- E.J. Anderson Illustrated by Stephen Adams, Magic in the Kingdom of the Sloth
- C.S. Davidson and Illustrations By Berin Uriegas, Bad Dragonflies
- Ruth Karas, THE CRYSTAL ROSE
- Megan Kelley Hall, SISTERS OF MISERY
- Leonard Jacobson, In Search of the Light
- PENNY LOCKWOOD, GHOST FOR RENT
- Lea Schizas, BUBBA AND GIGANTO: ODDS AGAINST US
- Christine Verstraete, SEARCHING FOR A STARRY NIGHT (A Miniature Art Mystery)
- V. Gilbert Zabel, PRAIRIE DOG COWBOY
Have you ever seen or observed a sloth? If you have you too will wonder how such a species could have survived all this time. Now imagine a long time ago they practiced their own brand of survival by means of magic. A magic so ancient that we have forgotten all about it. In a chronicle of books we trace this race to it's origin and evolution. "In a Kingdom long hidden away existed a community that lived by philosophical truths".
And hidden secrets that were passed down through one of their lines of Priest.
Ebbard is a sloth of thirteen. He's being trained by his 'grandfather' Malik to take over as the master magician for their community. It appears Malik acts as the guide, priest, of the community. One who teaches through sermon-like lessons at the daily sunrise ceremony. However, in the last few pages we learn of a secret. It would seem Malik knew the human great-great grandfather of the character who has translated this story. Why and how we don't know as the story ends with Ebbard bringing about a fog to hid his community from some danger.
Here's the main disappointment...the story is left unfinished. The cover does carry "Book I The Secret" however, this still needed something a little more. Perhaps telling us what it was Ebbard was hiding the community away from, some story question answered. As it is, I feel like I've read a proposed storyline, a first draft waiting to be fleshed out.
Sadly, I've been unable to find anything more by the author or any more books under the series name "The Sloth Chronicles" or the author. I'm hoping this review finds its way to him/her and maybe we'll learn more.
Written By C.S. Davidson
Illustrations By Berin Uriegas
What do you get when you have one hungry frog, one smart ant, and a whole lot of dragonflies? You and your child zooming, buzzing, crawling, squashing, and gobbling as you giggle your way through “Bad Dragonflies.”
In “Bad Dragonflies,” Ant teaches Gus, the hungry frog, just why frogs have such long tongues, while saving herself from becoming Gus’ meal.
C.S. Davidson’s “Bad Dragonflies” is an enchanting read. Berin Uriegas’ illustrations are beautiful. Together they bring a story that will have families laughing and being silly.
THE CRYSTAL ROSE
By Ruth Karas
So who doesn’t like dragons, a wise old sorcerer, a hidden prince, and a girl?
“The Crystal Rose” is both fun and tender. It is a story of a mother’s love for her son, a father’s dreams for his daughter, and the sorcerer who raises, teaches, and loves them both. There is heartache, found love, legends, and friendship.
Ms. Karas has spun a tale that fits any age. Her simplistic telling makes for an easy read that still paints a clear picture of her adventure.
Any negatives would be I would love to visit the Dragons’ homeland…okay not really a negative. I didn’t quite enjoy the passing of the years, wasn’t too clear on this happening.
“The Crystal Rose” will not disappoint and a charming addition to a family library.
SISTERS OF MISERY
By Megan Kelley Hall
Genre: Young Adult
Some Girls Have Everything. Then There Are The Jealous Ones.
Hawthorne, Massachusetts is a picture-perfect town filled with shingled houses and quaint storefronts. It’s a place where status is everything—especially at Hawthorne Academy, ruled by a secret clique of popular, powerful girls known as the Sisters of Misery.
Fifteen-year-old Maddie Crane has done her best to fit in, mostly for her mother’s sake. But then her beautiful cousin Cordelia LeClaire arrives in town, stirring envy and suspicion, and setting in motion a terrible sequence of events. Because Hawthorne is a town filled with secrets, and they are coming to light again…
I believe we’ve all heard that girls can be worse than boys when it comes to cliques and accepting others into their established folds. I remember one woman I worked with stating “How come a new guy comes to the office and all the men take him out for lunch or drinks after work. A new woman comes to the office and every female sits back to see where she fits in.” And how many movies and books, even news stories, do we know centre around someone doing anything to be in with the “in” crowd.
What happens when the new girl doesn’t care? And the new girl is vastly different than anyone in the small town. And, of course, the new girl attracts the attention away from the popular, powerful Sisters of Misery.
