Tag Archives: children’s fiction

Ann Can’t Sleep by April Peter

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Ann Can’t Sleep by April Peter, picture e-book, 21 pages, published in 2017.

Ann is having trouble getting to sleep. A toy to cuddle will help, but which one is her perfect bed-time companion?

Ann Can’t Sleep is a lovely book, perfect to share with toddlers and preschoolers at bed-time. The rhyming language is soothing to read, with short, easy words forming a fun and engaging story.

The illustrations are bright and bold; perfectly appealing to young children. I really liked all of the pictures, but I especially liked the illustrations where Ann was active and having fun with her toys. Riding the donkey is my favourite. I did notice on the page when Ann picks out the plane to sleep with, the illustration below that shows her sleeping with the doll again, instead of the plane!

This e-book is let down by its typography. The words run together on every page, and at least once, letters actually overlay each other. As an adult, it is reasonably easy to correct such errors whilst reading, but for an early reader, this would be difficult for them to decipher.

Ann Can’t Sleep is suitable for children from birth through to early primary school, and is best shared aloud.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

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Frede and Santa by Leen Lefebre

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Frede and Santa by Leen Lefebre, chapter e-book, 70 pages, published in 2017.

Frede and his family live in a small village on the edge of a large forest. Unfortunately the summer crops did not thrive, and they have entered winter in dire need of more food. Frede convinces his older brothers to travel with him to visit the Christmas village and ask Santa for help. In order to reach Santa, the three boys must traverse the forest, where an Evil Elf King lurks, just waiting for victims to come his way.

This book was first published in Dutch under the title Frede en de Kerstman. I read the English translation, though I wish I read Dutch well enough to read Frede and Santa in its original form; a translation doesn’t always do the story justice. Some of the word choices and sentence structure isn’t what one would expect from native English writers, and I had to re-read a number of parts to follow what was happening. And even then there were still a few bits I didn’t get the full meaning of. Despite this, I was able to enjoy the story well enough.

Frede and Santa is a fairytale-esque, magical adventure. The story flowed at a steady pace, but I thought the ending felt rushed and slightly disappointing. I would have liked more time spent in the Christmas village, and more time getting to know the elves and Santa. I was also expecting a rescue mission that was more involved, but due to the brevity of the story, I guess there just wasn’t time.

The three brothers were well developed characters. Frede was a spirited little fellow with his family’s best interests in his heart. I rather liked Folke and Rhune too, though they were quite different to each other. I really liked the way that the boys were described based on the seasons. The other characters felt a bit shallow, but again, there just wasn’t enough time to get to know them very well.

I don’t think that the cover suits the story. After reading the book, I pictured Frede as the son of a poor farmer with simple, well-worn, home-made clothing, rather than the modern boy on the cover.

Overall, Frede and Santa was a sweet festive read about being brave and strong for your loved ones. While the story itself is suitable for all ages, the difficulties arising with the translation make this a story better shared between adults and children.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

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Tummy Rumble Quake by Heather L. Beal

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Tummy Rumble Quake by Heather L. Beal and illustrated by Jubayda Sagor, 26 pages, picture e-book, published by Train 4 Safety Press in 2017.

Lily and Niko Rabbit, along with their childcare class, are practicing earthquake drills in the class room and outside. They learn about what an earthquake is, what it can do and how to stay safe during one.

Tummy Rumble Quake delivers information about earthquakes and earthquake safety in a way that young children can understand. It emphasises the safety aspects, and reminds the children of what to do in the event of an earthquake with a little song. It also opens the door for a discussion about these important safety procedures and allows the children to ask questions in a safe environment. I think it would be a good addition to classrooms in areas where earthquakes are common.

I had no idea what the Great ShakeOut was, so I Googled it. I assume that it is common for schools in areas prone to Earthquakes to participate in the Great ShakeOut and that the term would already be familiar to many readers there, however, the story could have been just as effective without these references.

Well, when I read Beal’s other safety picture book, Elephant Wind, I greatly disliked the illustrations, and that hasn’t changed for this book. However, the facial expressions have improved profoundly, Dylan’s arms are more in proportion and Ms Mandy’s feet are better this time round. So whilst I still don’t enjoy this style, these illustrations are an improvement.

