Saturday, May 21, 2022

My Little Green Umbrella by Sandy Little


The soft shades of green on the cover of this sweet story by Sandy Little are the perfect introduction to the magic waiting inside. A little girl is out with her mother to buy rain boots when she happens upon a green umbrella (and her kind mother buys it for her). So begins the magic of an imagination unleashed in the company of that umbrella. 

The illustrations by Tom Lintern were created in soft pastels and are bursting with detail waiting to be explored by young readers. I loved that the narrative was kept separate from the pictures so that nothing distracts from the beauty of each picture.

I loved the idea that the simplest of objects--in this case, an umbrella--can be the gateway to exciting destinations. And as the little girl outgrows its use, another child discovers its charms and is once again off on new adventures. I love that the story includes both a young girl and a young boy so that it will appeal to all children. 

I loved how the relationship between the two children isn't fully explained until the end when the forgotten umbrella is put to use again. Such a tender story about the sheltering influence of love and the importance of a childhood full of imagination and adventure! I highly recommend this book to any parent or grandparent (and highly suggest that you gift this book with an accompanying umbrella!).

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of My Little Green Umbrella from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received and the opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Quackling by Aaron Shepard


Quackling is a retelling of the story, "Drakestail" from Andrew Lang's The Red Fairy Book. Quackling, being a hard-working duck has loaned money to the king and after allowing a sufficient time for repayment, seeks to collect the debt. 

The book involves the items he collects on his way to visit the king. Items that will come in very handy when the royal reception is rather frosty. Children will love the repeated refrain of "Quack, Quack, Quack! I Want my Money Back!  Children will be delighted to take part in the storytelling and thrilled with the satisfying conclusion.

Illustrator, Wendy Edelson has created masterful renderings of the action within the story. The highly detailed art bursts with color and action and will draw youngsters into its pages. A coloring book version is also available with the story text opposite illustrations in gray scale for readers to color.  The repeated refrains stand out on the page in red text.  I highly recommend either version of this classic tale. 

To check out more from author, Aaron Shepard, visit his website featuring information on storytelling, reader's theatre resources, and tips for writing children's books.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of Quackling from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

The Monster in the Hollows


Book 3 in the Wingfeather Saga finds the Wingfeather family arriving on the shores of Anniera--the place the Igiby children thought was only a legend.

As Nia assumes her role as Queen of Anniera, the children (the jewels of Anniera) face the daunting task of trying to fit in. Kalmar's fateful decision in Book 2 has made Janner's job as Throne Warden much more challenging than he expected. Faced with bullies, and the prejudice of the Hollowsfolk, the children find that life is still no bed of roses. 

The Monster in the Hollows demonstrates the importance of family and learning to rise to the challenges that come their way. Whether the enemy is within or without, the children realize they must stick together. An unknown enemy has begun killing livestock and as Janner tries to solve the mystery, he is faced with the hardest decision of his young life.

Readers will be enthralled with this third installment of the Wingfeather family as they face new challenges and seek to protect Anniera and their father's legacy. What exactly is the Monster in the Hollows? You'll have to read the book to find out! This exciting adventure continues in Book 4! Families of children 8 and up will love this series!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of The Monster in the Hollows from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Let's Tell a Story: Pirate Adventure


The adventure begins with an opening question: Who will be the hero of your story? And there is an array of interesting characters to choose from. Each double-page spread has another prompt to move the story along.  With each guided question a yarn is being crafted and all the elements of a good story are present.  The cool thing is that there are infinite possibilities for the story based on the choices made on each page. 

Hidden on every page is a little penguin that children will enjoy finding. This book offers great interaction between a child and their teacher or caregiver. If reading to a group of children, turns can be taken to add to the story.

The illustrations are engaging, the elements of a good story are clearly defined and this book could serve as a reference for older students to help them craft their own stories. To incorporate other disciplines, a child could write out their story or record their tale. There are so many things to explore on every single page, I highly recommend this book for any age! 

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of Let's Tell a Story: Pirate Adventure from NetGalley. No other compensation was received.

The Fairy Garden by Georgia Buckthorn

Things I loved about this book:
  • Vibrant illustrations 
  • Fairy-friendly gardening tips shared
  • Instructions to make a fairy house at the end.

Mimi, described as a very ordinary girl, wanted fairies to come to her garden so she worked diligently to transform the garden into a meticulously weeded, watered, and manicured space. She even made sure to have fairy houses for them to inhabit. When she had done everything she could think of, and the fairies still didn't appear, Mimi began to cry. And then the unexpected happened.

