Friday, December 20, 2013

"The Perfect Pet" by Samantha Bell

About the book:  After begging for a pet, a child’s mother finally says “yes.” But which animal will be the best pet? Using animal classification and habitat needs, the child narrows it down from Kingdom Animalia, through invertebrates to vertebrates. Reptiles and amphibians are out, and birds and fish are soon off the list. That leaves mammals, but which one? An elephant won't fit through the door, and a tiger would be too hard to walk. What's a child to do?

Review:  This is a very educational book and has engaging illustrations that are colorful, bold, with compelling interest for the reader.  I appreciate the rhyme that is used to tell the story as child and mother engage in a dialogue to determine what is just the Perfect Pet for the child.

But Mom said "no" to jellyfish and worms, and insects too.
I told her, "I don't understand; grubs don't appeal to you?"
"All invertebrates are out. Backbones are in," she said.
"Look through phylum Chordata. You can find one there instead."
Mom begins by telling the child to look at the animal kingdom, Kingdom: Animalia.  Then within the animal kingdom they look at animal classification and just what the identifying characteristics of each is. Then they determine if that classification would make a suitable pet for the child.

After going through them all, they walk into the Plant Shop and make the final decision. 

Engagingly written, the book will delight the child and hold his or her interest for repeated readings. The child will learn well from the actual story and illustrations. However, the back of the book has several pages of information that explain animal classification, explain the five major classes of vertebrates, and Compare and Contrast the Animals so the educational aspect of the book is more complete. This is a book I can recommend for the home library, schools, and public libraries.

About the author/illustrator:  The Perfect Pet is Samantha’s debut picture book with Sylvan Dell. Her stories, poems, and articles have been published both online and in print, including e-zines and magazines such as Wee Ones Children's Magazine, My Light, Guardian Angel Kids E-zine, Learning Through History, Boys' Quest, and Clubhouse Jr., and accepted for publication by Hopscotch for Girls. Her picture book, It's Birthday Time, Jake!, was released in 2010 by Guardian Angel Publishing; she has also illustrated Shaping up the Year, As I Watch, Growing Up Dreams, Cinderfella and the Furry Godmother, One Pelican at a Time, and Sea Turtle Summer. Samantha also writes instructional text for her website that features art lessons for children and adults, She served for two years as the managing editor of the Pen & Palette, the newsletter of SCBWI-Carolinas Chapter. Samantha is a homeschooling mom who keeps her constantly on her toes or in the car. A native of sunny central Florida, Samantha Bell grew up in an area brimming with wildlife; now living in the upstate of South Carolina with her husband and four children, she’s found there is lots of room for the family’s animal friends. Visit her website at

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Sylvan Dell Publishing in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.  No compensation was received for this review.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

"Treash to Treasure" by Pam Scheunemann

About the book:  With easy step-by-step instructions, this book will help kids get creative and recycle and repurpose their trash into handmade treasures. All projects feature common everyday items to reuse in a fun new way. From bottle-top pop art to felted tin-can organizers, kids will love making useful crafts and helping the environment. Great tips and advice on reusing, garage sales, and spotting treasures are also provided. So start your upcycling with these fabric, paper, metal, glass & ceramics, and odds & ends projects. Book includes: visual supply & tool lists, step-by-step instructions and photos, fun advice & tips, and safety information.

Review:  From the very young child to the adult, developing one’s creative self is important as a means of expression and an outlet for our creative abilities.  To be able to do so at very little financial cost is a tremendous plus – especially in the home where the parent watches those dimes and dollars.  So the use of various “trash” materials to be creative is a true benefit not only financially, but it allows us to utilize that which would end up in the landfill and generate a lifestyle of “upcycling.”

In Trash to Treasure detailed instructions are provided with beautifully done photographs of the process for the making of a variety of items. Using a plethora of materials flowers, wall hangings, cases for various items, etc. can be created. I especially liked the “Button Bouquet” on pages 40-43. They are adorable and would delight a child to make for his or her mother for a gift or simply to decorate a room.

This book would be a real plus in the home, school, or library and is sure to provide valuable instruction on activities that will fill down-time for kids. I recommend it.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of Trash to Treasure was given to us by Scarletta in exchange for this review. Opinions are those of the reviewer. No compensation was received and a positive review was not expected.

"A Butterfly Called Hope" by Mary Alice Monroe, photography by Barbara J. Bergwerf

Hardcover ISBN: 9781607188544, $17.95
Paperback ISBN: 9781607188568, $9.95
“A Butterfly Called Hope” is an absolutely delightful and beautiful book about a little girl that discovers the caterpillar in her flower garden that become a Monarch butterfly.  She learns about how a caterpillar eats milkweed, and she watches as the caterpillar encases itself in a chrysalis and then is transformed into a beautiful Monarch butterfly.

She wishes to keep the lovely butterfly captive where she can watch it, but her mother convinces her that the butterfly needs to fly free.  So she releases the butterfly and names it.

This lovely book is also educational, and not just because the mother daughter exchange teaches, but because in the back of the book there are pages that cover the Monarch Life Cycle Sequencing, a Butterfly Vocabulary Matching Activity, a Monarch Generations and Migrations fact page, and some information on Raising Monarchs.
The author, Mary Alice Monroe, has written a really good book that entertains and educates at the same time. The photography of Barbara J. Bergwerf is outstanding. This is a book to highly recommend to parents, schools, and libraries. 

