Farm, and at the Port will keep kids busy. Originally three books, each book divided by hour segments. 6 AM starts the day, which continues at spaced intervals until bedtime and the end of the day at 9 PM. The spreads are busy with loads of activity by many anthropomorphic creatures. Before each story begins, a page of the story’s characters, illustrated and named, make finding them much easier. I found myself referring to this page many times. At the top of each spread are questions for the reader.
“Who is awake?” / “What is Mrs. Bunny doing?” / “Has Squawk made a friend?”
Benny Badger is the bad badger in every story and it is always a good idea to keep track of what this scoundrel is doing. Busy Bunny Days: In the Town represents a normal day for the Bunny Family. Bethany and Baxter go to school, Dr. Bunny goes to work, and Mrs. Bunny and Grandma Bunny do all sorts of things. The creatures around the town are actually more fascinating than the Bunny Family.
Busy Bunny Days: On the Farm, the Bunny Family is visiting friends, the Gardiners, who own a farm. Interestingly, in addition to the anthropomorphic animals, there are regular animals: cows, chickens, horses, pigs, dogs. Once again, Benny Badger is around to create havoc. The farm slower paced looks more like a tourist attraction than a working farm.
Busy Bunny Days: at the Port, is the third book in this three-book compilation, all originally published in Germany in 2011 and 2012. The port is a very busy place, and Benny Badger is there to cause trouble. I think he follows the Bunny Family, just as we are doing. Docked at the port are several ships, including a pirate ship and the Poseidon, still afloat and unloading its cargo containers. Baxter is sporting an eye patch and wielding a dagger. At the Port is the best of the three books.
The illustrations are bright, cheery, and simply fun. Each spread holds more than the eye can comprehend in one look. Kids will have so much to look for and follow throughout the day. There are more to follow from spread to spread than just the Bunny Family. Barbara Bear slips on a banana peel, breaks her leg, and returns on a crutch. Harold Hippo cannot keep a hold of his dog’s leash, the dog runs, and finds its way to the school where Baxter pets the happy mutt. On the farm, Late at night—seven o’clock—everyone dances.
If your child likes to find things in the illustrations, then Busy Bunny Days will keep them busy for a long time. Without an actual text, kids can make up stories for their favorite character. Parents can read the questions at the top of each spread, helping their child with the answers. After that, kids can master Busy Bunny Days on their own, changing the story as they please. Busy Bunny Days: In the Town, on the Farm, and at the Port will entertain your child while growing their imagination as they story each character in their own way, finding and following the Bunny Family and their friends and neighbors—and Benny Badger, too.
Windsor the Bullied Wooly Mammoth is a cautionary tale about bullying. The bullied kid is different from the other kids. He likes to be alone and read...moreWindsor the Bullied Wooly Mammoth is a cautionary tale about bullying. The bullied kid is different from the other kids. He likes to be alone and read. One dinosaur, Trevor, decides to bully Windsor. Marvin, who is a mouse and Windsor’s best friend, assumes Trevor is lonely because his meanness meant none of the other dinosaurs would play with him. Bullies often are not lonely people or dinosaurs. Kids gathered around Trevor and he considered a few of them friends. I think this missed the mark—in this story—but the author is true when saying bullies are often lonely kids. Most often, though, it is the bullied kid who becomes lonely and alone.
The text is long. Little kids will have a tough time keeping their attention on the story. The story needs tightened to reduce redundancy, correct punctuation errors, and help the story move along smoothly. Plus, a credit page needs added to the front. Before—on occasion after— a character speaks, the narrator explains what the character will say and why. This happens so often it becomes annoying. It is not necessary to alert the reader to what the character will say or why and then have the character repeat, sometimes verbatim, what the narrator just explained. I felt like the narrator did not trust that readers would catch on to the story.
Betty also explained that she wanted to get to know Trevor a little better.
Betty smiling at Trevor said, “And one other thing Trevor, I would like to get to know you a little better. Most of us don’t know you very well either.”
There were many books about bullies last year and more on the way this year. Windsor the Bullied Wooly Mammoth may be the most ambitious. Usually, we learn about the bullied, how they are bullied, and what to do about that bully. Windsor the Bullied Wooly Mammoth also lets us know how those witnessing the bullying, but not part of it, feel and how they can help, plus why the bully acts as he or she does. Every angle is covered.
The large sized book has great illustrations on one-half of the spread. The dinosaur and the mouse are cute with their big bright eyes. The dinosaurs have cherry-bright tongues and have different colored complexions. Windsor is the only one to wear eyeglasses and look geeky. He really is out of place in this dinoland. Kids will enjoy the illustrations. The art draws your eye to that side of the spread every time. The back of the cover has a laughing Trevor with the words, “Bullies aren’t born . . . bullies are made!”
