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.