Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Book Review: 'The Wishing Spell' by Chris Colfer

✰✰✰ Things just aren’t the same after Alex and Connor Bailey’s father dies suddenly. Although their mother tries hard, their finances are stretched to the limit, and she never has time for the twins. Thus, when their grandmother gifts them with a magical book filled with fairy tales, it is only a matter of time before the twins become immersed in it. An accidental discovery takes the twins to a fairy tale land where they meet the characters of their favorite childhood stories. It’s a dream come true, right? Well, unfortunately things are not all they are cracked up to be in the land of stories, and the twins are worried about their mom. As if things couldn’t get any worse, they learn that the only way home is by the wishing spell.

With the help of frog, a journal filled with riddles, and a bit of luck, the twins quickly gather the items needed to activate the spell. However, someone else is also longing for the wish. With the clock ticking, the twins are running out of time before they will be trapped forever in a fairy tale land filled with danger. Will they be able to make their escape in time? Check out this first, fast-paced book in The Land of Stories series to find out their fate.

The Bottom Line: Most of the characters in this charming tale will be familiar to middle grade readers. Recommended for readers who enjoy fairytale mash-ups, this book contains lots of adventure with plenty of twists and turns to keep kids interested.

Details: The Wishing Spell (The Land of Stories) by Chris Colfer. Paperback published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in 2013. 464 p. ISBN: 978-0-316-20156-8

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Book Review: 'As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust' by Alan Bradley

✰✰✰✰ After finally putting her mother to rest, Flavia de Luce is suddenly banished from her beloved ancestral home, Buckshaw, and England. Transported to Canada, Flavia is enrolled in Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy like her mother had been. Before Flavia has time to settle into the boarding school, a gruesome corpse is discovered. Quick as a wink, Flavia is on the case. In between attending classes, making friends, and avoiding new enemies, Flavia must navigate a minefield of dangerous situations. Along the way she discovers that students have gone missing and that Miss Bodycote’s is no ordinary school. With danger around every corner, the stakes are high as Flavia rushes solve the mysteries and discover more information about her family’s secrets and her own personal destiny,

The Bottom Line: In this installment Flavia faces new challenges, while continuing to be as charming and brilliant as ever. This cozy series is a must-read for both adult and young adult mystery aficionados. Like previous installments, this book is a quick and fun read perfect for weekend or beach reading.

Details: As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley. Hardcover published by Delacorte Press in 2015. 416 p. ISBN: 978-0-345-53993-9

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Book Review: 'The Smallest Gift of Christmas' by Peter H. Reynolds

✰✰✰✰✰ On Christmas morning, Roland wishes for a big gift. What he finds is the littlest gift ever. Is this all? It just can't be, so he wishes again and again. The gifts become bigger and bigger. Still Roland wants something even bigger. As he searches the universe for something bigger, he realizes that maybe he already has what he really wants. Sometimes the biggest gifts really do come in the smallest packages.

The Bottom Line: This holiday tale reminds us that happiness can be found in your heart rather than in material things. Sometimes even though we don't get what we wish for, we find something better. Highly recommended for story time reading for kids in grades Pre-K – 1. The author's digitally created illustrations are simple, yet colorful and comical.

Details: The Smallest Gift of Christmas written & illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. Hardcover picture book published by Candlewick Press in 2013. 40 p. ISBN: 978-0-7636-6103-8

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Book Review: 'Night of the White Stag' by M. C. Helldorfer

✰✰✰✰½ After the King's war ended, Finder's father never returned. With his family starving for food, young Finder sets off for the castle on Christmas Eve in search of some. When he loses his way, he stumbles upon an old blind man who is hunting for the mythical great white stag. Finder has his doubts, but he helps the old man in his quest. With a little trust, Finder discovers that miracles can happen.

The Bottom Line: This story was inspired by medieval literature and folklore. It takes the reader along on a wintry dream vision. Lavishly illustrated in detailed colored pencil, this tale of bravery will pull you in as good prevails. For children in grades 3 – 4.

Details: Night of the White Stag written by M. C. Helldorfer & illustrated by Yvonne Gilbert. Hardcover picture book published by Random House in 1999. 32 p. ISBN: 0-385-32261-5

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Book Review: 'The Nutcracker Doll' by Mary Newell De Palma

✰✰✰½ After seeing The Nutcracker for the very first time, little Kepley decides to try out next year. She pays extra attention in class. She practices and smiles. Before too long, it's Nutcracker audition day. Despite being nervous, Kepley does her best and is rewarded with a small role. As the big night approaches, Kepley is fitted for a beautiful dress. She'll never forget the thrill of the bright lights. Being on stage is a dream come true for this little ballerina.

The Bottom Line: This special holiday story will appeal to any child who has ever dreamed of dancing on stage. Mary Newell De Palma's soft watercolors with pen and ink are pleasing to the eye and capture the excitement of the season. Check this one out for your little dancer in grades K – 2.

Details: The Nutcracker Doll written & illustrated by Mary Newell De Palma. Hardcover picture book published by Arthur A. Levine Books in 2007. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-439-80242-0

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Book Review: 'Drummer Boy' by Loren Long

✰✰✰✰✰ One wintry day a surprise gift is left on a doorstep. A little boy opens the gift to find a toy drummer boy. The little boy loves this gift, and when all is quiet the drummer boy plays his drum. All is well until one day the drummer boy is accidentally swept into the trash. Alone, the drummer boy begins a long, cold, and scary journey across the city. At each step along the way, the drummer boy plays his drum. After being nearly buried in snow, the drummer boy almost loses hope. Will he ever see the little boy again? Check this book out and read it with your child to find out.

The Bottom Line: By sharing this heartwarming tale, you'll rediscover the true spirit of Christmas. This beautifully and richly illustrated picture book will take you on a holiday journey. Highly recommended for kids in grades 1 – 3.

Details: Drummer Boy written & illustrated by Loren Long. Hardcover picture book published by Philomel Books in 2008. 40 p. ISBN: 978-0-399-25174-0

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Book Review: 'Baby Christmas' by Michael Lawrence

✰✰✰ Just when Father Christmas sets off to deliver presents to good little boys and girls, Baby Christmas goes missing. Both Father and Mother Christmas search high and low for the little boy, but he is nowhere to be found. While his parents are busy searching, Baby Christmas and Rudolph Junior set off with a baby sleigh full of toys. The little boy quickly finds his destiny and has a Christmas adventure of his own.

The Bottom Line: Magical watercolors in soft hues bring this holiday story to life. Children will delight in this tale about a little boy following in his fathers footsteps. Recommended for bedtime reading on Christmas Eve for children ages 3 - 7.

Details: Baby Christmas written by Michael Lawrence & illustrated by Arthur Robins. Hardcover picture book published by Barron's in 2006. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-7641-5998-5