Tag Archives: 3 stars

Breakfast With Bigfoot

23 Jan

Today’s book review is for Breakfast With Bigfoot, written by Amelia Cotter, illustrated by Charles Swinford, published by Black Oak Media. I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Breakfast With Bigfoot book cover

While young Gretchen is on a camping trip with her family, she decides to go for a short walk in the woods. She notices that the sun is getting low and starts to head back to camp–only to find that she’s lost. She does not, however, lose her wits. Instead, she thinks back to lessons from nature camp and decides to wait until someone finds her. She just never expected that it would be Bigfoot who finds her! This humorous story offers young children sound advice for basic outdoors skills.

This is one of those cases where I’m actually shocked that the publisher printed the book as it exists in this edition. The writing is sound. The illustrations are nice. The book design, however, is terrible. The paper is of such low quality that the text shows through to the other side of the page–which sometimes muddies up the illustrations. The font selection is pretty tacky. And for a target audience of 3-6 year old kids, there is far too much text on each page. At one point, I was tempted to just scan the illustrations and re-design the book for myself. The good news on this front is that a revised edition is in the works. I’ve been told that it will be printed on higher quality paper and will feature some layout changes.

When I started reading the book to my daughter, she was interested in the story. As a parent, I found that the text was fairly easy to read aloud and had a kid-friendly tone. There were a few moments where it felt like narrator asides were talking down to the audience a little. “Oh no! Gretchen is lost!” is one such example. We’ve just heard that she doesn’t think she’s on the right path–the target audience should be able to deduce that she’s lost without it being spelled out. There are other places where the prose could be tightened up a bit. Overall, though, the story flows smoothly and has a good balance of humor and teachable moments.

Swinford’s pencil and watercolor illustrations are fun. I really enjoyed the facial expressions and body language of both Gretchen and Bigfoot. The pictures complemented the text nicely. They made it easier to understand what was happening in the story. My primary complaint with the illustrations was that I wished there had been a few more. For the age group of the target audience, the visual element is important. There were no full-page illustrations–but there were full pages of text. The text and imagery balance was way off for a picture book.

This has been an incredibly difficult book for me to evaluate. Poor design is one of the biggest hurdles for me to get past when reviewing a book. I feel like the book itself earns 2 stars, while the content merits 3 stars. But I’ve got high hopes for the revised edition. I love that Cotter is working to teach young kids basic survival skills–stay calm, stay in one place, don’t eat strange foods. As a parent who already takes her daughter hiking and plans to take her camping soon, too, it’s nice to have a resource like this available. Cotter’s onto a great idea; now she just needs the editorial guidance to help her shine.

You can find more information about this book at Goodreads.

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Dragon Defender

8 Jan

Today’s book review is part of a blog tour. I received a free electronic copy of the book from the publisher, through NetGalley, prior to signing up for the blog tour.

About the Book

Dragon Defender by J.A. BlackburnTitle: Dragon Defender (Dragon Defense League, Book #1)

Author: J.A. Blackburn

Publication Date: October 19, 2013

Publisher: Pip & Grey

Number of pages: 242

Recommended age: 10+

 

Summary (Amazon):

For over a thousand years dragons have existed in secret . . .

Peter Clark can build a robot from scratch and pick a lock in two minutes or less. But he can’t figure out why his mother left or why his grandma refuses to talk about her. When Uncle Dominick shows up on Peter’s twelfth birthday with a letter that hints at answers and an incredible story about dragons, Peter follows him, determined to find out the truth about his mother’s disappearance.

What he finds is a reality far different from what he ever could have imagined – where dragons live in hiding, hunted by poachers for their magical parts, and a small group of men and women work tirelessly to protect them. These are the Dragon Defenders. Peter’s uncle is one. So was his mother. Now it’s Peter’s turn.

* Finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association 2013 Literary Contest *

My Review

Middle grade fiction is best when you start reading and before you know it a couple of hours have gone by and you’re surprised that the book is already over. And that’s basically what happened to me while I was reading this book. It starts off with a pretty cool concept: dragons are real and 12-year old Peter Clark is part of a long line of dragon defenders. This melding of a high fantasy concept with an otherwise realistic present-day world made for fun reading. Rather than spend a lot of time engaged in world building, the author is able to thrust her readers into the action pretty quickly.