DISCLOSURE:  We received a complimentary copy of A Butterfly Called Hope from Sylvan Dell Publishing in exchange for our honest review. No compensation was received for this review.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Burning Sky" by Lori Benton

ISBN-13: 9780307731470
About the book:  The 18th century New York frontier bred courage in those who survived its perils. Willa Obenchain has courage to spare. Returning to her white parents' abandoned homestead after twelve years of Indian captivity, Willa believes a solitary life is the only way she'll never lose again what's twice been lost: her family, and her heart. As she begins the backbreaking work of reviving her farm, Willa's determined isolation is threatened. First by injured botanist Neil MacGregor, found unconscious on her land, and also by her Mohawk clan brother Joseph Tames-His-Horse, a man who cannot give up the woman he calls Burning Sky. Willa is a woman caught between two worlds and the residents of the nearby frontier village, still reeling from a bloody revolutionary war, are reluctant to welcome her home. As tensions rise, challenging her shielded heart, Willa must find a new courage--the courage to again risk embracing the blessings the Almighty wants to bestow, and answer the question, "am I brave enough to love again?"

 Review: Willa Obenchian was abducted by the Mohawk Indians at age fourteen. Her only choice was to become part of their clan and accept her new life. She meets a young Indian named Tames-His-Horse who is a Christian. Through his friendship her faith in God is rekindled. 

She was given the name Burning Sky and was married to one of the Indians in the clan. Willa became a part of the clan and was willing to stay there the rest of her life. Willa and her husband have two girls and her life feels complete. The Revolutionary War starts and her husband and other men from the clan go to fight. Willa's husband ends up being killed. Not long after this an outbreak of the small pox hits her clan. The ones in the clan that were healthy decided it was best to leave and go to a new settlement. 

Willa's two girls got the small pox so they stayed back. After a few weeks her girls did not get better. They both died. Instead of going to find the Indian clan she went back to her parents house in Shiloh. On her way there she comes across a man who is injured. She decides to help him to her cabin and there she takes care of his injuries. She finds out his is a Scotsman, named Neil MacGregor. 

When she returns to her parents house it is empty. One of her child hood friends,Anni and her brother Richard, stop by her house one day and inform her that once the war with the British began her parents were accused of being Tories. Richard is full of hatred for any one that would side with the British. He is also upset with the way that Willa had changed to become part of her Indian clan. Richard then decides that she doesn't deserve her parents land and goes out of his way to get the deed to the land. Willa is not willing to give up her parents land. This makes Richard mad. He tries to burn her land down twice and the second time he burns her cabin. Through the help of Neil MacGregor and a distant relative of Willa's she is able to keep her land. (Reviewed by S.Wall)

Read Chapter One
DISCLOSURE: A copy of Burning Sky was provided by the Blogging for Books review program for Waterbrook Press on behalf of the author for the sole purpose of an honest review. No compensation was received for this review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Little Star" by Anthony DeStefano and illustrated by Mark Elliott

ISBN-13: 9780736958592
Review:  This children's book received the "Mom's Choice Awards Honoring Excellence." Acclaimed author Anthony DeStefano and illustrator Mark Elliott have produced a sweet nicely illustrated children's story. It is the story of a little boy whose father tells him the story of a star - a little star - in response to the boy's question, "Dad, which one is the Christmas star" as he gazes out the window at the night time sky.

Dad proceeds to tell the story of a little, not very bright, star in the heavens that was simply neglected and overlooked by the others. Then the stars began to dust themselves off because a king was about to be born and they wanted to be bright stars at the occasion. But little star wasn't dusted off.

As the story progresses, Dad explains that little star shone brightly on the little babe born in the stable in order to provide warmth for the little babe because it was such a cold night. And little star shone so brightly that he burned himself out and died.

Cute story. Sweet that little star gives greatly of himself for the little babe, but.....

I felt the story emphasized a little star that shone for one night and not the Biblical star that shined enough, and obviously many nights,  to guide the wise men to the young child that was born in Bethlehem. Dad explained that the star atop the Christmas tree was the little star being remembered, but I see no need to remember a little star when we have the wondrous star that guided the wise men that we can remember if we so choose to top a tree with a Christmas star.

While this is a sweet children's book and the illustrations are very nice and use bold colors that are softened and gentle artistry to capture the essence of the story, I can not recommend it because it seems, to me, to detract from the wonderful story of the birth of the Christ Child and the star that God brought forth to guide the wise men.

DISCLOSURE: We received a complimentary copy of Little Star from Harvest House Publishers for the purpose of this review. Opinions expressed are those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Daily Life in Biblical Times by Liora Ravid

ISBN 13: 9789652296092
Genfe Publishing House
Description:  Daily Life in Biblical Times is the English language edtion of the Hebrew title Hatanach Haya Be-emet published in Israel in 2009 by Yediot Acharonot.

Why does the Bible support marriage to multiple wives? Why does only one son inherit his father’s property? Is it possible that the journey’s hardships and the severe shortage of food prevented Sarah from conceiving?

In The Bible Really Happened, Dr. Liora Ravid follows in the footsteps of the biblical heroes, examining their stories based on the social and legal reality of their time. The book reconstructs the historical journey of Abraham and his family from Ur of the Chaldees to the land of Canaan – from a land that worshiped multiple idols to the land of the One God, the birthplace of David, the judges, the prophets, and Jesus.