Tummy Rumble Quake is most suitable for reading to pre-schoolers and lower primary school children.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

 

Elephant Wind by Heather L. Beal

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Elephant Wind by Heather L. Beal and illustrated by Jubayda Sagor, picture e-book, 26 pages, published by Train 4 Safety Press in 2017.

Lily and Niko Rabbit are visiting a science fair with their childcare class when the tornado siren sounds. Their teacher gets them safely into the basement and explains to the children what a tornado is, and how to stay safe during one.

Elephant Wind explains tornado safety in simple terms that children can understand. It covers what a tornado looks and sounds like, and where it is safest to take cover. There is even a little song to help the kids remember what they need to do. Overall, it is quite informative and would be useful in school and childcare settings to prepare children for such adverse weather.

I dislike the style of illustrations in this book. While they are quite detailed, they are not appealing to me at all. It’s hard to explain why, but they just feel wrong to me. I don’t like the smirking fox child, or the stumpy arms on Dylan, or the way the teacher’s feet are aligned, so maybe it’s just about proportions, but the childrens’ facial expressions don’t change to suit the story either; even when Lily is scared, she’s still got a huge smile plastered on her face. It’s just not suitable, and I think the pictures let the book down.

Elephant Wind is most suitable for reading to pre-schoolers and lower primary school children.

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Journey From Skioria by Kandi J. Wyatt

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Journey From Skioria by Kandi J. Wyatt, e-book, 140 pages, published in 2017.

After Tania is washed overboard, she awakes far from home in a world unknown to her. There she meets and befriends Trilicius and Holly, part of a group of tree-dwelling people. In order to help Tania find her way home again, they join forces with some other peoples from the nearby lands. Together they make the long journey over the mountains, along the coast, rivers and lakes, and through fields to the lands of the humans.

Journey from Skioria is by the author of the Dragon’s Future series, which was wonderful, so I was pretty excited to read her next adventure. The adventure begins within the first few pages as Tania meets Trilicius and is brought back to Skioria, where, though she is only a child, she stands as tall as the adults she meets.

While this is a fast read, it is well written, with appropriately levelled language and clear imagery. The world of Skioria is carefully crafted, immersing the reader in the forest, its people and their lifestyle. The three groups of peoples, Skiorians, Terrans and Avarians, are also well described and developed. The pace was steady, with some bursts of action. I expected more action than there was, but the developing friendships between the group members, some family secrets and discoveries still made this an exciting read.

All of the characters were interesting. Trilicius and Fil made me laugh; such a pair of jokers! It also amused me when all of Trilicius’ hair kept getting caught in the bushes as they traveled. I liked Fyrh best; he was also the one that grew the most as a character through the story. His backstory and family history, and what he learnt on the journey was a high point of the book.

I am still wondering a few things, such as how Tania ended up so far away after falling into the ocean. Also, Tania was gone for such a long time, were her parents searching for her? Did they fear the worst? Their reactions weren’t quite what I expected. Having said that, I am no longer a child myself, and probably wouldn’t have thought that way when I was!

Journey from Skioria is a heart-warming adventure suitable for middle and upper primary school students. It is also a good book to share aloud with children.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

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Book Spotlight: The Efficiency Claus by Devra Robitaille

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The Efficiency Claus comes from the author of the Muffy Dog series, and the recently released teen read, The Henge.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…. only Under-claus is on the warpath against fun and frivolity!

In a world gone mad Santa’s chief of staff, Under-claus, is trying to suck all the magic out of Christmas and digitize, organize, computerize and industrialize the North Pole. He will replace the toy factory assembly line with cyber-elves and deliver all the toys by drone. Santa will be destroyed and the world will become a sadder place for it. Under-claus simply must be stopped.

Alarik Aldrich is the supervisor of the day shift and he and his son Rooney mobilize the E.L.F., the Elf Liberation Force, to take Under-claus down and rescue Santa, but not before Under-claus forms the Efficiency Army and war is declared.

The Efficiency Claus is an improbable tale of victory over a villain of dastardly proportions; an adventure that will warm your heart and stir your soul and yes, put the magic back into Christmas. Oh……and there’s cake, lots and lots of cake.