The biggest sticking point for me happened pretty early in the book. The issue was that I was a bit skeptical as to how Peter’s non-custodial uncle was able to get him through the border crossing, with seemingly no passport or other documentation. It is mentioned that uncle Dominick has some sort of paperwork–but I don’t see how he could have had anything for Peter. After all, Peter’s legal guardian, his grandmother, didn’t even know he’d left at that point. All of that said, I was able to move past it to enjoy the story.

I would have liked a little more character development in the story. Peter has a fairly well fleshed-out personality, complete with specific talents, interests, and flaws. However, all of the other characters seem pretty one-dimensional. Uncle Dominick is the mysterious, cool grown-up. Xana is the over-enthusiastic girl who acts without thinking. Mario is the poor Mexican orphan who acts as a guide. Even though we spend a lot of time with the latter two as companions to Peter on his adventure, they never get fleshed out much. And they don’t really grow or change during the story.

The dragons living among us hook was a good one, though. I thought that the author did a nice job of building the dragon lore. And I am incredibly interested in the Dragon Defense League–its formation, history, work, other members. These things were only touched on a little–but there were hints that we would learn more in future books. Excellent work, Blackburn. When you’re writing a series, you’ve got to give your readers a reason to come back.

I’m giving this book 3 stars. It was an enjoyable bit of escapism. I think that kids who enjoy fantasy and adventure will like this book quite a lot. Despite my criticisms, I see a lot of potential in this series. First books can be challenging to write–especially if you’ve already started to map out the future for the series. How much is too much to reveal and how much is not enough? This book didn’t hit that perfect balance–but it still hooked me in.

Purchase

Amazon (Print) | Amazon (Kindle)

About the Author: J.A. Blackburn

J.A. Blackburn, Author

J.A. Blackburn

J. A. Blackburn lives in Seattle, Washington in a small white house overlooking the sea with her husband, Jason, her son, Camden, and their dog, Bella. Dragon Defender is her first novel.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

 

 

* $50 Blog Tour Giveaway *

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Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)

Contest runs: January 6th to January 31, 11:59 pm, 2014

Open: Internationally

How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, J.A. Blackburn and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.

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Odd, Weird & Little

7 Jan

Today’s book review is for Odd, Weird & Little, by Patrick Jennings, published by Egmont USA. It is scheduled to be released on January 28, 2014. I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Odd, Weird & Little book cover

Woodrow has always been the outcast in the class, but when a new kid shows up from Quebec, there’s a new target. Toulouse isn’t just new–he’s strange. He wears funny clothes, he’s small, he barely talks, and he carries a briefcase. But Woodrow recognizes a bit of a kindred spirit, and possibly a new friend. Even though Toulouse is a skilled artist, musician and volleyball player, he continues to be a target for bullying. Woodrow decides that it’s time to finally take a stand for Toulouse and himself. Odd, Weird & Little is a heartwarming story about finding friendship and self-confidence.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this novel was how well developed Woodrow, the protagonist, was. He was a kid with a clear and distinct personality. Even though he had a lot of quirks, those quirks weren’t the sole defining characteristics of his personality. We also discovered that he was shy and creative, had a good relationship with his family, and was empathetic. It was easy to see why he might be the target of bullying, and at the same time why he shouldn’t be.

My biggest complaint with the writing was how a lot of the dialogue was handled. When the students in class were all talking, it switched to the format of a play–a name, a colon, and what that person said. It was a strange choice for a middle grade novel. More than that, though, it stripped out any description of other behavioral cues. It also took away opportunities for secondary character development. Worst of all, it actually made it more difficult for me to follow who was saying what, because it became too easy to gloss over the initial tags.

The development of the friendship between Woodrow and Toulouse was nice, though. While it may have initially been motivated by a feeling of sympathy on Woodrow’s side, it quickly found a foundation of shared interests. The only aspect that felt a bit unrealistic was how quickly it happened. It felt almost like insta-friend. I understand Woodrow being desperate for friendship, but inviting someone to your house within a few hours of meeting them seemed a little surprising.