Ravid questions why the Bible begins with stories of the forefathers and foremothers, describing them as simple shepherds. Why were they so important? Ravid demonstrates that according to the pedigree in Genesis, the forefathers and foremothers originated from one noble family, the family that gave rise to King David, ancestor of the Messiah, and according to the New Testament, to Jesus as well.

Readers of the English Bible are often unaware of the special writing style of the original Hebrew, which uses rich wordplay and double entendre to add multiple layers of color and depth to the text. Especially for the non-Hebrew reader, the author opens a window on this hidden world within the words.

NOTE:  It should be understood that daily life in Biblical Times  was written by a native Israeli, Dr. Liora Ravid and published by a distinctively Jewish publishing house, (The Official Gefen Publishing House Website  - One Stop Webstore for Jewish Books and Hebrew Studies Textbooks From Israel).Out of respect for our Christian school and upon our request, the author respectfully provided a copy of Daily Life in Biblical Times for our review.

Review: The last chapter of the book should be read first because it helps explain Ravid's Biblical position. She does believe that the Bible is true and not just oral legends passed down from generation to generation. Her book tries to give explanations to validate her viewpoint and refute Hermann Gunkel’s assertions in The Legends of Genesis. She clearly believes in the authenticity of the Bible. "No researcher, as bright as he may be, can separate God from Genesis, and argue that everything it says is untrue but that the existence of the God Who this book reveals is true." (p. 432)

However, Ravid does not believe that God is the author of the Bible who inspired the writers. She says that there are many authors "who wanted to emphasize and praise the wonders of the One God, not of human beings. Because they stood before the infinite greatness of God, they had no interest in elevating the figures about which they wrote, beyond the ordinary characteristics found in every human being. Thus despite the distance of time, we identify something deep about ourselves in these ancient stories--and this is the secret of their great attraction."

Because she believes human authors wrote it themselves to pass along the oral traditions through the educated class, she judges Biblical characters based on her bias. Their writings are open to omissions, additions, and other changes. For example, Joseph is described as being "spoiled" and "who had slandered his brothers to his father; his brothers' fury was justified. When the brothers come to Egypt wanting to buy food, Joseph mildly "mocked" them for not knowing him. In the end, the previously pampered boy "learned from his own travails the meaning of pity, the meaning of love, and the meaning of forgiveness." Ravid makes her own judgment based on human interpretation of human authors; she does not mention any inspiration of the Bible although she believes in the stories and characters.

Ravid's writings are easy to read. She includes interesting information on the geography and customs of the ancient lands, especially where it deals with women. However, I do not agree with many of her interpretations of the Biblical narrative. Therefore, I would not recommend this book for our library. It would be very confusing to a young audience. (Reviewed by M.Reynolds)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by the author at our request for the purpose of this review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was provided for this review.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me A Memoir... of sorts by Ian Morgan Cron

About the book: When he was sixteen years old, Ian Morgan Cron was told about his father’s clandestine work with the CIA. This astonishing revelation, coupled with his father’s dark struggles with chronic alcoholism and depression, upended the world of a boy struggling to become a man. Decades later, as he faces his own personal demons, Ian realizes the only way to find peace is to voyage back through a painful childhood marked by extremes—privilege and poverty, violence and tenderness, truth and deceit—that he’s spent years trying to escape.

Review: If you are wanting to know more about the CIA and thrilling adventure stories, you will be disappointed. This is a memoir which recounts Cron's childhood and adolescence with an abusive alcoholic father. He has a delightful prose and dialog which is very easy to read. I enjoy his style, but I don't think this book is suitable for younger children and teenagers for several reasons. First, there are some painful periods in his life which are recounted in detail. Once during his childhood, some older boys bully him in a demeaning, physical way. Cron talks about his emotional withdrawals, desire for love and acceptance, and his dependence on alcohol himself.

Second, I do not agree with his doctrine. Cron grew up in a Catholic family; his mother was very religious, and Cron became an altar boy. The eucharist was his guiding light through all his turmoil. Through this fascination, he went to seminary, youth ministry, and sobriety (in that order). His "salvation" was during the mass when he hears a voice saying, "Forgive me, Ian. I'm sorry, Ian, please forgive me. Will you pardon me, Ian. Now we are both forgiven." "I stood and edged into the aisle to join the line of all the other knotted hearts limping toward the bread of new and unending life." This is not salvation of repentance.

The theme of this book is forgiveness which is woven through the eucharist, and the book ends on a happy note. Cron becomes an Episcopal priest, marries, and rears his children in a loving and forgiving relationship. He desires them to grow beyond their fears and gain confidence to face the future bravely. Cron's dialog of his experiences is very touching and sincere, but I do not recommend the book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the®  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, December 6, 2013

"A Day in the Deep" by Kevin Kurtz & illustrated by Erin E. Hunter

About the book:  Travel deep into the ocean way below the surface and you'll encounter some creatures you never knew existed! This book takes you on a journey through the dark depths of the sea towards the ocean floor. Most ecosystems need sunlight, but deep in the ocean where the sun doesn't shine animals have adapted some very interesting ways to see, protect themselves, and eat. Discover the unique habitats, adaptations, and food chains of these deep -sea creatures.

