Review of Judy Nill’s middle grade, TOO BIG

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Fifth grade can be hard on a kid,  and I don’t mean the school work. Judy Nill’s middle-grade novel, TOO BIG, covers:  making difficult decisions, accepting responsibility, family relationships, school friendships and school enemyships, and crime.

The protagonist of this story, Shelby, is a smart fifth grader who faces some serious problems. For one thing, she is larger than the average fifth grader. For another, she has to wear glasses, which she considers ugly. These problems make her the butt of jokes by the obnoxious kids. The smart alecs might think it’s funny but it hurts Shelby’s feelings. A possible saving grace might be for her to move up to the sixth grade at mid-year. It’s a decision Shelby vacillates about.

Shelby has one dear friend, Zoe. Zoe is a peace-maker type and welcomes the new boy, Deke, into her circle, realizing that he likes Shelby. Zoe also tames Kenny, the worst of the taunters. But Shelby is jealous and wants Zoe all to herself. In a kind of revenge, Shelby allows herself to be flattered into a false friendship with Marissa, a sixth grader with a mysterious past. Shelby sees Marissa slip some makeup into her pocket at the drug store, but at the counter, Marissa pays for the item. Was it because she knew Shelby saw her take it?

Shelby is very sweet to her little sister, Lindy; she gave her her old stuffed bear, BeeGee, and Lindy really loves him. She even talks in his voice. Their mom works and their dad has an electrical shop next to the house, so he is close by when the girls come home from school. The parents use big words when talking to the girls and the dad always says, “Look it up in the dictionary.”

As Shelby and Zoe draw apart, Shelby becomes involved in the deceitful dealings of Marissa and her friends. She manages to extricate herself from Marissa, or at least she tries to, but Marissa threatens to implicate Shelby if her gang is caught selling stolen goods. Shelby is afraid to tell her family or her teacher the truth.

Shelby’s reactions to her problems and relationships are authentic. She vacillates, she gets angry, she tries to act grown-up, she fakes being sick, and acts normal in other immature ways. There is much here for young readers to relate to.

n Halloween. Although Shelby and Zoe have always gone trick-or-treating together in the past, this year, Shelby decides not to go with Zoe. While hiding in the bushes near Zoe’s house, Shelby and Lindy are kid-napped by Marissa and her gang. They are taken into the woods where Lindy gets her arm fractured. Shelby and Lindy escape, but BeeGee is lost.

Zoe, Deke, and Kenny rescue Shelby and Lindy and find the missing BeeGee. Now Shelby must admit that Zoe was right to include Deke and Kenny in her circle. Shelby takes responsibility for all her mistakes, but Marissa never takes responsibility for her wrong-doings. Her mother lies for her and sends her off to her grandma’s. Feeling secure in a circle of friends, Shelby makes the decision to stay in the fifth grade.

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This book was published by Guardian Angel Publishing. You can find more information about the book and ordering information here: http://guardianangelpublishing.com/too-big.htm

As a licensed mental health counselor, Judy Dearborn Nill endows the characters in her books with real psychology and real human problems. It helps that she remembers her youth vividly, so that her young characters think and feel like REAL people. And her readers can believe in them the same way a youngster like Lindy can believe that the Velveteen Rabbit (and her own stuffy) is REAL.

I enjoyed reading TOO BIG, and I think it will be of help to young readers who have differences that make them the butt of jokes. Nobody is alone in what seems to be an unfriendly environment.

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Review of Susan J. Berger’s Mom, Is There a Santa Claus?

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Is there really a Santa Claus? This is an important question for many children. Oftentimes, information comes to a child through a skeptic, as it was to Lucas—who is dismayed by what his friend Clay says as they get off the school bus. Clay scoffs and says, “Like there is really a Santa Claus.”

So Lucas goes to his mom to ask her if there is really a Santa Claus, hoping her answer will reinforce his shaky belief. It seems that Mom also asked the same question of her parents. They explained that it’s the Spirit of Santa Claus that is important and will “enter the hearts and minds of people willing to listen.”

They made her a “Dream Keeper,” and gave her a pendant consisting of a moon and a silver star.

