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Don’t Dangle Your Participle

1 Apr

Today’s book review is for Don’t Dangle Your Participle, written by Vanita Oelschlager, illustrated by Mike Desantis, published by Vanita Books. It is scheduled to be released on May 1, 2014. I recevied an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Don't Dangle Your Participle book cover

“What on earth is a participle and how does it dangle?” That’s the opening question in one of the most entertaining grammar guides I’ve encountered. With clear explanations and amusingly illustrated examples, Don’t Dangle Your Participle helps to demystify a sometimes confusing topic.

Oelschlager begins by laying out a brief grammar lesson for her readers. Her relaxed conversational tone, complete with colloquial language makes the subject accessible to children. It’s a pleasant departure from the traditionally dry language of English textbooks. Oelschlager recognizes that if we want young people to learn, we need to be able to address them in their own language.

The rest of the book is a series of examples. First we are shown an incorrectly formed sentence, then on the following page the corrected form. But what makes it so effective are the clever illustrations of Mike Desantis. The pages with the incorrect sentences will have you laughing. From skateboarding deer to gluttonous cakes on the run, he helps students to see the problems that arise from dangling participles. His ink and watercolor cartoons are lively and engaging.

This is the sort of book that deserves to be in classrooms and on homeschool shelves. It makes a traditionally dull subject amusing and engaging. More than that, though, Oelschlager demonstrates an understanding of how children best learn–not just by rote, but by engaging multiple senses. A solid educational resource, Don’t Dangle Your Participle earns 5 out of 5 stars for its laugh-while-you-learn approach.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Starring Me and You

6 Feb

Today’s review is for Starring Me and You, by Genevieve Cote, published by Kids Can Press. It is scheduled for release on March 1, 2014. I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Starring Me and You book cover

Piggy and Rabbit are getting ready to put on a show–but Rabbit is feeling shy. Thus starts Starring Me and You, a picture book that shows pre-school aged children that there is more than one way to express emotions. As Piggy and Rabbit prepare for their show, they must confront their fears and figure out a way to work together.

Cote has once again put together a beautiful picture book. I first discovered her work in the fall when I reviewed Mr. King’s Castle. The writing in this new volume is a clear as ever. She has a way of tapping into the emotions of children, and expressing them in accessible language. Cote uses a lot of repetition in her text to great effect. Every time one of the animals talks about how they act in response to an emotion, the other chimes in to share an alternate reaction. There’s a wonderful rhythm, too, even though there is (thankfully) no rhyming text. Her language demonstrates an understanding of the written word and of her target audience.

The illustrations are done in Cote’s signature style. She uses mixed media to produce gentle, yet lively, images that are sure to charm children. The simple lines and gentle shading fit in nicely with the emotional theme of the book. The dominant color on each page is a rich salmon. It is inviting and warm, setting up an atmosphere in which it is safe to express oneself. Most of all, I enjoy the abundance of white space on the page. There is no need to fill the page with background, because background isn’t important to the story. Rather, by using a minimalist design, Cote emphasizes that this is a story that could happen anywhere; it’s universal.

If you’re someone like me who appreciates attention to detail, then you’ll also enjoy the book design. In particular you’ll like that Rabbit’s pages use one font, a subdued san-serif typeface–while Piggy has a more stylized typeface that leans a little askance. The typography choices actually reveal a little about the characters’ personalities. It’s such a small thing, but it was used effectively to strong impact.

This is a great book for caregivers who are looking to talk with their children about emotions. The message that there are many ways to express oneself is positive and affirming. It lets children know that just because they don’t experience an emotion in the same way as their friend, that it’s okay. It could also be used as a jumping off point to talk about healthy and unhealthy expressions. I’m giving the book 4 out of 5 stars. It’s got thoughtful writing, charming illustrations, and plenty of opportunity for discussion.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Kid Lit Blog Hop #32

5 Feb

It’s time for one of my favorite times of the week (well, every other week)–The Kid Lit Blog Hop! It’s always such a treat to see what books have gotten other people excited. Will I discover something new and amazing? Will I get to share in a moment of “I love that book, too!”?