Review:  This is an attractive book with illustrations pretty true to reality and not “cutesy” as far as the various sea creatures are concerned.  The book is written in verse style which engages the mind of the young reader for more comprehension and retention. 
Beginning with just below the surface where the sun still shines, the contents of the sea are described - the creatures and sea plants and their interaction. Moving on a bit deeper the light diminishes and the sea life changes. You see how the creatures’ habitats and strange shapes and abilities make them precisely suited for the depth of the sea in which they dwell. It is interesting to see the way life exists even at depths where survival would seem impossible. What is it like at 1,000 feet? Did you know that there is actually life at 5,000 below sea level?
There are four pages in the back of the book that offer opportunities for the creative mind to gain more information and perform activities to enhance their learning experience and enjoyment.  The publisher also offers more free activities online at  There is an entire collection of ocean-related titles available from Sylvan Dell Publishing.
Kevin Kurtz is also the author of A Day in the Salt Marsh and A Day on the Mountain. He has loved science, nature, and books since he was a kid. As an adult, he has worked as an educator for organizations such as the South Carolina Aquarium and the Science Factory Children’s Museum, and also onboard the research ship the JOIDES Resolution during an expedition in the South Pacific. Kevin currently lives in upstate New York, where he continues to write and visit schools to teach children about the wonders of nature. Visit Kevin's website. 

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Sylvan Dell Publishing in exchange for this honest review. No compensation was received and opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"The Mighty Quinn" by Robyn Parnell

About the book:  Quinn Andrews-Lee feels anything but mighty, and faces a dismal school year. His little sister outshines him athletically and socially, he yearns for a service award his peers disdain, and charismatic bigot Matt Barker's goal in life is to torment Quinn and lure his friends to the dark side. When Quinn reports an act of vandalism, he is accused of injuring Matt. Neally Standwell, a free-spirited new kid in Quinn's class, helps Quinn deduce who hurt Matt, but Matt would probably die—and would definitely lie—before admitting the truth.

Through events comical and poignant Quinn and Neally solve the right mystery just as everything seems to go wrong, thwart a bully without becoming one in turn, and realize that the fabled ability to belch the entire alphabet might very possibly trump any award ever presented at Turner Creek School.

Review:  The Mighty Quinn by Robyn Parnell is a delightful story of life in the fifth grade.  This story is filled with the daily happenings at school from making new friends to dealing with tough relationships that have haunted you for years.

In this story the main character Quinn learns to deal with difficulties that come with being the target of a bully as well as the excitement of making a new friend.  Twists and turns lead us through many circumstances and lead Quinn to grow and mature much as he deals with each situation. Overall a delightful story filled with great questions at the end to help facilitate discussion of some very relevant topics for fifth graders to think about and talk over.  I was a little concerned with the handling of religion and the fact that the boy with the biggest problems was the son of a family that was religious.   This could potentially open up lots of questions that should be primarily handled by parents and I trust that the children reading this book would indeed take those questions to their parents.

The book was a fun read and the characters were well developed and believable.  I really liked the way Community service was woven into the fabric of the story and how that Quinn was so excited to take part in such activities. I loved the illustrations.  They added to the atmosphere my mind created as I read the story.  (rev. C.Delorge)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Scarletta Junior Readers for the purpose of this review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Monday, December 2, 2013

"Sugar Creek Stakeout" by Eddie Jones

About the book:  The good news is...vampires aren't real. The bad news can't believe the news. After solving the Deadwood ghost story, Nick lands a job as a roving reporter for The Cool Ghoul Gazette, a website on paranormal disturbances. When the editor sends Nick to investigate a murder, Nick finds a corpse sporting fangs, bite marks and a gaping hole in its chest, courtesy of a wooden stake. Will Nick unravel the truth behind the 'blood covenant, ' or will his new job suck the life out of him? Nick Caden has a 'supernatural' knack for finding trouble. He's a normal fourteen-year-old who attracts ghosts, vampires, and the undead---or so it seems. But Nick's relentless search for truth leads him into worlds of darkness with grave consequences, where the dead, dying and deranged walk... on really hot coals

Review:  Skull Creek Stakeout by Eddie Jones is an intriguing adventure that keeps you wanting to read and see what happens next.  This story incorporates the much interesting topic of werewolves and paranormal activity that is such a draw to young people today.  Nick is a delightful character that is easy for other children to relate to.  He has a desire to make a name for himself and he goes about it in an unusual way.  The development of the characters in this book is wonderful.  The characters relate in a realistic and loving way as Nick discovers the importance of family and relationships.  Each chapter leaves you wanting to continue reading to see what will happen next.  I would definitely like to see more from The Caden Chronicles. (rev. C.Delorge)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of Skull Creek Stakeout was provided by Zonderkidz to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

First Ladies of the White House (Ideals Children's Book)

About the book:  Learn about the life and impact of each First Lady, from Martha Washington to Michelle Obama. A portrait or photograph of each First Lady is provided along with a one-page summary of her life and tenure as the hostess of the White House. 88 pages, softcover.
Review:  This book was engaging from the start. I was able to learn many new facts about the First Ladies. It was interesting to read how many of the First Ladies were a tremendous asset to their husband's Presidency. It was wonderful to read how some of the First Ladies loved being able to entertain and thrived off the attention given to them. Other First Ladies missed their lives from before becoming a First Lady. I would recommend this book to children in 4th grade and up. I would also recommend it to adults. (rev. S.Wall)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Ideals in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Our Presidents - Their Lives and Stories by Ideals Editors

ISBN-13: 9780824959166
Paperback - $12.99
About the book:  Learn about each president with this easy-to-read overview of the "Commander-in-Chief" role. Short two-page spreads inform readers how these men became president, the events that defined their terms, and what they did after leaving office. Speech excerpts as well as photos or art reproductions of the president are also included. 88 pages, indexed, softcover. Covers Washington through Obama.

