Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Book Review: 'Boris and Bella' by Carolyn Crimi

✰✰✰✰✰ Everyone in Booville seems to get along. Everyone, that is, except for neighbors Bella and Boris. Bella Legrossi is the messiest creature in town, while Boris Kleanitoff is the tidiest.

Bella and Boris argue all the time. As Halloween rolls around, each tries to outdo the other with a spectacular party. When all the other monsters turn them down to attend Harry Beastie’s party, Bella and Boris are left out and all alone again. Together they decide to find out what all the other creatures are shrieking about. And together they stumble upon a nice surprise.

The Bottom Line: This tale of two opposites is witty and clever. This spooky tale of friendship is one of my favorites this year. Kids in lower grade school will love Gris Grimly’s spooktacular illustrations in ink and watercolor. This Halloween treat is sure to be a winner for story time reading as well.

Details: Boris and Bella written by Carolyn Crimi & illustrated by Gris Grimly. Hardcover picture book published by Harcourt, Inc. in 2004. 32 p. ISBN: 0-15-202528-6 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Book Review: 'Trick or Treat?' by Bill Martin Jr. & Michael Sampson

✰✰✰✰ A little boy goes trick-or-treating in his apartment building. He goes from floor to floor and door to door, asking, “Trick or Treat?” Each person answers, “Treat!” and hands out candy. However, when the little boy reaches the tenth floor, Merlin answers, “Trick!” Magic Merlin waves his wand and suddenly everything is WackBards! On the way back down to his apartment, the little boy’s treat bag is filled with backwards treats. When he gets home, his daddy knows just the trick to undo Merlin’s spell.

The Bottom Line: This Halloween-themed counting book is recommended for kids in grades PreK – 1. Meisel’s whimsical drawings will make kids laugh. Also, recommended for story time.

Details: Trick or Treat? written by Bill Martin Jr. & Michael Sampson, & illustrated by Paul Meisel. Hardcover picture book published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in 2002. 40 p. ISBN: 0-689-84968-0 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Book Review: 'How to Make Friends with a Ghost' by Rebecca Green

✰✰✰✰½  Ghosts need friends just like we do. It might be a bit scary at first to be friends with a ghost, but this helpful guide will show you how. The tricky part is finding a ghost. Rather then looking for one, it's better to let the ghost find you.

Once you are acquainted with your ghost let the fun begin. Ghosts have special needs, and this how-to book will help you care for your new friend. You can make snacks for it, take walks with it, and tell it funny jokes. If you move or when you grow older, your ghost will still be there for you. Your ghost is your true friend to the end...forever.   

The Bottom Line: Rebecca Green's debut picture book is a delightful winner. This quirky and sweet tale of everlasting friendship is great for kids who are a little bit shy. This ghostly tale is not scary at all. Green used a soothing, limited color palette resulting in charming illustrations with gothic, retro feel. Highly recommended for kids in grades K – 2. This is the perfect seasonal reading for kids interested in fantasy and make-believe.

Details: How to Make Friends with a Ghost written & illustrated by Rebecca Green. Hardcover picture book published by Tundra Books in 2017. 40 p. ISBN: 978-1-101-91901-9  NOTE: I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible via the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Book Review: 'How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?' by Margaret McNamara

✰✰✰✰✰ Charlie is the smallest kid in class. One day his teacher brings in three pumpkins in three different sizes and asks, "How many seeds in a pumpkin?" Everyone guesses that the largest has the most. Maybe, but not so fast. The class sets out to count the seeds in groups of twos, fives, and tens. When everyone is finished, the class is surprised by the results. It just goes to prove that sometimes good things come in small packages.

The Bottom Line: This book is enthusiastically recommended for story time reading for kids in grades K – 2. The children work together in teams and learn about counting and perception. The engaging illustrations rendered in gouache, acrylic, and pencil help drive the concepts home. Finally, the book includes some cool facts about pumpkins too.

Details: How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? (Mr. Tiffin's Classroom series) written by Margaret McNamara & illustrated by G. Brian Karas. Hardcover picture book published by Schwartz & Wade Books in 2007. 40 p. ISBN: 978-0-375-84014-2 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Book Review: 'Ollie's Halloween' by Olivier Dunrea

✰✰✰✰ It’s Halloween and the goslings are out prowling. Each is dressed up for the festivities as they hoot like owls, scare frogs, and gobble up treats. But Ollie is too busy to eat. When lightning flashes in the dark sky, the goslings run into the barn. There they find one last feast of treats. Will the others share with Ollie? Check out this Halloween treat to find out.

The Bottom Line: This tiny tale of big Halloween adventure is sure to please little ones familiar with Gossie, Gertie, Peedie, BooBoo, & Ollie. Delightful pen and ink and gouache illustrations set a festive tone. The large print is perfect for beginning readers. Enthusiastically recommended for little ones in preschool. Includes a fold-out poster.

