Friday, April 29, 2016

Dollars & sense. A kid's guide to using, not losing, money.

by Elaine Scott
illustrations by David Clark
age range: 10 years old and up

Dollars & sense is a well written guide containing the information kids should know about money, and how to responsibly use it. Starting from bartering and others mediums of exchange before currency, it goes all the way to how to manage your own money, covering a great variety of concepts like economy, debt, loans, credits, interest, profits, checking and savings accounts, credit cards, investment, and many more. 

I found the text accessible, accompanied by many pictures, fact boxes, and some graphics. I wish it were more colorful, since the white, black and green presentation gives it a more "serious" appearance than it seems to have been the main idea. But in the overall I liked the book and would recommend it.

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The frog that lost his croak

by Anne Toole
illustrated by Richa Kinra
age range: 4 to 7 years old

This is the story of a little frog who loved to hear his own croak more than anything. He croaked louder, and louder, over other frogs' croaks. He croaked even at night, making impossible to sleep. He also loved to boast about his croak.
One day he got soaked in the rain and lost his croak. He was desperate, but nothing could be done except to rest and wait. In this forced silence he discovered diverse sounds around him: crickets chirping, leaves rustling, wings flapping. How many beautiful sounds he has been missing, only worried about hearing his own croak!
Frog's voice came back, and he was glad of being able to croak again, but he also enjoyed listening to the pond's sounds.

Cute story told in a rhymed and fluid text. The vocabulary is rich, but not necessary over challenging for the age range. The pages look gorgeous, with colorful illustrations. We played making the noises the frog discovers, and we also kept silent to find out new sounds around the house, and it was really funny.

I received this book from the author via Bostick Communications in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Bedtime for Batman

by Michael Dahl
illustrated by Ethen Beavers
age range 2 years old and up

Fantastic bedtime story for superheroes' fans!
Every activity in the boy's bedtime routine is told in the a comic fashion. Batman gets the signal: dad points at the clock; Batman gets ready for the action: the boy wears his pajamas. Batman locks away the villains, the boy puts away his toys.

I found this book cute and original. The illustrations are colorful, and the layout allows to follow both stories, Batman's and boy's, in a perfect way. And very important: Batman pictures are faithful to the original. Nobody would like a Batman who doesn't look like a Batman!

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The night the stars went out

text and illustrations by Suz Hughes
age range: 2 to 6 years old
Capstone Young Readers

Alien has the very important job of keeping the stars shiny. It's a full time job. He doesn't even have time to make friends or have fun. Despite all his efforts, one day the stars just went out. That was catastrophic! All he tried to fix it failed, so the Star HelpLine suggested to get some magic varnish at planet Earth. His arrival was a little troubled, since aliens float on Earth, but luckily he met a boy named George who happily helped him to make his way to the hard store and buy all the magic varnish they could carry. George also invited Alien to play with him, and they had a great time together. Alien couldn't believe how much fun was to have a friend! He felt so happy! And then he saw the night full of bright stars. He realized friendship was all the varnish he needed. It was time to came back to his planet, but George and Alien promised to be friends for ever, to grant a shiny, glowing, sparkling sky in the night.

Beautiful story about the importance of friendship to keep us healthy and bright. The text is simple enough to be read to toddlers too. I also loved the illustrations, colorful, smart, and sometimes crayon-like. As far as I know this is Hughes first book as author besides illustrator, and it's wonderful.

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 25, 2016

That's not Fair! Getting to know your rights and Freedoms

by Danielle S. McLaughlin
illustrated by Dharmali Patel
CitizenKid series
Kids can press
age range: 7 and up

Set in City, this book tells in six short stories how Mayor Moe and the Councillors try to solve the city's problems with new laws, how sometime these new laws have unexpected consequences,  how every single law has an impact in citizen's rights and freedoms granted by democracy, and how difficult can be sometimes know what it's really fair. In a way easy to understand by kids, laws such as freedom of religion, the right to privacy and the right of equal treatment are explained.
Kids are strongly encouraged to think critically each time they think something is unfair, trying to answer questions like "Why was the law made? Will it work? Could there be unexpected results?"

I really loved this book, and think its approach is amazing. Usually topics related to politics and citizenship are not kids' first choice, but I would say "That's not fair!" it's a winner. I'm glad not only I read this book, but I discovered through it the CitizenKid series.

