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Author/Illustrator: James Dean
Title - Out of This World (Pete the Cat)
Pete goes to space camp. Astronauts tell about the trips they have taken and let the campers try out all the various equipment, such as the zero-gravity chamber. By chance, today a ship is blasting off to the moon and Pete gets to go with the astronauts.
**** FOUR STARS! In this story, Pete the Cat heads to the moon as he helps two astronauts with their mission. Children, up to age four or five, learn about the basic equipment that astronauts use to train with, how they use them during their time in space and on the moon, and what astronauts collect while on the moon. All the delightful characters are feline, walk upright, and even wear clothing. The Pete the Cat series is a very entertaining way to teach children about various professions, as well as teach them how to read. Each page has colorful pictures, drawn by the author, with simple sentences. Children with better reading skills than the average kid may actually outgrow the series before they ever begin school – and this series may actually give your child that better skill. ****
Author/Illustrator: James Dean
Title - Firefighter Pete (Pete the Cat)
Pete and his class go on a field trip to a firehouse. They learn all about the fire trucks and the gear firefighters must wear. While visiting, the fire alarm goes off. Pete goes with the truck to the location of the fire and learns how the firefighters deal with a real fire.
**** FOUR STARS! In this small book, children will learn the basics about a firehouse, the firefighters within, and what they do to help people at a fire. All the characters in the story are cats – except for one that is a frog. James Dean is not only the author of the “Pete the Cat” series, but also the illustrator and his pictures do the story justice. Marvelous tale for children up to the age of four or five. ****
Author: Claire Belton
Title - I Am Pusheen the Cat
**** FOUR STARS! Pusheen the Cat is not like the more famous Garfield. Where Garfield is mainly teen and adult humor, Pusheen is more for preschoolers. By this I mean that this book is excellent to help learn to read. There are lots of pictures with only a few words under each.
Pusheen has a little sister, Stormy, who makes occasional appearances. Stormy has an entire chapter of her own too.
These two feline sisters show how wonderful cat are. All their cuddle potential, all their mischievousness, all their attitudes, all their everything. A terrific learning tool and all around adorable. ****
Author: Ylleya Fields
Illustrator: Michael LaDuca
Title - Princess Cupcake Jones Won’t Go To School
(Crystal Staircase #2)
Princess Cupcake Jones is due to start kindergarten today and is trying everything she can think of to get out of going. However, her mother sees through every trick. Once Cupcake arrives at school and meets a new friend, everything changes and Cupcake learns not to fear trying new things.
***** FIVE STARS! Most children are scared on their first day of school. This story will help prepare your children for that unsettling day. The story is told in a rhyming cadence and filled with colorful illustrations. (Psst! Each illustration hides a special word. Once you find the word in the first picture, look for the same word in each following. Be warned that a few of the illustrations cover two pages instead of just one. )
If you have access to the internet, you and your child can have even more fun! The Princess Cupcake Jones web site has other activities. Your child can color, solve word puzzles, figure out mazes, and even play Tic Tac Toe with Cupcake. *****
Author: Karen Wiesner
Illustrator: Nina Marie Rothfuss
Title - I Can Touch the Sky
A young child swings in the backyard. The higher he goes, the more his imagination takes flight. This story tells of his short journey through the sky.
**** FOUR STARS! Most children dream of flying with birds or soaring out into space when they swing alone. This child is no different. The story never gives a name. It is written in the First Person. The book is twenty eight pages in length. I estimate the target ages to be between four and seven. This is not a chapter book. It is more along the line of a bedtime story. I can easily picture a parent reading it while their child marvels over the lively illustrations or a child reading it alone as a preschool book. ****
Authors: Laurence Yep & Joanne Ryder
Title - A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans
(March 10, 2015 Release Date)
Illustrator: Mary GrandPré
Elder dragon Miss Drake has a soft spot where humans are concerned. This must be why her pets are normally humans. As the story opens, Miss Drake is saddened because her human companion, Fluffy, has passed away. As Miss Drake ponders upon whether or not to sleep for a few decades, a ten-year-old Winnie enters the hidden lair and walks into Miss Drake’s heart.