I did not expect the story to unfold as it did. I wasn’t expecting the ending. Frankly, everything within these pages went in directions I never imagined. Consider me spoiled (ruined?) by the sameness of other storylines with basic characters…good girl who’s awkward with her “in” friends, makes friends/cousin/sister/whomever who is way outside the “in” group. Arguments happen, pranks pulled, this, that, and the other thing until justice is served and either the bad one is punished or they’re all friends in the end.
Nope, there’s something disturbing happening between these pages. It’s haunting. It’s unsettling. It’s time to try and figure out just who we should be more afraid of…who’s more frightening…more powerful.
While having much the same as most teen dramas, Sisters of Misery also treads along the lines of dark fiction without the lightness found in too many tales today. This I like.
In fact, I liked it so much and was intrigued enough to buy Megan Kelley Hall’s The Lost Sister.
In Search of the Light is Leonard's first children's book.
IN SEARCH OF THE LIGHT is a 1,500-word children’s picture book for ages 4 and up. The rhyming dialogue tells an enchanting story of animals in the meadow who experience a sudden eclipse of the sun. Not knowing what has happened, they believe that somehow the sun has lost its way, and they are concerned that it could mean the end of light.
Considering the situation to be most urgent, they form an expedition of four who journey to unknown places in search of the source of the light...
...The story opens children and adults to a magical and childlike world of innocence where a beautiful and simple message of truth is revealed. This uplifting, suspenseful adventure invites an independence of spirit, encouraging the return to love and oneness and strength within.
IN SEARCH OF THE LIGHT is beautifully illustrated by Italian illustrator, Fiammetta Dogi, who lives in Florence.
The first thing I noticed, and so will you, is the beauty of Fiammetta Dogi's illustrations. They are brilliant in colour and the quality of A Conscious Living Publication's product highlights Ms. Dogi's talent.
As you know, we all read differently and therefore mix differently with books. I'm struggling with not mixing with what I believe is the author's message versus how the story reads...which for me is a bit confusing. With that in mind, I would like to try and move away from that aspect and just talk about the adventure.
I enjoyed the beginning and the move into the dark forest. History is filled with stories on how humans have tried to explain a solar eclipse. The end of the world, the god(s) of the universe being angered, the fear of the unknown. I found this telling straightforward enough for any child to understand and follow the story's characters.
Chapter three lost me. The author's message is too vague and too much a left turn. Again, only my opinion, but one thing I believe we forget when writing for children...keep it simple, keep being straightforward with them. I'm also realizing my editor's hat in pushing through to override my reviewer's hat. So, allow me to bring in my split personality here, for just a moment:
Reviewer...message was lost...simple story, sidetrack on adventure, wish it was more because I was enjoying the pictures being painted. The idea of being different could have been explored.
Editor...needed more explanation to lead readers in the direction intended.
The ending, I'm unsure. For me...and whether it's the reviewer/reader in me or the editor, it's the same feeling...I miss how it ties up with the beginning, a solar eclipse. I keep wishing the sun had come alive as a character to help the main characters.
I've always said that because I don't mix with a book doesn't mean you won't. "In Search of the Light" will visually grab any reader. If kept lighthearted in the reading, younger children should enjoy the adventure paired with the illustrations.
GHOST FOR RENT
By PENNY LOCKWOOD
First it’s separating parents, then moving (out of the city, no less) and now her new home is haunted??? What is eleven year-old Wendy to do? Solve the mystery of the haunting ghosts, of course.
This is the simple basis for “Ghost for Rent.” However, there is more here than first meets the eye. Ms. Lockwood explores the emotions of one child; as Wendy deals with annoyance, hurt, anger, fear, not being believed, to finally being accepted. Emotions we adults tend to forget are very strong in our young. Emotions I can remember running through on a weekly basis with my childhood friends. However, I never lived in a haunted farmhouse. Wish I had.
It is the ghost story that brings Wendy and her teasing brother together. Even when their mother refuses to acknowledge what her own eyes are showing her, Wendy and her brother become more determined to uncover why these spirits are still here.
Why do ghosts haunt? What chains them to their old homes? Sorry, I’m not about to tell you, but the ghosts in “Ghost for Rent” will haunt you in more ways than one.
“Ghost for Rent” entertains on different levels. It is a read that brought me back to my own childhood and what I loved to read at Wendy’s age, a spooky tale with just enough scare without the horror. As an adult it’s a refreshing fright from the more sensual scares that seem to be the norm, today. More importantly, as a mother I can’t wait to share “Ghost for Rent” with my daughter and introduce her to the fun of being scared.
Thank you, Ms. Lockwood; I hope you revisit Wendy and friends.
BUBBA AND GIGANTO: ODDS AGAINST US
By: Lea Schizas
Publisher: 4RV Publishing
Everyone needs a friend.