As for me, I’ve been busy with family, health, and housekeeping. But I’m still finding plenty of time to read with my 2-year old. We received a present from her great aunt a couple days ago titled Max Makes a Cake, which is a sweet story about a little boy who gets impatient while waiting for his father and decide to make his mother’s (Kosher for Passover) birthday cake all by himself. Daughter memorized the character’s names after a single reading and seems pretty enthused. I like the themes of problem-solving and independence. We’ve also been reading One, by Kathryn Otoshi, which is absolutely charming. I love the minimalist watercolor illustrations, strong anti-bullying message, and incorporation of color and number concepts. My daughter likes it when it’s time to take a stand and she gets to say “NO!” to bullying. We’ve got a pile of 10 library books in our current circulation, as well as selections from her ever-growing personal library.

As for my blog–I’ve got the following reviews coming up in my queue: White Spaces: Book One of the Dark Passages, Secrets Underground, Good Crooks Book One: Missing Monkey, Suitcase of Stars, Starring Me and You, How to Make a Planet, Ava and Pip, and more! Right now I’m in the position of having so many wonderful sounding books to read that I’m never sure where to start. I can think of worse problems to have.

So, that’s where I am this week. How about you? Please, take a moment to link up to the hop and comment on some of the awesome posts I’m sure you’ll discover.


Welcome to the 32nd Kid Lit Blog Hop where twice per month (the 1st and 3rd Wednesday) we continue to develop a dynamic and engaged community of children’s books bloggers, authors, publishers, and publicists. So, you are always more than welcome to join us by popping in a post and hopping around to meet some of your fellow Kid Lit bloggers and authors!

We are pleased to welcome with us this week a new full-time permanent hostess on the Hop, Maria from the blog Music Teaching and Parenting is joining us. Plus, we are also happy to have Savannah Mae from the book blog Say What? Savannah Mae Book Reviews. Big welcome to Maria and Savannah Mae!

Happy Hopping everyone and enjoy the Hop!

Kid Lit Blog Hop
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Kid Lit Blog Hop Rules *Please Read*

1. We ask that you kindly follow your hostesses. You can follow us any way you choose (Email, GFC, Twitter, Facebook, G+, Pinterest, etc.), but we’ve added our preferences below. If you could just give us a quick “follow” or “like” that would be much appreciated! Make sure to leave us a message if you are following us (i.e., on Twitter or Facebook or on our websites) and we will be sure to follow you back. Thanks! 🙂

Hostesses:

Renee @ Mother Daughter Book Reviews Facebook * Twitter

Jaymie @ Snacks for Max Twitter * Facebook

Katie @ Youth Literature Reviews Twitter * Facebook

Julie Grasso, Author/ Blogger Twitter * Facebook

Cheryl Carpinello, Author / Blogger Twitter * Facebook

Reshama @ Stacking Books Twitter * Facebook

Stacie @ BeachBoundBooks Twitter * Facebook

Destiny @ Reading and Sharing Twitter * Facebook

Maria@ Music Teaching and Parenting Twitter * Facebook

Mia @ Pragmatic Mom Twitter * Facebook

Co-Hostess:

Savannah Mae @ Say What? Savannah Mae Book Reviews Twitter * Facebook

2. Link up any Kid Lit related post. This can be a link to a children’s book review, a discussion about children’s literature/literacy, or a post on a recently-read children’s book or one that you love from your childhood.

* Don’t link directly to your blog, it must be a specific post.*

* For Authors, we prefer you to link to your blog if you have one. Please link unique posts each time ~ no repeats please. *

* Make sure you include an image relevant to the POST (e.g., book cover), not your blog button or photo of yourself.*

* Feel free to link more than one post.*

3. Please visit AT LEAST the TWO LINKS directly ahead of your own and leave them some love in the form of a comment. We are trying to build a community of bloggers, readers, parents, authors, and others who are as passionate about children’s literature as we are so please CONNECT and follow any or all of the blogs that interest you! 4. If you like, grab the button above and put it somewhere on your blog, preferably the post you’re linking up. If you’d prefer, you can just add a text link back to this Hop so that others can find it and check out all these great book links! 5. It would really help us get the word out about the Kid Lit Blog Hop if you would be so kind as to tweet, share, and spread the word about the Hop!