Overall I give the book 3 stars. It was a good story with a great message for middle graders. Learning how to be comfortable with yourself can be challenging, so reading about someone truly different might be reassuring. I also liked that Toulouse really was odd–much more so than people suspect.

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

Dark Spell

17 Dec

Today’s book review is for Dark Spell, by Gill Arbuthnott, published by Floris Books. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Dark Spell book cover

Callie Hall has always felt a bit like a misfit. She has few friends other than Josh, whom she met when he was vacationing in her village last summer. However, she’s still not prepared to find out that she’s a witch. She struggles against her new-found identity. But when Callie and Josh decide to explore the old tunnels beneath St. Andrews, she brings a darkness back with her–and soon she can’t deny who she is. If she’s going to defeat the darkness, though, she’s going to have to figure out what it is and embrace her witch heritage. Will she be able to master her powers before the people she cares about are placed in mortal danger?

The thing that bothered me most while reading this novel was that the Kindle formatting was terrible. Even though formatting is a cosmetic issue rather than a style issue, it can still impact one’s reading. At times it was difficult for me to follow the dialogue, because there needed to be line breaks which weren’t there. There were also places where cut scenes weren’t delineated which also got to be a bit confusing. This was a big problem, because every formatting issue pulled me out of the story.

It wasn’t the only problem, though. Even though the story was interesting and creepy, the pacing was far too slow. There were too many moments where I found myself wondering when we’d get back to the interesting bits–it wasn’t a building of suspense, but rather too much of Callie’s inner monologue. Her inner monologue was pretty predictable. She’s worried that her friend is going to freak out and stop being her friend. She can’t deal with her mother. She’s not sure she’s strong enough to handle the task at hand. Sound familiar to anyone else?

And it’s too bad, because I actually found a lot of the story quite compelling. I absolutely loved how local history was woven into the plot. It made the haunting seem all the more plausible because the history had actually happened. It also made it easier to imagine a lot of the locations, even though I’d never been to them. I could picture St. Andrews with all the tunnels, the unremarkable Dane’s Dyke, the ocean of Pitmillie. All of it felt vivid and alive. The characters were also fairly likable. I loved grandmom Rose and her circle of friends. And I liked Josh and Callie, too. Sometimes Callie irritated me, but I think that nearly any teenage girl would.

So, it’s kind of a wash. It has all of the elements for a great novel, but the pacing and atrocious formatting prevented it from attaining that status. If you’re the kind of person who is into the creepy YA paranormal genre, it could be worth checking out (particularly if formatting issues don’t bother you as much as they do me). I’ll give it 3 stars since I cared about what was going to happen in the end. But that might be a little bit generous.

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

Book Review: The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen

22 Nov

Today’s book review is for The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen, written by Diana Prichard, illustrated by Heather Devlin Knopf, published by Little Pickle Press. It is scheduled to be released on Monday, November 25, 2013. I received an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen is a humorous story about a boy who wakes up one morning to discover that the sources of his food have appeared right there in his kitchen. It provides an entertaining way to introduce children to the idea that food originates from somewhere before it arrives in the grocery aisle.

Prichard’s concept is a fun one. In order to eat breakfast, Patrick must gather eggs from chickens and milk from a cow. She describes these actions with accurate details, drawn from her own experiences as a farmer. However, this native Maine girl couldn’t help saying “That’s not right!” when I got to the passage about maple syrup. You see, in the book, a spigot in a tapped maple tree drips syrup. But in fact, that spigot would only be dripping sap–which would then have to be boiled down to produce the deliciously sweet maple syrup that is such a breakfast favorite. While on the one hand, I understand the simplification of the process for the purpose of the story, on the other it feels dishonest. Not to mention, I pity the poor kids who decide to try drinking “syrup” from a tapped tree and instead get a mouthful of sap.

At the end, I had the same problem when Patrick is greeted by an oinking pig and wonders if he smells bacon. If he did smell bacon, I’m pretty sure that pig wouldn’t be oinking anymore. Unless Prichard is alluding to Douglas Adams’s The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, this final scene just felt confusing.

I also wasn’t enamored of Knopf’s illustrations. They do have a lot of character to them, but with their angular style and still visible pencil lines, they feel more like initial sketches than completed illustrations. The digital coloring isn’t particularly well executed–in particular the places where color meets outline seemed sloppy.

