Thursday, May 28, 2020

Jefferson Measures a Moose

If you are looking for a way to make math fun for kids, make sure to check out Mara Rockliff's book, Jefferson Measures a Moose. Children will learn how Jefferson loved asking questions about numbers like how much (quantity), how far (distance) and how long (duration)? He often jotted down measurements as he went about his business.

Then one day he read a book by a French author, Buffon, who expressed opinions about America that Jefferson knew were false (even Jefferson had to battle fake news!).  Buffon said people and animals were much smaller in America than Europe. Jefferson could not let those assertions go unchallenged so he wrote a book of his own with data from his beloved United States.

Children will enjoy discovering the great lengths, that Jefferson went to in proving Buffon wrong. He even enlisted a few famous friends to help him out. I found this story a very fascinating look at one of our founding fathers. It's a great living book offering children real world glimpses at the importance of math in everyday life!

I have to give a shout out to the illustrator of Jefferson Measures a Moose. The incredibly detailed and highly realistic pictures were truly delightful!  And evidently very recognizable--my teen glanced over while I was reviewing the book and said, "that is the illustrator of [another book we own]."  And she was absolutely correct!  If you care to follow other works by this illustrator, check out his website

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of Jefferson Measures a Moose from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received and the opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Goldsmith and the Master Thief

This Dutch tale by Tonke Dragt, originally published in 1961, and translated by Laura Watkinson is pure delight from start to finish!  The book is a series of adventures of identical twin brothers, Laurenzo and Jiacomo.  A cross between a well-loved fairy tale and the merry adventures of Robin Hood, this pair manage to use their wits to escape every villain and misadventure that befalls them.

Each adventure is like a mini-book and will keep children entertained. Readers will wonder how the brothers can possibly land on their feet time and time again. And while one is hard-working and the other more footloose and fancy-free, the one thing that is true for both is their love and unwavering loyalty to one another. 

When the last tale was told, I was sad that it had come to end but it was such a wonderful ending, one could hardly be sad. Each chapter was more exciting than the last and each came to the most satisfactory and clever end. I highly recommend The Goldsmith and the Master Thief either as a family read aloud (great book to take along on a car trip!) or a read alone for any age.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of The Goldsmoth and the Master Thief from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received and the opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A World Full of Dickens Stories

Charles Dickens. The author everyone has heard of, but few have read. Many make it an annual tradition to watch "A Christmas Carol" and can probably quote some of Tiny Tim's lines but not many have the fortitude to slog through the full version of that Christmas tale or any other of Dickens' works. 

Offering an abridgement of classic works is nothing new. Many may be familiar with Illustrated Classics still in print today. For many years, the books have made classics accessible to children with their signature style that included one page of [large] print following by a black and white picture on the facing page. They were a staple in our own home library but I was disappointed that some stories were completely altered. And all too soon, as my children's reading skills increased, they soon considered those abridged classics too "babyish."  

A World Full of Dickens Stories is the perfect alternative. While the book is profusely illustrated, it retains a decidely grown-up feel with very dense portions of text. I was pleasantly surprised at the length of each retelling--they expertly captured the essence of not only characters, but also setting and plot. The pictures are a wonderful distraction for younger children being read to. And older readers will find the illustrations a wonderful complement to the story, bringing details more vividly to life. The title page of each story offers a selection of the images within the story. Children can be on the lookout in the story for those illustrations.

Admittedly, Dickens often had some darker elements in his writing, but I felt that those were tastefully handled by the author and would not cause younger readers too much worry. The illustrations are somewhat quirky (almost everyone has a red, pointed nose), and sometimes odd (not exactly sure what that Ghost of Christmas Past is supposed to be--all I could think of was a conehead--which I guess does represent days gone by!), but overall, they were a delightful part of the retellings.  The child-like quality of the illustrations would make a great study for a budding artist to try to replicate.

I closed the book with deep satisfaction; I had read many of the originals in younger years and this was a wonderful way to relive those stories. This wonderful collection provides an excellent rendering of the essential elements of each story and would provide an excellent way to familiarize oneself with characters before indulging in the movie. If a love for a story is kindled in a child, hopefully they will consider reading the original when they are older.

As I read the last paragraph, I wished that more of Dickens works had been included. I certainly hope the author will consider a second volume of Dickens and then branch out to other authors; I would love to see similar retellings of works by Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, and Robert Louis Stevenson. 

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of A World Full of Dickens Stories from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received and the opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, May 15, 2020

The Trunk of Stars

The Trunk of Stars

In The Trunk of Stars, Cairo hates the life she's stuck with. Having no family but the nefarious crime ring who found her as a baby in an abandoned trunk, Cairo dreams of the day when she'll be loved and listened to. She has never known the love of a mother and father nor the security of a stable home.