Interested in co-hosting the Kid Lit Blog Hop? Please email renee @ motherdaughterbookreviews (dot) com and put Co-Hosting Blog Hop in the subject line.

Happy Hopping!

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Time Together: Me and Dad

4 Feb

Today’s book review is for Time Together: Me and Dad, written by Maria Catherine, illustrated by Pascal Campion, published by Picture Window Books (an imprint of Capstone Young Readers). It is scheduled for release on March 1, 2014. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Time Together: Me and Dad book cover

Time Together: Me and Dad is a lovely picture book for children ages 2-6. It highlights the bond between father and child through a series of snapshots of special moments. It’s an excellent reminder that simple daily activities are the things that often build the strongest memories.

Catherine’s writing is very simple. Rather than producing a narrative, she has chosen to present a series of moments to the reader. They range from “Quiet talking time” to “Wild ride time.” What I liked about her selection of activities is that they are varied and not mired in stereotypical gender roles. So, for example, Dad gets to participate in tea parties. It’s nice to see fathers portrayed as being involved in every facet of a child’s life.

What makes the book really beautiful, though, are Campion’s illustrations. He has such a nice style–where he uses painting techniques in his digital compositions. Each image is a depiction of a father and child who are close, physically and emotionally, and engaged in an enjoyable activity. Every father and child pair is a little different. Some children are girls and some are boys. The families are from various racial backgrounds. It’s a quiet acknowledgement of diversity, subtle and not promoting any stereotypes.

While the writing is a little thin, I do still think this book could have a place in homes and libraries. Even though there’s no real story, the book could be used to spark conversation about a child’s own experiences. Some discussion questions might be: which of the activities in the book did you like best? What are some of your favorite times with Dad? It would be a nice book to read for Father’s Day, as well, to celebrate the role of fathers in children’s lives. I’m giving the book 4 out of 5 stars because the book had lovely execution, and though it’s not a genre I usually enjoy, it pulled me in.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Morgan on Ice

3 Feb

Today’s book review is for Morgan on Ice, written by Ted Staunton, illustrated by Bill Slavin, published by Formac Publishing. This book is scheduled to be released on March 1, 2014. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Morgan on Ice book cover

Morgan on Ice is part of Formac’s “First Novels” line, which are early chapter books targeted at 6-9 year old children. Morgan is a boy. I mention this because until I reached the end of chapter 2, I had thought Morgan was a tomboy. So, Morgan is a boy who has to spend a lot of time with a girl he doesn’t much like, Aldeen, who is a family friend. She has invited him to see a Princesses on Ice show, and Morgan’s mother accepted the invitation. But Morgan isn’t interested in princesses and he doesn’t like ice skating. When he gets invited to the Monster Truck show by another friend, Morgan does all he can to weasel out of his engagement with Aldeen.

I struggled to make my way through this book. While I’m obviously not the target audience, often I enjoy reading books for this age range. Staunton’s prose was just tedious. The book is written in the first person from the perspective of the protagonist, Morgan. I think that Morgan is supposed to be sympathetic, but he came across as whiny. A lot of the narrative focuses on what Morgan doesn’t like, which leaves him a bit flat as a character. He never really develops, either. I’m not even sure what the takeaway message for the book was supposed to be: ice skating is better than monster truck rallies?

Slavin’s black and white illustrations have a lot of movement and a playful style. However, often details get lost in an excess of line/scribble shading. It might be an issue of scale–perhaps if the images were larger, this wouldn’t be a problem. But as they were, they came across as too busy; my eye never knew where to focus.

None of it worked for me, so I’m going with 1 out of 5 stars. This book was mediocre, tedious, and pointless. Maybe I could have even forgiven the lack of any real character development or message if the book had been entertaining. But it wasn’t.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

January Round-Up

31 Jan

It’s the end of the month, which means it’s time to start a new feature here at Reading and Sharing: End-of-Month Round-Up! At the end of each month, I will highlight some of the best books I’ve read this month. I’ll also link to some great reviews that have been posted by others. Feel free to add some of your own favorites in the comments.