In the “normal” world, Fluffy had been named Amelia. Amelia had been the great-aunt of Winnie. At first Miss Drake wants nothing to do with the curious child, but the elegant dragon soon begins to change her mind. Winnie is full of surprises, each more endearing to Miss Drake than she wants to admit. The most astounding surprise is that Winnie seems to think Miss Drake is her pet. It is apparent that Winnie would need training if she was to ever become the perfect companion for a dragon.
Miss Drake introduces Winnie to the magical creatures of San Francisco and even purchases a sketchbook for the little artist. But the sketchbook is not normal. Instead, Winnie’s sketchlings of several fantastic magical creatures come to life, jump off the pages, and are loose on the city streets! Miss Drake and Winnie must work together if they are to have any hope of catching them all and ending the mayhem.
**** FOUR STARS! This book targets ages eight through twelve; however, even younger children who discovered a love for reading early on would find this story delightful. The book has fifteen chapters. Each chapter begins with a tip for dragons (about training their pet humans) and a small black and white illustration. There are a few words in the story that may confuse younger readers (such as “au courant”) but they should be able to understand the meanings in the way they are used in sentences.
I believe this story is the first in a new series. I certainly hope this is so because I foresee a lot of potential adventures for Miss Drake and Winnie. I would love to visit this magical version of San Francisco again to, not only revisit the main characters, but also some of the enchanting secondary characters. ****
Author: Will Hillenbrand
Title - Snowman’s Story
As the snow falls on a windy winter day, a hat lands on a snowman that the animals just finished building. Snowman comes to life and begins to read a story to the animals. When the animals and Snowman fall asleep, a mischievous bunny pops out of the hat and steals the book. Snowman wakes and calls for the other animals. The chase is on!
***** FIVE STARS! This fun-filled picture book has not a single word in it. The entire story is told through thirty-one beautifully illustrated pages. (Per the copyright page, Katrina Damkoehler and Jen Browning helped Will Hillenbrand with designing.) The tale is charming. It has humor, drama, action and ends with what I call an “Ah-ha!” moment. Some pages have multiple panels to help tell the tale.
I sometimes read for children at a local library. One child is hard-of-hearing. This book will be perfect for my next story time. I cannot help but think that 4K and kindergarten teachers would love this book for the same reasons. Each panel can be discussed, teaching children to be more observant. A highly enjoyable tale for all. *****
Author: R.L. Stine
Title - My Alien Parents
It is supposed to be a typical Saturday morning for ten-year-old Rob Herbert. Yet from the moment he opens his eyes things seem odd. His parents no longer act the same either. His mom suddenly hates tea and loves cornflakes. His dad suddenly loves poached eggs and can build shelves. Snappy, his dog, has vanished. Can it be that Rob’s parents have been replaced by aliens from another world? But if so, why?
**** FOUR STARS! This chapter book is short, only forty-four pages, but the entire thing is one creepy mystery. Author R.L. Stine has long been well known for writing stories that give children the shivers. This one is no exception. The writing style is simple and easy to read. There are no big words to confuse a kid or to distract the reader from the tale. On a personal note, I had my own idea of what was going on…I was wrong. ****
Author: Luis Rodriguez
Title - The Klampie Mystery (Ages 4-8)
Samantha Parker and her parents live in California. They are going to visit their relatives in Australia for Christmas. Samantha has never traveled out of America before. This would be her first time out of the country. To Samantha’s delight, her father buys her a life-sized, plush koala. She names it Klampie, because his arms could clamp onto almost anything. Samantha clamps her plush koala onto her backpack.
The Parkers from Australia meet the Parkers from America at the airport. During the car ride to his home, Uncle Tim stops to get some gasoline. While everyone is out of the car, stretching their legs, a real koala approaches Klampie. Klampie falls off the backpack and no one notices that the koala now on Samantha’s luggage is real.
Koalas sleep most of the daylight hours, so it is not until Samantha and her parents are on the plane, headed back to California, before anyone realizes that Klampie is actually a living koala!
**** FOUR STARS! This wonderful book overflows with bright and cheerful illustrations that will spark the imagination of young children as they follow Samantha Parker on her visit to Australia. The story is intended for kids between the ages of four and eight; however, I believe that even adults will enjoy the tale and probably end up learning something new. (I sure did!)