Dream Keepers are those who keep the dream of the Spirit of Santa Claus alive. So it doesn’t matter if the answer is “yes” or “no.”

Lucas carries the necklace in his pocket because now he is a Dream Keeper.

This story is very touching as it goes to the heart of a child’s fears and hopes, and makes him become aware that he is growing out of childish ideas and beliefs and must take on a responsibility that he may not feel ready to accept—but unlike Peter Pan, he must grow up. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. Susan has tackled a subject that is very large and couched it in the familiar and loving framework of Christmas.

Kudos to KC Snider for her beautiful depiction of the necklace as well as the North Pole, the snow-covered roof (is that Santa and his sleigh up there?), and other illustrations that give the reader the feeling of winter and Christmas.

Susan J. Berger is an actress in addition to being a writer. She has appeared on “Hannah Montana” and numerous other tv shows.

Link to the book at Guardian Angel Publishing: http://guardianangelpublishing.com/is-santa-claus.htm

I enjoy Susan’s blog posts, as well as those of her fellow-bloggers on The Pen and Ink Blog.

Link to Susan’s blog, http://thepenandinkblog.blogspot.com/

This is Susan’s fourth book with Guardian Angel Publishing.

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Susan J. Berger’s Earthquake

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Though earthquakes are something we don’t want to experience, Susan J. Berger’s book, EARTHQUAKE! (2nd edition) is infused with enough humor to keep the reader from being terrified while gaining information and safety precautions about the subject.

EARTHQUAKE! Susan J. Berger

Eugene Ruble’s charts and graphs are easy to read and understand and help to clarify the many facts. In addition, he includes funny illustrations that take the scare out of the topic, for instance, the fellow “quaking” in his bed during a large earthquake.

Susan goes into the causes (faults in the earth’s crust) and what a quake feels like, from quick and jerky to a roller coaster ride. The places on earth that are most likely to experience quakes surround the Pacific Ocean, in what is called the Ring of Fire.

Besides naturally occurring earthquakes, some have been caused by the building of large dams and reservoirs and FRAKING (the forcing of oil from rocks).

Two types of scales are used to measure quakes: the Richter scale that we are familiar with, measures the intensity of a quake, and the Mercalli scale which measures the level of damage after the quake. There is a picture of the very first seismometer, built in China by Chang Heng in 132 A.D.

Interesting statistics are provided about individual quakes. The largest quake in the United States occurred in Prince William Sound in Alaska. It measured 9.2 on the Richter Scale. Susan tells about experiencing the Northridge, CA, quake of 1994, which measured 6.7 on the Richter scale of intensity. (This reviewer was in an earthquake in Japan in 1965 that rippled and made me nauseous). The safety precautions and preparedness guides for both children and adults are thoroughly itemized and explained.

EARTHQUAKE! is nicely broken up with sidebar FACTOIDS and science experiments for children ages 7-12. The rice experiment is especially fascinating. And kids will love sloshing water out of the bathtub in an experiment called Seiche (saysh).

I enjoyed reading the pdf of this book which Susan sent me for review.

2/2016 UPDATED SECOND EDITION NOW RELEASED! in softcover, ebook and hardcover. Available at Guardian Angel Publishing,

http://guardianangelpublishing.com/earthquake.htm

and other outlets.

 

 

 

 

 

Review of LITTLE BUG by Karin Larson

Little Bug

Karin Larson’s first Guardian Angel Publishing picture book, LITTLE BUG, develops the concepts of “where” and “when” using a little critter’s search for home and comforts. 

            Persistence is the name of the game here. If Little Bug can’t find what he’s looking for in one place and one way, he continues in another place and another way. Fortunately, there are lots of prepositions, cum adverbs, to help him in his searches. For instance:

            “Little Bug crawled and crawled to find a hill to tunnel through.

He looked beyond. He looked beneath. He looked toward. He looked among. He looked about and past. He was too small.”

            Young students learning to use the English language will be astounded at the ways in which a verb can be controlled to show time and place. And teachers will be delighted to have a book they can use to teach grammar in a fun and simple way with lots of good examples. 

