Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Mira and Baku

Mira is a young girl living in Canada and wishing that her father would be home for her birthday this year. He's never missed a birthday before and Mira is determined to find a way to bring her dad home in time. Mira enlists the assistance of Baku, an imaginary creature, to help locate her father.  Mira gets a birds eye view of the town and surrounding area. At each place they visit, Mira picks up a stone as a keepsake and she also relives a memory from one of the stones in her collection. These all help keep her dad's memory close because it was a hobby they shared. 

Mira's journey takes her back to the places that were meaningful to her family before they were forcibly relocated to an internment camp. Baku helps Mira cope with missing her father and the loss of so many dear memories. Her mother also offers encouragement during the difficult days of waiting. 

Mira and Baku offers a perspective on history that is told in a sensitive way that children will understand. I liked the portrayal of her mother who gave Mira space to explore but also offered encouragement and support. This book offers a way for children to process disappointment and loss. Reading aloud with a parent or grandparent can open up conversations about handling sad and lonely events that can happen in life, or the pain of an absent parent.

I was aware of the Japanese internment in the US but had not realized that Canada also had camps. I feel it's important to honestly represent the past--even when it sheds an unfavorable light on our ancestors--and this book does so with honesty and an age appropriate telling. The author offers helpful historical notes at the end of the book. 

Disclaimer: I received an advanced digital copy of Mira and Baku through NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received and the opinions expressed are my own.

Etsy Business Launch by Alssa Garner & Garrett Garner

Written directly to the reader, the authors create interest from the first page detailing what the readers will find inside their book. I like that they offered a quick summary of the big ideas in the book to alert readers of what to expect. It was also made clear that this is not a book to skip around, but rather content is designed to be read from cover to cover, first to get an overall understanding and then to implement each step recommended (in order--no skipping the early steps as authors stress those lay the foundation for sales success).

Garner & Garner explain to readers the ins and outs of finding your niche, selecting your product and developing your brand. The authors assert that success lies in finding the intersection between passion and profitability. Readers are offered practical steps to help them select a niche, research a product that is in demand and that will be profitable as well as ways that sellers can enhance their branding.

Once research has been done to determine what and to whom you will sell a product, the authors take readers through each step in setting up their storefront, drafting a seller biography, the importance of keywords, and search engine optimization (SEO). The authors do a good job of explaining each concept so anyone can understand--whether new to Etsy or an experienced seller. 

Additional topics covered in Etsy Business Launch include:
  • Utilizing Etsy Announcements as free marketing
  • Creating Listings that sell
  • Understanding Etsy's algorithm
  • Tips for taking fabulous photos
  • Creating listings that attract buyers
  • Offering dynamite customer service
  • How to encourage sellers to offer a review
  • Harnessing the power of social media
  • Utilizing an email list to encourage sales
  • When and how to use ads
  • Learning how to use website statistics to improve your business
The authors also offer a complete explanation of incorporating, as well as tips on filing taxes and deciding when to outsource. The book is packed with many practical tips for moving your business toward higher profitability levels.  The book wraps up with some final tips from the authors' personal sales experiences. Readers will come away with a toolbox of strategies that will help their business thrive. 

Etsy Business Launch offers excellent guidance for everything a reader needs to know to begin and maintain a successful online business. I had previously only put my toe in the online marketplace pool but after reading this book, I have the confidence to dive right in!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of Etsy Business Launch from Book Sirens for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received and the opinions expressed are entirely mine.


Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Big & Small by Marion Murray

Big & Small introduces youngsters aged 0-4 to a mouse named Max who enjoys exploring the world around him. The illustrations will captivate a child's attention (and the parents who will read this to them).

Each page offers a new panoramic view of some aspect of nature from a mouse's perspective--one that a small child can relate to as the world can often seem very large to them. I love the "explorer" theme of Max enjoying discovering new things. This can be an excellent opportunity to encourage a child to explore their own world.

At just 12 pages, it's the perfect book to hold the attention of preschoolers and is particularly suited for a bedtime read. I highly recommend this sweet story that will encourage snuggles between caregivers and children. This would make a delightful gift for any new parent and deserves a place in both home and preschool libraries. 