Dinosaurs #1: In the Beginning will enthrall kids interested in dinosaurs and reptiles. These early creatures are presented in a light-hearted manner...moreDinosaurs #1: In the Beginning will enthrall kids interested in dinosaurs and reptiles. These early creatures are presented in a light-hearted manner by the paleontologist Indino Jones, a man who loves handling coprolites, yet refuses to pick up after his dog. While Indino acts as the narrator, the dinosaurs speak to one another and have a great time. One dinosaur, the Albertosaurus, discovered in Alberta, Canada looks at the reader and says, “Have a nice day from Alberta,” while menacingly standing over a map of the area.
Kids will witness typical dinosaur behavior, such as a momma guarding her young ones before and after birth. Fighting is common. Many dinosaurs, such as the pointy dragon-headed Dracorex, liked head-butting each other, while the spike-backed Kentrosaurus tries to avoid than I had been aware of existing. Kids will love the varieties and Indino Jones’s commentary.
The illustrations are grand. Most have a slightly cartoonish bent to them, making the dinosaurs a tad less ferocious than they most likely were millions of years ago. Carnivores like the Allosaurus. It has no trouble killing and then eating another dinosaur, calling his meal, an “American Steak-Osaurus,” while the dead Orintholestes ay on the ground ribs showing, insides flowing out. To counter this the dino-dinner has its tongue out, head on the ground with stars above its now deceased head. Originally reviewed at Kid Lit Reviews http://kid-lit-reviews.com/2014/03/01...(less)
When I receive a book, I normally look through it and maybe read a page or two from a random spot. In the case of Spirits of the Sun, I read part of C...moreWhen I receive a book, I normally look through it and maybe read a page or two from a random spot. In the case of Spirits of the Sun, I read part of Chapter 14 in this thirty-three chapter book. Diego’s father has taken the dragon—as a statue—to work with him to show off. Everyone liked the statue which was now in Diego’s backpack. Magnifico was kicking, squirming, punching, and finally biting Diego through the backpack’s material. Not liking confinement, Magnifico wanted out, or at least the zipper opened. I was hooked. In only rare occasions do I actually completely read a book that only arrived the day before. Spirits of the Sun is the first in over twelve months and it was worth every word.
First, there is the Mexican hero as eleven-year-old Diego, a lead not often seen in middle grade novels. All but the author, Nathan Sullivan, are Latino and some sentences are written in Spanish, and understandable in context. Mexican history and three of its heroes from a time long past play a heavy role. While it is clear Diego is the protagonist, Racquel is a hero in her own right and I believe will be seen in a strong role in a future edition of the series. Diego and Racquel are each other’s first love, or rather, first crush. There is a second female character girls will find relatable. Both she and Racquel will be important characters in future volumes (I believe).
Second, the writing is as magnificent as the dragon. I saw one typo but nothing else. The sentences would make any English professor proud. Why Spirits of the Sun was not picked up by a publisher is beyond me. The story begins right in the middle of the action, the middle expands and retracts enough to keep you on your toes, and the ending is excellent, though it was not what I wanted to happen, nor what I expected. It is a series, so I may yet get my way.
There are no illustrations, which would be a treat, but it is easy to visualize the story. When the dragon takes flight, you can see the wings expanded and then one side dip to allow Diego entrance to his back. When Diego and Racquel hide to talk, you can feel the closeness. Diego tackles a girl in the library when Magnifico, who is only visible to Diego, sets out to bite a girl and other students. The shock upon the librarian’s face is palatable. Our hero is turning into a delinquent at school. I wanted to laugh while still feeling sorry for the visible changes this dragon is causing in the young boy’s life.
Kids who like dragon stories will love this adventure series. Those who liked Harry Potter, kids and adults, will like this series. I truly believe the Diego’s Dragon series will have readers anticipating new releases and then devouring the books immediately upon release. Spirits of the Sun is a great book for boys, and girls—and adults. Without gushing too much, I believe Spirits of the Sun is one of the best books I have read. If the series holds up, I will be its number one fan, though many others will claim that title. Kids, get this book.
When I Grow Up I Want to Be . . . in the U.S. Army is the first in a series of vocational books for kids. I have never seen vocational books like thes...moreWhen I Grow Up I Want to Be . . . in the U.S. Army is the first in a series of vocational books for kids. I have never seen vocational books like these. In this first book, the teacher assigns Jake a career project. He is to decide what he wants to be when he grows up and present it to his class. Jake has chosen to show his class what being in the U.S. Army looks like. With his father, Jake goes to an Army surplus store and gets everything he needs to look enlisted in the U.S. Army.