Details: Ollie’s Halloween written & illustrated by Olivier Dunrea. Hardcover picture book published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children in 2010. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-618-53241-4

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Book Review: 'It Takes a Witch' by Heather Blake

✰✰✰✰ After the recent death of their father, Darcy Merriweather and her little sister, Harper, need a change. When their only living relative, Aunt Ve, invites them to live with her in the Enchanted Village in Salem, Massachusetts, they jump at the opportunity. It seems they never got to know their mom very well and after joining the family business, Darcy and Harper learn a family secret. They come from a long line of witches known as Wishcrafters, who have the power to grant wishes with spells. What could possibly be better?

As Darcy and Harper take new jobs and get to know the residents, they quickly discover that things aren't so rosy in this magic-themed tourist town. With a pickpocketer running amok, more trouble soon arrives in the form of a dead body. When the obvious clues point to Aunt Ve and her beau, Darcy pushes her newfound abilities to the max. Meanwhile, a handsome widower mysteriously appears every step of the way as Darcy follows the twists and turns of this charming mystery to a surprising conclusion.

The Bottom Line: This supernatural cozy mystery is a quick read. After finishing the first installment, I can't wait to read the rest. Highly recommended for fans of cozy mysteries who enjoy a little romance as well. This would be fun to take to the beach or on vacation.

Details: It Takes a Witch: A Wishcraft Mystery by Heather Blake. Paperback published by OBSIDIAN in 2012. 320 p. ISBN: 978-0-451-23552-7 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Book Review: 'Night of the Living Deed' by E. J. Copperman

✰✰✰½ Alison Kerby is a recently divorced, single mom looking for a change. Deciding to follow her dream, she purchases a large Victorian house on the Jersey shore. With lots of hard work and determination, she plans to turn it into a guesthouse. However, when an accident leaves Alison with the ability to see and talk to ghosts, Alison suddenly has a problem. Her house is haunted!

The ghosts that occupy Alison's house insist they were murdered, and they won't leave Alison alone until she solves the mystery. As the deadline for completing the renovations looms near, Alison starts receiving threatening emails. With the safety of her daughter and herself at risk, will Alison be able to solve the mystery in time? Check out this quirky, spooky mystery to find out.

The Bottom Line: This is the first book of the entertaining Haunted Guesthouse Mysteries. It's the perfect pick for weekend or beach reading. Recommended for fans of cozy mysteries with a paranormal twist.

Details: Night of the Living Deed (A Haunted Guesthouse Mystery) by E. J. Copperman. Paperback published by Berkley in 2010. 336 p. ISBN: 978-0-425-23523-2 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Book Review: 'Putting on the Witch' by Joyce & Jim Lavene

✰✰✰✰½ It's Brian's birthday, and the coven is invited to a Witches Ball. It's the opportunity of a lifetime to get glammed up and visit a magnificent, magical castle in an undisclosed location. It's also a great time to put their worries aside. With the troubling arrival of Dorothy's notoriously wicked father, the search for their missing spell book has gone cold.

The festivities are just beginning when Molly, Elsie, and Dorothy arrive. Unbeknownst to them Dorothy's ghostly mother, Olivia, has tagged along as well. It's all fun until a member of the Grand Council of Witches turns up dead. The obvious suspects are the members of our favorite coven. As they set out to clear their name, the castle is locked down for twenty-four hours and a real Spanish Inquisitor is released to conduct an investigation. With time running out, the coven must quickly solve the mystery before anyone else gets hurt or the wrong person is blamed. It seems the clock is ticking all too quickly.

The Bottom Line: The third installment in the Retired Witches Mysteries is a house party style cozy that will keep you guessing with lots of twists and turns. Fans of paranormal cozies will enjoy this quick weekend read. Highly recommended for young adults too.

Details: Putting on the Witch (Retired Witches Mysteries) by Joyce & Jim Lavene. Paperback published by Berkley Prim Crime in 2016. 304 p. ISBN: 978-0-425-26827-8 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Book Review: 'Cinderella Skeleton' by Robert D. San Souci

✰✰✰✰½ Boneyard Acres is home to Cinderella Skeleton, her evil stepmother, and two evil stepsisters. Cinderella Skeleton is forced to do all the housework. When it is time for the Halloween Ball, she begs to go. All the girls want to win Prince Charnel’s heart. Unfortunately Cinderella is forced to stay at home until a good witch agrees to help her get to the ball. She leaves with a warning that everything will change back at the break of day.

Cinderella Skeleton causes a stir at the ball. Everyone is intrigued by this beauty, but she remembers the warning to late. As she rushes to return home on time, she leaves behind a clue. Prince Charnel has been charmed. He searches high and low for his mystery guest. Will the Prince ever find his true love? Will Cinderella Skeleton ever be free of chores? Check out this spooky treat to find out. 

