Monday, February 20, 2012

I See the Sun in Afghanistan

This is the story of Habiba, a young girl living in central Afghanistan with her family. Her early morning chore is to retrieve water for her family’s use. Through the course of her day, she attends school, picks herbs and vegetables from the family garden, visits with her uncle living next door, and tends the sheep while her brother goes to afternoon school.

The war has affected the Afghan people in different ways. Her uncle next door lost his legs. Her aunt, uncle, and cousins lost their home. Therefore, they will be living with Habiba and her family. As families do, they share everything in difficult times, even when a small home is more than crowded.

The author has written a wonderful capsule of what could be a typical day in an Afghan family. Morning and afternoon sessions separate school for girls and boys. Great respect is shown toward elders; they grow their own vegetables, and butcher their own meat. The marketplace is beneficial for products not made at home, like the flat bread. A radio is available and the family listens to a BBC broadcast in Dari.

King has described a ‘day in the life’ very eloquently. Small children will enjoy the story of Habiba, her activities, and her family. Written in English and Dari, also known as Afghan Farsi, both languages are included on each page in the book.

The illustrations of Judith Inglese beautifully enhance the text with colorful collages. Amid the collages you can see the wonderful drawings and photographs Inglese included on the pages to bring more color and depth to the pages and text.

Our world is getting smaller due to the internet and children should have the safe opportunity to learn about other children in other countries and their lives. I See the Sun in Afghanistan is an excellent addition for any library. As an educator, I highly recommend it.

BIBLIO: 2011, Satya House Publications, 4-8, $12.95
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Children’s Multi-Cultural
ISBN: 978-098187208-7

Reviewed for KSB Promotions Visibility Specialists,

Draw Plus Math!

Author, Freddie Levin’s book, Draw Plus Math! starts with a simple list of what your child will need to accomplish the math activities within this book. Levin includes some helpful drawing tips and basic shapes used in the book: square, rectangle, circle, oval, triangle, and trapezoid. Simple!
The table of contents includes twenty lessons starting from the basic shapes to creating a game using all the shapes learned in this book.

A note to teachers and parents regarding the learning expectations for the children follows. She suggests art activities in union with games and exercises strengthen math learning in ways that are fun. What child wouldn’t rather have fun when they learn?

With simple sketches, Levin starts with a fish tank for counting. Fish are different shapes and colors – some with stripes and dots. On a blank piece of paper the shapes are easily copied, colored, and counted. The child has used art to count fish and reinforced it with a tactile – tangible – skill.

The following nineteen lessons graduate from Even and Odd Numbers, Groups, Subtractions, Groups of Everyday Numbers, Review of shapes Used and New Shapes Introduced: parallelogram and star.

Starting at Lesson Nine, your child is given an opportunity to combine all learned shapes, including the two new shapes, and build them into new designs, and color them, as usual. This activity Leads to creative thinking, and tactile reinforcement.

The introduction of symmetry helps children with shapes, colors, patterns, matching, and then telling a story. Still using shapes, colors, and on to patterns, matching, and using pictures to tell a story. Lesson 17 introduces fractions using pizza and finally graphing is introduced using birds and three colors.

Draw Plus Math! is a great math support text for children six years and up. Levin has found key points in getting, and keeping children’s attention. In this book, children can tangibly learn math concepts. Levin has clearly put major time and energy into this product for your children to help them learn math skills while using their creative energies.

The illustrations are colorful and cartoonish as a child might draw. Yet, professional and show young children how to start with their drawing and shapes. Her illustrations are simple, based on the math shapes contained in the book, and the colors are right out of the basic set of boxed colored pencils. Pictures your child will be to replicate easily. This book is a great value for a family, home school, or public school use.

BIBLIO: 2010, Peel Productions, Inc., Primary, $8.99
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Children’s NF, Education
ISBN: 0-939217-90-2

Reviewed for KSB Promotions Visibility Specialists,

Happy Crap - Unleash the Power of Positive Assumptions

Author Erika Oliver’s book Happy Crap is a source for motivation and inspiration for restricting your negative thoughts to positive that can transform your lives.