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of Big & Small from Book Sirens for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received and the opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, May 12, 2023

The Stable Boy of Auschwitz by Henry Oster & Dexter Ford

The Stable Boy of Auschwitz adds an important first-hand account of WWII from the perspective of a child having lived through rehousing in a Polish ghetto, surviving two concentration camps, and experiencing continued anti-Semitic sentiment after the war. So many books end when the war ends but the author, Henry Oster, shares about the challenges of adulthood having lived through such a harrowing childhood. My husband (an avid reader of WWII books) listened along with me and he said this particular book was one of the most exceptional accounts he had ever encountered. 

I will caution readers that there is a very explicit chapter about the author's duties in assisting with equine mating. There is also some male anatomical humor sprinkled throughout the memoir. Oster holds nothing back and speaks candidly about puberty, his delayed development and also his first intimate experience. Listening to the audiobook, it was difficult to skim past those sections (had I been reading a print version, I would definitely have skipped those portions).  I would say the content is definitely adult-oriented for those reasons as well as the very graphic depiction of conditions in the concentration camps. 

One disappointment was early on in the book when the author digressed into disparaging comments about a political party--likening them to Hitler. I felt that unnecessarily alienates a number of readers. Other than that, the book is very well written and helps shed light on the unfortunate prejudice that followed Jewish immigrants after the war. Mr. Oster serves as a remarkable example of courage and perseverance through unimaginable suffering. 

Disclaimer: I received a digital audiobook of The Stable Boy of Auschwitz from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received. The views expressed are entirely my own.


Mine for Keeps


Mine for Keeps by Jean Little is a reissue of a beautiful, sensitive novel about a young girl facing the challenges of cerebral palsy. As vocabulary has changed regarding disabilities, this edition was updated to reflect that. Jean Little has a gift for communicating a child's world so authentically and I am so glad another generation can experience the beauty of her writing.

Sally had been boarding at a special school for children with disabilities when her parents made the decision to bring her home. Sally is faced with so many feelings: fear that she won't fit into her family; sadness over leaving the only friends she has known, and doubt that she will be accepted at her new, "regular" school.  

The first challenge for Sally is figuring out where she fits into her family. The attention she receives causes some envy from her siblings and everyone is learning to adjust to a new normal. What is really noteworthy is her supportive mother and father. They offer help when absolutely necessary but allow Sally to struggle a little to gain more independence.  Her second challenge is facing a new school and trying to find friends. She worries about what other children will think of her having to use crutches (and the fear and dread of misstepping and falling at school).  

A secondary part of the story is the friendship between Sally and a new pet. As she nurtures him, she grows in confidence and is determined to train him. With the help of some new friends, she faces this challenge with creativity and grit. This endeavor leads to helping another child who has struggles of his own. All in all, this was a thoroughly delightful, poignant story about the transformational influence of family and friends. 

When the book was written, mainstreaming children with disabilities was a significant shift in 
educational philosophy. Mine for Keeps offers not only a historical perspective on the integration of children back into their families and into schools, but also offers a very positive example of encouraging all children--regardless of their abilities--to reach their fullest potential. The feelings that Sally experiences are universal: wanting to fit in and be accepted for who we are and learning to grow through challenges with the help of caring friends and family. I highly recommend this wonderful book!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of Mine for Keeps from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received and the opinions expressed are solely mine.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Renewed by Michelle Rayburn


"Renewed" is the first of four Bible Studies within the "Remade Series" written by Michelle Rayburn. An experienced author, speaker, and home decorator, Michelle loves sharing about the ways that God can repurpose our life into something beautiful. Her graphic design talents are on full display as each book in the series is a portion of one large image. 

The beautiful cover is a foretaste of the gorgeous interior awaiting the reader. I love the size of the book: 7.5 inches by a bit more than 9 inches.  Not too large to be cumbersome but not so compact that you struggle to read (helpful for aging eyes!). The floral theme is carried throughout the interior in black and white (just begging to be colored in!). 