I like the idea of the surplus store. Having been in one, I know the massive amount of military items most carry. This is definitely true for Jake and his father. The surplus store had medals, emblems, stripes, hats, boots, uniforms, gas masks, weapons, and most anything else associated with the army. Jake had a great time picking out his outfit while at the same time learning the history of the U.S. Army.
Young boys will certainly like When I Grow Up I Want to Be . . . in the U.S. Army, but don’t count out young girls. While the equipment and gear is all male oriented, girls interested in the military will see the universal appeal. Boys who are reluctant readers will love this series. Most words are simple and the unusual words are included in a glossary at the back of the book.
In addition to the illustrations, there are photographs depicting the U.S. Army, its history, and some of the roles students can consider. Beginning with a photograph of the inside of a surplus store, shot through a window, the photographs then include the Liberty Bell in all its cracked glory, officers in their dress uniforms, and marching soldiers at boot camp. A board of patches and emblems representing all areas of the army stretches several feet high. There is even a photograph of a well-known four-star general.
The illustrations are terrific. I like the sparkle in Jake’s eyes. His enthusiasm never wanes. A drill sergeant set in stone will keep Jake on his toes. I particularly like two illustrations, both of Jake. In one, Jake tries on a helmet and his eyes disappear, nicely showing the size of a helmet in comparison to the size of a young boy’s head. The other shows a wide-eyed Jake pointing like an iconic recruitment poster that says, “The U. S. Army wants YOU!” All of the illustrations elevate this book to a much higher level of quality.
Parents and teachers will love the When I Grow Up I Want to Be . . . series of books. The illustrations and stories make the careers easier to understand, helping kids make better-informed choices. Add in all the other When I Grow Up I Want to Be . . . books in the series, and those that will be published in the coming years, and kids will have a vocational encyclopedia of careers to consider. Teachers can incorporate one or more of the series in their teaching plan for the year. I think the When I Grow Up I Want to Be . . . series could become the set young kids turn to first when thinking of their future. I would not base a career choice solely on this series, but for young children, it is a great place to begin.
In When I Grow Up, I Want to Be . . . a Teacher! Carlee always wanted to be a teacher until the day her mother begins teaching at her school. Like man...moreIn When I Grow Up, I Want to Be . . . a Teacher! Carlee always wanted to be a teacher until the day her mother begins teaching at her school. Like many kids her age, Carlee is self-conscious about her parents, rarely happy for others to see her with them. Image if, when you were that age and your mother began teaching in your school and taught your friends. Mortified is a word that comes to mind, and embarrassed. Carlee’s mother, who has yet to do anything embarrassing, nonetheless embarrasses Carlee. Reality means nothing. What matters is what Carlee imagines and she imagines her mother doing the wrong thing and other students laughing. If they laugh at her mother, they laugh at her.
Carlee even takes it out on the librarian when she remarks how exciting having mom teach at the school must be for Carlee. Carlee immediately dismisses librarian as an alternative career to teacher. She is never going to be either now. The entire story plays out in Carlee’s head. I think the author nailed the character. Kids at that age, dare I say especially girls, prefer to have been raised by wolves than by their parents. I like how the author weaves historic figures into the story and then has Carlee consider alternative careers based on those people. Kids reading Carlee’s story should remember some of this history, despite themselves.
When I Grow up I Want to Be . . . is a wonderful series for this very reason. Kids will enjoy the stories and learn at the same time. Teachers can use these books to introduce students to different careers and people in that career, as in I Want to be in the Army, or various historic people as in I Want to Be a Teacher. I guess one could call this series a “twofer,” in that you get a good story and a lesson all wrapped up between two colorful covers.