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Oliver saves the nature center

Oliver Saves The Nature Center: An engaging introduction to ecology and environmentalism - Andrew V Kranichfeld, Tobin Sally
by Andrew Kranichfeld
illustrated by Sally Tobin
age range: 9 to 12 years old

Great read for Earth Day!
Oliver is an environmental educator at a nature center. Today he is planning to work at the pond. When he is walking on the wooded path, he hears someone talking to him. He can't see anyone near, and imagine his surprise when he discovers a big red and black painted turtle is the one talking to him!
The turtle is seeking for Oliver's help to save the nature center and her habitat. She explains to Oliver how the garbage, the cars, and other hazards are affecting the animals and the environment. She also asks Oliver to fix the greenhouse, abandoned long time ago.
Lots of people joins Oliver in the hard, but worthy work, of saving the nature center, and the results are amazing.

The story is entertaining and brings up many environmental issues. It's written in a easy to understand way, and includes a good amount of beautiful illustrations. At the end you will find activities, such as crosswords,  word search and jumble letters, plus a list of questions meant to encourage critical thinking. A cute leprechaun is also hidden in the pictures, waiting to be discovered by the reader.

I received this copy from the author in exchange of a honest review.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Life without Nico

by Andrea Maturana
and Francisco Javier Olea
age range: 3 to 6 years old.

Maia and Nico are best friends, and of course they do what best friends do: they share, and play, and laugh. Everything is better when they are together. Now you can understand why Maia is so shocked when she knows Nico and his family are moving away for a few months due to his father studies. How will she survive?
At the beginning it was really, really hard. Maia only could feel a big emptiness. Time seemed to move so slowly. But after some time she dared to try, and a new pet appeared. Then a new friend. Even piano lessons. Maia feels much happier now, and she loves to share all of this with Nico by phone.
And finally the great day is here. Nico will be back at any moment. Will Maia have time enough to play with him now that her life is so full of new things? But as soon as she sees Nico she knows. She just knows. Nico's place in her heart is intact.

Beautiful story to help kids make sense of normal feelings we all have when things unexpectedly change. Maia learns to make the best of the situation she has to go through. It's a very encouraging story. The pictures are lovely and sweet.

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

You are my best friend

by Tatsuya Miyanishi
age range: 4 to 8 years old

Tyrannosaurus is a bully. He is cruel and selfish. Everybody runs away from him because they are terrified. But it happens one day that Tyrannosaurus falls from the cliff, and Elasmosaurus helps him out of the water just when Tyrannosaurus is about to drown. Elasmosaurus lives in the water, so he doesn't know how mean Tyrannosaurus usually is. He not only saves him, but he also heals his wounds and brings him food. They become friends, and deeply enjoy spending time together. Tyrannosaurus feels like a new dinosaur. He smiles, eats berries, and looks happy and relaxed.
One day Elasmosaurus is attacked by a nasty dinosaur from the sea. Tyrannosaurus finds him with his body all covered by bite marks. "What a terrible thing to do!" he thinks. He feels terrible. Only now he confesses to his friend that he is the cruel dinosaur everybody hates. But Elasmosaurus knows that the true Tyrannosaurus is kind, and a great friend too.

Once again, as in You look yummy! Tatsuya Miyanishi proposes a different way too see a situation. In this case he puts forward the idea of how caring about the bully is also a way to stop bullying. Because of his barbarous behavior, all Tyrannosaurus obviously gets from other dinosaurs is fear and apprehension. And although he seems totally fine with it, he only is truly happy when he finds a friend who loves him. I can perfectly envision this book as a trigger to wonderful conversations with my kids. 
The writing is different from what we are used to, but this probably has a lot to do with the translation from Japanese. The illustrations are also distinctive, but I like them very much. I'm already looking forward to future titles in this series.

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Presidential pets

The weird, wacky, little, big, scary, strange
animals that have lived in the White House.
by Julia Moberg
illustrated by Jeff Albrecht Studios
age range: 6 to 10 years old

Perfect read for the presidential year. Many different animals have lived in the White House, and not only dogs, cats and goldfish, but also elephants, horses, ponies, alligators, cows, bears, a foul-mouthed (or foul-beaked?) parrot, sheep, tigers, silkworm, and more. Each president is introduced with his pet or pets with a short poem, and then other interesting facts are provided about the pet, and the president's term.

I enjoyed the book, it is interesting and amusing. I would not recommend to read it from cover to cover in one seat, since it might weaken the effect, and become repetitive, but a couple of presidents a day sounds like a good approach. The illustrations are very humorous too. Great non-fiction option to get kids interested in social studies topics.