The character of Samantha is sweet and inquisitive. Young readers will easily relate to her. The writing style and wording of the story is kept simple, so children should not become confused or frustrated. Best of all, as the children are thoroughly entertained by Samantha and Klampie they will not even realize how much they are learning about koalas and the country of Australia.
In my opinion, this book would be a great addition to any home or library. If you are a babysitter, consider keeping a copy of this book with you. I found it to be an easy way of settling the children down before bed time. If you are a teacher, this story could work before nap time or simply as a way to help calm down the over stimulated. A terrific story that kids will want to read over and over! ****
Author: James A. Chisman
Illustrator: Joseph Ingking
Title - Bullette and Jessica (Ages 6-9)
Nine-year-old Jessica Long has always wanted a dog. So when Jessica notices a stray female, she immediately asks permission to adopt her. Jessica initially chooses the name of Bullet for the two-year-old dog because of her speed. (Because the neighbors think Bullet sounds like a name for a boy dog, Jessica's dad suggests adding an extra te to the spelling of the name.) The rest of this story is filled with all the fun and wonderful antics that Bullette brings into the Long family’s life.
***** FIVE STARS! This Children’s book will keep any child’s attention with no trouble. Bullette frolics, gives wet face licks, and ends up doing many funny things as she explores the world around her. By having Bullette in her life, Jessica learns much about dogs. (For example, I knew that dogs could hear better than humans and that they have a keen sniffer, but I did not know that a dog’s eyesight was worse than a human’s.)
As children enjoy this humorous tale, they follow Jessica and learn about many other types of neighborhood wildlife. There are woods near Jessica’s home, which brings a variety of creatures for your child(ren) to read about. In addition to dogs, children will learn a few things about guinea pigs, snakes, possums, bats, groundhogs, and bees. Several illustrations are scattered throughout the story to ensure that all kids will grin and giggle as they read this book over and over again. This is an excellent way to give a head start for school about science and nature. Fun, educational, and highly recommended. *****
Author: Bob Wolf
Title - Halo's Story: As Told By the Dog That Walked with Jesus
In the first century, a litter of puppies was born to a common dog. One puppy was given to a young, sixteen-year-old, man named Jesus. Jesus had two fathers; one on Earth and one in Heaven. Jesus named the puppy Halo. In Halo's mind, Jesus was named Master.
During his seventeen years of life, Halo seldom left Master's side. Halo and Master could understand each others' thoughts. Halo learned all about Love by watching and listening to Master. Jesus taught thousands about His Heavenly Father and Halo often told other animals about His Love. In this story, Halo tells about his life with Jesus and the Guys (disciples).
**** FOUR STARS! Though this story targets children (7-12 years in age), I strongly suggest that an adult be nearby. In fact, it would not be a bad idea for parents to read this story with/to their kids at bed time. By doing so, parents could explain many subtle meanings. Also, the author has Halo hint at several events and miracles during his travels with Jesus. Parents can use these sections to elaborate on what Halo refers to.
This is not a big book. I estimate it to be around sixty pages in length. Each chapter is between three to five pages. Several black and white illustrations are littered throughout the book. The story ends forty days before the death of Jesus. This is when Halo goes to be with the Heavenly Father and his many friends from life. There is no need to fear your child breaking down into tears. The author shows early in the story that death is not an ending, but rather the beginning of something much more wonderful. The ending is not very sad at all. I found it to be sweet and very well done.
This book should NOT be used as a substitute for bible stories or the like. Nor should a child be given this book and then left alone. Remember, this story is from the view point of a dog, so not everything is explained in detail.
I have no doubt that children (and their parents) will quickly be charmed by this special dog named Halo. ****
Author: Gigi Sedlmayer
Title - Talon, Come Fly with Me (Talon #1, Ages 7 and up)
Four and a half years ago Matica's parents moved from Australia to the remote village of Pucara as missionaries. The village is located on a high and open, sandy, vast plateau of the great Andes Mountain in Peru, South America. It is close to the border of Brazil. Matica had been five-years-old at the time her family arrived in Pucara; however, due to her growth problem, Matica looked no older than two. Because of her growth disorder, the villagers did not accept her. Everyone, including the other children, turned from Matica.