This book is a wonderful read for kids in 4th and up. It will allow them to see how the life of a President is full of many decisions. Each President brought something new to the office. They were able to help and mold our country. The facts in this book will engage you and want you to read more. I would recommend this book to adults and children. 

The illustrative photography is absolutely beautiful and brings to life each of the presidents and their terms of office.  A great resource for home study, reports, or simply perusing for one's enlightened enjoyment.

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Guideposts to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Ideals Guide to American Civil War 1861 Places 1865 By: Julie Shively

Paperback $15.99, 274 pages
ISBN-13: 9780824959135
About the book:  Walk the battlefields of Shiloh and Gettysburg; kneel at the graves of men who wore blue and gray; and visit the museums and national parks---either on foot or from your armchair! Part history and part travel guide, this lushly illustrated book includes descriptions of more than 300 sites in 21 states; maps; and travel information. 272 pages, softcover.

Review:  This book proved pictures and information about battles that were fought in each state. It would be a wonderful book for those students doing reports. It would also be a great book for those who are interested in history. It will provide insight to some battles that you were unaware. I would recommend this book for older children. (rev. S.Wall)

The photography is beautiful and text thorough for a history buff that enjoys pictorial displays. 

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Ideal Publications for the purpose of this review. No compensation was received or positive review required.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Return to Me (The Restoration Chronicles – Book 1) by Lynn Austin

About the book (description from back of book) – After decades of exile, the prophesies are coming true – King Cyrus has declared the Jews may return to Jerusalem.  Iddo, a priest, is sure this is a sign of God’s renewed favor.  For too long they’ve remained in Babylon, and many, including Iddo’s sons, are losing the faith that sets them apart.  And so only a few choose to leave everything to return – return to their home and their God.  Nothing about their journey to the Promised Land is easy.  As hardships mount, even the faithful, like Iddo’s beloved wife, Dinah, question the sacrifice of following God’s leading.  Zecharaiah, Iddo’s oldest grandson, feels torn between his grandfather’s ancient beliefs and the family they left behind.  But one life-changing encounter with the Holy One gives him insight that will change Zechariah – and history – forever.

Review:  Return to Me is a very good book.  This is the first book I have read by Lynn Austin and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  This is book one in her new series – The Restoration Chronicles and I look forward to reading more in this particular series.

Although the book is fiction, it is based on Old Testament scripture which tells of the Israelites’ being taken captive and their exile to Babylon after many years of disobedience to God and their return to the Promised Land after the 70 years of exile.  I enjoy reading this type of book because it causes me to really think about actual characters and events within Scripture and how the people may have dealt with their circumstances. 
Iddo remembers being taken captive and removed from the Promised Land.  He remembers all the horrors and the people who died along the journey from Jerusalem to Babylon.  Although he has a “good life” in Babylon, his heart longs to return, just as Scripture told they would someday.  He has married, raised a family, and is now trying to instill in his grandchildren who God is and the promises from God.  When King Cyrus gives the decree that the children of Israel may return to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, Iddo is beyond ecstatic.  He is ready to leave right away, but his family has great reservations.  They have become very comfortable with their lives in Babylon and have forgotten all that Iddo has taught them concerning their true heritage.  Outside of Iddo’s wife Dinah, his oldest grandson, Zechariah is the only one of the family that leaves with him.  Iddo’s children promise to come later once Jerusalem is rebuilt, but their lack of faith in the God of Israel forever leaves a mark upon their lives.

One of the main reasons I enjoyed this book is that it reminds me so strongly of the scripture in Deuteronomy 6, where the children of Israel were instructed/commanded to teach their children about God so that their “days may be long.”  It reminds me how often we turn to God in trouble and He “rescues us” and then we forget Him when things are good.  Although this story is written in the setting of Old Testament days, it could just as easily have been set in our modern day.  Even though this book has been labeled fiction, it carries a whole lot of truth!

I highly recommend “Return to Me” – I most definitely will be reading more by Lynn Austin! (rev. P. Howard)

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of Return to Me was provided to us by Litfuse Publicity Group on behalf of the author, Lynn Austin, and publisher Bethany House a division of Baker Publishing Group in exchange for our honest review. No compensation was received for this review.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

All God’s Children by Anna Schmidt

  • ISBN-13: 9781620291405
About the book:  Living in Munich with her relatives was supposed to result in a dream fulfilled.  Instead, Beth Bridgewater, A German American, finds herself in a nightmare as World War II erupts – a war in which she takes no side, for she is a Quaker pacifist.

