Monday, September 28, 2009

Bears on Chairs

Shirley Parenteau
Illustrated by David Walker

Sometimes sharing is not so easy to do. Four small bears, Calico, Fuzzy, Yellow, and Floppy, each have their own small chair. These chairs were made for small bears not for big bears. Which was just fine … until Big Brown Bear came along, who also wanted to sit on a small bear chair. The small bears tried to share a small chair with Big Brown Bear, but there just was not enough room for both of them. Big Brown Bear was so sad. He just wanted to sit on a chair too, but one small chair was not big enough for him. The four small bears got together and had a great idea – one that would make Big Brown Bear happy. Their idea was not just about making Big Brown Bear happy, but all five of the bears were happy, and the all learned a lesson in sharing.

This charming book with sweet pastel acrylic illustrations tells a wonderful story of sharing on a level that even preschool children will understand.

BIBLIO: 2009, Candlewick Press, Ages 3 - 5, $15.99
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 978-0-7636-3588-6

REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 9/27/09

Ned’s New Home

Kevin Tseng

Apples and apple pies … Ned just loved both. That was until his apple home began to rot and drip apple juice. Finally, Ned had to find a new home, but it wasn’t quite that easy. First Ned tried a pear, but it kept wobbling away. Next, Ned tried a watermelon, but it was too big. When Ned tried the blueberries, they just kept rolling away. The lemon was too sour, and Ned got lost in the green of the kiwi. Finally, Ned found a bunch of juicy red cherries. Each fruit Ned tried just wasn’t the same as the apple he used to live in. He was not ready for the big adventure that would lead to his new home, but he didn’t give up. Ned’s friends would enjoy his new home almost as much as he did.

The colorful watercolor illustrations bring the text to life and small children will delight in the simple story about a worm!

BIBLIO: 2009, Tricycle Press, Ages 3 - 5, $14.99
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 978-1-582-46297-4

REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 9/27/09

Who Would Like a Christmas Tree?

Ellen Bryan Obed
Illustrated by Anne Hunter

Life on a Christmas tree farm is busy year round and it’s not just the farmer who has things to do. January through December the wildlife is depending on the tree farm for food and shelter. From the black-capped chickadees who count on the Christmas trees for three meals a day, to the field mice who never hibernates and nibbles the bark under the snow safe from predators. The white-tailed deer that snacks early in the morning and late in the day, and the robins that sit atop the Christmas trees and sings as the sun comes up and down each day, the tree farm is bustling with life well beyond the farmer and her family. Wild turkeys, wild flowers, monarch butterflies, and even garden spiders depend on the Christmas tree farm to be fed and protected, during the year. But what keeps the Christmas tree farm going? Each December families go to the plantation to choose their special Christmas tree. The farmer provides hot cider and spicy Christmas cookies for each family.

This book is a great reminder to every one of the practical resources that trees provide to wildlife. At the end of the book there is a description of how the farmer takes care of her Christmas tree farm. Educationally speaking, this book earns an “A”. While the colorful watercolor and ink illustrations complete the text, making it a more than a non-fiction piece, but a story-telling gem.

BIBLIO: 2009, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ages 4 - 8, $16.00
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Juvenile Non-Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-547-04625-9
REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 9/27/09

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Elly – My True Story of the Holocaust

Elly Berkovits Gross

Before the Germans came, her father worked hard and her mother was a homemaker. Elly was an only child for ten year’s until her baby brother Adalbert was born. She took great joy in taking care of him, taking him to pick wild strawberries, blackberries, and wildflowers for their mother. Their parents had great dreams for their son … until the spring when the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia. Life changed dramatically for Elly and her family. Adolf Hitler with his slogan, “Kill the Jews”, spread across one country to another and her family sustained one hardship after another. First her father was forced into hard labor, where he eventually died, then Elly, her mother and young brother were shipped away on cattle cars. As a child, Elly had blond hair, and blue eyes, like her fraternal Grandmother, perhaps that is why she survived the Holocaust – she looked more German than Jewish. Her childhood quickly ended. Although she got a taste of the Jewish discrimination while still living in her hometown of Simleu Silvaniei, Romania, a city in the valley by Meses Mountains. Elly’s nightmare was Auschwitz-II/Birkenau concentration camp in Poland and she never saw her mother or brother again. At the age of 15 she learned to survive horrific conditions that took it’s toll on her emotionally, physically, and personally. She persevered and one long torturous year later, the Allies and American forces freed the survivors of the concentration death camps. Elly’s story is compelling and a must read. From her childhood to loosing her parents and brother, to meeting Dr. Mengele, to meeting her husband, Elly’s story is one of suffering, survival, and finally joy.