This little rhyming verse will have readers rooting for Little Bug to find a snug place to rest.

“Little Bug crawled and crawled to find a place to rest. He looked high. He looked low. He looked above. He looked below. He got tired and slow. He needed a break.”

Good luck, Little Bug!          

            Illustrator, Eugene Ruble, has in some cases, made Little Bug’s movements seem animated.

Karin Larson is a freelance writer living in Mitchell, SD, with her husband and three children. She has enjoyed publishing success in both children and adult markets. Karin is a member of SCBWI and a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature.

Visit Karin at http://www.karin-larson.blogspot.com  or   http://karinlarson.com

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Review of Jill Dana’s HER BROWN HAIR and HER PINK HAIR

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Her Brown Hair

Her Pink Hair

It’s hard not to feel sad when reading these companion books, HER BROWN HAIR and HER PINK HAIR, by writer/illustrator Jill Dana. Until you get to the end.

These two books, HER BROWN HAIR and HER PINK HAIR,  are about Stephanie, a little girl who has cancer. The narrator is a friend who visit Stephanie at home and in the hospital and plays with Stephanie when she is well enough. Other friends visit and bring her books to enjoy.

Stephanie’s illness worsens to the point that her hair falls out after chemo. The narrator explains that her friend goes from having long, curly brown hair, to being bald, to regrowing her hair. To bring some happiness and cheer into Stephanie’s life, her mother dyes her hair PINK.

The unusual aspect of these books is that author/illustrator Jill Dana has illustrated the characters in clay figures. Every page is bright and cheerful, created in vivid colors. The rainbow over the bed in the hospital brings a touch of hope and optimism.

Now, when the narrator thinks of her friend, she closes her eyes and sees a beautiful picture of Stephanie under an arch of flowers against a joyful cloud-studded blue sky.

This touching story has a very personal feel to it. Many children five to nine are mature enough to handle the illness aspect of the book, but it is a decision for the parents to make. They will definately love the illustrations.

Ms. Dana’s background in psychology is evident in her spare prose. She’s talented in several areas: she’s an artist, a sculptress, and a filmmaker.

She would be pleased if you would visit her at www.jilldanabooks.com

Cogratulations, Jill, on the launch of your first two Guardian Angel books!

The books are available at:

http://guardianangelpublishing.com/brown-hair.htm

http://guardianangelpublishing.com/pink-hair.htm

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Today begins 2015 PiBoIdMo. Eh?

Today is the first day of PiBoIdMo, 2015. If you’re a picture book writer you probably already know what that stands for: Picture Book Idea Month. Think of a new idea for a picture book every day for thirty days–it’s that easy. This is Tara Lazar’s brain child for people who don’t use the month of November to write a novel in. Or you can do both. This is my first year to join in the challenge. I have started my list–but I ‘m not telling. Maybe some of my ideas will materalize into books.

In the meantime, check out my two latest picture books from Guardian Angel Publishing:

BonBon

BonBon

BonBon is a plush toy French Poodle dog. She lives, for the time being, at the Twice-Loved Toy Shop in Paris, France. She longs for a nice child to take her to a loving home. While she practices being patient, she and the other toys look out the window and see the Eiffel Tower. They talk about other beautiful and famous places in Paris. But, oh, no! BonBon is hidden by another toy, a large bear. Will BonBon ever be seen by tourists walking up and down the Champs Elysees Boulevard? A series of fortunate events is about to happen. Eugene Ruble used photographs of the real BonBon to share the pup’s story with readers.

http://guardianangelpublishing.com/bonbon.htm

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Colby Mouse’s Christmas Gift

Colby Mouse's Christmas Gift

Colby Mouse thinks of a way to take part in the Christmas festivities in the people house where he lives. The little girl, Becky, realizes that the gift left on Santa’s plate is from the clever little mouse.

http://guardianangelpublishing.com/colby-mouse.htm

And here is an announcement from Lynda S. Burch: More new books from Guardian Angel Publishing:

100 Pecans for Tabitha
Academic Wings
Author: Tracey M. Cox; Illustrator: Eugene Ruble
Tabitha is on the search for 100 pecans. Help her count by 5s to reach her goal and have her favorite treats. Recipes and Pecan info included.
http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/tabitha.htm