Oliver provides eight tools for your journey to living a more positive life with a Happy Crap attitude. Begin by choosing your thought. Oliver writes, “The quality of our thoughts – negative or positive – determines the quality of our experiences and our lives.”

While that seems a simple strategy, if it were there would not be so many people living with negative crap thoughts in their lives. Negative crap, or crappy crap thoughts, influence daily lives that are not recognized, until you are willing to see the positive side.

Without realizing, crappy crap shows up through assumptions – which are simply guesses. How many times does anyone start his or her day with an assumption – whether it is a crappy crap day or a Happy Crap day?

Oliver advises for Happy Crap days; make “daily decisions, set goals, and craft long-term plans using assumptions.” Other people will also make their own assumptions, whether positive or negative. Their assumptions could well be towards you. However, you are not responsible for the assumptions of others, only for yours.

How does negativity affect your life? Oliver suggests it impairs problem solving, communication skills, health issues such as depression, physical, and relationships.

Positive thinking allows you to see life with possibilities, a willingness to take on challenges, and seeing life with a Happy Crap attitude. It means taking control over your thoughts. In Chapter 9, Oliver provides the Happy Crap Tool Box with Eight Tools, a Color Exercise, and a Happy Crap Pledge.

It is your life, your future that you have control of – through your thoughts – make them Happy Crap thoughts – and a happier, more positive life.

BIBLIO: February 2011, In the Affirmative Publishing, Adult NF, $14.95
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
ISBN: 978-0-9799025-3-6

Reviewed for KSB Promotions Visibility Specialists,

Character Disturbance The Phenomenon of Our Age

Are there people who seem to bring confusion and pain into your life and you do not understand why or how they got that foothold? Perhaps you feel someone else is in control of your life and you would like to know how to regain your control. While this is not a ‘How-To’ book, it is a book to help you understand Disturbed Characters that may be around you. Finally, it has information to have healthy relationships in your life.

Internationally known for his bestseller, In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People, author George K. Simon Jr., Ph. D. is back with Character Disturbance The Phenomenon of Our Age.

Simon states Disturbed Characters have specific reasons for behaving the way they do. In sharing his experience and research, through this book, Simon wants to alert the unsuspecting from any disadvantage the Disturbed Characters will have.

From the founding of our country, integrity and character has been recognized as an integral part of our society. Some positive aspects of an individual’s character are seen as self-control, ethics, loyalty, fortitude, and virtue.

A Disturbed Character “individual are notoriously nonchalant about things that upset most other people.”

Lacking an under-developed conscience, Disturbed Characters have the ability to injure without shame or guilt. With that, many Disturbed Characters lack genuine remorse for their acts that are hurtful to others. While they may offer an ‘I’m sorry’, it is not out of sincere contrition; nor is it an admission of guilt.

It is fruitless to confront a Disturbed Character, hoping they would feel shame or guilt, as it will only add to the victim’s frustrations. A Disturbed Character knows what they are doing; the result is what their actions were intending.

Control and manipulation are the keys used by Disturbed Characters. Usually they are subtle, but if cornered, a Disturbed Character must maintain the standard of control and their advantage is then at risk. A Disturbed Character looks at others with disdain – knowing they have the upper hand because they perceive themselves to be smarter and superior, thus they have the right to exploit others. You might have heard one vocal this, “I am smarter than everyone else.” It is because they believe it.

Simon describes four types of Aggression – overt, covert, active, and passive. He also states there are three things to remember in dealing with Disturbed Characters and aggressive personalities – position, position, position. Meaning a Disturbed Character must always maintain the upper hand, be in the dominate position, and resist submission to a higher power. All are part of the primary agenda for Disturbed Character personalities.

One should not try to change a Disturbed Character. They are truly happy with who they are. In fact, they are more satisfied with their lives than most non- Disturbed Characters will ever be. How could that be? Disturbed Characters do not experience ego problems. Self-confidence is not an issue with them. They can turn the charm on or off to accomplish their task, using whatever behaviors are necessary.

