Category: Books

Picture Book Review: “Meeow and the Blue Table”

Picture Book Review: “Meeow and the Blue Table”

Meeow and the Blue Table
Author: Sebastien Braun
ISBN: 9781907152153
Publisher: Boxer Books
Age Range: 2-4
Grade Level: Preschool
Amazon Synopsis: Meeow, the irresistibly clever cat created by bestselling author-illustrator Sebastien Braun, is back and ready to play! Like every young child, Meeow loves to make things. So what will he do with a blue table, a red blanket, and lots of wooden blocks? Why, turn them into an amazing castle, of course! Meeow’s friends Quack, Moo, Baa, and Woof are delighted–and young readers will be enchanted, too. What will Meeow inspire THEM to do?

My thoughts

Meeow and the Blue Table encourages creativity and imagination, as opposed to spending a rainy day in front of the television and/or on electronic tablets! With just a few arts and crafts materials, the friends are all set for a fun day – rain or not! The emphasis on free-play and using your imagination is so important at this young age.

This is a perfect book for toddlers who will enjoy the brightly colored illustrations, and the storyline encourages participation. I loved how every animal has his/her own part – duck makes a paper hat and a bow, Lamb makes a shield and a dragon, Dog makes a helmet and a sword, and Cow makes a hat and cape.  Using toys and comfort items from around the house (blankies and building blocks) the friends create their very own castle and kingdom.

Meeow and the Blue Table is a simple, creative tale that will inspire many playtime adventures for kids – adults will recall fond playtime memories of their own. Perfect left-brain motivation!

About the Author:

Sebastien Braun studied fine arts in Strasbourg, France. His first two books, I Love My Mummy and I Love My Daddy (Boxer Books, 2005), have been hugely successful all over the world. Since then, Sebastien has gone on to create many more books for children. He lives in Gloucestershire with his wife and two young sons.

Note: I obtained a copy of this book to review from my local library.

Book Review – The Eclipse Dancer

Book Review – The Eclipse Dancer

The Eclipse Dancer
Laura Koerber
Who Chains You Books (2018)
ISBN 9781946044402
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (1/19)

Soul-stirring and bewitching. “The Eclipse Dancer” by Laura Koerber is an enchanting story that carried me away to another world for just a few days but will linger in my thoughts for some time to come.

Summary

While people flock to Allenburg to catch the total eclipse of the sun, Andy is content to watch from her old family home, a single-wide trailer just outside of town. As the sky blackens to complete darkness Andy abandons her cares and loses herself in dance. Just one night of respite taken to escape her current circumstances. Home tending to her dying mother, memories of her prior life in Allenburg ignite, bringing Andy face-to-face with the moments that shaped her forever.

My thoughts.

To begin, this is one of the most captivating stories I have read recently. The author has an extraordinary talent transporting readers directly into her story. Her voice is distinct and rich with tones both inviting and unsettling at the same time. The reader floats along with Andy as she dances under the eclipse and falls quickly back to earth with her reflections of days gone by. Are the recollections are real or the wild imagination of a young girl?

It is through the recall of these memories and events, readers learn about Andy and her turbulent upbringing with an alcoholic mother, who informs Andy early on that her father was a nobody, a one-night stand. Andy finds out the truth about her father and her own heritage through her new friend Kenshi and the old lady that lives down the road, who turns out to be a relative.

The story.

The storyline is simple in that it is easy to follow. Yet, intricate as layers unwind with a seamless, melodic flow.  And, while the author excels at getting inside the heart and soul of her readers, the connection garnered by what remains unsaid is remarkable. The writing is descriptive and artistic, without being flowery or overdone. She leaves just enough room to incorporate snippets of one’s own imagination. Some things are just not taught and Koerber’s writing is one of those things–she has a gift.

The characters.

The characters are well-developed and authentic to both the fairy and human worlds. The most affecting relationship is between Andy and her mother Cindy, because it shows a strained relationship at best. Koerber clearly exhibits that volatile mother-daughter connection. Body language, facial expressions and declarations that can never be taken back. As a result, I actually had a flashback of a confrontation with my own mother many years ago–talk about haunting!