The "Re-" theme is carried out in the 6 weeks of the study covering the following topics:
  1. Redeem
  2. Restart
  3. Repurpose
  4. Revise
  5. Rejoice
  6. Repeat
The author offers a helpful "Welcome" section explaining the series, an explanation of the Bible translation used, as well as notes for both leaders and participants. I love the flexibility to do the study either within a group setting or as an individual. Michelle offers a detailed description of the format for each week within the study which includes:
  • First Thoughts (offers an opening reflection)
  • Story (relates an everyday experience to the truth of the chapter)
  • Prayer (offers suggestion for a time of prayer)
  • Explore the Word (digging into the meat of the lesson)
  • Prayer Journal (space to write out prayers and help guide corporate prayer when doing as group) 
  • Micro Studies (daily lessons used to reinforce the week's theme)
  • Hope in Action (creative ways to apply the lesson content)
Each page has extra-wide margins to allow ample note-taking space throughout the book. Michelle also uses the margins to sprinkle in notes about historical context, vocabulary, or explanatory notes about verses. These "extras" are optional; they offer an interesting supplement to the lesson for those who like to dig deeper.

The content of the study offers a relatable, down-to-earth study that allows women to share at whatever level they feel comfortable. I like that the study is designed so that anyone can facilitate. Groups may even want to share the duties of the facilitator. It's a study that seeks to draw women to one another as everyone learns together (so not a lot of advance preparation for the facilitator).  This study has something for everyone: great biblical insights for academics, stories from the trenches for those needing encouragement, lots of journaling space for those who learn by writing, and of course graphics to color in for the art enthusiast. 

Readers will be challenged, encouraged, and inspired to draw closer to the Lord and have their faith renewed. The daily assignments are a manageable length so that you can spend time really thinking through the questions and the Scripture verses without feeling rushed to get through too much material. And there are 5 days worth allowing flexibility when you have a super busy day. 

I have done two other studies by Michelle Rayburn--one with a group of women. We all loved her writing. Michelle brings out wonderful insights and sprinkles in humor while being transparent about her own struggles. Her studies make you feel like you are sitting down for a good chat over coffee in her home.  I highly recommend "Renewed" and look forward to the next 3 in the series!   

Check out the author's website for a sample chapter of Book 1 and to learn more about the series. When you sign up for updates (which include release dates for upcoming studies), you'll receive a free graphic image download with a verse that is suitable for framing. Grab your copy at Amazon (that's an affiliate link--adds no cost to you) and invite some friends to be renewed with you. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

This Art is for the Birds by Susan Bednarski

Alex the Crow is not your ordinary feathered friend. For one thing, he hangs out with pigeons. For another, he's an artist. Finding ways to turn ordinary things into extraordinary art, Alex longs to have his work displayed in an art museum.

Alex's pigeon friends narrate this story, telling the reader all about their friend. They are matter-of-fact in describing what makes Alex different from themselves. Alex's feathered friends model encouragement and a genuine acceptance of his quirks. They feel very strongly that Alex's art belongs in the art museum and they intend to help him get it there. How they accomplish this task will delight children of all ages. I loved the birds' dialogue shown through speech bubbles throughout the book.

I love that the author offered some discussion questions at the end for reflection. She also explained her creative process in writing the book. One fun part of the book is that the front and endpapers have small pictures that are scenes from the book. Children will have fun hunting down where each image came from inside the story. And just to make it interesting, one of the images has been reversed. 

I think it would be interesting for young readers to follow this example and write a story about themselves narrated by their friends and family. Thinking about what others might share about what makes them unique. They could even choose the type of animal that would represent them. Sometimes stepping outside the human world, we can examine and process a message more easily. I think this book has a beautiful message that we all have worth and it's our uniqueness that brings a necessary beauty and variety to the world. I highly recommend this book for any home or school classroom.

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


Mira and Baku

Mira is a young girl living in Canada and wishing that her father would be home for her birthday this year. He's never missed a birthday...