Simon suggests eleven tools to empower the average person to survive an encounter with a Disturbed Character. A few of them are:

*Become a Better Judge of Character;
*Knowing Yourself – understanding your own needs, insecurities, and belief systems;
*Invest Energy Only Where You Have Power – choose battles carefully, avoid losing battles, take charge of your own behavior;
*Never Accept an Excuse – if a behavior is wrong, there is no reason to accept it;
*Judge Actions, Not Intentions – actions speak louder than words;
*Stay Focused on the Here and Now – no exceptions;

Remember who you are dealing with and who has control of your life.

BIBLIO: June 2011, Parkhurst Brothers Publishers, Inc., Adult NF, $29.95
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
ISBN: 978-1-935166-32-0

Reviewed for KSB Promotions Visibility Specialists,

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Sitter is a T-Rex!

Paul Orshoski
Illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler

My parents have plans to go out and that means I’ll have a babysitter. When the doorbells rings, the only one surprised is me – it’s a T-Rex, and she says to call her Sue. My parents leave for the evening, and the fun is just beginning. All I want to do is run and hide from Sue. She starts to count to ten, thinking I’m playing a game. A hungry T-Rex is a messy T-Rex and Sue looks for food everywhere. Mom and dad should be home soon. What am I to do?

My Sitter Is A T-Rex! is part of the We Both Read series. The left side of the page is meant for the parents to read, with the content more detailed. The right side is for the child to read with less detail. Challenging words are in bold so parents can discuss them with their child. This series has been developed with reading education specialists to help parents make the most of their reading time with their children. There is a “Parent Introduction” at the beginning of the book encouraging parents to make the most of their children’s reading time. This is an ingenious way to bring the reading experience between parents and young readers to a unique quality enjoyment time.

Ebbeler’s illustrations are comically colorful and lend to the text so Sue is more than just a T-Rex, but a pink bubble-gum covered mess you just won’t see anywhere else. Neither will your children. The pages of bright-mixed-up color and fun are engaging and will keep young readers involved.

BIBLIO: 2011, Treasure Bay Inc., Ages 4-6, $9.95.
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 978-1-60115-253-4

REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 2-15-11

Dear Baby I’m Watching Over You

Carol Casey
Illustrated by Mark Braught

Good morning, Baby! A military parent wants to remind their baby of their love and prayers. Letters are sent; memories left behind, and are pictures kept. Are distant parents hungry at the same time their loved one left behind is? So many questions, so many constant thoughts. Letters and pictures from home become like treasures. To the family that is left behind, how do soldiers explain why they leave you? Little ones, teenagers, their job is to protect our country, hence – always watching over you.

Dedicated to U.S. service men, women, veterans, and their families. This book is written for the children, as they hear or read the words, that they should feel more peace with one of their parents overseas. Our military are remembered for future days and memories. Those times will be important, for the child and parent alike.

How often do young children question the absence of a military parent? The one who stays behind may not always be the parent; could be an aunt, uncle, grandparent, or even a good friend. The sacrifice of the soldier is sometimes more than what was expected. Children have a hard time understanding that sacrifice. This book is unusual in that it has the opportunity to remind children of all ages why their military parent is absent. As a post-script, this book is printed and published in the United States.

There is a warm quality to Braught’s paintings engaging each image contextually different. The soldier who kisses the letter – you want that it to be your letter he received. It is your hand you want traced so your child will hold it for memories. It is your dad, husband, or brother, saluting the flag that is committed to protecting our country. These paintings are that engaging.

BIBLIO: 2011, Dear Baby Books, Ages 2-8, $16.95
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Picture Book / Rhyming Text
ISBN: 978-0-9820972-3-6

REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 2-15-11

Rain Brings Frogs – A Little Book of Hope

Maryann Cocca-Leffler

Nate loves to be positive in everything he sees – the rain brings frogs and he likes frogs. One ice cream cone is enough to share, no matter what someone else might think. Behind the clouds is the sun. For Nate, it’s really just about perspective. Why complain about the mud when he finds a rainbow in it? There is always something fun, something happy, or something good, that he can find in every situation. Instead of being sad that he wasn’t first, Nate is glad he finished. What a great attitude! Instead of complaining about what he doesn’t have, he is happy with what he has. How about you? Just give it a try.