America Bless God,  a Children’s Musical
Angelic Harmony
Authors: Dixie Phillips, Sharon Phillips
Light up your 4th of July with this simple easy-to-perform patriotic children’s musical.
http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/america-bless-god.htm

Papillon and the Magic Lamp
Chapbooks for Tweens
Author: Osa Kauffman; Illustrator: Aumi Kauffman Perry
A talking butterfly and a boy embark on an adventure in the desert. They encounter a talking camel, a wily salesman, and a magical lamp.
http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/papillon-magic-lamp.htm

Review of Two House Lilly by Candace J. Hardy

Two House Lilly

Don’t be fooled by the cover of this book, TWO HOUSE LILLY, written and illustrated by Candace J. Hardy. It isn’t really about witches, although a witch costume plays a prominent part in the story.

Lilly is a nine year old fourth grader whose life has been turned upside down by the divorce of her parents. The story is sad at times, but the age group who will be reading it should be able to handle the honest approach to family problems in this chapbook for tweens published by Guardian Angel Publishing.

Lilly’s dad has remarried. His wife came to the marriage with a set of twins and  a special needs daughter, although she seems quite smart to me. Now Dad and his wife have another child, a baby girl.

Lilly lives with both families. Her calendar is divided between Red Weeks with her father and Blue Weeks with her mother (with every other weekend at Grandma’s).

Lilly’s mom has not remarried. She resents the fact that her husband left her and is vocal about her feelings. She also appears to be drinking a bit too much. Her attitude is making Lilly wish she could live full-time with the dad’s family.

When Lilly discovers that her mom has muscular sclerosis, which sometimes mimics drunkenness, and when Mom gets on medication and becomes a calmer and nicer person, Lilly draws closer to her mom.

Complications set in when 1) Dad’s employer is moving him to another state, 2) a boy who is a bully hurts Lilly and they become enemies, 3) Lilly wants to be the witch in the school presentation of HANSEL AND GRETEL but can’t make the rehearsals, (so will she or won’t she get to play the witch?) and 4) Lilly’s step-mother becomes grouchy knowing she has to leave the town that feels like home to her, and 5) the witch costume gets splashed with bleach.

And there are other complications. Some of the problems are out of Lilly’s hands, but Lilly speaks up about honesty and saves the bully from being expelled by defending him against a wrongful charge.

Now about that witch costume. Need I say, it’s Grandma to the rescue?

This book is well written, with a variety of interesting characters, well-meshed sub-plots, suspense, and humor.

Candace Hardy has a great love for all things vintage and enjoysdoing historical research. During her younger years, she taught in her mother’s piano studio, then became a teacher in the former Hebrew Academy of Toledo and a
special education teacher, teaching hearing impaired children. She lives near Toledo, Ohio with her husband
and their two beautiful dalmations.

TWO HOUSE LILLY, with 25 Chapters and 190 pages, is Candace’s second book with GAP.

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I purchased this book in electronic form from Guardian Angel Publishing Bookstore and have presented an honest opinion.

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Review of Erin Liles picture book, A Friend for Freckles

 

A Friend for Freckles

Erin Liles  has presented us with an adorable little dog protagonist. Freckles is sweet, kind, helpful, and friendly.  Alexander Morris’s cartoon-like illustrations show him being all of these things to his friends in the Animal Shelter. And each of the friends is depicted with individual traits and personality. The silhouettes of background figures add an interesting layer of artistic technique.

A Friend for Freckles, 1,2

Each animal is on its best behavior in hopes of going to live with a loving family.

ANYONE would find Freckles irresistible. Well, you would think so, at any rate. But there are those who are unable to see beyond the fact that Freckles has only three legs.  Having only three legs doesn’t seem to bother Freckles at all. He is certainly well adjusted. His real problem is that he wants to live in a home, not in a shelter.

Ms. Liles has paired up the traits of the dogs with the wants and needs of the human patrons who come to the shelter looking for a pet. She made sure that Freckles did not go with the wrong family. Such a super-friendly dog as Freckles goes to live with a boy who understands that “perhaps the most important thing of all” is that Freckles is a FRIEND.