FIVE STAR BOOKS

Eddie and Dog

Netta and Her Plant

Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence

The Quantum League: Spell Robber

Not My Girl

FROM OTHERS

Look Up! @ Stacking Books

Josephine @ Stanley and Katrina

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy @ Spirit of Children’s Literature

Let There Be Light @ Create With Joy

North of Nowhere @ The Ninja Librarian

What books did you love this month? What reviews impressed you or made you want to pick up a new book? What are you looking forward to reading in February?

There Was an Old Sailor

30 Jan

Today’s review is for The Was an Old Sailor, written by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Cassandra Allen, published by Kids Can Press. It is scheduled for release on March 1, 2014. I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

There Was an Old Sailor book cover

We’ve all heard the tale of the old lady who swallowed a fly–but did you hear the one about the old sailor who swallowed a krill? No. Well, you’re in for a treat. The remake of a familiar folk song shifts the story from the farm to the sea. Children will giggle and sing along as the old sailor swallows increasingly large sea creatures.

Folk songs make for good toddler books, because parents don’t have to worry about not knowing how the song goes. But, sometimes, they also feel tired and dull. When you’ve sung something countless times, the craving to change things up can be intense. Saxby solves this problem by switching up the words. The struture, rhythm and rhyme-scheme of the original song remain intact, while the transition to a nautical theme is refreshing and fun. Her verse scans flawlessly, meaning that parents and educators won’t be left stumbling over misplaced beats or forced rhymes.

Allen’s pencil and gouache illustrations are round, plump, and appealing. They are cute enough for toddlers to love, and detailed enough to keep their wandering eyes engaged. The sailor himself is the perfect balance between old salt and grandpa. The swirling waves of the ocean create a great sense of movement, and will make you want to sway in time to the beat of the verse.

It takes a special talent to take something old and familiar and transform it into something new and equally enjoyable. I’m pleased that Saxby has such talent. This 4 star book is a great choice for parents who want to sing with their kids at home, or for librarians who are looking for something that will burn off some energy during story time. It also provides a great opportunity to talk with kids about marine biology, the food chain, and other nautical topics.

You can find more information about this book at Goodreads.

Not My Girl

29 Jan

Today’s review is for Not My Girl, written by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard, published by Annick Press. It is scheduled for release on February 18, 2014. I received a free electronic copy of the book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Not My Girl book cover

In this beautiful picture book memoir, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton recounts her return to her family after spending two years at a Canadian residential school. When Margaret steps off the boat to return to her village, her mother uses her limited English to declare “Not my girl.” This is the beginning of Margaret’s journey of re-integrating to her familial culture after two years of assimilation. She finds that she has forgotten most of her language and fumbles at chores that used to be easy. Even her father’s sled dogs, with whom she used to share affection, treat her as an outsider. This is a moving story that opens a window to a troubling period of history. However, its uplifting ending will reassure children that no matter how much they grow and change–they can always return to the love of their family.

Although I had heard about residential schools for First Nations children, this was my first time actually reading about their impacts. While it seems that the staff at the school treated Margaret with kindness, her narrative reveals that they still caused unintended harm to many children. The pain of facing rejection by their families after returning as outsiders must have left psychological scars. I am thankful that she chose to share her story, thus giving younger generations the chance to learn about a piece of history that seems not to be discussed very often.

The writing has a plainness and clarity to it, which is punctuated by moments of poetic imagery. It’s a style that works well. The narrative voice captures the emotional tone of a 10-year old girl, overlaid with the reflections of a grown woman. Children should be able to connect with the voice of the child, while parents will appreciate the perspective of revisiting the past.

Grimard’s soft illustrations provide a beautiful complement to the story. The abundance of orange-tinted light in her pictures perfectly captures the feeling of Arctic winter, where the sun is always low on the horizon. At the same time it also creates a sensation of familial warmth. Most of all, I loved how deeply expressive the characters were. Every face evoked a strong emotional response. Whenever she drew Margaret as a sad young girl, I felt an ache in my heart. I love when an artist is able to elicit such a reaction.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I’m giving it a full 5 stars for being such a powerful and moving work. It provides abundant opportunity to talk with children about history, Inuit culture, assimilation programs, geography, and family dynamics. The book is targeted to readers in grades 1-4, although I think it could be enjoyed by a much wider audience.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