This book is written to everyone, chapters are short, poetry is included, and anyone who doubts the reality of the Holocaust will become a believer after reading Elly’s book. About half way through are photographs of family, and concentration camps. It is a must read.

BIBLIO: 2009, Scholastic Inc., Ages 11 Up, $14.99
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Non-Fiction/Memoir
ISBN: 978-0-545-07494-0
REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 9/5/09

God Found Us You

Lisa Tawn Bergren
Illustrations by Laura J. Bryant

This is a story of a mother with an unfulfilled heart longing to love a child. The only way she knew to have a complete family was through prayer and faith. So she waited and believed, and seasons changed while she prayed “like crazy”, and one day, she believed God would bring a Little Fox for her to love. Finally, her prayers and dreams came true, and Little Fox die come into her life. It’s a story he loves to hear over and over … the day he came home. And so, Mama Fox explains to Little Fox how lonely she was before God brought him for her to love. She tells him how she waited and prayed for him … how he would look, and how he would smell.
This is a charming story of adoption, when faith and hope are given free reign and the timing is given to God, whose timing is always perfect. The illustrations are perfect for this book: reflecting Ms. Bryant’s talents with the detail. Adding to the frivolity of the book is the typeface used on the pages.

BIBLIO: 2009, HarperBlessings, Ages 3 - 7, $10.99
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 978-0-06-113176-9
REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 9/3/09

Meet My Neighbor, the Artist

Marc Crabtree

David Scott is a neighbor artist who works with paints and pencils. Mr. Scott introduces his wife and baby son and then shows steps he takes in painting his pictures. Paints must be placed on a glass palette and some mixed to create other colors. He has been painting a picture of a house, which he paints with his son on his lap. Paintings of ducks, a starling, and a bald eagle shows another side to Mr. Scott’s talent. Using pencils in drawings, he starts with very sharp pencils and a magnifying glass to get the details correct. When his projects are completed, he takes his pictures to a framer who then hangs them on a wall so Mr. Scott can see them before taking them to the gallery. At the gallery potential buyers can then view the pictures and purchase them.
Mr. Crabtree has included a picture glossary at the back of the book to help the reader understand included terms. The photographs were taken by the author and are colorful and help tell the story of the artist, Mr. Scott.

BIBLIO: 2009, Crabtree Publishing Co., Ages 4-6, $6.95
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Juvenile Literature
ISBN: 978-0-7787-4579-2
REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 8/19/09

Peace Comes to Ajani

Keith Kelly

The effects of war have made an impact on Ajani and his family when his dad was killed in action. The repercussions seem to be insurmountable for Ajani, both at home and at school. Ajani developed a problem with anger that created a rift between him and his friends. Then a new student in Ajani’s school seemed to be getting along better with his friends than Ajani did. While Ajani tried to deal with his grief, his anger consumed all of his relationships … family, friends, and school. Through a series of unfortunate events, Ajani was given an opportunity to learn to deal with his grief. Finally, in an attempt to help Ajani manage his anger, his mother arranged an after school job for him. What should have been a positive example for Ajani, just created more tension, yet lead to a better life lesson in the end. Ajani not only finally found the peace he struggled for, but a richer life than he expected.
This is a wonderful story of redemption from tragedy and so timely given the status of our country’s armed forces. The illustrations provided by Mr. Kelly are colorful and dramatic adding the necessary touch.

BIBLIO: 2009, Carolina Wren Press, Ages 10-14, $9.95
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-932112-59-0
REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 9/3/09

Reflections of Me – Girls and Body Image

Kris Hirschmann

In today’s society, body image has become a billion-dollar business. The media along with celebrity influence has produced an unrealistic expectation not just for women, but also for preteen and teen girls. The five chapters of “Reflections of Me – Girls and Body Image”, speaks frankly to young girls encouraging them to recognize the uniqueness of each one of them through personality, talents, strengths, and gifts. Girls are encouraged to develop hobbies and interests. Then to recognize the changes of their bodies through the normal developmental changes their bodies go through. Additionally, the young teen girls are advised to avoid dieting, but rather to eat healthy meals, get plenty of exercise, sleep well, improve their posture and practice good hygiene. The girls can also learn to dress appropriately while still reflecting their own style. To build a sense of self-esteem, the author recommends volunteering and becoming involved in sports. The author secured the advice of Dr. Woods of the Dept. of Psychology of Saddleback College, CA. Included in the book is a quiz to reinforce the knowledge learned, a glossary of the terms used, and additional pages where the reader can access resources regarding the information presented in the book.
This is a very well presented book of issues young teen and teenage girls will have to deal with. The language is up-to-date and celebrity personalities used as examples are current and positive.

BIBLIO: 2009, Compass Point Books, Ages 11-16, $27.99
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Non-Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-7565-4132-3
REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 9/3/09