Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book Review: 'The Cruelest Miles' by Gay Salisbury & Laney Salisbury

✰✰✰✰ The harsh winters of Alaska are legendary, but in 1925 a deadly diphtheria epidemic raged through the land and created a crisis like none before. Earlier in the year, the town doctor had realized that his supply of diphtheria antitoxin had expired. Although he ordered more, it failed to arrive on the last ship before the town became icebound. In all his years practicing medicine in Nome, Dr. Welch rarely had call to use the medicine, so he wasn’t worried. Unfortunately soon children were suffering from symptoms of severe sore throats. At first it looked like tonsillitis, but the germs at work proved to be a lot more deadly and fast. With a blizzard rapidly approaching, the only chance to save the people of Nome depended on teams of sled dogs. Twenty mushers and their dogs, the most famous of which was Balto, participated in the 1925 Serum Run. This is the thrilling journey that inspired the Iditarod Sled Dog Race in Alaska.    

The Bottom Line: While this debut book by two cousins is sometimes repetitive, it is a quick, compelling read that keeps you hanging. With no roads, rails, flights, or boats available, this is a story of courage, survival, and adventure. It became a race against both time and the elements where the slightest miscalculation can cost you your life. Additionally, this book explores the bond between man and dog. Also, included in the book are many fascinating historical tidbits, black and white photos, and a map. Enthusiastically recommended for dog lovers, nonfiction aficionados, and history lovers.

Book Club Notes: This was a quick read for the group to tackle. While many of us were familiar with the story of Balto, it was interesting to learn about the other mushers and dogs involved in the serum run. The men pushed themselves and the dogs to their physical limits. Without hesitation, many sacrifices were made, not for glory, but simply to help fellow humans. It was also interesting to learn about life in Alaska including local folklore and native culture. It's all about survival and helping others in need. Overall, we gave this book an average of 4 stars. Most of us enjoyed the history and trivia included in the book. However, a few members disliked the trivia while others simply lost interest in the writing style. Groups considering this book can find a reading group guide at W. W. Norton & Company, Inc

Details: The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic by Gay Salisbury & Laney Salisbury. Paperback published by W. W. Norton & Company in 2003. 320 p. ISBN: 978-0-393-32570-6

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Book Review: 'Millhouse' by Natale Ghent

✰✰✰✰ Misfits know how difficult it can be to try to fit in. Millhouse, also known as Milly, is a gentle creature who loves the theatre. Once a beloved pet, Milly is put up for sale at a pet shop when his previous owner suddenly dies. Being the new animal in the shop isn’t easy. To make matters worse, Milly is hairless which makes him a target of the pet shop bullies. Life in a pet shop isn't easy, but Milly stays optimistic.

As the days and months go by, Milly makes a friend or two. He also makes an enemy in the form of the Pepper Brown ferret, who makes Milly’s life miserable. Despite many challenges, Milly never stops being his eccentric self. More than anything else he dreams of being adopted, but will anyone ever notice this quiet, sensitive creature? Only time will tell.

The Bottom Line: This charming tale about friendship and just being yourself will appeal to kids ages 7 – 11, who have guinea pigs as pets or who adore animals in general. This is a quick read that is perfect for reading aloud in a classroom setting. This chapter book is also a suitable choice for beginning readers. Finally, Millhouse includes sweet and nostalgic pen and ink style illustrations by the author.

Details: Millhouse by Natale Ghent. Hardcover published by Tundra Books in 2014. 192p. ISBN: 978-1-77049-639-2 NOTE: I received a free copy from Tundra Books in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review: 'Lighthouse Christmas' by Toni Buzzeo

✰✰✰✰✰ The Flying Santa Service has been serving families since 1929. Toni Buzzeo brings this Christmas tradition to life with the story of two siblings. Frances and Peter are new to Ledge Light; their father is the lighthouse keeper. There are only two days until Christmas and the children wonder if Christmas will come to the island. With dwindling supplies, the chance for a festive holiday seems grim. When a nor'easter blows in, Frances must keep the light shining while her papa attempts to rescue a fisherman. The storm even keeps the much needed supply boats away. Yet, somehow without cookies, music, or fancy gifts the children learn about the true meaning of Christmas, especially when a surprise delivery is made to the island.