The simple colorful illustrations are perfect for the expressive text. Nate’s can-do, positive attitude makes him a winner every day – rain or shine. Children need to learn that life is not perfect, and sometimes they need to be able to deal with the changes that come. A positive attitude is much better than a complaining whining one.

While the illustrations are colorful and simple, the recommendation of newborn readers is a little much. Reading is usually for comprehension and newborns have not yet developed comprehension for reading. However, two to seven year olds should enjoy the book.

BIBLIO: 2011, Harper Collins Publishers, Ages Newborn - 7, $9.99.
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 978-0-06-196106-9

REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 2-15-11

A Rose Revealed

Gayle Roper

Rose Martin is the witness to a horrific explosion. Why this should happen is yet to be determined, but two people died and Rose’s life could be at risk. She is advised not return to her home, but to find a safe place to stay. Something she is not prepared to do, to put her life on hold while the bomber is found. Until, she realizes the house she will be staying at has an apartment owned by a very interesting Amish man, Jake Zook. Her attraction to him is complicating, yet he appears to have no response to her at all. Living with the Amish, Rose learns about the politics between different families, districts, and even communities. The culture is very different for her, a telephone is available outside in a shed, and they don’t have a television or read the newspapers. The longer Rose stays in the apartment, the more her heart yearns for Jake, but the politics of his family could permanently divide them.

This is the third of the Amish Farm Trilogy, and was first published as The Decision. The main character, Rose Martin, struggles with forgiveness for herself. In the back of the book, the author addresses this issue, “God doesn’t ever ask us to forgive ourselves.” Again, “If we say we have to forgive ourselves, are we saying Jesus didn’t do enough when He died for us?”

The author makes it an issue within the text of the book and again at the end. For anyone who has committed a sin against themselves is having a difficult time letting go of that sin. Most within the Christian fellowship church of believers, would say, “Forgive yourself. Do not continue to carry this bondage against yourself.” This was not the place for Ms. Roper to place limitations on those who are dealing with spiritual bondages she doesn’t understand.

BIBLIO: 1999, Harvest House Publishers, Ages Adult, $10.99.
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Fiction Romance
ISBN: 978-0-7369-2588-4

REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 2-15-11

The Story of the Leprechaun

Katherine Tegen
Illustrated by Sally Anne Lambert

This little man was a very good shoemaker and he kept his gold earnings well hidden. Everyone around knew he was a leprechaun, but no one had tried to bother his gold yet. It was a man named Tim that first tried to steal from the leprechaun. Tim saw the shoemaker’s gold and decided he just had to have it for himself. He also knew the shoemaker was a leprechaun and if he could catch him, he would be granted three wishes. The little man knew what Tim really wanted and he was ready for the three wishes. Tim’s violet-blue shoes were ready, but Tim was too quick for the shoemaker. Though the little man had been caught, Tim’s three wishes were one of greed and he had been tricked. The leprechaun decided he needed a better place to hide his gold. Wonder where that could be.

The charming pencil illustrations are the excellent representations for this story. Who knew what a leprechaun looked like? So colorful, yet the frustration on Tim’s face when he cannot find the shoemaker’s gold is perfect.

BIBLIO: 2011, Harper Collins Children’s Books, Ages 3-8, $12.99.
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Story Picture Book
ISBN: 978-0-06-143086-2

REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 2-15-11

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I'll Always Love You

Hans Wilhelm

Children just seem to get the idea of love very easily…especially when love is shared with a pet. This pet is Elfie – “the best dog in the whole world”. Elfie grew up with her boy, even if she did grow a little faster than he did, it didn’t matter to either of them. Adventures were more fun shared together as birthdays were, and naps were too. She was special to everybody in the family…mom, dad, little sister, and bigger brother. They all said so, but only her boy told her he loved her every day and every night. They did everything together, including evading trouble. Then, Elfie stopped growing, and started slowing down. A trip to the vet and Elfie’s family got sad. Elfie was just getting old and her family knew they wouldn’t have much more time together.