Now get a real taste for the story with this excerpt from The Efficiency Claus.

The kitchen was a most unusual place up here in the newly renovated and efficient North Pole because Under-claus had never been there. He was scathingly patronizing about what he considered to be women’s work, he disapproved of women in fact altogether, and would have banned them if he didn’t need to eat and have his laundry clean and get his letters typed. Yes Under-claus was a selfish person, as we know by now, but in this case it served the elves well. They were able to play some music and sing, they were able to joke and laugh, as long as they weren’t too loud. And of course a lot of good cheer managed to get into the food this way.

The kitchen was a long room with a whole wall of ovens and stoves. It was very warm and bright with a golden yellow brightness that looked like home and hearth. Long tables ran the length of the room and a sheer army of glorious elven women were stirring and singing and cracking eggs into bowls. There were tall ones and small ones, plump ones and skinny ones. A plump and very pretty elf with glorious bronze curls stuffed carelessly into a hat, but falling out all over the place, was walking along the rows and, putting a friendly hand on one shoulder, she was saying, “That’s nice dear, keep stirring.” Then she’d move on to the next and dip a finger into the batter and lick it, “Mmmmm,” she was saying, “that’s delicious!” She walked to the oven and peaked in and nodded, then to the next oven and made a little sniff. “This one’s done Martha,” she said, turning to one of the women, who bustled over with big red mitts on her hands and took the steaming pudding out of the oven and put it on a copper cooling rack. The place smelled absolutely heavenly, sweet and spicy, of orange peel and cinnamon and vanilla.

Adalicia and Lyric were standing in the doorway absolutely entranced. They watched and sniffed and were transported by the lilting Irish folk song that the women were singing at the moment. Usually they would sing the songs of all their ancestors, cycling through every different elven culture. They all knew all the words. Some were even in their native tongues, Gaelic and Celtic, Sumerian and Ancient Greek. Addy couldn’t believe her eyes and ears, or for that matter her nose. The room was awash with the glory of plum pudding, and mince pies; Christmas fruit cake and sticky toffee pudding. One entire table was dedicated to cookies and gingerbread, another had all manner of fruit pies and cakes lined up. It was a sensory overload that almost made Addy and Lyric faint right there in the doorway.

Addy waved frantically at the lovely woman with the messy curls as she turned and spotted them. “Mum! Mum!” she cried losing her composure. Mrs. Blithe waved back and, wiping her hands on her apron, she made her way through the crowd of baking elves, being careful not to knock anything over or bump anyone and spoil their rhythm. Baking was a very delicate and magical art and took a lot of concentration, and of course singing, to pull off properly. Mrs. Blithe often mentioned to Mrs. Kulkarni that if the ban on music ever reached the kitchens, everyone would starve.


And something about the author…

London-born Devra is a prolific composer, songwriter and keyboardist, as well as an author of books for kids. She had a successful career as a professional musician in England, playing keyboards and touring with Mike Oldfield of ‘Tubular Bells’ fame, before moving to America in the nineties. She has been music director for several theatrical productions in Los Angeles, including a show she co-wrote, which was optioned for Broadway. Her first children’s book series is a trilogy of books about a dog named Muffy. Muffy and the Dog Catcher, Muffy’s Florida Adventure, and Muffy and the Medicine Cat are all available now on Amazon. Devra has also written a Christmas fantasy adventure book aimed at middle grade readers, The Efficiency Claus, and a sci-fi fantasy space adventure called The Dream Stealers, and her teen book, The Henge is available now. Devra now lives in Florida with her family on the Sarasota Bay. She loves to kayak and bike and is a consummate foodie.


For further information about Devra and her books, visit her Amazon author page, have a look at The Hologram Library website, or follow her on Twitter. The Efficiency Claus can be purchased here.

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Guest Post: Danica Davidson

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Danica Davidson is the author of a number of books based around the game Minecraft. Now, I’m not overly familiar with Minecraft, but my ten year old daughter loves playing it, watching videos about it, and reading informational texts and fictional stories set in the Minecraft world. You could say she is a little bit obsessed with Minecraft! And so are many of her friends. So when the opportunity of a guest post by Danica came along, I jumped on it. Now read on to learn a little about Danica’s books!