The Bottom Line: This ghoulish retelling of a classic fairy tale with rhyming verses will delight kids in grades 2 – 4. Catrow’s dreamy illustrations in watercolors and pencil are spooktacular and vivid. This visual treat is highly recommended. 

Details: Cinderella Skeleton written by Robert D. San Souci & illustrated by David Catrow. Hardcover picture book published by Silver Whistle in 2000. 32 p. ISBN: 0-15-2002003-9 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Book Review: 'Zombelina' by Kristyn Crow

✰✰✰½ Zombelina is an adorable little zombie girl who loves dancing. She boogies with bats and glides like a ghost. When she gets carried away, her mom drops her off at dance class. Unfortunately, things don’t go so well. Her human classmates don’t like her, but she practices every day anyway.

When the day of the recital arrives, Zombelina freezes. She can’t dance. When someone screams, Zombelina’s classmates and the audience flee. Wondering what to do, she hears a familiar sound. Finally, with her family there, Zombelina gives a dance performance to remember.

The Bottom Line: This is the charming tale of a little girl who just loves to dance. Told in rhyming verse with colorful illustrations, children ages 4 – 8 will enjoy this tale with a spooky setting.

Details: Zombelina written by Kristyn Crow & illustrated by Molly Idle. Hardcover picture book published by Walker Books for Young Readers in 2013. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-8027-2803-6

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Book Review: 'The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything' by Linda Williams

✰✰✰✰ One autumn afternoon, a little old lady set out to collect herbs and nuts. She walked and walked until it began to get dark. Along the way she encountered the CLOMP, CLOMP of a pair of shoes; the WIGGLE, WIGGLE of a pair of pants, and the SHAKE, SHAKE of a shirt. Even though the little old lady was not afraid of anything, she ran home and locked the door behind her. Then she heard a KNOCK, KNOCK at her door. Will the little old lady, who is not afraid of anything, open the door? Read the book to find out.

The Bottom Line: Check out this version of the classic tale at your local library. This is a cumulative story about bravery with a clever twist ending. Kids ages 4 – 8 will be enchanted by the folksy watercolor illustrations. Recommended for seasonal storytime reading.

Details: The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything written by Linda Williams & illustrated by Megan Lloyd. Hardcover picture book published by HarperCollins Publishers in 1986. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-690-04584-0 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Book Review: 'A Very Brave Witch' by Alison McGhee

✰✰✰✰ Witches are afraid of humans, but one brave little witch isn’t. She has done her homework, and one Halloween night she decides to fly in for a closer look to see what the human are up to. Humans do have some strange habits. When she decides to fly in for an even closer look, she bumps in to a real little girl. Though both are a tiny bit afraid of each other, they soon become fast friends.

The Bottom Line: This easy to read picture book is perfect for little ones who are a bit shy about making friends. McGhee’s gentle story about overcoming differences along with Bliss’ engaging illustrations will appeal to kids in grades PreK – K. Enthusiastically recommended for story time reading too.

Details: A Very Brave Witch written by Alison McGhee & illustrated by Harry Bliss. Hardcover picture book published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/ A Paula Wiseman Book in2006. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-689-86730-9

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Book Review: 'Littlebat's Halloween Story' by Diane Mayr

✰✰✰✰✰ Littlebat lives with his Motherbat in the attic of a public library. Littlebat loves to listen to stories, but he really wants to see the pictures. Motherbat explains, “It’s dangerous.” Bats must never be seen by people, but Littlebat still wants to look. Someday there might be a time when he can see the pictures, but he has to wait for changes. As the seasons pass, he listens to stories and waits patiently for the changes. Then one day right before their winter sleep, the time was just right.

The Bottom Line: Kids will love this gentle seasonal tale. Kendall’s colorful illustrations go perfectly with the text showing the seasonal changes. Highly recommended for both bedtime and storytime reading.

Details: Littlebat’s Halloween Story written by Diane Mayr & illustrated by Gideon Kendall. Hardcover picture book published by Albert Whitman & Company in 2001. 32 p. ISBN: 0-8075-7629-8 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Book Review: 'The Lost Property Office (Section 13)' by James R. Hannibal

✰✰✰✰½ Jack Buckles has arrived in London with his mom and sister to search for his missing dad. It seems that their father has disappeared without a trace, so when his little sister Sadie thinks she has caught a glimpse of his coat, she takes off after him. Jack, in turn, takes off after her. When he finally catches up, he finds himself at the Lost Property Office.