A Friend for Freckles is available at  www.GuardianAngelPublishing.com/   and is recommended for children 4-8.

Erin Beth Liles is a children’s author and mother of two. She loves animals and personally knows a three-legged dog who can do anything!

Visit her at https://editperfectword.wordpress.com/

Alexander Morris graduated from the Illinois Institute of Art-Schaumburg with a Bachelor’s in Media Arts & Animation. He has been an artist since he was a child. Check out the Books and Artists page at Guardian Angel Publishing to see more books he has illustrated. http://www.GuardianAngelPublishing.com/

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VISIT MY WEBSITE: WORDS WITH WINGS
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my newest book, ARCTIC DANGER

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I am pleased to let you know that my second picture book, ARCTIC DANGER, is published by Guardian Angel Publishing. And I want to thank Eugene Ruble for illustrating it.

Arctic Danger, cover

The story is about an Alaskan brother and sister who take a leisurely kayak trip down a stream to the store. They go under the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.  Along the way they see lots of wildlife but also encounter dangers. There is additional information at the end of the book about the important and interesting pipeline. I hope you and your children and students will find the story both exciting and informative.

ARCTIC DANGER is recommended for boys and girls ages 6-11.

The book is available at Guardian Angel Publishing: http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/arctic-danger.htm

and Amazon. All reviews on Amazon are welcome.

Visit my website, Words With Wings, to read about how this book came about.

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www.barbarabockman.com

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Review of Helping Herbie Hedgehog by Melissa Abramovitz

I just love hedgehogs. They are so cute. And even though they are described as being spiny, they look so much more cuddly than porcupines. That’s why  I’m happy to present to you today Melissa Abramovitz’s chapter book HELPING HERBIE HEDGEGHOG.

Helping Herbie Hedgehog

You are probably wondering what kind of help a little hedgehog needs.

In this clever rhymed picture book, Melissa presents Herbie with a series of choices. The young reader is given the job of helping Herbie choose the right thing. If the wrong thing is selected, Herbie might end up looking foolish. For instance, should he choose a tutu and ballet shoes to go jogging or sweat pants and track shoes? The young reader will know the answer. Herbie might go hungry if he looks for spaghetti hanging from a tree.  And he would surely make a mess if he tried to cook stew on the TV set. “Or is using the stove a better bet?”

Ch. 1 Helping Herbie Hedgehog

The artist, Robert Lee Beers, has illustrated Herbie to look like a cheerful little fellow who is a bit confused, but wants to know what the right thing to do is.

This book is recommended for children 6-8 and as a read aloud for younger children.

A bit of trivia:

The collective noun for a group of hedgehogs is array or prickle.

Each of the chapters, with titles listed below, contains several conundrums for the reader to help Herbie with.

Chapter 1, Places to Go

Chapter 2, Home Helpers

Chapter 3, Shopping for Clothes

Chapter 4, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Chapter 5, Exercise Time

Chapter 6, Shopping for Food

Chapter 7, Bedtime

Melissa Abramovitz is the author of more than 45 books and hundreds of magazine articles for children, teens, and adults. She specializes in writing educational nonfiction, but enjoys creating all types of fiction and nonfiction that make learning fun. She also enjoys helping other writers achieve their goals with her acclaimed book for writers, A Treasure Trove of Opportunity: How to Write and Sell Articles for Children’s Magazines. Her children’s picture book, ABCs of Health and Safety, was also published by Guardian Angel. www.melissaabramovitz.com

Robert Lee Beers is an award-winning artist and illustrator with an extensive artist portfolio. Besides doing the art for this book, he has authored several fantasy novels. Look for more of his illustrations in Guardian Angel books. He currently resides in Green Valley, Nevada. You can see more of his work at Kids Picture Book http://kidspicturebook.com/

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HELPING HERBIE HEDGEHOG is published by Guardian Angel Publishing, Publisher: Lynda S. Burch, from whom I purchased my copy.

Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

Saint Louis, MO 63128 USA

http://www.GuardianAngelPublishing.com

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