The illustrations are muted watercolors to engage the younger age children. So beautifully done, the illustrations even catch the expressions on Elfie’s face. Wilhelm has taken the issue of a pet’s death and gently incorporated it into I’ll Always Love You. Death is a concept, or issue, that small and older children may have a difficult time understanding. Yet, within these pages, her boy tells Elfie every day, “I’ll always love you”, and when her time comes, he knows he did right by his best friend. There’s a lesson here for families everywhere, with or without pets. Remember to tell those you love, that you love them. When you read this gentle love story to your children, love on them and tell them how much you love them also.
As a side note, I first read this charmer to my oldest son, now 29, then my youngest son, now 20, and still have the original copy that was purchased in the mid 1980’s.
The author has informed me it will soon be available by Random House as a hard cover. Wilhelm’s book placed on the 1987 Massachusetts Children’s Book Master List.

BIBLIO: 1985, Random House Books, Ages 4 - 8, $6.99.
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Picture Book / Easy Reader
ISBN: 978-0-517-57265-8

Sunday, December 19, 2010

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves!

Lucille Colandro
Illustrated by Jared Lee

The old lady is swallowing leaves! She has such a big mouth you have to wonder just how many leaves she is going to really swallow. Is she like a leaf vacuum? How do the leaves know to come to her mouth? Why is the dog near her not swallowed along with the leaves? What about the bird on the branch just above her head? Why just the leaves? Each time the old lady swallows a new item; her mouth seems to get bigger. Her feet are very tiny in respect to her body and mouth size, just saying. This old lady should have a very difficult time walking even if she does not swallow a pumpkin and a pole – and a pair of pants! The final item is a bunch of hay, which could easily start an allergy attack! Do you think that is the reason she begins to sneeze? She begins to sneeze until everything comes out. Do you think you know why she swallowed all this stuff?

This book is a remake of a previous picture / rhyming book that was very popular. The unfortunate thing at this time, it proves the point that not all remakes work. Perhaps if we are lucky, we will not see a slew of remakes of this type of picture book. Save your money, purchase the original; it is worth the money spent.

BIBLIO: 2010, Cartwheel Books, Ages 3+, $5.99.
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Picture Book / Rhyming Text
ISBN: 978-0-545-24198-4

REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 11-5-10

The Thinga-ma-jigger Is Coming Today!

Whitney Sanderson
Illustrated by Ruth Sanderson

The Thinga-ma-jigger – you know it is coming, and it is coming today! The Cat in the Hat is back and he has brought Sally and Nick and Thing One and Thing Two and other characters too. Flick a switch and the jiggermawhizzer and you can zing around and bang with a ring-a-ding-dinging. However, do not stop there. There is a whole forest of jigamaroo and if you press the shrinkamadoodle – that is right, you will shrink! So much fun when you have shrunk you can actually dance with bees, and bounce on petals! There is a remedy for the shrinkamadoodle, let me see – oh yes, it is the bigamaboodle! Whodathunk! There may be a problem stopping, but surely, there is a toggle or boodle or whizzer of some kind that will fix that.

Dr. Seuss, welcome to TV. This Golden Book is based on part of, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! This story is typically a rolling bit of fun; make sure your tongue is fit and ready for the roller coaster of exercise typical to Dr. Seuss. Your youngsters will not let you put this one down. It is genuinely funny, whether you have access to the TV show or not. The illustrations are bright, fascinating, and even mercurial. You should buy this book even if you do not have small children; it is a treat to your inner child.