As this story opens, Matica is almost ten-years-old. She has a little brother named Aikon, who is almost four. Aikon is normal, so the villagers consider him to be a part of their community. Yet they still shun Matica. With no real friend to keep her company, Matica turns to nature. When a very huge bird captures her interest, Matica sets off after it to learn more. Over the next year or so, Matica learns that it is a male condor and she names him Tamo. Tamo has a mate and Matica names her Tima. Every day Matica goes to a special place, where she will give them small, dead animals (such as lizards) to eat and to simply talk to them. Matica's patience is eventually rewarded. Condors are extremely intelligent. Tamo and Tima come to trust the small human girl. Though the female, Tima, would keep her distance, Tamo would bravely approach Matica. After spending so much time with Matica, Tamo no longer hesitates to land and spend time with the small girl. Tamo and Matica bond with each other.
When poachers come to steal his egg, Tamo goes to Matica for help. With the aid of her father, Crayn, the small girl figures out what must be done. Matica, Tamo, and Tima may not speak the same language, but they are still able to understand each other most of the time. The condors are bigger than matica, but instinctively know that their small friend can protect their egg. It is up to Matica to help incubate the egg (keep it very warm) until it hatches. The condor chick hatches on Matica's tenth birthday. It is a male and Matica names him Talon.
As of this point in the story, Matica's world changes. Matica's family, the entire village of Pucara, and even other villages, watch as the growth-stunted girl and her massive bird friends work together to raise Talon.
**** FOUR STARS! This chapter book targets readers from the age of seven and higher. It is the first of a series involving Matica, the world around her, and her majestic Condor friends. The author shows the reader, through the eyes and actions of Matica, that people who have disorders and/or handicaps are not really different from the normal people around them. In fact, as Matica's parents often tell her, these people are different for a special reason, and someday that reason would become clear. By the end of this story, Matica understands exactly why God has made her body so small. Not only that, but the bond between Matica and the three birds teach the villagers several moral lessons.
As you enjoy the story, many facts about Condors are told. (I did not realize how much I was learning about Condors as I read.) This sneaky, but shrewd, author makes learning about Condors fun! Children will be able to connect with Matica, her positive outlook on life, and her indomitable spirit. The story is upbeat and never becomes too depressing.
This is the first book, of what could be several, involving Talon and Matica. I believe future stories will touch more on the topics of endangered animals and poachers, but this one mainly focuses on Matica meeting and bonding with the three birds. Author Gigi Sedlmayer has written a didactic story that will long linger in the minds of her readers. ****
Author: K.G. McAbee
Title - The Island Prison
(Crystal Staircase #2)
This book picks up where the first (The Dark Legacy) left off. Holli Macgregor is now the prisoner of the evil Captain Ambrose Craven. Holli meets another prisoner, Lady Isobel. Lady Isobel and her ocelot, Ozberto, have been Craven's unwilling guests for over six months. Shortly after meeting each other, Captain Craven escorts them to his infamous Island Prison, where rescue will be even more difficult.
Noah, Holli's brother, is determined to rescue Holli and then set off to rescue G-Bert, their dog, from Craven's secret fortress. (Located elsewhere.) He has no idea where the island or the fortress is, but with the help of several talking animal friends Noah will find out.
**** All the most enjoyable characters from the first book, The Dark Legacy, return for an encore. Readers are also treated to some new characters. This time the story is not only from Noah's point-of-view, but Holli's as well.
I would estimate that ages nine and up will enjoy this installment of the series. There is never any time for boredom. (I must report that there is one town in the story that is mentioned several times throughout the book and it is spelled two different ways. Are you up to the task of sleuthing to figure it out?) Readers must keep up with many character names, but I do not believe that will be difficult at all. A few certain talking animals tend to steal the spot light often. The chivalrous raccoon is my personal favorite, but I could be persuaded to change my mind to a certain skunk.
