Thursday, July 22, 2021

Once Upon a Time...There Was a Little Bird by Maja Andersen

Little Bird has a broken wing so she can't join her friends flying south for the winter. Wherever will she find shelter?  The adorable protagonist goes from tree to tree trying to find someone who will let her shelter in their branches. While she explores, children will learn the names of tree species and they may also spy some other woodland creatures on the pages. 

This is a short little book (great for wiggly listeners) that retells a tale believed to have been shared by the Anishanaabe group of indigenous people of North America.  The book closes with a brief explanation of bird migration and the difference between deciduous and evergreen trees.

I loved the bright colors and the animated style of the illustrations. Children will delight in the satisfying conclusion to Little Bird's search and learn a valuable lesson about kindness. It would be fun to follow up with a nature hike to find the trees from the book. I recommend this sweet little tale as a read aloud for ages 2-5.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of Once Upon a Time...There Was a Little Bird from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.


Saturday, April 24, 2021

Wild Girl: How to Have Incredible Outdoor Adventures by Helen Skelton


Helen Skelton's book, Wild Girl: How to Have Incredible Outdoor Adventures, is one of the most engaging non-fiction books I have ever read.  Reading this book is an adventure in itself! So much vibrancy, color, and enthusiasm bursts from every page!  Increasing amounts of screen time have long been the enemy of experiencing the out-of-doors and COVID has only added to that problem. As the world slowly resumes some form of normalcy, Skelton's book is the perfect lure to adventure in the natural world.

The book is divided into six different types of adventures:
  • Adventures in the Snow
  • Adventures on the Sand
  • Adventures on the Water
  • Adventures in the Mountains
  • Adventures in the Countryside
  • Adventures in the City
The book is an explosion of photographs and engaging graphics as well as fun facts sprinkled throughout.  Each section includes her gear list for each adventure, the preparation taken, as well as selections from her diary about each experience. I loved the additional information about the geographic area and fun facts about animals native to the area. 

Each chapter closes with some suggestions for modified adventures as well as some ideas for extreme adventures (all are meant to be done with adult supervision). And one of the most fascinating parts of each chapter was the "Hall of Fame" that highlighted women who had distinguished themselves in that area. Such a great way to provide young people role models of adventure!

I asked for my teen's thoughts on the book and she said, "All she's done is so impressive...This lady has grit! Good grief, I'm sore just reading it!" The author was certainly dedicated, gutsy and inspiring!

Whether you want ideas for your own future adventures or just want to experience adventure through someone else's eyes, Helen Skelton's Wild Girl is an excellent resource to kindle a spirit of adventure in anyone!

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

Off the Wild Coast of Brittany by Juliet Blackwell


Juliet Blackwell modeled her fictional island, Ile de Feme, after a fishing island in the region of Brittany. Relying upon supplies carried by boat from the mainland required some forethought and planning for the inhabitants of the island.  But planning is something Natalie has always been good at. Raised in a survivalist home, she had learned to plan for every eventuality except one: losing the love of her life.

Natalie had been drawn to the island by dreams of opening a guesthouse with one of the island's native sons. Their plans to renovate and offer a top-notch lodging and dining experience had been all she had thought about. Their idyllic location and love story had helped her pen a best-selling novel which painted her life as all sunshine and roses. The absence of Natalie's boyfriend, however, creates an awkward situation for Natalie whose publisher is waiting for a sequel to her first book's success.

And then Natalie's sister, Alex, turns up unexpectedly. She is curious about the experiences Natalie has written about. And although they shared an unusual childhood, they took very different paths. Natalie is too ashamed to admit that she was jilted and tries to make excuses to her sister and the islanders. Alex, not one to let any grass grow beneath her feet, dives into the renovations with gusto. Through the work, the sisters develop a greater appreciation for each other. 

Although the guesthouse is far from ready for guests, a desperate visitor begs to stay and he soon makes himself useful as a friend. Jean-Luc has his own hurts and disappointments but offers a fresh perspective on life and loss that encourages the sisters to live life more fully.

Woven throughout the story are characters that lived on the island during World War II. Readers will be fascinated by the lengths islanders went to defy the Nazi occupiers. And as Natalie seeks to learn about the events from the past, she learns to be honest and vulnerable with others and finds the courage to forge a new path for herself.

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

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Audiobook: Murder By Page One by Olivia Matthews


Marvey has recently moved from New York to work at a library in a much smaller town in Georgia. She enjoys the freedom that a smaller library offers and loves asking everyone she meets if they already have a library card (felt that was slightly overused throughout the story).

Just when her day was shaping up so nicely, attending an author book signing at the friend's book shop, "To Be Read," one of the authors turns up dead.  And Marvey's friend, Jo is prime suspect. Local law enforcement (who seem rather Barney Fife-like) have their focus on Jo to the exclusion of searching for any other suspects.  As researcher extraordinaire, Marvey is compelled to turn amateur detective. She partners up with the owner of the local newspaper, Spence. 

The story line is fairly light-hearted and not particularly deep. I'd put it in the category of soap opera writing. Sort of mind candy for those who may not have time or interest in much character development or literary depth. 

Sentences overloaded with adjectives and tedious descriptions (faux leather couch, faux oak shelf--why not just have a leather couch or oak shelf?).  Using it more than once seemed odd. Felt like any time a character entered a room, the reader was going to get a real estate description of the furniture and where it was placed (does it really matter what color a chair is?).  I think by the end of the book, readers will also know almost every piece of clothing in Marvey's wardrobe.  An occasional description is fine, but I honestly do not care to hear everything described in detail. Just gets in the way of the story.