Much happened in book 1, but the author gives the reader enough back story that book 2 could be read as a stand-alone. Even though, I think the reader...moreMuch happened in book 1, but the author gives the reader enough back story that book 2 could be read as a stand-alone. Even though, I think the reader misses too much when reading this series out of order. Andy Smithson is a series of seven books, which is a lot of interconnected story to remember. Reading out of order would be hazardous to the plot. Plus, the series is about two stories: Andy at Oomaldee and Andy at home. I like that book 2 begins with Andy at home, showing his parents showering him with attention, attention that Andy never received in the past. Now big sister Madison is the jealous one, but this does not change her attitude toward Andy. On a birthday party-trip for Madison, Andy slips back to Oomaldee. Lucky for him, time nearly stops back at home. Many of the same characters are in book 2, though not all have the same role. Now the nefarious vultures work at the castle. The worst is now the king’s advisor, which is a rather odd move, or the king is keeping his friends close and his enemies closer. New in book 2 is a kingdom game called Oscray, which involves a large egg, advancing a ball towards it, and stopping your opponent from doing this. Oscray is nothing like the game in Harry Potter, but the same community atmosphere prevails. The team opposing Andy’s team is hell-bent on beating Andy into the ground. This violence is with vividly described, but not overly horrid that middle graders would have nightmares. The other big development is the origin of the curse. Andy learns the cause of the curse, which happens to be his beloved King Hercalon V, whom Andy holds upon a high pedestal. Andy must find a way to accept this information and still love the man he trusts and loves. Andy Smithson: The Venom of the Serpent’s Cunning does have a few blemishes. One involves a bit of backstory. A while ago, the Wizard Merlin—Mermin’s brother—sent the king’s wife into Andy’s world. Merlin was to retrieve the Queen but he never returned. King Hercalon V tells Andy, “Only he (Merlin) knew how to access our world, and only he could bring her back (to Oomaldee).” The King continues, “I always assumed he (Merlin) dies in the process since he’s never been seen or heard from again.” If this is true, then how does Mermin send Sir Gawain and Alexander into Andy’s world to deliver a letter to Andy or transport Andy back and forth?
The other question involves the curse of immortality and the stone that keeps the king; and Andy’s suggestion that the king is his grandfather. Rather than more inference, I will let the readers decide for themselves. I will say that Andy Smithson: The Venom of the
Serpent’s Cunning will be enjoyed by kids 10 and up. That is not to rule out younger kids. Some kids progress faster than others do. Parents need to be the judge. I hope the books return to a level enjoyable by all kids 8 to 10.
For those that like messages or lessons in kid’s stories, there are definite lessons Andy needs to learn. In The Venom of the Serpent’s Cunning, the Serenity Prayer comes to mind. Andy is to accept the things he cannot change, and to change the things he can. He learns vengeance is not his to take, but rather he is to offer forgiveness. Andy still has a lot to learn in the books to come. I hope he does not continue aging a year with each book. A sixteen-year-old protagonist is a bit old for middle grade.
With all that said, kids will have trouble putting The Venom of the Serpent’s Cunning down until the last page is read. L. R. W. Lee has constructed a wonderful world full of adventure, daring deeds, and remarkable action tempered with the right dose of humor. This wildly addictive series will entertain middle grade students, who, like I, will anxiously await the release of book three. original review at Kid Lit Reviews: http://kid-lit-reviews.com/2014/02/11... (less)
An Evening with Grandpa tells the story of Pawnie, a young girl who wants to become a princess but is not of royal blood. Pawnie’s story kept Annie in...moreAn Evening with Grandpa tells the story of Pawnie, a young girl who wants to become a princess but is not of royal blood. Pawnie’s story kept Annie interested in a tale grandpa used to teach Annie the basic rules of chess. The white queen was very smart when she replaced all the young male soldiers with young girls. As an incentive to fight hard, any young girl who made it to the castle wall first would become the queen’s princess. (In reality, when a pawn traveling to the last row of the board—the king’s row—it becomes a queen). I like how grandpa explained this somewhat complicated game to such a young girl.
Pawnie making it to the king’s side, becoming a princess—and the hero of the battle for power—makes a great role model for young girls, telling them it is possible to do anything with effort. Of all the eight young female soldiers, only Pawnie stayed up learning how to fight and guard the king. Do not expect to learn the game of chess by reading An Evening with Grandpa. Grandpa does a good job explaining the directions a pawn may move and the actions it may take. The other, more powerful and more important pieces, were not explain enough to be able to move them with any deft.
An Evening with Grandpa will not teach young children the game of chess, but it will make them interested in the game. As a device for a story, chess worked well. I had no idea there was a fairy tale connected to the game, but it is a good tale. Young girls will love this story. With seven short chapters, reluctant readers will have no trouble reading the entire book. (Yes, I believe there are young girls who are reluctant readers, though not as many as young boys.) An Evening with Grandpa makes a good bedtime story. For short attention spans, a chapter a night will make a week’s worth of bedtime reading. For most young girls, the book can be read in a night or two by a parent.
An Evening with Grandpa may be the first chapter book to use chess as a story device. I think this is refreshing, imaginative, and entertaining. The illustrations add visuals to a story that needs none thanks to good writing. Boys may like the tale of Pawnie, but mostly girls will enjoy this unusual tale. The battle scenes are strictly G-Rated. The only dreams this story will cause are those of becoming a princess eventually ruling the land of your ancestors.