Of course, this ends with some loose strings for the next book to deal with; however, it stops at the perfect place so you will not be left with no closure. It looks as though G-Bert and the secret fortress will be the focus of the third book. I can hardly wait. McAbee's imagination is infinite. ****
Author: K.G. McAbee
Title - The Dark Legacy
(Crystal Staircase, Book One)
The Macgregor family arrives at their new home, Rest-And-Be-Thankful. Ten-year-old Noah and his older sister, Holli, are thrilled to see it is a massive homestead built in the 1700's by their pirate ancestor, Captain Ambrose Craven. The pair, along with their overweight Lab named G-bert, looks forward to spending the entire summer exploring the place and its equally huge grounds. They know that it just may take the whole summer to investigate everything too. The home is several stories tall and has obviously been added onto many times.
According to the lawyer, only two months prior their Great Uncle Enoch Macgregor transferred ownership of Rest-And-Be-Thankful to their dad and then simply disappeared. Great Uncle Enoch also left Holli an expensive set of paint brushes since she loves to paint in acrylics. Since Noah loves books, he receives the journals of Enoch, a mysterious French woman from 1753, and Captain Craven! Within one journal, Noah reads a short poem about traveling through the painting within Rest-And-Be-Thankful and into a whole new world and time.
Soon Noah, Holli, and G-bert find themselves in a world where animals talk, the evil Captain Craven rules, and smelly skeleton minions abound. And the only way home is through a painting that dwells within Captain Craven's fortress.
***** W-O-W! This is the perfect adventure book for ages eight and up. The book follows Noah's point-of-view. His sister, Holli, is only a couple of years older. Like most siblings, they argue a bit, but obviously care for each other. G-bert adds some wonderful humor to help off set the spooky settings, mystery, and minions. The author did an amazing job of making all the characters believable. (Even the talking animals!) Be warned that there is a cliffhanger ending, but the next book, The Island Prison, will pick up where the first leaves off. I can hardly wait! Stellar! *****
Author: Harry Markov
Title - Dragon Lady
Readers are invited to sit in as a grandmother recounts the tale of two princesses and the way they handled a challenge with their own special magic. It is a story of hope, healing, and love, the best magics of all.
*** The author exhibits a great ability to draw word images sure to enchant younger readers, though those over ten or so will want longer, more fleshed out tales. Given the youth of the author, this is a promising start to what we can hope will be a bright career. ***
Author: Sarah V. Richard
Title - Is Christmas Coming? (Children's / Ages 4 and up)
***** This is a wonderful little story, just PERFECT for reading with little ones as the Christmas holiday draws near. It begins ten days before Christmas and ends on the actual holiday. It is a daily conversation between a son and his mother. The little boy is anxious to open the presents, even just one. The mother must calmly sooth her son as they count down the days.
Each day has a rhyming beat to it. This makes it excellent as a tool to teach your young children how to read. Parents may read it to their children, but the children will want to read it to themselves over and over. It may be purchased in print form from the publisher (and possibly at B&N or Amazon) online, however, I would recommend downloading it to your computer from the publisher. By doing so, your child can get a head start on working with a computer. (Many schools begin teaching the use of computers in FIRST grade.) I highly recommend this story as a learning tool to help your child get ready for his/her school days. *****
Title - The Thing In The Tub & Other Poems
(Preschool and up)
***** This is a wonderful collection of poems for children. Each one made me laugh. It is full of fairies, dragons, rocket ships, funny creatures, and so much more. Children will ask for it to be read over-and-over again.
As a special treat, each poem is illustrated with a wacky picture that can be printed out for coloring! There are over twenty poems and pictures for hours of fun! This would also make a terrific present for your kids, nieces, nephews, or to be used by teachers in their classrooms for years!
I can only hope that these talented authors get together again real soon to create another delightful book of poems. I will be waiting! *****
Author: Rita Y. Toews
Illustrator: Jon Ljungberg
Title - The Bully (Ages 6-12)
This is a FREE book that anyone can read about dealing with bullies. You can either download to your computer, it takes only seconds, or open it up from the site. It looks like a picture book! Simply click the arrow to turn each page. And just like a "print" book, the reader sees the page flip. COOL!