Conclusion

Overall, combining elements of fantasy with hard-core human issues relevant in today’s world, Koerber takes the reader on a magical journey as down-to-earth as it is out-of-this-world.  I highly recommend “The Eclipse Dancer” by Laura Koerber to fantasy fans and anyone wanting to lose themselves in an amazing, unforgettable story.

Picture Book Review – We Forgot Brock!

Picture Book Review – We Forgot Brock!

We Forgot Brock!
Author: Carter Goodrich
ISBN: 978-1442480902
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (August 25, 2015)
Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 3

Amazon Synopsis

The importance of imaginary friends is very real in We Forgot Brock! a picture book adventure from the author of Say Hello to Zorro! and lead character designer for Despicable MeFinding Nemo, and Monsters, Inc.

Phillip and Brock are best friends. Everyone can see Phillip, but only Phillip can see Brock. A night at the Big Fair is all fun and games until Phillip gets sleepy, heads home, and forgets Brock!

Brock misses Phillip. And Phillip misses Brock. Will they reunite? With the help of another pair of pals, they just might. Because even imaginary friends get lost sometimes. Finding them is part of the adventure.

My review

What a fun book! The narrator tells a heartwarming story of unconditional friendship and the unique bond of imaginary friends. It’s so fun to get lost in a good story. Especially one that impresses upon kids without preaching or moralizing them to death.  The “lesson” in We Forgot Brock applies to both parents and children, doing two things:  a.) stresses upon parents the significance of imaginary friends and, b.) provides an entertaining adventure for kids that also promotes acceptance – that “imaginary friends” are okay.

Best friends

Throughout the story we see Phillip and his imaginary friend Brock, doing all the things best friends do together – playing outside, riding their bikes, or just being silly, laughing and joking with each other in the living room.  In Brock, Phillip has a confidant – someone who is there for him no matter what. And, when the unthinkable happens, the strength of their friendship is realized ten-fold.

Phillip’s parents can’t see Brock, of course, but I love how they support their son, going along with Phillip and his interactions with Brock, as an example in the picture below:

“At dinner, Phillip might say something like, ‘Brock would like some more, please!’ But his mom only pretends to give Brock seconds.”

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/91N7VXej4FL.jpg

The pictures could tell the story without any words – they are PERFECT!  The drawing of Phillip ROFL when Brock does something funny is absolutely hilarious and made me laugh out loud.

When Phillip realizes Brock got left behind at the fair, the drawings portray the real-life, gut-wrenching agony he goes through. You remember that moment in your life when you lost a best friend or some other significant horrible event, right?

All of the pictures are spot-on.  I especially loved how the author drew the imaginary friends, Brock in black-and-white and Princess Sparkle Dust in purple-and-white, while everything else is in color, separating the “real” world from the “make-believe.” Princess Sparkle Dust is the imaginary friend of Anne, a little girl Phillip meets while searching for Brock. I’m not gonna tell you how the story ends!

For a heartwarming story with just enough suspense and drama for your little adventurers, We Forgot Brock by Carter Goodrich is an excellent choice for books about the bond, the importance and the comfort of unconditional friendship.

The author leaves us with a little treat at the end – on the page opposite the back flap, Phillip’s mom is vacuuming and finds Brock’s hat.  As she’s looking at it you can almost hear her asking herself, “Could he be real?”  I highly recommend “We Forgot Brock” – Love it!

About the Author

Carter Goodrich has illustrated eighteen New Yorker covers and was the lead character designer for Brave, Ratatouille (for which he won the International Animated Film Society’s Annie Award for character design), and Despicable Me.  He has designed characters for many other beloved animated films, including Finding Nemo; Monsters, Inc.; and Open Season. Of the films he has worked on, four have gone on to win Academy Awards.  A Rhode Island School of Design graduate, he has twice been awarded the gold medal from the Society of Illustrators in New York.  His other picture books include Say Hello to Zorro!, Zorro Gets an Outfit, Mister Bud Wears the Cone, A Creature Was Stirring, and The Hermit Crab. Carter Lives in Los Angeles, California.

Further reading on the topic of imaginary friends

For more information about the role of imaginary friends, check out this article on The Conversation: How imaginary friends could boost children’s development – Dec. 12, 2018

Review copy

I obtained a copy of this book for review from my local library.

Let’s Talk about Star Ratings

Let’s Talk about Star Ratings

What’s Up with Star Ratings?