Bubba is starting another new school with the same old expectations. What he discovers, and what parents will relearn, is that each and every one of us is as unique as we are similar.
Bubba has a chip on his shoulder, he’s learned to keep one in order to survive his many school changes. He knows he’s the new kid and what to expect from those who rule the school. No, it’s not the teachers or principal, but the leader-kids who rule the school halls and surrounding grounds. And, Bubba has just bumped into, maybe, the biggest of them all.
What’s the old saying, never judge a book by its cover, well Bubba and his friend, Giganto (David) discover this very important aspect of friendship. Along the way they will also discover that fear is the greatest bully.
Having no sons, I am assuming that boys learn quite a few life lessons during sports. That the playing field is a levelling field where everyone can be equals, not always, but sometimes. Ms. Schizas’ levelling field is the soccer (apologies to my nephews and brother in Scotland, football) field. Because my one nephew is a soccer/football coach, I very much want to pass this book to him. Ms. Schizas has written a story that any coach/teacher/parent can use to open talks with boys, all children, about being themselves and standing for themselves and others. Her book offers a look through a young man’s eyes and how he discovers himself.
While reading, I was reminded of the movie “My Bodyguard.” The movie starred Matt Dillon, Chris Makepeace, and Adam Baldwin (no relation to that family). This movie brought the misunderstood large and largely ignored student together with the new guy as they confronted the school bully. However, in Ms. Schizas’ tale, the school bully is allowed to learn from his actions and not just defeated for the ‘good laugh.”
While, “Bubba and Giganto: Odds Against Us” is directed for the young men in our lives, it is a story for us all.
Thank you, Ms. Schizas.
SEARCHING FOR A STARRY NIGHT (A Miniature Art Mystery)
By Christine Verstraete
Move over Trixie Beldon and look out Nancy Drew.
Ms. Verstraete has created a new addition to any child’s library, thirteen year-old Samantha Ann Carlton, and she is as curious as any tween/teen sleuth I’ve ever read.
In "Searching for a Starry Night," Sam, her friend Lita, and Sam’s mom are looking for the miniature reproduction of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. This small-scale picture is one of the treasures in her late Aunt Hilda’s collection. It is worth $225 and someone has taken it.
Samantha has decided it is up to her and Lita to find the thief and get the picture back for her mom and the museum.
I grew up reading Trixie, Nancy, Hardy Boys, and the Famous Five and I look forward to my daughter reading "Searching for a Starry Night." Ms. Verstraete maintains the same level of interest and mystery that my childhood favourites contained.
She also uses "Searching for a Starry Night" as an unique vehicle in presenting the hobbies -- dollhouses and miniature paintings. I’m intrigued.
Her characters are never obnoxious know-it-alls; however, they are not cutesy perfect. They remind me of some girls around my own neighbourhood…imaginative, personable, and mischievous. Sam and Lita even have their arguments and require their own time to work their thoughts out…something some adults forget tweens need.
And I can’t forget Petey, the one year-old Dachshund; he adds just the right mix of humour and trouble.
"Searching for a Starry Night" is, in my opinion, a fun way to spend time reading with any child and also introduce them to new hobbies.
PRAIRIE DOG COWBOY
By V. Gilbert Zabel
Publisher: 4RV Publishing LLC
Family, everyone child needs one.
Buddy is a little boy with big dreams; he wants to be a cowboy when he grows up. Like all children, all he needs is encouragement, love, and time…too bad that’s missing from his life. His father tries. His older brother ignores him. His mother hates him. Thank goodness for neighbour Caleb and his family.
Starting in the winter of 1899 and moving through to the summer of 1912, “Prairie Dog Cowboy” is one child’s journey from neglected insignificance to acceptance to belonging. It is also a quiet reminder that we all matter, that we do make a difference.
Ms. Zabel’s touching story is a delight for any age. At times I was reading a cattle raising, horse breaking, do-what-needs-doing western-set story and, at another time, a child’s story reminiscent of “Little House on the Prairie” (boy style).
There was always a level of disquiet just under the surface of Buddy’s tale. How could his mother blame him, from infanthood onwards, for her unsatisfactory life? Why didn’t his father do more? Who loves Buddy? Yet, even through this there was strength, love, hope, and Buddy.
Buddy is an exceptional character. We meet him at age 5 and leave him at age 18. Throughout these years we are allowed to watch him grow from a wishing, eager, trusting child to a solid, compassionate, thinking young man. There’s something about Buddy that speaks volumes and inspires his readers to do more for those around them.
Ms. Zabel is a remarkable storyteller.