Millions of people play Minecraft, making the worlds they create come alive for them. I play Minecraft, but I also do something else: I write adventure novels that take place as if Minecraft is real.

It started as a single book, Escape from the Overworld, where an 11-year-old boy named Stevie, who lives in the Minecraft world, accidentally discover a portal to Earth. There he befriends a girl named Maison, and the two go on adventures and journeys throughout the worlds, including the Overworld, the Nether, the End and even Earth. From there, the books Attack on the Overworld, The Rise of Herobrine, Down into the Nether, The Armies of Herobrine and Battle with the Wither were released, and they’ll be coming out as a box set November 7.  Their adventures include stopping a monster attack on the school, saving Minecraft after cyberbullies hack into it and turn it into eternal night, and fighting against the evil Minecraft villain Herobrine. The books have lots of chapter cliffhangers and also discuss real-world things, like friendship and bullying.

On November 7, my spinoff series begins coming out with the book Adventure Against the Endermen, and Stevie and Maison will have new villains to fight and have to discover mysteries from ancient days in the Overworld.

It’s a totally new way to look at Minecraft, but that’s part of what makes Minecraft so fun. It encourages and allows you to create, and to create in whatever way you see fit. I love how this aspect lets kids implement their own creativity. They can literally build not only their own buildings, but their own worlds. I’m kind of doing that with these books, and I hope they can be a fun way for Minecraft fans to enjoy novels that involve their favorite video game. But I also make sure the stories are adventure stories at heart, so even if you’re not a Minecraft fan, you can still read them.  Besides having fun reading adventure stories, I hope these books can encourage kids to find their own preferred creative outlets.

 

And a little about Danica…

Danica Davidson is a a writer that has penned a series of unofficial Minecraft adventure novels. She has also written numerous articles for a range of well known publications, comics and a book on how to draw Manga art.

Her latest series of Minecraft books will be launched this month, and are suitable for primary school students.

Visit Danica on her website or Facebook. Her books can be purchased through Book Depository and Amazon.

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Guest Post: K. E. Rocha

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K. E. Rocha (Kristin) is the author of the wonderful Secrets of Bearhaven series. This exciting adventure series is suitable for upper primary school students and up. As I read the first book in the series I found myself immersed in an incredible world with cunning villains, young heroes, and bears that quickly felt like old friends. It even includes bear language developed especially for these books.

Kristin has kindly written a guest post for Today We Did to tell us a little bit about herself and why she writes.

If you had told me when I was in third grade that I would be an author one day, I would not have believed you. I know it might seem like all authors say that, but I really would have been horrified by the idea. As a third grader I was still struggling to learn to read. I had to be in special classes, working with literacy specialists, and as a result, reading and writing just felt like hard work to me.

I was in sixth grade when an author’s visit to my school inspired me to become a writer. By then I had finally caught up to my peers in reading and was enchanted (like I think most kids were and still are!) by the magical world of Harry Potter. The author at my school that day was none other than J.K. Rowling. When she read from her third Harry Potter book and talked about the incredible series she’d created I quickly realized that dreaming up worlds and people, and bringing them into existence in a story, was the coolest job I could imagine.

I wrote Secrets of Bearhaven for the reader I was in the third grade, and the one I was in the sixth grade, because it is my hope that these books will help all types of readers fall in love with reading. The vocabulary is meant to be accessible and the chapters intentionally short for less confident readers—like I was for so long. At the same time, the excitement of the adventure, and the themes of family, animal rights, and communication are intended to draw in avid readers—like the one Harry Potter helped me to become.

What’s more, I want kids to feel empowered by Secrets of Bearhaven, whether they are empowered to write their own stories and find their own voices, or empowered to stand up for what they believe in, like Spencer does in each of the four books.

I think it’s essential for kids to have the experience of being transported by reading. Stories about characters with super powers who go on otherworldly adventures are important. They allow our imaginations to fire. But at the same time, I think it’s equally important for kids to read about characters who really aren’t so different from themselves, and who still go on to do extraordinary things. Those are the stories that change us by showing us what we might be capable of.