It’s unfortunate, because the other elements of the book design were rather nice. I enjoyed the font that was used quite a bit. The placement of text on the page was aesthetically pleasing. There was enough variety in the amount of text per page to keep things from moving too quickly or too ploddingly. And I liked the way the illustrations stretched across facing pages.

Overall I’m going to give it a somewhat generous 3 out of 5 stars. It was a fun story, misrepresentations of maple syrup aside. And I doubt that children of the target age group will be as critical of the illustrations. My own suggestion is that parents be prepared to explain butchering at the end.

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

Contaminated

21 Nov

Today’s book review is for Contaminated by Em Garner, published by Egmont USA. I received an electronic copy of this text from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Contaminated book cover

Contaminated is a novel for young adults and teens, set in a dystopian near-future. When a trendy diet drink started to turn people into shambling, murderous creatures unable to control their impulses, society starts to crumble. Luckily the government is able to step in to round up those who have been contaminated and neutralize the problem–the first step to getting back on track. Since the contamination, 17-year old Velvet Ellis has been juggling school, work, and parenting her little sister, Opal. Then, after months of searching, Velvet finally finds her mother at one of the “kennels” for the contaminated, and her life is turned upside down again. She’s told that her mom will never recover from what happened, but it’s not long before Velvet starts to question that assertion. Is it just foolish hope, or can the contaminated improve? And will she be able to hold her family together when the world seems to be doing everything in its power to tear them apart once more?

I have to say, Garner has come up with an incredibly compelling plot. As soon as I read the book synopsis I was eager to request a review copy. Not only was it an interesting twist on the zombie trope, it also pulled in the moral questions of dystopia. Heck, there was even a little jab at diet culture and consumerism. What’s not to love? Unfortunately, quite a lot.

First, the pace was ploddingly slow. From the description, it sounds like the sort of book that would have a lot of action and intrigue–but it doesn’t. Very little actually happens. I was halfway through the book when I had the realization that nothing really significant had happened. Then, I realized that all of the cool-sounding plot stuff wasn’t the primary story. The primary story was the story of an adolescent, Velvet, having to grow up before she was ready–learning how to navigate the world of adulthood. She spends most of her time worrying about laundry, the food budget, keeping her sister in school, how to support her family, all while caring for a mother who has essentially the same problems as a patient recovering from a major stroke. It wasn’t a bad story–it just wasn’t the one that was advertised.

Then there was the problem of Velvet. The entire story is told in first person from her point of view. The problem with this is that Velvet isn’t all that interesting or likable as far as narrators go. She’s too flat, too catty, too irritating. Fortunately I liked Opal and I was interested to discover what would happen with their mother. Otherwise, I’m not sure I could have tolerated the narrative voice. Velvet’s inner monologue is incredibly redundant and exceedingly boring. That’s because, as mentioned earlier, she spends a lot of time thinking about mundane things. She’s also so judgmental and catty that when other characters are hostile toward her it’s hard to feel much sympathy. I think it’s supposed to be an indication that she’s hardened by the trauma of her experiences, but it read as mere pettiness.

Here’s the thing, though. In the last hundred pages or so, stuff started to get interesting. New cases of contamination started to appear. The media started to shut down. Soldiers and police started asserting more control. And even though Velvet was still focused on her family, it raised a lot of questions for the reader. Then, it ended before any of those questions were answered.

So, even though there were some problems with this book, I’m hoping that there will be a sequel. I don’t really care about what happens to Velvet, but I do want to know more about the world she’s living in. Which means I’m giving Contaminated 3 out of 5 star rating. Because, for all that I didn’t like about it, I still liked it enough to want to read more.

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

The Dragon’s Boy

19 Nov

Today’s book review is for The Dragon’s Boy, by Jane Yolen, published by Open Road Integrated Media. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

The Dragon's Boy book cover

The Dragon’s Boy is a classic Jane Yolen book for middle grade readers, reissued as an ebook. It tells the story of young Artos Pendragon–better known as King Arthur. Artos is a foster child in the castle of Sir Ector, and the youngest of the boys who reside there. He often feels left out and overlooked. But when he stumbles upon a cave and finds a wise old dragon, things begin to change for him. This beautiful coming of age story is full of magic and wisdom that will capture the minds and imaginations of young readers.