As he fills out the appropriate paperwork, Jack learns that things are not always what they seem. His dad is actually a Tracker and has been kidnapped by the mysterious and dangerous Clockmaker. If Jack wants to save his father, he and Gwen, an apprentice clerk with the Ministry of Trackers, must recover what is known as the Ember. There’s not much to go on, but Jack does possess a magical ability to read clues on objects. As Gwen helps him hone his skills, Jack must learn to trust himself. Working as a team, Jack and Gwen follow the clues of a mystery dating back to the Great Fire of 1666. With family secrets and twists and turns, this is one mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The Bottom Line: This fast-paced read will appeal to the middle grade set. With lots of action, adventure, and just a hint of the supernatural, this debut series is fun for all. Enthusiastically recommended for kids in grades 5 – 7 and libraries.

Details: The Lost Property Office (Section 13) by James R. Hannibal. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in 2016. 400 p. ISBN: 978-1481467094

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Book Review: 'The Red Bandanna' by Tom Rinaldi

✰✰✰✰✰ What would you do if you knew this was the last hour of your life? Where would you be? Who would you hug? On 9/11/2001, two planes flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Many people had to make a decision: Wait for help or try to escape? Every second counted.

Years earlier on a Sunday morning before church, a father gave his young son two handkerchiefs: a white one for his suit pocket for show, and a red one for his back pocket for the blow. As the child grew up, he became an athlete, a volunteer firefighter, and a college graduate. He even landed a coveted job on the 104th floor of the South tower of the World Trade Center. Throughout it all, he dreamed of becoming a firefighter. And throughout it all, he kept a red bandanna in his back pocket.

When the twin towers fell, the young man was nowhere to be found. No one knew what had happened to him. His family searched for months. Just when they thought they might never find him, stories began to surface about a mysterious young man. Through the smoke, flames, injuries, and panic, survivors remembered a young man with a red bandannaThese survivors said that they only lived because of him.

No one knew his name. No one knew who he was, but this young man, identified by a simple piece of red cloth, chose to help rather than flee. He could have gotten out and saved himself, but instead he guided these strangers to safety. Not once, but twice.

This is the story about how a red bandanna became a symbol of courageThis is the story of one young man who ran towards dangerHe was simply doing what he felt was right. On that fateful day his dream of becoming a firefighter came true. He never made it out, but he lives on in the people he saved.

In the last hour of his life, twenty-four year old Welles Crowther made the fearless decision to help others. What would you do?

The Bottom Line: This was the best book I read last year. I highly recommend it to everyone. It would be a great pick for high schools and colleges. Also, book clubs will want to consider this inspirational biography.

Details: The Red Bandanna: A Life, A Choice, A Legacy by Tom Rinaldi. Hardcover published by Penguin Press in 2016. 224 p. ISBN: 978-1-59420-677-1

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Book Review: 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil' by John Berendt

✰✰✰✰ When author John Berendt discovered super saver flights in the early 1980s, it opened a whole new world for him. Escaping the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, Berendt embarked on frequent journeys to the isolated town of Savannah, Georgia. He quickly observed that the two cities are nothing alike. As he adjusted to his new home away from home, Berendt met a wide array of characters ranging from society ladies to city leaders, from a voodoo priestess to a drag queen. The charming southern town certainly had more than its fair share of eccentric residents.

So when international antiques dealer, Jim Williams, was accused of murder, naturally the whole town was abuzz with gossip. Over the course of four trials, everyone had an opinion, but what really happened? Part travelogue and part true-crime story with a twist, this book definitely packs a punch.

The Bottom Line: With layers of intrigue, lots of eccentric characters, and a series of trials, the well-mannered southern city of Savannah becomes the focus of this fascinating read. Recommended for adventurous readers interested in true crime, travel, history, and social issues. This captivating story is one you won’t be able to put down. NOTE: This book has been on banned book lists in the past. Thus, due to the graphic scenes and the use of profanity, it may not be appropriate for students or sensitive readers.

Book Club Notes:  This quarter we had a smaller group in attendance due to vacations, but our discussion was not diminished a bit. Some of us had taken the time to watch the movie as well as read the book. We noted how different the book was from the film. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but sometimes it’s not. One member informed us that The Lady Chablis had played herself in the film. I had not realized this little bit of trivia. Awesome!

On a rating scale from 1 – 5, ratings varied from 3 to 5, with an average of 4.25. General comments included that this was an entertaining, quick read. Members enjoyed the quirky characters. We also enjoyed listening to the travel stories of those who have visited Savannah. Those of us who have not yet been had the pleasure of visiting Savannah would definitely like to go there someday. Overall, this was a great pick for our group, and we highly recommend it for other book clubs.

There are several resources for discussion questions available on online including LitLovers and ReadingGroupGuides. However, there was so much to talk about; we really didn’t rely on the questions.

Details: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story by John Berendt. Paperback published by Vintage Books in 1999. 400 p. ISBN: 978-0-679-75152-6