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The frog in the sky scraper

by Faiz Kermani
illustrated by Korey Scott
age range: 7 to 10 years old

Frijibold is one of the many frogs who live in the park's pond in the heart of New York City. But Frijibold is different. He considers himself an expert on humans. He has spent so much time listening to humans' conversations he can speak their language. The other frogs can't understand why he finds humans so interesting. And Frijibold can't understand why frogs waste their time croaking and lily pad jumping. Right now all the frogs are happily listening to Uncle Krustnut singing and playing his out-of-tune guitar. Uncle Krustnut emigrated long ago from the swamp, and all he can sing about is his childhood in there. Why would Frijibold care about the swamp? He haven't even seen it!
That's why when he hears about the Shark Fin Towers, a beautiful skyscraper opposite to the park, he can't think of anything else but moving there. He finally succeeds and moves to the apartment in the highest floor with a incredibly beautiful panoramic view of the city, but after a while things prove to be different from what he thought they would be.

I find this story original and very humorous. At the same time important topics as identity, expectations, disappointments, ethics, and environmental issues, are addressed.
I think it would work perfectly for independent readers, but might also work for a read aloud with younger/new readers. Some of the vocabulary might be challenging, but not enough as to give up on the book. The pictures are simple but cute, and I wish there were a few more.
The story includes the menu of the Mrs. Boggel's Pond Paradise Cafe and it's just hilarious. Spicy fried fly pizza, dragonfly fries, mashed moths, sugared spiderwebs, apple maggot pie, and chocolate chip crickets are only some of the many delicious options you will find!

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library

 by Julie Gassman
illustrated by Andy Elkerton
age range: 2 to 5 years old

This story provides an hilarious way to learn library manners. What does happen when you bring your dragon to the library? She knocks down the bookshelves, and takes to much space during story time. She also gets excited with a story and her flame starts to ignite!
But poor dragon really loves to read. What could we do? That's when the library card comes to the rescue!

The rhymed text is funny, and the pictures are bright and gorgeous. Although I've seen some other books similar to this, like I took my frog to the library and No T. Rex in the library, I think this is a topic that doesn't get worn out. Do not bring your dragon to the library will certainly be enjoyed by dragons and libraries lovers.

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The adventures of Lettie Peppercorn

The Adventures of Lettie Peppercorn - Sam Gayton, Poly Bernatene
by Sam Gayton
art by Poly Bernatene
age range: 8 to 12 years old

Lettie Peppercorn is 12 years old, and is the landlady of the White Horse Inn. It would be more appropriate to be the landlord's daughter, but Lettie's Da spends his days gambling and drinking at the pub. Of course Da didn't use to be like that. He changed the day he lost hope in Ma coming back. Lettie's Ma was an alchemist. Not the boring kind of alchemist who turns steel into gold, but the type who turns stones into pigeons. Ten years ago Ma vanished leaving a note for Lettie behind. In the note she says she is leaving to save Lettie's life, and that Lettie mustn't put a foot outside the house since it might kill her. Ma also promised to come back. Meanwhile this is Lettie's life, bounded in her house, bearing insolent guests, and taking care of Da, with Periwinkle the pigeon and the wind as her only friends. Until the Snow Merchant arrives to the White Horse Inn on a cold, dark, winter night, carrying the secret to the most amazing invention in his mahogany suitcase.

The adventures of Lettie Peppercorn is a magical story with many condiments in it: alchemy, adventure, a great friendship, a strange but loving family, and a recipe for making snow. Lettie will travel a long way to have her family together again, an every single page of this trip is pure amusement. This is my second book by Gayton. I read Lilliput a few months ago and also enjoyed it. Gayton's books makes me feel like reading an old book with modern words. The type of fantasy he writes and the way he braids it is his distinctive trait.
Bernatene's illustrations are beautiful, and they bring to life all the Victorian atmosphere of the book.

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Outdoor math

Outdoor Math: Fun Activities for Every Season - Emma Adb†ge, Emma Adb†ge
by Emma AdB├ąge
age range: 3 to 6

Outdoor math it's a funny guide to "play math" outside taking advantage of what the different seasons offer us. The activities are diverse: worm measuring, cloud counting, tic tac toe, make shapes with a rope, estimate number of pine cones in a pile, place little "backyard treasures" in a grid with coordinates, bowling with bottles, one-minute challenges and more. What about making a snowman on a wagon, bring it inside the house, and see how long it takes for it to melt? That has to be a lot of fun! At least for kids. Not sure about their parents...