Like a traveling circus, the Finch "Family" moves from town to town, pitching their tent as lodging and systematically swindling the townspeople out of their valuables--either by trickery or theft. These are then auctioned off at the next town they stop at. Cairo is expected to do her part by "lifting" valuables from the homes they visit or by pickpocketing.

The only connection she has to her past life is the trunk she was found in. It's the one thing of beauty in her life. She loves to open its lid and see the beautiful scene painted inside. She used it for a bed until she got too big; now she just snuggles up next to it each night trying to conjure up memories of her parents. As long as she has her trunk, she has a piece of her parents.

And then her circumstances take a surprising--and not entirely happy--turn.  Cairo is faced with a decision to stay with the only family she knows or seek out a different future for herself. Full of mystery and suspense, readers will wonder if Cairo will ever know the love of a family. I highly recommend this book for elementary and middle school readers.  Families may want to read together and discuss the weighty topic of Cairo's mistreatment and the challenge of learning to trust people. I look forward to the next installment in The Stolen Treasures series! 

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of The Trunk of Stars from BookSirens for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received and the opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Gold Rush Girl by Avi

Gold Fever has reached Victoria and her family on the East coast. Father and Jacob were to go first and mother and Victoria would follow. But she could not stomach the thought of staying behind with a controlling aunt wanting her to be more "ladylike."

Victoria begins to plot a way to sneak aboard the ship and stay hidden until out to sea. But she soon realizes it would be cruel to leave without telling her mother so tells her all about the plan. Gratefully, her mother sees the wisdom of going along to be a help in caring for her younger brother and a support to her father in keeping house. So begins a host of new experiences in the pursuit of gold.

Of Literature & Lattes

Of Literature & Lattes is a sequel to The Printed Letter Bookshop, and readers may want to begin there for a better understanding of all the characters and their back stories. If that's not possible, the story can still be enjoyed on its own merits and the author does provide enough clues to pick up on past events.

This book is all about transitions and changes. The Daily Brew--a local coffee staple of the town--has been renamed and reopened but residents have been less than thrilled with the "updates." The facelift at the coffee shop is only one of the surprising changes that face hometown girl, Ashley, crawling back home after a devestating job loss. Her biggest hurdle is facing the mother from whom she's been estranged. Ashley soon realizes the challenge of staying mad when she sees how much her mother has changed while she was away. The new leaf her mother turns over is barely recognizable to Ashley. She needs to figure out where her place in the world and in her family.

There are a number of side stories taking place as well. Characters facing their own struggles, challenges and growing pains. But they all come through with the help of good friends. This was a great book that provided a refreshing tale of new beginnings and satisfying endings.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of the book, Of Literature & Lattes, from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received and the opinions expressed are my own.

The Dad Difference by Bryan Loritts

Although Dads were the intended audience, The Dad Difference: The 4 Most Important Gifts You Can Give to Your Kids, provides great instruction for both mothers and fathers.  Loritts uses the Acrostic "RITE" to flesh out the four gifts:

  • Relationship
  • Integrity
  • Teaching
  • Experiences
Within each of those areas, Loritts offers a number of ideas for implementing each area into your parenting. Using many examples from his father, Crawford Loritts, as well as examples from his own parenting journey, readers are given a glimpse into a family that, while not perfect, has been committed to following Christ in the area of parenting. And sometimes that meant modeling how to admit failure and ask forgiveness.

The author candidly shares examples of how his father handled prejudice and racial tensions with love and grace. One thing the senior Loritts was known for were his "Prayer Walks." Times when he needed to talk to God in order to work through a situation, get some perspective, or maybe just cool down before disciplining a child. What a great strategy to help parent with a clear head and godly wisdom.

Loritts addresses fatherlessness as a pandemic--particularly in the black community. Fathers who are absent or uninvolved rob children of valuable influence. In a culture where men are often bashed, ridiculed, or marginalized, Loritts' offers an alternatively hopeful and inspirational view of the potential men have to influence their children and grandchildren. Providing a godly example of manhood not only provides sons with a model to follow but also gives daughters a blueprint for finding a godly mate.

This book would make an excellent Father's Day gift for a dad of any age. It would also make an excellent book for any young man contemplating marriage. To consider the pattern he wants to create in his own marriage and family is a great way to maximize his influence and make a lasting difference for generations to come.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of The Dad Difference from NetGalley for the purpose of review. The opinions expressed are my own. No other compensation was received.

Jefferson Measures a Moose

If you are looking for a way to make math fun for kids, make sure to check out Mara Rockliff's book, Jefferson Measures a Moose . Chil...