Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Book Review: 'The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches' by Alan Bradley

✰✰✰✰ It's the spring of 1951, and Flavia de Luce's long-lost mother, Harriet, has finally returned to her beloved ancestral home, Buckshaw. It seems the whole town of Bishop's Lacey has turned out to welcome Harriet home. The gathering includes extended family, friends, a famous politician, and a mysterious stranger, who ends up dead soon after delivering a cryptic message to Flavia. Immediately Flavia's interest is piqued, and she must once again don her sleuthing hat. Working around her grieving family, with the funeral just hours away, Flavia must work quickly to uncover even more family secrets and discover the cause of her mother's untimely death.

The Bottom Line: Flavia is captivating, sweet, and just a little bit morbid at times. Her character continues to mature as she is confronted with death on a personal level; however, she's still that spunky, tomboyish free spirit I adore. As more family secrets are revealed, Flavia uncovers and struggles with her destiny. This quick and quirky mystery is enthusiastically recommended for both YA and adult readers who enjoy cozies set in England. It's always fun to read about Flavia's fascination with science.

Details: The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley. Hardcover published by Delacorte Press in 2014. 336 p. ISBN: 978-0-385-34405-0

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Book Review: 'The Lotus Caves' by John Christopher

✰✰✰✰✰ The year is 2068, and life in the moon's Bubble is boring. When Marty's best friend is forced to move back to Earth earlier than planned, fifteen-year-old Marty is left alone. Everything changes when Marty befriends a classmate named Steve. As an orphan, Steve is used to being an outcast and a loner. It isn't long before Steve and Marty's new friendship leads to trouble. Having skipped school, the pair takes a crawler out to the abandoned First Station. 

What starts out as a quick and harmless adventure quickly goes awry when the crawler skids out of control. The friends awake to find themselves in a cave beneath the moon's surface. Much to their surprise they find food, oxygen, plants, another human, and alien life. At first the place seems magical, but the more they consume, the more obedient they become to the alien creature in charge. As the days go by, it becomes harder and harder to resist submitting to the creature. Before forgetting who they are, Marty and Steve make a plan for their escape. However, the creature just might have other plans for them.

The Bottom Line: This is classic science fiction at its best. I remember reading and rereading this book in grade school during the 1970s, and I have been searching for a copy to own ever since. I'm happy to write that the book has retained its magic. The themes of friendship and believing in yourself are just as current today as when it was written. Very highly recommended for kids in middle school. Also, highly recommended for adults interested in sci-fi.

Details: The Lotus Caves by John Christopher. Paperback reissue edition published by Aladdin in 2014. 288 p. ISBN: 9781481418379

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review: 'Gingerbread Friends' by Jan Brett

✰✰✰✰✰ The Gingerbread Baby is sassy, plucky, and oh so lonely. One day he sets out to find friends like himself. He ends up in a bakery where the cookies only stare straight ahead. There's not a friendly face in sight. The Gingerbread Baby only has thoughts of home as he is chased from the bakery by a mama mouse, a cat, and the baker. Along the way more animals join in the chase. After a close call, the Gingerbread Baby arrives home just in time to find a delicious surprise waiting for him.

The Bottom Line: Scrumptious illustrations in pastel colors make for a tasty treat for readers. A recipe for gingerbread boys and girls is included in the margins of the book which concludes with a colorful giant foldout page. Perfect for storytime; this lyrical and clever take on the classic Gingerbread Boy will delight kids and adults alike.

Details: Gingerbread Friends written & illustrated by Jan Brett. Hardcover picture book published by G. P. Putnam's Sons in 2008. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-399-25161-0

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Book Review: 'One Winter's Night' by John Herman

✰✰✰✰✰ On a cold winter's night, a young cow named Martha is alone and lost. As she braves the frozen fields and bitter winds, she knows she must find shelter and people to help her. Martha's baby is due very soon. At long last she finds a farm, but it is dark and abandoned. She continues her search following a bright star. Eventually Martha comes upon a shed with a donkey, hay, and a young couple. As the woman delivers her own baby, Martha's calf arrives too on a very special winter's night.

The Bottom Line: John Herman's gentle tale of a lost cow about to give birth parallels the story of the birth of Jesus. The illustrators chose to depict the story of Mary and Joseph's journey in black and white, while the cow's journey is depicted in color with a focus on shades of blue. The illustrations and the text merge together beautifully in the end. Highly recommended picture book for kids in grades K - 3. This is a beautiful book you will want to read again and again with your children.

Details: One Winter's Night story by John Herman & illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon. Hardcover picture book published by Philomel Books in 2003. ISBN: 0-399-23418-7

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Book Review: 'Cobweb Christmas' by Shirley Climo

✰✰✰✰ Christmas at Tante's was special. Every year she cleaned and baked in preparation. Then all the children and animals were invited to see Tante's beautiful Christmas tree. Only the spiders were turned away. 

As always Tante wished to experience a little bit of Christmas magic for herself where animals might speak or bees hum carols at midnight. However, Tante always fell fast asleep. Then one Christmas a mysterious visitor left Tante's door open just a crack. The curious spiders finally had a chance to experience Tante's beautiful tree and in return they leave behind a little bit of magic that has become legend. 

The Bottom Line: This version of the German folktale is set in the Bavarian forests. Both the story and the illustrations have an Old World charm and will appeal to children in grades 1 - 3. Kids will delight in the magical story of the tradition of tinsel.

Details: Cobweb Christmas: The Tradition of Tinsel written by Shirley Climo & illustrated by Jane Manning. Hardcover picture book published by HarperCollins Publishers in 2001. 32 p. ISBN; 0-06-029034-X

Monday, July 20, 2015

Book Review: 'The Attic Christmas' by B. G. Hennessy

✰✰✰✰ At Lily's house Christmas doesn't last a single day; it is a whole season. Every year Lily's treasured ornaments look forward to the day they are brought down from the attic and hung in the tree. But this year is different. The house is quiet and no one comes to get them. There are no more Christmases for Lily. Feeling sad, the ornaments try to salvage the season with their own Christmas celebration, but it isn't the same. Just when they have about given up, there are noises coming from downstairs. Will the ornaments be remembered? Read this nostalgic story and find out what happens to the ornaments. 

The Bottom Line: For families with Christmas traditions of their own, this is a gentle story of remembering the past and keeping tradition alive. Children will enjoy Andreasen's illustrations which are reminiscent of a time gone by. Recommended holiday reading for families. 

Details: The Attic Christmas written by B. G. Hennessy & illustrated by Dan Andreasen. Hardcover picture book published by G.P. Putnam 's Sons in 2004. ISBN: 0-399-23497-7

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Book Review: 'Oh, What A Christmas!' by Michael Garland

✰✰✰✰✰ Christmas gets off to a magical start until the harness breaks and Santa's reindeer fly off without him. In fact, Santa is in for a bumpy ride until he crashes into a barn. What is Santa to do? Instead of eight reindeer, Santa has an assortment of farm animals and one very old dog to help him. With children waiting all over the world, Santa has an idea. With a snap of his fingers and a wiggle of his nose, Santa's Christmas magic and eight ordinary animals get the job done.

The Bottom Line: Clever Santa has a rollicking adventure in this fun and humorous tale. Garland's bright and colorful illustrations brought a smile to my face. Kids in preschool and up will love the action and the fantastic pictures. Highly recommended for bedtime reading or storytime. It's jolly good fun.

Details: Oh, What A Christmas! written & illustrated by Michael Garland. Hardcover picture book published by Scholastic Press in 2011. 40 p. ISBN: 978-0-545-24210-3