Much like judging a book by its cover, I find star ratings to be highly subjective, and I really don’t like “assigning” a number to a book I’ve just read.  I find the coveted 5-Star-Review to be a bit over-rated – in my mind it’s the content of the review that matters most. 

I read and edit a substantial number of reviews each year for Reader Views, and there is nothing more baffling to me than reading a review laden with critiques that somehow scores a 4 or 5 star rating.  Gee, the plot was full of holes and the characters were like cardboard cut-outs, but I highly recommend this book as a 5-Star read!  What?  Likewise, I don’t think a book necessarily merits a 2 star review just because the reader didn’t like the story – there has to be more than that.  For me, 2 star issues include a lack of readability, numerous grammatical errors, character development issues, stagnant plot and dialogue issues, etc.

The Magic Numbers?

I personally assign star ratings based on the following scale:
5 Stars – Excellent
4 Stars – Very Good
3 Stars – Good
2 Stars – Fair
1 Star – Need a bit of work

I just want to point out that 3 stars is a good review!  I think the mind-set of everyone in the industry today is that if a book doesn’t rate 4 or 5 stars it isn’t any good. I totally disagree with this line of thinking!  A good review is a good review.  Not every book you read is going to be great or blow your mind, but there are a lot of good books that will leave an impression. 

When I read a book, whether for pure enjoyment, to learn a new skill, expand my knowledge, or for a literary contest, I want to feel a connection to that book. Be it fiction or non-fiction, humorous or biographical, when I finish a book it is the connection I make with all points of the book that will determine the number of stars.

What are your thoughts on star ratings?

Originally published for Reader Views.

Book Review – How to be the REAL You

Book Review – How to be the REAL You

HOW TO BE THE REAL YOU
Darity Wesley
Lotus Wisdom Publishing (2018)
ISBN 9780999542521
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (1/19)
This article first posted on ReaderViews.Com.

“How To Be the REAL You” is the second book in the ‘Modern Day Oracle Wisdom Teaching Series’ by Darity Wesley. A meaningful, significant guide – the book provides genuine and heartfelt wisdom to use on your journey, be it the path to self-discovery, personal empowerment, a deeper spiritual connection, emotional growth, or all of the above.

Wait! What??? Aren’t I Already ME?

I knew this would be the perfect book for me after reading the title of the first chapter: “Wait! What??? Aren’t I Already ME?” because that is the EXACT question I asked when I picked up the book! Darity answers yes, of course you are you.  But then she goes on to ask what if the person you think you are isn’t the REAL you – the genuine you – the authentic you?  This book expertly leads you through the process of discovering that authentic self, using the steps called ‘The Five Keys to Unlocking the REAL You’.

The Five Keys

‘The Five Keys’ involve accepting yourself, losing the past, allowing yourself to be vulnerable, stop caring what others think and being open and honest.  Familiar with personal discovery work, this text feels relatable and fresh. But, more importantly, it is inviting and encouraging.  What I love most about the narrative is that Darity writes like she is talking to you directly.  Her warm and engaging tone floats off the pages. I often felt like she was in the room with me, having a cup of tea and chatting – my own personal life coach!

There are so many ‘aha’ moments in this book, and each one of ‘The Five Keys’ hits home in ways inspiring me and giving me courage to look beyond my surface.  One area I find a most meaningful connection with personally is in the final key – Be Open and Honest.

This key IS key in creating an authentic connection with oneself, and I spent a lot of time on this chapter.  I consider myself an honest person. In fact, my facial expressions, the way I carry myself, my whole being transforms if I even consider telling a story.  Let’s just say I’m not very good at poker. That’s a good thing on some levels, right? What do I excel at, however, is deceiving myself and there is a story included in this chapter that hits home a little too closely! 

Self-Discovery Prompts

The final section of the book is a self-discovery journal with prompts on each page to help you along.  This is a great place to get started on your own journey, as you read through each chapter or after you finish reading the book.

In Summary

Overall, I highly recommend “How To Be the REAL You” by Darity Wesley. There is also a companion guide for those wanting to dig deeper called, “How To Be the REAL You Go Deeper Workbook.” Clearly written, easy to understand and full of valuable information, it’s a book I will refer to often. Good stuff!