Apprehension rises in the household of Beth’s Uncle Franz and Aunt Ilse, and the presence of Josef Buch only adds to it.  Josef seems a good man, a passionately patriotic German and a medical student who rents the attic space above Beth’s uncle’s apartment, but his father is a high-ranking government official.  Could Josef by spying on them?

Just as she gains opportunity to escape Germany, Beth decides to stay, feeling called to help the helpless.  And Josef is becoming involved in his own secret ways of resisting the Nazis…Despite differing motivation and beliefs, Beth and Josef join together in nonviolent resistance, and they cannot deny the spark between them.  But in the midst of such evil, does their love stand a chance…if they even survive at all?

Review:  “All God’s Children” is the first book by this author that I have read.  I did not enjoy this book.  It’s not that it’s a particularly bad book, but I struggled to follow the story.  The timeline within the story did not flow and it was challenging to believe the characters.  There were moments within the story that caught my attention, but these were few and far between.  For some, this book may be very interesting.  Unfortunately, I did not find it so.

DISCLOSURE: A copy of All God's Children was won on the program. A review was not necessary but is a courtesy to the author.

Monday, October 28, 2013

"How long will you love me?" by Patti Brassard Jefferson (Review & Giveaway)

Usually when you pick up a children's book that assures them of your love - forever and a day - it is basic and yet profound but definitely directed to the little ones.  In How long will you love me? the author and illustrator Patti Brassard Jefferson has succeeded in creating a book that you can give to a child or to that special adult in your life.

The illustrations are colorful and engaging. and you'll begin by looking for the heart on each and every page. Interwoven into each illustration is word-play and humor and the ever present promise to love you. Simply turn the page to get another jolt of loving promise with a touch of sweet humor via the delightful illustrations that will bring forth those little deep seated chuckles.

A nice book I can recommend and it'll make a nice gift.

GIVEAWAY:  The author has graciously provided a copy that will be mailed directly to the winner. Just use the Rafflecopter form below to enter the giveaway. Begins October 28 & ENDS November 18 @ 12:01 a.m. ET. Open to USA mainland addresses only.
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DISCLOSURE:  A complimentary copy was provided in exchange for our honest review. No compensation was received for the review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer.

Friday, October 25, 2013

"Thanksgiving at Our House" by P.K. Hallinan (author / illustrator)

ISBN-13: 9780824956547
Publisher: Ideals Publications
Publication date: 9/28/2013
About the book:  Thanksgiving Day brings a flurry of activity to little P.K.'s house. His family and friends gather to watch parades, play football, and eat dinner -- such fun that P.K. declares: 'I'm grateful for blessings that just never end, but mostly I'm thankful. . . for family and friends.' From helping prepare the meal to counting blessings, children will identify with the familiar aspects of the holiday. The bright, colorful illustrations and heartwarming text combine to make this book, now available in paperback, a must-read for the Thanksgiving season. Ages 3-7.

Review: This is such a good rhyming book for children of all ages. It would be a good book for young readers because it is very colorful and very easy to read. The "story" follows the illustrations well to help the young child connect. And traditions of the family are brought forth in a way easy for the young child to comprehend and perhaps identify with. (reviewed J.McCann)

I'm glad for Thanksgiving
It's a wonderful day
To count all the blessings
That friends bring our way
DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by Ideals Publishing in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are our own.

"The Best Saturday Ever!" by Gary Cook & Illustraded by Adam Sward

ISBN-13: 978-1938063251
Age level: 5-8 - Grade level: K5-3rd
About the book  On a rainy Saturday, the power goes out. With no TV and no chance of going outside, Robbie wonders how he could possibly have fun. Well, he’ll just have to make it up! Using only his imagination, Robbie manages to save a city from a terrifying monster, captain a space shuttle, and tame a fearsome lion as the ringmaster of a circus. With all these adventures, will he even notice when the rain stops and the lights come back on? Through entertaining rhymes and exciting graphic novel-style illustrations, this book will remind kids of the power of their own imaginations, and prove that rain — and a lack of power — just might make for THE BEST SATURDAY EVER!

Review: The illustrations are bold, dark (as was the grey, stormy day), yet filled with imaginative art. The rhyming text is creative just as the imagination of the boy is for this day throughout which he entertains himself. A book with which imaginative children will identify and which those with little imaginative can gain ideas on how they might entertain themselves on a grey, rainy day.(reviewed by J.McCann, mother of two)
"The weekend is finally here.
That means no school today!
Hey what’s going on?
And why is it so grey?

All week at school,
the sky was so blue.
Now it’s my day for fun.
This just can’t be true!" — from the book
DISCLOSURE:  A complimentary copy of The Best Saturday Ever! was provided in exchange for our honest review. Opinions expressed are our own.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

"The Kid's Book of Simple Everyday Science" by Kelly Doudna

ISBN: 9781938063343
Age range: 5-9 years - Grade level: K5-4th
Published October 2013

About the book: These 40 simple science activities will have young kids searching the house for everyday items to learn about temperature, pressure, water, air, heat, and plants! Each easy and fun activity includes how-to photos, simple instructions, short explanations, and introduces beginning math principles. With tips and extra information to extend the scientific experience, this book will get kids thinking like scientists in no time at all! The book includes: supply & tool lists, visual and text-based explanations, step-by-step instructions and photos, and safety information.