BIBLIO: 2010, Random House Books for Young Readers, Ages 2-5, $3.99.
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Rhyming Words / Picture Books
ISBN: 978-0-375-85927-4

REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 11-5-10

Ivy Loves to Give

Freya Blackwood

Ivy, as the book title says, really loves to give. The problem is her gifts are not the right size or the correct style for the recipient. For an example, the first gift she gives is a shoe to a snail. That will never do! Her dad comes looking for his other shoe, while the dog and Ivy are trying to make the glasses fit. Grandma cannot see well to find her extra set of eyes and the hen is not enjoying the cup of tea. Ivy keeps trying though. Miss Kitty does not like baby’s pacifier and baby is not happy about that. So many gifts Ivy has to give out, yet none of them are happy gifts. How can Ivy turn her gifts into happy ones?

Children love to give, and Ivy is certainly no different. Ivy learns an important lesson in this book, especially, not to give people’s things to the family pets. This book encourages children to give while helping them to think about who they are giving the gift to, which is important. The thought process involved is complicated for children that age (three and up), but using the family pets and family items young children can relate to appropriate gift giving. The illustrations are beautiful and if you pay attention, there are a couple of great surprises. If you have children or grandchildren this is a book for your home library.

BIBLIO: 2009, Arthur A Levine Books, Ages 3+, $15.99.
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 978-0-545-23467-2

REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 11-5-10

Hush, Hush!

Margaret Wild
Illustrations by Bridget Strevens-Marzo

Baby Hippo just cannot fall asleep. Like so many babies, he wiggles, and waggles his legs, and he makes so much noise. His mum wants him to quiet down and just go to sleep. However, Baby Hippo cannot hush. He decides to go for a walk. As he walks along he walks through the soggy, boggy mud and this is what he hears, “Hush, hush,” As the pelicans go to sleep. Baby Hippo trots over hard lumpy rocks where the alligators are and this is what he hears, “Hush, hush.” Continuing his journey, Baby Hippo listens to many of the jungle babies, and he hears “Hush, hush.” Finally, he yawns, he is getting tired, but he is not at home. Will he be able to stay awake until he gets home?

This is a sweet book for young readers; it would even be good for the nighttime ritual. The colorful illustrations are perfect for the text and bring the story to life. The other animals will pique your child’s curiosity. The colorful illustration of the animals will draw young children into the story. They will also remember the simple text and relate the pictures and text together. This is a great book for reading comprehension.

BIBLIO: 2010, Little Hare Books, Ages 3+, $14.99.
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 978-1-921272-86-8

REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 11-5-10

Horse Diaries – Golden Sun

Whitney Sanderson
Illustrated by Ruth Sanderson

Little Turtle, is only nine winter’s old, when he chooses Golden Sun, an Appaloosa pony, for himself. Golden Sun, a quick learner, wants Little Turtle to be proud of him. Golden Sun listens closely when Little Turtle trains him so he will be proud of his pony. The spotted horses of Little Turtle’s tribe, the Nimi’ipuu, call the horses, such as Golden Sun, Maamin. Little Turtle is waiting patiently until Golden Sun is old enough, and big enough for him to ride. In the meantime, there is much for both of them to learn.

One day a young filly swims across the river that separates two tribes. The filly is stomping her back feet and snorting her nose, making a lot of noise. Golden Sun speaks to her, trying to calm her. A friend of Little Turtle, Pale Moon decides she likes the new filly and wants to keep her. Golden Sun speaks to the new filly about the tribe’s ways, but the filly is afraid, she has not been treated well. Pale Moon is kind to the filly, calls her Dancing Feather and gives her good food.

The two colts learn together and grow as their tribal counterparts. It is not long before they are bigger and racing side by side. Soon, Golden Sun accompanies Little Turtle to a very special time in his life; most horses are not allowed to go.

This is a very enjoyable read for young readers, especially those who like horses. The point of view is strictly from Golden Sun, and he manages to educate the reader while engaging them. The black and white illustrations are finely detailed allowing for an open window into the tribe’s life. At the end of the book, Sanderson included an appendix giving more information about the Appaloosa horses, which is very helpful and informational to the story. A great book to add to any library.

BIBLIO: 2010, Random House Books for Young Readers, Ages 8-12, $6.99.
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Chapter Book / Juvenile Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-375-86194-9

REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 11-5-10