The story is set in an elementary school and teaches how a bully operates and what your child and you can do to stop it all. There is also a multiple choice quiz for parents/teachers and children to do together. For the younger kids, there are lots of wonderful drawings that can be printed out for coloring.
Highly recommended reading for ages 6 - 12.
(Author) Karen Sue Wiesner
With Linda Derkez
(Illustrator) Candace J. Hardy
Title - Cody Knows (Pre-school)
This story follows one weekday in the life of little Cody. It begins at daybreak and ends at bed time. Most any child will be able to relate with the story of Cody.
**** This is a wonderful picture book for pre-schoolers. Simple words to follow and short sentences per page so your child can read along with you. The illustrations are bright and colorful, very eye-catching, with many details.
Many schools introduce the computer in first grade. Therefore, this ebook is a perfect way to help your child learn to read, as well as, assist your child in becoming comfortable with simple commands of computers. It is a story your child will ask you to read many times. ****
(Author) Karen Sue Wiesner
(Illustrator) Robert Lee Beers
Title - Taking Responsibility Builds Trust
(First Book in the Making Good Choices series)
The Making Good Choices series is an interactive set of stories and illustrations designed to help parents and kids understand each other and to work together toward making good decisions. The series is designed for preschoolers and elementary school-aged kids.
Each book has a set of short stories where the character (a child) makes choices. This book focuses on "responsibility" and "trust". This book has a boy with two stories. In the first, his choices are made on a playground. In the second, his choices are made during a sleep-over with a friend.
Your child will read this story and decide whether the story's character made good choices or not. By clicking on YES or NO your child is able to be interactive with the story. Which ever answer your child clicks on, the story will take your child to another section of the book and tell him/her if the answer they chose was good or not. Then it explains WHY.
***** The host of the book is Reb Raccoon. Reb will award your child gold stars for good choices, as well as, plant "seeds of knowledge". Children will enjoy interacting with Reb Raccoon and will read the book over and over. It is a perfect way to help children learn about building trust and taking responsibility for their own actions. A print version of the series will be released later. PERSONALLY, I prefer the electronic version of the series. WHY? A simple click of a mouse shows your child whether his/her answer was a good choice or not. The print version will have the answers in the back of the book. I look forward to the second book of this series. Highly recommended! *****
(Author) Wendy Peterson
(Illustrator) Ardy Scott
Title - Ocean Fairies
Jesse is a teenager who lives at the beach. Known only to her, fairy penguins live in nests hidden on the foreshore. Part of their magic is that they could understand and speak every language in the world. When they are near Jesse, she could understand other creatures too.
While exploring a sunken ship with the fairy penguins one day, Jesse's rubber dinghy is torn. She is rescued by the Selkie. The Selkie is the mightiest of all the merfolk. He can summon the wind and storm. The ocean obeys his every whim. As he leaves Jesse, he promises to grant her a wish. Jesse is enchanted with the Selkie and wants nothing more than to meet him again.
***** Thus begins a magical journey for Jesse and her little friends as they search for an elusive island. They meet a few mythical creatures and experience many magical things.
The story is like the fairy tale of "The Little Mermaid", only in reverse. The heroine is human and longs for a prince of the sea. This story will amaze readers of all ages. Yet it is written simply, so even those around the age of eight can understand it. Highly recommended. *****
(Author) Rita Y. Toews
(Illustrator) Jennifer Macaire
Title - Christmas Stars
Catherine's father had decided that she was old enough to help him decorate and put lights on the trees outside. Winter had come early. The snow was deep. When Catherine noticed two hungry deer eating seeds from the bird feeder in the back yard, she asked her father if they could help the deer through the rough winter.
***** Author Rita Toews warmed my heart with this touching story. She showed that by doing little acts of kindness, such as putting food out for the deer, the rewards would come back three-fold.
Illustrator Jennifer Macaire created lovely pictures for each page of the story. In addition, there is a picture of Catherine's trees that, when you touch them with your mouse, they light up!
As a special bonus, once the story is over, there are a few pages with puzzles, games, and projects. This is a perfect way for parents and children to have some delightful time together. Children will beg, "Can we read it one more time?" Highly recommended! *****
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