Review: This is a really good book. It kept the attention of my 11 year old throughout. The projects are easy to understand and can be, mostly, done with everyday household items. Designed to easily stir the kids' imaginations to delve "scientifically" into their everyday surroundings. (reviewed by J.McCann, mother of two)

DISCLOSURE: A copy of this book was provided in exchange for our honest review by Scarletta Kids on behalf of the author.

Friday, October 18, 2013

"Claude at the Circus" by Alex T. Smith

ISBN-13: 9781561457021
Hardcover $12.95
This is another humorous episode of Claude and Sir Bobblysock's adventures. The book has nearly 100 pages, but the chapters are short and this could be read to three and four-year-olds on up, however, many of the amusing situations may be lost on the younger child.  I would think eight or nine would be the upper end of the reading audience.  This would be a great book for grandmas and grandpas to add to their library for an extended time with the grands!

A rather ordinary Saturday is about to turn adventuresome for not only Claude's owners, Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes, but Claude and his best friend, Sir Bobblysock.  Claude, a small dog who appears to be very tired, amazingly comes to life once the house is empty of people!  He immediately bounces out of his cozy bed and plans a trip to the park while Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes are off for the day on their own excursions.  Sir Bobblysock decides to accompany him, all the while revealing his psychotic fears such as having his hayfever set off by the flowers.  The two remind me somewhat of "The Odd Couple" with Claude being happy-go-lucky while Sir Bobblysock following along doubtfully and cautiously!

Despite their innocent enjoyment of all the park has to offer, Claude and Bobblysock cause a ruckus when they get caught up with some joggers, and are reprimanded by the park keeper for napping in the flowers.  They try to redeem themselves by filling in holes in a funny sort of field littered with small white balls.  They also help keep the park clean by picking up litter.  All good! except for the sign that says "WET PAINT" that is attached to a park bench. 

They are forgiven by all when they stop a runaway baby buggy from splashing into a pond and receive free tickets to the nearby circus.  Arriving early to the next performance, the two friends think they are helping when they sweep all the sawdust into a big pile in the center of the floor, polish the trapeze, and give the high wire a once-over with a damp cloth.  After the circus acts flop, Claude and Sir Bobblysock save the day with a few tricks of their own. 

The illustrations, also by Alex T. Smith, are excellent.  As a teacher, I would like to see this published in a larger format so that the pictures could be easily viewed by a group of ten or more. (reviewed by Carly D. Karns, Music Teacher and Tutor, Alamance Christian School)

We can recommend this book (and its predecessor Claude In The City) as a delightful addition to the home, school, or public library.

DISCLOSURE:  A complimentary copy of Claude at the Circus was provided by Peachtree Publishers for the purpose of our honest review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"The Courier of Caswell Hall" by Melanie Dobson

UPC: 9780824934262
Paperback $14.99
About the book:  An unlikely spy discovers freedom and love in the midst of the American Revolution.
As the British and Continental armies wage war in 1781, the daughter of a wealthy Virginia plantation owner feels conflict raging in her own heart. Lydia Caswell comes from a family of staunch Loyalists, but she cares only about peace. Her friend Sarah Hammond, however, longs to join the fight. Both women’s families have already been divided by a costly war that sets father against son and neighbor against neighbor; a war that makes it impossible to guess who can be trusted.
One snowy night Lydia discovers a wounded man on the riverbank near Caswell Hall, and her decision to save him will change her life. Nathan introduces her to a secret network of spies, couriers, disguises, and coded messages—a network that may be the Patriots’ only hope for winning the war. When British officers take over Caswell Hall and wreak havoc on neighboring plantations, Lydia will have to choose between loyalty and freedom; between her family’s protection and her own heart’s desires.

As both armies gather near Williamsburg for a pivotal battle, both Lydia and Sarah must decide how high a price they are willing to pay to help the men they love.

Part of the American Tapestries™ series: Each standalone novel in this line sets a heart-stirring love story against the backdrop of an epic moment in American history. This is the fifth book in the series. Purchase a copy hereLearn more at Melanie’s website.

Review:  I thoroughly enjoyed this book! “The Courier of Caswell Hall” is the fifth book in the series called An American Tapestry. This is the first book I have read written by Melanie Dobson, but I will not hesitate to read any other books she has written. I am a fan of historical fiction and particularly enjoyed the setting of this book, which was the American Revolution. 

The author has done an excellent job at developing characters with whom we can connect and enjoy reading about. I really like it when an author causes me to give strong thought as to what men, women, and children actually endured during a particular era in our history. The historical accuracy in this book makes it all the more enjoyable to read and the characters are easily envisioned going through their day-to-day activities while also engaging in a secret mission that could and did often times cost them their lives.

I repeat --- I thoroughly enjoyed this book and most definitely recommend it! 

About the author: Melanie Dobson is the author of twelve novels; her writing has received numerous accolades including two Carol Awards. Melanie worked in public relations for fifteen years before she began writing fiction full-time. 

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of the Courier of Caswell Hall was provided for the purpose of this review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

"How To Make Friends and Monsters" by Howard Boward (with some help from Ron Bates)

ISBN-13: 978-0310735519
If you are looking for an entertaining, humorous book for a middle-schooler, this is it!  Howard Boward has a little in common with a lot of seventh graders.  He is one.  But there, the similarities seem to end for him.  He has few friends, no, in all honesty, he has no friends.  It is such an obvious lack that his mother buys him a book, "How to Make Friends".   However, instead of reading it as "HOW to Make Friends", Howard sees the title as any nerdy junior scientist would:  "How to MAKE Friends"!