Yolen does an amazing job of setting the scene of ancient Britain. She combines the mundane with the magical to create a place and time that feels very real, without getting bogged down in details. Readers are given just enough information to construct a picture in their mind. As a fan of Arthurian legend, I liked that some aspects of her world were comfortable and familiar, while others were fresh and new. This is always the best way to handle things when dealing with beloved old tales.

I also enjoyed the way she developed the characters. Although the names she uses aren’t the ones with which most readers would be familiar–they’re close enough that even the un-savvy should be able to figure out who is who. And it’s nice to see how these familiar knights may have behaved in adolescence. They weren’t perfect, and yet, despite their arrogance and immaturity, we know that all will grow up to be exemplary men.

My primary complaint with the book is that the ending felt rushed and unsatisfying. It was a reasonable ending and it made sense. But it felt like it came too soon. Maybe part of the problem is knowing that the Arthurian cycle is rich with stories. Another part is that I wanted to see how Artos’s relationship with the other boys would grow and change once he discovers the secret of the dragon. And of course, there’s the bit where the ending just feels like a beginning.

Overall, I think this would be a nice book to introduce younger readers to the Arthurian legend. Artos is a protagonist that tweens and early adolescents should be able to relate to and sympathize with. Although, if they are already reading fantasy, they might find it a bit short compared to other books they’ve encountered. In final analysis I give it 3 out of 5 stars. I liked reading it, but it could have been better.

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

Shadow of Atlantis Blog Tour and Giveaway

25 Oct

Today’s book review is for the Shadow of Atlantis, from the Shadows of the Past series by Wendy Leighton-Porter, published by Mauve Square Publishing. I received an electronic copy of the book from Renee at Mother Daughter Book Reviews, so I could participate in the blog tour. Keep reading after the review for more information about the tour–and to enter the giveaway!

Shadow of Atlantis Cover

The Shadow of Atlantis is a fantasy adventure story for middle grade readers. The parents of 10-year old twins Jemima and Joe disappeared under mysterious circumstances. When the twins decide to check out their parents’ treasured book one rainy afternoon, they discover something amazing–the book is able to transport them through time and space. Joe, Jemima, their friend Charlie, and their cat Max end up traveling to Atlantis. They befriend a girl and her family, and soon decide that they must warn the Atlanteans that their island home is doomed to fall into the sea. Then, while trying to help organize an exodus, the twins discover that their parents had been to Atlantis as well–and that not all residents of the island are friendly to guests. Can they save their new friends and escape back to their own world in time?

Leighton-Porter has crafted a creative tale with this book. I enjoyed the way that it melded elements of pure fantasy with historical research. The magical book, key, and translation charms were all clever plot devices–although I do hope that we’ll learn more about what they are and where they came from in future books. But I was willing to overlook their convenience, because of window they offered on history. Even though there has never been any evidence that Atlantis was a real place, Leighton-Porter draws on real artifacts and history from the region and period to give children insight into what life would have been like in Ancient Greek civilization. From lack of indoor plumbing to animal sacrifice, she brings the past to life for her readers.

One of the biggest flaws with the book is that it gets off to a weak start. The writing in the opening is plodding and clunky. The sentences have too many clauses. There are too many modifiers. It’s hard to adjust to the constantly shifting point of view–because while I’m used to reading third person narration, I’m less used to being able to read the internal monologue of every character in a story. Worst of all, the first chapter has no real story or plot. The whole thing is exposition! And most of that exposition is comprehensive introductions to all of the major characters.

If you can make it past the first chapter, though, things get better. That’s when the story really begins–and it’s a fun one. It’s got adventure and fantasy and history and mystery all wrapped up together, in a way that I think will engage young readers. I liked that the protagonists were brother and sister, because it provides an “in” to both boys and girls. The more I read, the more I wanted to know what was going to happen. There were plenty of questions to keep me turning the pages.

Ultimately, I give the book 3 out of 5 stars. I liked it. But I would have liked it more if it had pulled me in from the beginning and if the main characters were a little more fleshed out. I recognize it’s fairly typical for genre fiction to focus on plot and sometimes neglect character development–but there are writers who manage to do both. Still, I think that kids will enjoy the magic and adventure. They’ll probably like the talking cat, too.


