Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book Review: 'The Costume Copycat' by Maryann Macdonald

✰✰✰✰ Big Sister Bernadette always has the best Halloween costumes. Everyone thinks so. That's why little sister Angela decides to wear Bernadette's costume from the previous year. Unfortunately, being a costume copycat doesn't make Angela a star. After several years of being a costume copycat, Angela decides to maker her own costume. She's in for a pleasant surprise when the neighbors see her handmade costume.

The Bottom Line: Sometimes it's better to be yourself than to follow in someone else's footsteps. This is a cute tale of sibling rivalry. Charming watercolor and ink illustrations by Wilsdorf bring the text to life. Enthusiastically recommended for kids in grades Pre-K - 1. This picture book would be great for storytime too.

Details: The Costume Copycat written by Maryann Macdonald & illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf. Hardcover picture book published by Dial Books for Young Readers in 2006. 32 p. ISBN: 9780803729292

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: 'The Teeny Tiny Ghost and the Monster' by Kay Winters

✰✰✰½ The Spook and Spirit Club is sponsoring a Make a Monster contest for Halloween. All the ghosts in the teeny tiny classroom are excited except for one, the teeny tiny ghost. For the teeny tiny ghost, making a monster is too scary. As the other ghosts draw their monsters and make fun of him, the teeny tiny ghost finds inspiration in an unexpected place. With the help of his two teeny tiny black cats, the teeny tiny ghost just might have a chance of entering the contest after all.

The Bottom Line: This story is for any child who has been picked on and bullied. It can be read to a class, to open up a conversation about bullying. Best for kids in grades 1 and 2.

Details: The Teeny Tiny Ghost and the Monster written by Kay Winters & illustrated by Lynn Munsinger. Hardcover picture book published by HarperCollins in 2004. 32 p. ISBN: 0-06-028885-X

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Book Review: 'Pumpkin Cat' by Anne Mortimer

✰✰✰✰ One late spring day, Cat wonders how pumpkins grow. Cat's friend, Mouse, decides to show her by helping her plant pumpkin seeds. As the days and months pass, the seeds grow into plants. With time and attention, flowers appear followed by little pumpkins. By the time Halloween rolls around, Mouse has a wonderful surprise for Cat.

The Bottom Line: This gentle story is perfect for any time of the year. It's a charming tale of friendship and gardening. Mortimer's beautiful illustrations are soft and colorful. This picture book will appeal to little ones and their parents. Teachers for grades K - 2 will find the "Instructions for Growing Pumpkins" at the back of the book useful as well.

Details: Pumpkin Cat written & illustrated by Anne Mortimer. Hardcover picture book published by Katherine Tegen Books in 2011. 24 p. ISBN: 978-0-06-187485-7

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Book Review: 'Then Came Life' by Geralyn Lucas

✰✰✰½ The journey from cancer diagnosis to treatment to survival is different for each patient. Geralyn Lucas has lived under the shadow of cancer for nearly two decades. With lipstick as her shield, she has endured it all to come out on the other side with two miracle babies, a supportive husband, and a “normal” everyday life. Lucas writes with brutal honesty and humor as she describes everything from preschool interviewing and potty training to interacting with her mean tween daughter and couples counseling. Meanwhile, she must face her fears as people important to her face their own battles with cancer. As the years go by, Lucas learns to move beyond the fear of a cancer recurrence and really embrace life.

The Bottom Line: This is a very quick read. Nonetheless, it is repetitive in several spots. For example, there were several references to the challenges of putting on Spanx and the quest for Botox. Each chapter is an essay from a different point in her life, and it is the last few chapters of this book that make it a worthwhile read. Readers will laugh and cry along with the author. Fans of the author's first book, Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy, will want to pick up a copy. Also, recommended for anyone who has survived an illness and is struggling to move forward. Readers interested in mother-daughter relationships would enjoy this book as well.

Details: Then Came Life: Living with Courage, Spirit, and Gratitude After Breast Cancer by Geralyn Lucas. Advance Uncorrected Proof published in 2014. 240 p. ISBN: 978-1-592-40895-5 NOTE: I received a free copy from Gotham Books in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.

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