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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Han and the Mysterious Pearl

Han and the Mysterious Pearl

You’ve probably heard of the fishing cormorants on the Li River in China. I included one in my re-telling of this fable as a sort of Kiplinger “just so” explanation.

HAN AND THE MYSTERIOUS PEARL is my fifth picture book with Guardian Angel Publishing. I am very pleased with the illustrations by Carl Kocich, who also illustrated my friend, Jayne Moraski’s, HOW ALLIGTOR GOT HIS SMILE BACK. These pictures will take you right to Ancient China to meet Han, his mother, and his pet cormorant. Also an enigmatic figure.

The story is about a Chinese boy, Han, who goes on his first solo fishing expedition—with his faithful companion—his cormorant, after his father has died. Han inherited his father’s knife with which he hacks down the bamboo poles to build his own raft. His mother provides him with a simple lunch. But before the day is over, Han has the adventure of his life.

On that first evening, Han spies a glow from a cave on the river, and goes to discover what causes it. There he finds a wonderful pearl. He takes  the pearl, but there will be consequences!

Watch out for those river monsters!

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The book is available at Guardian Angel Publishing:http://guardianangelpublishing.com/han-pearl.htm

as well as Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, and Goodreads.

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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

sunshineaward

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 Clayton Stone, At Your Service by Ena Jones

Ena Johes, Clayton Stone

There’s a new Secret Agent on the block and his name is Clayton Stone. He is the brain child of Ena Jones, an old friend and former critique-group partner of mine. Clayton turns 13 in the first book of this new Middle Grade series, published by Holiday House.

So, let’s do some sleuthing of our own and find out How this star lacrosse player at a posh private school gets to be an agent for the Special Service.

What criminal intrigue does this hero help the Special Service solve?

Where does all this take place?

Why is Clayton, a twelve-year old boy needed?

Who recruits Clayton to help?

Who is in trouble?

And How does Clayton’s grandmother fit into the whole plot?

It appears that someone is robbing wealthy ladies and their daughters who shop at shopping centers and force them to take money from ATMs. But when the latest family to be involved in this nefarious activity is that of a prominent politician (this is Washington, D.C., after all)things escalate. A Senator’s wife and step-daughter are kidnapped.

Clayton is recruited (after a nudge from the President) to help because what is needed is a kid and he fits the bill. It is assumed Clayton will not arouse suspicion as he gathers information. No one meant for him to get so involved. “They want to use me as ‘bait’? To get the mall napper dude?”

Here’s a sampling:

“Chapter Four: Less than twenty-four hours later, I’m in the underwear section at Macy’s. Shopping. Normally, I wouldn’t be caught dead here. Now I might be. Caught dead, that is. I lean over and mutter into my shoe, trying to act like bra-shopping with my fake mom is a regular day in the life of me. ‘Can you hear me? Over.’”

As Clayton spends more and more time in his secret mission, he misses some lacrosse practice and his friends become, not just suspicious, but downright hostile.  He can’t explain. “Real secrets suck.” To complicate matters, the busy-body girl in his class tries to convince Clayton to get involved in campus politics. Then there is the other girl, the one who was kidnapped. There’s a lot going on here.

For instance, there’s the diner his Grandmother owns with the mechanical booth that dumps those in the know into the underground Headquarters.  .  . . A Secret Agent who will risk his life for you would make a great father figure. . . .  I’ll bet you thought Men In Black drove around in inconspicuous cars, not Lamborghinis and BMWs. . . .  Sometimes a Secret Agent must wear a disguise, and Clayton’s involves wearing a wig. “. . . the next team rushes at me with hair clippers and pushes me into my own barber chair. They’re barely finished when another member of the pit crew pounces with shaving cream and a razor while a guy with a Shop-Vac sucks up all my hair from the floor.” . . . .  Why did busy-body girl have to go for pretzels at just the wrong time? . . . You’ll never guess who is the Head of the Special Service.

I recommend this book for both boy and girl middle schoolers who like a bit of danger and adventure in their pleasure reading material.  They will be right at home in the up-to-the-minute lingo and self-confident attitudes. Sample: “Carlos’s (the head cook at the diner) face is set to the serious channel.”

Decoy or not, Clayton is committed to finding and saving the wife and step-daughter of the Senator.

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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.

logo for website, Elexis King

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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