Friday, February 14, 2020

Book Review: 'A Crankenstein Valentine' by Samantha Berger


✰✰✰ Welcome to Valentine’s Day, a time when everyone is caught up in pink bouquets, sweet candy treats, and cheesy cards. Everyone, that is, except Crankenstein. He doesn’t like underwear with hearts, chocolate with coconut, or being in the school pageant. Yechhhh! What could possibly melt this Crankenstein’s heart? Something everyone needs. Check out this picture book and discover the secret.

The Bottom Line: Not everyone is a fan of candy hearts, flowers, and kisses. This large picture book with bright, bold illustrations is perfect for kids in Preschool – Grade 1 who don’t enjoy the lovey-dovey nature of the season.

Details: Crankenstein Valentine written by Samantha Berger & illustrated by Dan Santat. Picture book published by Little, Brown and Company in 2014. 40 p. ISBN: 978-0-316-37638-9  

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Book Review: 'Brownie Groundhog and the Wintry Surprise by Susan Blackaby

✰✰✰✰½ When Brownie Groundhog leaves for her long winter’s nap, she tells her friends not to bother her until spring. What is a fox and a bunny to do in the meantime? “Wintry things,” says Brownie. Although they try to do wintry things, it’s cold outside, and Fox and Bunny soon get bored. When Fox gets the bright idea to borrow his friend’s warm scarf, a hesitant Bunny follows along. Soon Fox “borrows” lots of things. With all the racket, it’s only a matter of time before Brownie wakes up to find a BIG surprise waiting for her. Will Brownie be angry with her friends? It looks like Brownie won’t get the sleep she needs, but the ending just might surprise YOU!

The Bottom Line: Friendship is the key to this tale, because although Brownie’s friends borrow her things without permission and wake her up, Brownie keeps her cool. Segovia’s whimsical, wintry illustrations in acrylic and ink are a real treat and add humor to the story. Plus, this picture book manages to be a holiday book without specifically mentioning a particular religion or culture. An enjoyable read for celebrating Groundhog’s Day, Christmas, or the season of winter. Highly recommended for little ones in Preschool – Grade 2 or for classroom storytimes.

Details: Brownie Groundhog and the Wintry Surprise written by Susan Blackaby & illustrated by Carmen Segovia. Picture book published by Sterling Children’s Books in 2013. 32 p. ISBN: 978-1-4027-9836-8  

Monday, January 27, 2020

Book Review: 'Tales of Japan: Traditional Stories of Monsters and Magic' by Chronicle Books

✰✰✰✰ Chronicle Books presents 15 tales of horror from classic Japanese literature. The stories are divided into three sections (Journeys, Ghosts & Monsters, and Justice), with each story beginning with an original illustration by Kotaro Chiba. The stunning artwork is reminiscent of woodblock prints and demand the reader’s attention. In sum, this is a nice collection of folktales with twists of horror and enchantment, but the real attraction is the illustrations.

The Bottom Line: This is a gorgeous book; however, I unfortunately found the translated text to be quite stilted. Rather than racing through this book, I read the stories over time. Overall, I have given this a rating of 4 stars (5 for the illustrations and 3 for the text). It is important to note that the texts are readily available in the public domain with about half of the tales from Yei Theodora Ozaki’s Japanese Fairy Tales and another half from Lafcadio Hearn’s Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things. This book will appeal to those interested in Japanese folktales, literature, and culture.

Details: Tales of Japan: Traditional Stories of Monsters and Magic by Chronicle Books, illustrated by Kotaro Chiba. Hardcover published by Chronicle Books in 2019. 168 p. ISBN: 978-1-4521-7446-4 [NOTE: I received a free review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible via the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.]  

Monday, January 13, 2020

Book Review: 'Yoga for Your Brain: A Zentangle Workout' by Sandy Steen Bartholomew

✰✰✰✰ Are you feeling stressed or anxious? Are you looking for a new challenge in the new year? Zentangle is a great way to find your inner peace. All you need are a few supplies and an open mind; then let the creativity flow. This instruction book assumes some basic knowledge of Zentangle techniques. However, I'll admit I knew very little about Zentangling when I first picked it up a few years ago. Nevertheless, I learned a whole lot as I progressed through the book. Just choose the tangles that appeal to you, and away you go.

The Bottom Line: This slim workbook is perfect for advanced beginners and intermediate Zentanglers. As the sequel to Totally Tangled, this one also includes plenty of tips, projects, and new patterns as well as basic information on shading, auras, and even using your pencil. The instructions are super easy to follow too.  It's an easy, peasy way to while away some free time. Enthusiastically recommended for artists looking for a little inspiration or new ideas.

Details: Yoga for Your Brain: A Zentangle Workout by Sandy Steen Bartholomew. Paperback published by Design Originals in 2011. 52 p. ISBN: 978-1574216981 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Book Review: 'Best in Snow' by April Pulley Sayre

✰✰✰✰ Featuring amazing nature photography, Best in Snow is sure to be a favorite read. Author April Pulley Sayre gently takes the early reader through the winter water cycle of snow precipitation. With stunning landscapes, animal shots, and close-ups, the photography takes the reader to a winter wonderland. Along the way we learn how snow forms, melts, and starts all over again. Educational information is included on the last pages too.

The Bottom Line: This beautiful, engaging picture book is ideal for STEAM related activities. Filled with gorgeous photography and limited vocabulary, this book is perfect for Preschool – Grade 1 classrooms. Kids will have fun learning without even realizing it, and teachers can elaborate on the scientific information presented in the back of the book. Enthusiastically recommended!

Details: Best in Snow by April Pulley Sayre. Picture book published by Beach Lane Books in 2016. 40 p. ISBN: 978-1-4814-5916-7  

Happy New Year 2020!



Good riddance to 2019 & welcome to 2020! The New Year is shaping up to be an amazing adventure. I'm looking forward to getting back on track with reading and writing. I've also returned to my first love...art! I've taken the step to sign up for classes in watercolor painting, journaling, and iconography. And as always, I'll be sharing book related news and articles, so stop by often. 

Wishing everyone a brilliant & amazing 
New Year!


Note: The cool snowman clip art is from ClipArtKey.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Book Review: 'The Santa Thief' by Alane Adams

✰✰✰✰½  As Georgie and his Papa search for the perfect Christmas tree, Georgie receives the devastating news that Santa might not be able to visit this year. All he wants is a new pair of ice skates, but his hopes are dashed. He's no longer in the mood to decorate the tree or celebrate Christmas. Before sending Georgie to his room, his mother reminds him that Christmas is about more than just gifts. As he sulks in his room, Georgie comes up with an idea. With a little thread, some red cloth, and a new resolve, Georgie gets to work creating Christmas surprises for all. 

The Bottom Line: Adams takes the reader back to a simpler time with this series of historical fiction picture books based on tales told by her father about growing up on a Pennsylvania farm in the 1920s.  In this third installment, Georgie learns about the true meaning of Christmas. Charming illustrations enhance the nostalgia for a time long past. Read this with your child ages 4 - 8 on Christmas Eve.

Details: The Santa Thief written by Alane Adams & illustrated by Lauren Gallegos. Hardcover picture book published by Spark Press in 2017. 32 p. ISBN: 978-1-940716-86-2