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Feel Confident!

13 Oct

Today’s book review is for Feel Confident!, written by Cheri J. Meiners, illustrated by Elizabeth Allen, published by Free Spirit Publishing. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Feel Confident! book cover

Feel Confident! is another installment in the “Being the Best Me!” series. I previously reviewed Be Positive!, which is part of the same series. The series is intended to help children learn character development skills. In this volume, they are guided through building self-confidence.

The text is once again written as a series of first person affirmations. Although this is a picture book, it’s not a story, so much as it’s a self-improvement guide where the advice unfolds over the course of a fictional day. While these “I” statements might feel a little silly to cynical adults, I think they’re much more effective with the target audience of pre-school and early elementary aged children. One thing that bothered me in this volume was the assumption that all children are able-bodied. One of the pages talks about celebrating all that that “my body can do” and then goes on to mention jumping, dancing and running–which are activities that many who use wheelchairs cannot do. While I understand that books aren’t always sensitive to these situations, I had expectations that this one would be, given that it is sensitive to so many other issues.

The illustrations are, once again, pleasant but generic. Children will probably enjoy them though, and connect with the characters depicted on the page. Allen provides thoughtful examples to compliment the text on the page.

The book also includes four pages of extension activities at the end, so that caregivers and educators can reinforce the ideas expressed in the main text. There are discussion questions, vocabulary lists, activities and games to explore.

I’m giving this book 3 out of 5 stars, which is one star less than the volume I previously reviewed. Why? Well, probably if I’d read them in reverse, the ratings would be reversed. The thing is, they just felt too similar to me. Many of the affirmations in Be Positive! could have been used in Feel Confident!, and vice versa. I can’t even fully remember in which of the books some of them did actually appear. They just sort of blend together into one larger book to me. Still, the book provides a good message and would be a great resource in the classroom to encourage character development.

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

Animal Motions

10 Oct

Today’s book review is for Animal Motions, written by Melissa Pilgrim, illustrated by Ira V. Graves, published by Indigo River Publishing. I received a copy of this book from the author, through the First Reads giveaway program on Goodreads, with the understanding that I would provide an honest review.

Animal Motions book cover

Animal Motions is a book designed to teach children an easy, low-impact movement routine, while at the same time encouraging them to use their imaginations. It was developed from a theater exercise that author, Melissa Pilgrim, used when she worked with kids at a theater in Chicago. Easy to execute in small spaces, children are asked to follow along with a boy named Eric as he pretends to be 17 different animals. By connecting each stretch and movement with animals, children will be able to easily remember how to perform each stretch and movement.

Pilgrim’s first person prose, told from the point of view of little boy Eric, does the job of leading children through the routine. However, sometimes the phrasing that she used felt a little awkward to me–particularly when considering her target audience. The first thing that threw me was the use of the word “mimicking;” while I have no problem with exposing children to new vocabulary, it seems that doing so in the context of a movement exercise might not be the optimal approach. Because the book was adapted from a theater exercise, the book was full of run-on sentences. They’re a natural part of spoken language, but on the page they can be distracting.

My biggest issue, though, was with Gates’s illustrations. Determining the quality of illustration, as with any art form, is a highly subjective matter. That said, I found the illustrations in this book really tacky. So tacky, in fact, that I had to re-read the book a few times to overcome the negative impression they gave me. They reminded me of the low-budget freebie books I got as a child in the 1980s. The cheesy expressions on the animals and the incredibly dated image of the family at the end were bad, but the worst part were the garish and excessive yellow highlights used throughout. There were some nice ideas behind the illustrations, but the execution left so much to be desired.

The book does, however, still have educational merit, which is why I ultimately gave it 3 out of 5 stars. As a picture book, I’d rate it lower–but I decided to instead evaluate it as an educational resource. And on that front, it does a great job. Parents and teachers who purchase the book are directed to the book’s website: animalmotions.com, where there are 6 free lesson plans available. The lesson plans are targeted to children ages 3-6 and cover subject areas of health & fitness, drama, and combined biology & geography. There is also a mini-poster that can be printed out for children to cover. It could be utilized in classrooms, camps, daycares or home-school environments.

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