Most of the tasks call for counting, estimating, measuring, using a watch or stopwatch, and can be done without any special equipment or too much planning.

I'm a big fan of outdoor activities, screen-free entertainment, and science fun, and this book has all of it. I have a little issue with the writing since it is too simplistic to be a guide for grown ups (parents, teachers, etc.), but it's not easy enough for children in the age range it is addressed. It's not a big deal. In the overall it's a good book.

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Herbie's big adventure

by Jennie Poh
age range: up to 5 years old

Herbie is a lovely hedgehog who was born in the last days of summer. His mom loves him, and to Herbie there's no better place than his mom's arms. 
When fall comes mom tells him it's time for an adventure by himself. Herbie is not sure about this exploration thing. What's wrong about staying at home with his mom?
He fearfully takes the first steps towards the big world, but it happens that the big world has many beautiful things in it. Herbie misses his mom, but he feels good about this foraging adventure. As the seasons go on, he learns how to solve the challenges they bring. 
When summer comes again, the warm wind blows him back home, where mom is waiting to give him a huge hug and listen all about his experience. 

This book is SO cute. The story is cute. The illustrations are cute. Herbie is a sweet character you would feel like hugging, if he weren't covered by needles, of course. 
The plot follows the well known but always successful pattern: perfect world-> move out of comfort zone-> fear-> take the plunge-> feel good about have done it-> come back home wiser. It is a great story to share in moments like before starting school or moving out. 

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Once was a time

by Leila Sales
age range: middle grade novel

Lottie Bromley and Kitty McLaughlinare are 10 years old, live in Bristol in 1940, and are best friends for ever. Lottie's father is a promising scientist working very hard to understand how time travel works. His research is specially important at this moment, since time travel could be such an important weapon during the war. And of course it can be dangerous too. Kitty, Lottie and her father confirm this when they are kidnapped by Nazi officers who are sure Mr. Bromley has revealed time travel's secret. Just when Lottie and Kitty are going to be shot by the Nazi officers, something absolutely incredible happens, Lottie sees a portal. She knows she is the only one who noticed it, and she has to decide what to do. There's not enough time to take Kitty with her. Lottie decides to go trough the portal, and ends in Sutton, Wisconsin, 2013.
A new huge challenge begins for her. She has to adapt to a new life, accept the idea she has lost her family and friends for ever, and live with the guilt of have left her best friend behind. She knows all of these are the consequences of her decision of going through the portal, but there's only one thing she is not going to give up. She will find Kitty. This plan is brought to a completely new level when a card from Kitty reaches Lottie's hands. She will find her friend even if that means travel to a different time and place.

This story has action and heart warming moments. Although time travel is a component, it is not the most important of them. That's the reason I'm not labeling it as science fiction. I think the author uses time travel as an excuse to tell a beautiful story about friendship, perseverance and the difficulties of adapting to a new situation after a life changing event.
The characters are well traced, and both, Lottie and Kitty, are really easy to relate with. The plot is smartly weaved. Along the book I found many thing that looked like inconsistencies, but everything comes to place at the end.

And talking about the end, it deserves its own paragraph. I would say it is a happy ending, but the bittersweet-happy ending type. They exist. Believe me. :) It's a hard task to explain this without giving away spoilers. Let's say it is not the "everything-is-perfect-now" type of ending, but it's a consistent and surprising one, and it makes perfect sense with the whole story.

In the overall a great middle grade novel. It's my first book by this author. I know her previous novels are YA, so probably I won't read them (I'm a bad YA reader, sorry), but I'd be interested in future middle grade novels by Sales. And again, don't let the time travel stuff prevent you form picking this story. It's not a science fiction book.

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Pink is for Blobfish

Pink Is For Blobfish: Discovering the World's Perfectly Pink Animals (The World of Weird Animals) - Jess Keating
Discovering the world's perfectly pink animals.
by Jesse Keating
illustrated by David DeGrand
age range: 6 to 9 years old

Do you think pink is only for princesses? Then you should take a look to this book! In it you will find seventeen fascinating animals such as tarantulas, river dolphins, armadillos, rat moles and uakaris; animals from 0.5 inch to 14 feet long; animals from every continent; animals who live in rivers, rain forests, ponds, swamps and underwater; all of them pink.
Many interesting facts are explained in a funny way. The books has pictures and cartoons, and also a glossary and a map at the end.

Amusing science is always welcome. Highly recommended!