Reading the book in print would have made it easier to skip over the unnecessary descriptions. But I felt the audiobook was hard to listen to. But if you are looking for something not too deep, this may fit the bill.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of the audiobook, Murder By Page One from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Mary Seacole: Bound for the Battlefield

Author Susan Goldman Rubin does a wonderful job introducing Mary Seacole to young readers. Ms. Seacole was not someone I had heard of before. Her story was inspirational as well as disheartening when learning of the prejudice she experienced.

Growing up in Jamaica, Mary had dreamed of visiting England and spent a couple years there. Upon returning home, Mary helped her mother care for patients with yellow fever. One of the patients she attended kept proposing marriage and they eventually wed. But her husband's health was poor and Mary was soon a widow.  After her mother also died, she took over her mother's duties.

Mary then helped during cholera outbreaks. Upon visiting her brother in Panama, Mary's nursing skills were once again put to use. She worked tirelessly fighting cholera, another round of yellow fever back home, and then sought to apply her skills to helping the wounded in the Crimean War.  She soon discovered that racial prejudice kept her from nursing positions. So finding a business partner, Mary opened her own convalescent home to care for the sick.

Affectionataly known as Aunty Seacole by some and Mother Seacole by others, Mary helped everyone she could (in spite of much snubbing by others). She and her business partner built a new building and served nourishing meals to all (whether they could pay or not). This amazing woman continued nursing until she was seventy-six years old.

Illustrator Richie Pope, helps bring Mary's contributions to life and children will get a sense of the challenges and difficulties that Mary faced throughout her life. I highly recommend this book!

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

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Jane Austen Investigates: The Abbey Mystery by Julia Golding


I have been a mystery fan for as long as I can remember. My earliest memories are of reading Encyclopedia Brown and The Boxcar Children. In my teens I moved on to young adult mysteries by Phyllis Whitney as well as some Sherlock Holmes.  Children often have difficulty finding things to read after graduating from Encyclopedia Brown or The Boxcar Children, but thankfully, Julia Golding is helping to bridge that gap (and also raising interest in the author Jane Austen--double kudos for that!). I was thrilled that I could preview her first title, The Abbey Mystery, in her new series, "Jane Austen Investigates."

I knew I would love the book because: 
  1. It is set in England
  2. It features a young Jane Austen
  3. It was written by Julia Golding (check out my review of her book  The Tigers in the Tower
Mysteries are a wonderful tool for helping children begin to make observations and pay attention to detail as they read. Readers become detectives themselves as they seek to read between the lines and notice any irregularities in the story that might hint at the solution. Therefore, mysteries can play a large part in helping sharpen critical thinking skills. 

In The Abbey Mystery, a young Jane Austen has been sent as a substitute companion to an aunt (due to her sister's untimely injury). Sitting idly by and pursuing lady-like endeavors is not exactly Jane's cup of tea. Thankfully there are young servants with whom she can befriend while there (very carefully, so as not to get them into trouble with their employer).  Being a precocious adolescent, Jane is fueled by her spunk and curiosity to investigate the disappearance of two of her uncle's prized horses. When a man is falsely accused of the theft, Jane feels she has no choice but to discover the criminal on her own (with some help from her new friends).

Readers of middle grade all the way through adult will enjoy the glimpse into what Jane Austen's childhood may have been like (she's not exactly here to contradict).  While Jane was definitely more of the "poor relation," I loved that she befriended those who were beneath her. And she did not shrink back from exposing evil even at great risk to herself.  Young Jane Austen is a heroine I hope to meet again in future books from Julia Golding!

Book's release date is April 23, 2021 but you can pre-order a copy today! (affiliate link).

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of Jane Austen Investigates: The Abbey Mystery from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Roots of Wood and Stone by Amanda Wen


There are times when the world in all its chaos (such as freaky ice storms in Texas or a world-wide pandemic), demands a place of peace and calm. And Amanda Wen's book, Roots of Wood and Stone is a book that offers such a place. 

When Sloane, curator of the Sedgwick County Museum of History, meets Garrett as he tries to drop off a box of discarded things from his grandmother's home, little did she know how her world would change.  Rushing off with the promise that he would pick up the box if nothing was of interest, she reluctantly began exploring its contents. Something at the bottom of a satchel caught her eye and when she opened the cover and saw "July 29, 1861" she was immediately swept into the life of Annabelle Collins, age 9. 

Sloane works alongside Garrett and his sister as they prepare their grandmother, Rosie 's home to put on the market.  In that process, a few more historical treasures surface. As Sloane and Garrett learn more about Annabelle and begin to research her genealogy, they also learn more about her connection to Kansas and Rosie's home.

Readers will enjoy the dual story-line: one detailing Annabelle's life through the pages of her diaries, and the other focusing on the story of Sloane's life and her growing friendship with Garrett. As she seeks to solve the mysteries of Annabelle's life, Sloane finds the courage to explore some things in her own past.  Roots of Wood and Stone perfectly blends mystery, romance, and historical treasure hunt.

The historical characters in the book were inspired by three of the author's ancestors. Make sure to read the Author's Notes to learn more about them. I highly recommend Wen's debut book!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Roots of Wood and Stone from Kregel Publications for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

Once Upon a Time...There Was a Little Bird by Maja Andersen

Little Bird has a broken wing so she can't join her friends flying south for the winter. Wherever will she find shelter?  The adorable p...