Written in first person, and with Howard being prone to talk to himself, (a necessity since he has no friends to talk to), much of the book reveals Howard's character and thought processes to the reader. He is a creative boy trapped in an awkward, skinny body with a low self-esteem and a high IQ. The kind of junior-high student bullies look for- and find- daily!

Howard's description of the "in crowd" are those superstars of middle school who can utter  "a single word and plunge another student to the bottom of the popularity ladder or raise you to that glorious place where even the eagles get nosebleeds."  He dubs these chosen ones the UP's, the "uber-populars."  At the beginning of the story Howard wants to be one.  At the end of the book, he knows he had a close call with being one, but thankfully, he now knows the meaning of being a true friend--thanks to Franklin Stein.

Franklin Stein was the name Howard gave to the friend and monster he created out of spare parts and the DNA of various animals,  (thanks to his animal catcher dad) and his natural ability to invent things.  Secretly hanging out in his make-shift lab in the garage along with lab assistant, Reynolds Pipkin, the experiment became larger, literally, than Howard could have imagined.  A creature began to take shape and with the help of a computer inputting information, a walking, talking friend emerged.  Fortunately for Howard, as a last moment decision, he had thrown in some blonde follicles belonging to Winnie, one of the nicest, kindest seventh graders at school.  

From Winnie and a few other kind characters in the book, Franklin morphed into Howard's true friend, not like one of the UP's he used to worship.  A true friend doesn't have fun at the expense of others, coax others to do their work for them, use friends for selfish gain, or abandon friends in need.

Hopefully, this book will not only entertain but help readers define what a true friend is and how to be one!

The book is hilarious and a good read for all ages.  Pre-teens should find it funny, I often found it hilarious. (reviewed by  Carly D. Karns, Teacher at Alamance Christian School)

GIVEAWAY: If you live in US you can qualify for a giveaway copy provided by the publisher. Simply use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. NO P.O. BOXES, please! Begins October 3 & ENDS October 21 @ 12:01 a.m.
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About the author:  Ron Bates is a freelance writer and award-winning copywriter who lives and works in Texas. He began his career as a newspaper reporter and later became an editor and columnist. His frequently funny takes on life caught the attention of Legacy Publishing, which hired him as resident humor-columnist. His works include the children's story Arnold Bought a Bug; the inspirational play Flight 1615; Underground Ink, a collection of humorous poems; the Cranium Comics series Brawn; and St. Mary's and the Art of War, the true story of how Italian POWs transformed a tiny, Texas church. Learn more at

DISCLOSURE: Zonder provided a complimentary copy on behalf of the author for the purpose of this review. No compensation was received for this review.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Andi Unexepcted by Amanda Flower (An Andi Boggs Novel)

After the sudden death of their parents in the jungles of Central America, 12-year old science geek Andora “Andi” boggs and her diva teenaged sister, Bethany, move to rural Killdeer, Ohio, to live with their eccentric 20-something aunt. And while the timeworn house has been home to the Boggs family for generations, Andi feels far from at home. Exploring the attic in her grief, she discovers proof of another Andora Boggs in the family tree hidden in a Depression-era trunk. Despite the meddling of the citizens of Killdeer, Andi and her new friend, Colin Carter, are determined to find out who this first Andora was, how she vanished, and why no one in town wants to talk about her. As more and more unanswered questions pile up, Andi and Colin must decide who they can trust with their secrets and who is interested in Andora’s story for the wrong reasons.  
Review:  “Andi Unexpected” is targeted toward middle school and higher readers. It is one of the best books I have read in quite some time. It is quick paced and I read it in one day. Amanda Flower has written a wonderful story of mystery, friendship, and how people deal with grief differently.

Andi and her sister have to move in with their aunt Amelie because their parents have died while on a science mission in the jungles of Central America. The house where their aunt now lives used to belong to Andi’s grandparents. Initially, Andi and her sister Bethany have to share a bedroom, but the two sisters fight quite a bit since the death of their parents, and so Aunt Amelie suggests to both Andi and Bethany that if they will clean out the attic, then Andi can turn it into a bedroom. The stuff they move out the attic can be sorted and set up for the annual Killdeer yard sale and whatever money the schools earn, they can keep. Well, both girls want their own rooms and Bethany is interested in the money because Aunt Amelie has told her that if she wants to keep “texting” on her cell phone, then she’ll have to earn the money to keep that feature. Andi doesn’t necessarily care about the money. She just wants her own room.

This simple task of cleaning out the attic turns into a wonderful adventure for both Andi and Bethany. Through the guidance of their Aunt Amelie, they also are able to move forward and work through some of the grief of the loss of their parents. They meet some very interesting people along the way and develop friendships that will help them in their adjustment to life in Killdeer. Andi and Bethany also see how the other one is actually broken over the death of their parents, but it’s okay to deal with their loss in different ways. It doesn’t mean the other person is deeply saddened just because they may or may not show the type of emotion the other thinks they should.

This is a great book and well, well worth the read. I look forward to other books in this series!! 

DISCLOSURE: A complimentary review copy was provided to facilitate this review. Copies may be acquired at your favorite book supplier. for author information - click here.