[Spoiler Alert] The fairies showed up and proceeded to give Mimi a lesson in proper respect for the environment. It was at this point, I felt the book veered a bit too much into the preachy, we-interrupt- this-perfectly-lovely-book for an infomercial about planetary care. Just felt very unnatural and quite honestly, took the magic out of the story. 

In the end, Mimi was appropriately repentant and redid her garden into a more environmentally- (and fairy-) friendly space.  I do like the idea that a "perfect" garden does not have to be completely manicured and that having some untamed spaces can still be beautiful.  

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of The Fairy Garden from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received and the opinions expressed are solely my own.


Sunday, April 3, 2022

Don McLean's American Pie: A Fable


I think most people have heard the song, "American Pie" but I personally never gave much thought to the meaning of the lyrics. I could not find an authoritative answer from several articles written about it (other than "the day the music died" referring to Buddy Holly's plane crash). 

From the publisher notes:

Lushly illustrated and poetically written with numerous nods to the nostalgic themes and cryptic lyrics of the beloved song, Don McLean’s American Pie: A Fable is a picture book McLean says he hopes will become a bedtime standard for families. 

Whether you read this as a prequel to the musical masterwork, or as a tale of growing up, or as a beautiful exploration of finding inspiration, Don McLean's American Pie: A Fable will both enhance the song for fans of Don McLean and introduce a world of imagination to young readers who have not yet experienced this generation-defining music.

I only saw the above comments on the NetGalley website; those notes were not included in the book itself. Nor were there any end notes or historical comments about the song inside the book. Given the title of this book, I'd assumed it would offer either some background on the author's childhood or influences for writing the song. It was not at all obvious how the book had much to do with the song at all. Perhaps adults who loved the song will better read meaning into its pages, but I feel any parallels will be lost on young readers.

I'm not sure how a child picking up this book would make any connection to the song.  I have to say that I'm also confused by the assertion that the book contains "numerous nods to the nostalgic themes and cryptic lyrics of the beloved song."  I must be incredibly dense because even after perusing the original lyrics several times, I failed to identify any "nods" in the picture book.

Taking the book at face value, the fable itself is rather ambiguous (in that, the book is similar to the song). A newspaper boy is full of imagination and fills his mind with adventures as he delivers papers. Then one day, the boy begins to receive a note from one of his customers, and instead of living out fantasies in his mind, he now anticipates his daily letter. It would seem to imply that only lonely children use their imagination and that once he had the hope of a friend (even anonymous), he no longer lived in a fantasy world. 

And then the letters stop (I presume this is analogous to the music stopping), and the boy is left with a gift that helps him move into a new chapter of creativity. The illustrations were bright and engaging and readers will be fascinated by the depictions of the boy's imagination.  I would encourage parents to read this book with their child and discuss what their takeaway is and what they think it means. It could provide an interesting window into their child's own imagination. 

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of Don McLean's American Pie: A Fable from NetGalley for the purpose of review; no other compensation was received.

The Complete Mirrored Sword: Part One and Two


From the Publisher's Summary:
MIRRORED SWORD, a comedy as black as the Plague, as turbulent as the Wars of the Roses (a fifteenth century dynastic struggle for control of the English throne). She is an aspiring painter and devoted Yorkist. He is the legendary but ageing Beast of Ferrybridge – a Lancastrian stalwart! Rebellion in Lincolnshire throws them together, the Yorkist king keeps them together, and thus they must work out their destinies and England’s, in an epic story that combines laughter and tears, romance and adventure, history and make-believe, high art and vulgar entertainment: a medieval banquet, loaded with surprises, colourful characters and poetic justice.
I had assumed the book was young adult but it was quickly evident that this was much more mature in nature. After reading the first chapter I already hated the spoiled, headstrong female main character. After several rather ribald jokes, I skim read for a few more chapters but I just could not stomach the predatory nature of the men, and the promiscuity that was assumed to be the natural way of things. King Edward's indiscretions were reported in graphic detail and as though a perfectly normal behavior for royals and reading of young women wanting to be his next mistress was utterly disgusting.

The depiction of women as objects to be possessed (and as though they enjoyed being possessed) was too nauseating to wade through. Perhaps there will be some justice meted out at the end, but I prefer not to have to wade through a literary sewer to get there. 

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of The Complete Mirrored Sword from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

My Little Green Umbrella by Sandy Little

  The soft shades of green on the cover of this sweet story by Sandy Little are the perfect introduction to the magic waiting inside. A litt...