The Quantum League: Spell Robbers

28 Jan

Today’s review is for The Quantum League #1: Spell Robbers, by Matthew J. Kirby, published by Scholastic. I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Ben Warner has always felt a bit of an outsider. It’s probably because his eccentric mother is always moving them around to new places. When he’s invited to participate in an elite science camp, Ben decides to check it out. After all he likes science, and it means he won’t have to hang out at his mother’s office in the afternoon. He discovers that the camp is actually part of Dr. Madeleine Hughes’s research into Actuation–the ability to change reality through imagination. Even more exciting, Ben seems to be a natural. When a mysterious group of men show up to the lab one day to abduct Dr. Hughes and a prototype device, Ben and his friend Peter quickly find themselves in the middle of a war. It turns out that the world of Actuation is much bigger than they ever imagined–but will they be able to rescue Dr. Hughes before it’s too late?

Kirby has crafted a fast-paced science-fantasy adventure for the middle grade set. His plotting and pacing are spot-on. I found myself completely wrapped up in the story, frantically turning the pages to find out what would happen next. Every time I thought I had figured something out, I was thrown an unexpected twist that kept me on my toes. This in particular impressed me, because too often middle grade fiction feels predictable. While some aspects of the story feel grounded in common comic book story-lines, it is still refreshingly original.

I was pleased with the range of characters in the book, as well as their development. Ben, the protagonist, is an intelligent boy who cares deeply for his mother, no matter how much she frustrates him. Initially he is excited to discover that he can Actuate. But when the Quantum League wants to recruit him to their organization, he has little interest in getting involved. Even when he learns that he’s one of the most talented people they’ve seen, Ben would gladly give up his abilities to return to his mother’s side. Peter, while jealous of Ben’s natural talent, remains a loyal and trustworthy friend. Few of the secondary characters are quite who they seem to be at first guess–which is fun.

I can’t wait until the next book in the series is released! I’m hooked. This would be a great choice for middle grade readers who enjoy action, comics, and science-fantasy. It definitely has the potential become a new hit series for the 9-12 set. This volume gets a full 5 stars for being awesome. Sure, it has some great themes and messages for kids, but in this case I’d rather just focus on it being a fun read.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence

27 Jan

Today’s book review is for Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence, written by Gretchen Woelfle, illustrated by Alix Delinois, published by Lerner Publishing. It is scheduled for release on February 1, 2014. I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Mumbet's Declaration of Independence

While the American colonists were fighting for their independence from British rule, one woman was fighting for her freedom from slavery. Mumbet was a slave in the household of a wealthy Massachusetts man who was involved in the Revolutionary War. She hears him speak of all men being created equal and wonders if that includes her. When Massachusetts drafts its new constitution with those words, she decides to put the new law to the test. This beautiful picture book biography tells the story of the strong, proud woman whose court case set the precedent to abolish slavery in the state of Massachusetts.

Delinois’s illustrations set the tone for the story. The bold, saturated colors create a feeling of intensity. The angular and somber faces tell the audience that this is an important story. Each character’s body language reveals aspects of their personality. In the case of Mumbet, nearly always standing tall and looking out to the horizon, we see a woman of confidence, strength, and vision. I liked that the art wasn’t just visually pleasing, but added depth and nuance to the story.

The story itself is beautifully written. Woelfle was very skilled at paring down the narrative to be accessible to young readers, while keeping hold of the emotion of the story. I liked the way that she was able to make history come alive. While there are no records of precisely what Mumbet thought, writing the story from her perspective gave it a strong impact. Soon after I read it, I found myself sharing the story with my husband, because I’d found it so compelling.

For those who would like to expand their history lesson, there are additional resources at the end of the book. The first is the author’s note which explains how this story was preserved for posterity, what we don’t know about the story, and how Mumbet is now part of historical tours. The second resource is a selected bibliography which provides suggestions for books that might be of interest to readers who enjoyed this story and want to learn more on the topic.

This is a great book for Black History Month, Women’s History Month, a unit on the Revolutionary War, or discussion on the history of slavery in the United States. I’m giving the book 5 stars for being engaging and educational. It’s an excellent resource for teaching kids about history, and it’s a beautiful book to boot. It would be an excellent addition to any library, classroom, or home.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.