The Bottom Line: This story was inspired by a true holiday tradition that continues to this day. Buzzeo's heartfelt tale focuses on the importance of families and tradition. Meanwhile, Nancy Carpenter's illustrations are nostalgic with soft colors. Very highly recommended for kids in grades 1 - 4.

Details: Lighthouse Christmas written by Toni Buzzeo and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. Hardcover picture book published by Dial Books for Young Readers in 2011. 32 p. ISBN: 978-08037-3053-3

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Book Review: 'Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas' by Julia Rawlinson

✰✰✰✰½ As Fletcher makes his way through the woods to the rabbit family's new burrow, he wonders how Santa Claus will ever find the new home. With the help of his animal friends, Fletcher devises a way to make a trail through the woods. However, when snow starts to fall and cover up the trail, Fletcher continues to worry. Fortunately, Santa always finds a way to deliver his presents much to Fletcher's surprise.

The Bottom Line: This is a charming tale for kids in grades K - 2. With a focus on friendship, little ones will learn that a little faith goes a long way. Kids will also love Tiphanie Beeke's soft and beautiful pastel illustrations. Enthusiastically recommended for Christmas Eve storytelling.

Details: Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas written by Julia Rawlinson and illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke. Hardcover picture book published by Greenwillow Books in 2010. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-06-199033-5

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Book Review: 'Christmas Farm' by Mary Lyn Ray

✰✰✰✰½ Wilma has grown flowers in her garden for many years. However, when winter arrives she decides that she needs a new challenge in the spring. Thus, she orders dozens of balsams for planting. Together with her five-year-old neighbor, Parker, they nurture the little trees. The years go by, and they keep track of how many trees survive. As Parker grows up, so do the trees until one year the trees are ready. The trees are tagged and sold to families looking for the perfect Christmas tree. The next spring, Wilma and Parker are ready to begin planting again.

The Bottom Line: This charming book is perfect for little ones wondering about how Christmas trees are grown and harvested. The story features a heartwarming friendship between two neighbors, one young and one old. It also emphasizes the value of hard work and patience. Beautiful, wintry illustrations in watercolor and gouache bring the story to life. Highly recommended for kids in grades K - 4.

Details: Christmas Farm written by Mary Lyn Ray & illustrated by Barry Root. Hardcover picture book published by Harcourt, Inc. in 2008. 40 p. ISBN: 978-0-15-216290-0

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book Review: 'Little Santa' by Jon Agee

✰✰✰✰ Little Santa lives at the North Pole with his family. There is always more wood to be chopped and snow to be shoveled at the North Pole. Little Santa loves it, but his family doesn't. On the night before his family moves to Florida, a terrible blizzard arrives and traps them all inside. Little Santa is the only one who can climb out of the chimney and go for help. Along the way he finds a very special reindeer and a houseful of helpful elves. With the help of his new friends, Little Santa rescues his family. Things are good for a while, but when winter rolls around again, Little Santa must make a choice. Will he move to Florida with his family or stay at the North Pole?

The Bottom Line: Jon Agee's sweet story is a different take on the story of Santa Claus. This is a fun story to read, especially for kids asking questions about Santa. Kids ages 2 - 5 will love the adorable illustrations and the story of Santa as a kid himself.

Details: Little Santa written & illustrated by Jon Agee. Hardcover picture book published by Dial Books for Young Readers in 2013. 40 p. ISBN: 978-0-8037-3906-2

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Book Review: 'Katie the Candy Cane Fairy Storybook by Tim Bugbird

✰✰✰✰ Katie Candy Cane is a singer who lives in Fairyland. Every year Katie and her sisters put on a festive holiday show that is famous throughout the land for its magical candy canes. But this year something goes awry. As rehearsals get underway, the stripes on the magic candy canes disappear. What will they do now that their groove is gone? With an audience waiting, they sisters decide there’s only one thing to do. The show must go on. Much to their surprise, the fairies discover that when you follow your heart, you can’t go wrong. 

The Bottom Line: This picture book is charming, cute, and festive. The vibrant illustrations will appeal to kids, especially girls, ages 4 – 7. The large print makes it easy for little ones to follow along too. This is just one of many Fairy Storybooks written by Tim Bugbird.

Details: Katie the Candy Cane Fairy Storybook written by Tim Bugbird and illustrated by Lara Ede. Hardcover picture book published by Make Believe Ideas in 2013. 32 p. ISBN: 978-1-78235-526-7