Spencer is not blessed with any superpowers. He’s not even the fastest kid on his school baseball team, but he rises to the occasion, because the people he loves, and the animals he cares about are threatened. It’s my hope that readers see themselves in Spencer and in doing so, see how powerful the combination of courage and determination can be.

So whether your child is out there saving bears or, like third grade me, still trying to work out what’s so great about reading and writing, I hope they find the books, characters, or authors that inspire them.

And thank you Sara for inviting me to share a little about myself and what makes me so passionate about reading and writing!

Kristin

 

Visit Kristin on her website, Facebook, or Instagram. And definitely check out the Secrets of Bearhaven pages at Scholastic for more information about the books and some cool extras like learning the bear language and watching the book trailer. There are plenty of great reviews of the books on Goodreads too.

You can also purchase the books from Book Depository, and  Amazon.

 

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Brady Plays the Fiddle by Melissa Auell

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Brady Plays the Fiddle by Melissa Auell, 16 pages, picture e-book, published by Jade River Publishing in 2017.

Brady the Badger is interested in learning to play an instrument. His parents take him to a bluegrass festival where he hears some instruments being played and gets to meet the musicians.

Brady Plays the Fiddle is a sweet and lyrical story which introduces a range of string musical instruments to young children. Each instrument is played by a different animal.

The story is told through rhyme, which is best read aloud. My kids immediately asked me what bluegrass was. If I was reading this to a class, I think it would be useful to have some samples of bluegrass music for the children to listen to. And of course, if possible, the actual instruments from the story. It would make an awesome music lesson to read the book, and then try out a mandolin or a dobro!

The illustrations were very bright and reasonably simple. I think that they would appeal to young children. However, I felt that the illustrations of Brady lacked continuity between the first couple of pages and the rest of the book. This may have just been my perception as he went from being drawn from the front, to being seen side-on. His nose was also a darker shade of pink and his fur a darker grey in the later pages. I know it seems pedantic, but initially I didn’t realise that both badgers were Brady.

My favourite illustration was on the front cover; there Brady is feeling the music and obviously enjoying himself. The background to this page is expertly coloured too. It really was an excellent choice for the cover.

Brady Plays the Fiddle is a nice book most suitable for toddlers, preschoolers and lower primary school children. It is a great way to introduce these instruments to children and would make an useful addition to preschool music programs.

 

*I received this book as a digital edition from the author in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

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Secrets of Bearhaven by K.E. Rocha

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Secrets of Bearhaven by K.E. Rocha, hardback novel, 244 pages, published by Scholastic Press in 2016.

Spencer has learnt a lot about bears in his eleven years, after all, both his parents work in bear advocacy, so he has been brought up on bear facts and stories. However, nothing could prepare him for the huge secret they have been keeping.

My ten year-old read Secrets of Bearhaven before I did. Afterwards, she told me it was the best book that she had read this year! Considering how many books she rips through every week, this was quite high praise, so I read it straight away. And I agree with her, this book is excellent. It is a very fast-paced novel full of action and excitement. There is intrigue, crafty villains, and amazing technological advancements. I was hooked from the first few pages, and now both my daughter and I want more!

The world of Bearhaven is beautifully constructed down to the smallest detail. The homes, the shops, roadways and fields; it is all described so carefully that the place comes alive. And the residents of Bearhaven are all very individual with varying physical characteristics and personalities. It would be amazing to walk among them and explore their beautiful home. Rocha has created a better world for these bears, completely hidden within our own world, and it is amazing.

All of the characters are well developed and complex. Spencer is a brave and determined boy who shows strength under pressure. He is clever, innovative and very likeable. He makes an excellent lead character. But it is Kate that I loved the most. The adorably curious and mischievous baby bear that befriends Spencer from their first moments together. She was quirky and fun and made me laugh. Uncle Mark is pretty cool too! I like the way he treats Spencer and the relationship that they have.

Most suitable for upper primary and lower high school students, Secrets of Bearhaven will not disappoint. And it is only the start of Spencer’s adventures; the story continues in Mission to Moon Farm, followed by Hidden Rock Rescue and the latest release, Battle for Bearhaven. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series soon.

 

*I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

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