Picture Book Review: Book or Bell?

Picture Book Review: Book or Bell?

BOOK OR BELL?

Author: Chris Barton
Illustrator: Ashley Spires
ISBN: 9781681197296
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (2017)
Age Range: 4-8 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 2

Amazon Synopsis
The first page has Henry hooked. The second page has him captivated. The third page. . .BBBBRRRRIIIIINNNNNGGGGG!. . . will have to wait.

That is, unless Henry ignores the bell, stays put, and keeps on reading the most awesome book. By not springing up with the ringing of the bell, Henry sets off a chain reaction unlike anything his school or town has ever seen. Luckily, Mayor Wise, Governor Bright, and Senator Brilliant know exactly what the situation calls for:

A louder bell. MUCH louder.

My Review

Okay, let me just start by saying Book or Bell? is my new all-time favorite picture book.  Henry finds a good book and just wants to read, but life (or school in his case), just keeps getting in the way. We can all relate to that, right?

An Argument for Independent Thinking

Now, Henry always does what he is supposed to do but, this book is so good he finally makes a decision that he is not going to jump up every time the bell rings and chooses instead to quench his need to read. Nothing gets in the way of his reading because he has found “the most awesome book!”  

The adults in the story don’t quite know what to make of Henry just staying put and the carefully constructed routine of the school day is thrown entirely off-kilter because of this. The only thing they come up with is a louder and louder bell, but this doesn’t deter Henry at all!

A True Bibliophile

Henry is a true hero to bibliophiles everywhere and book lovers of all ages will love this brilliant story. What a great character! I love how totally absorbed he gets with his book in spite of the chaos surrounding him.  Hey, we readers have to do whatever it takes! Hopefully it won’t persuade kids that it’s okay to do whatever you want, but you’ve got to admire his determination!

The writing is absorbing, captivating and builds suspense.  Young readers will get a big kick out of the single-minded way the adults try to take control of the situation! Anticipation builds as the story progresses – what is to be done about Henry? The pictures are so funny and dramatic, providing a deeper dynamic to the written words – great team effort!

Overall

Book or Bell? is a fabulous story that will genuinely excite young readers!  I laughed out loud several times.  Of particular interest is the ending and what Henry learns from the book he reads – reading becomes much more than entertainment – this book teaches him a new skill!  Love it!

About the Author

Chris Barton is the author of picture books including bestseller Shark Vs. Train, Sibert Honor-winning The Day-Glo Brothers, and Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions, included on 19 state reading lists. His newest books include Dazzle Ships, the Mighty Truck early-reader series, and What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. Chris and his wife, YA/middle-grade novelist Jennifer Ziegler, live in Austin, Texas, where Chris has advocated for greater diversity in children’s literature by cofounding the Modern First Library program with BookPeople.

Review Copy

I obtained a copy of this book to review from my local library. I’m reading and blogging my way through 500 picture books. Need a picture book review? Contact me!

“Writing for Bliss: A Companion Journal”

“Writing for Bliss: A Companion Journal”

WRITING FOR BLISS: A COMPANION JOURNAL
Diana Raab
Loving Healing Press (2019)
ISBN 9781615994274
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (2/19)

“Writing for Bliss: A Companion Journal” by Diana Raab is the perfect complement to her book, “Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life.” Having read the book, I was eager to dive into the companion journal.

When the author was ten years old, she was given a journal by her mother to help her cope with the death of her grandmother. She has been journaling ever since. Diana Raab views journaling as her spiritual practice, providing a path to identify her priorities, an outlet for self-discovery and examination, and a way to be alone with her thoughts. 

Structured yet free-flowing.

In this companion journal, Raab provides readers with structured space to explore the world of journaling and the benefits it provides with regular practice. As with her book, the companion journal guides the reader through the process of writing for transformation and bliss.  I say structured space but feel I must clarify. The structure is in the way the book is presented, divided into different categories. From self-awareness to recalling memories, examining your life, writing about relationships and difficult subjects, writing using different devices and writing for joy and expression, the topics cover everything you need on your journey.

Remember, it’s a journey.

As this is an actual journal, it is not a book to be read through in a week.  Work at your own pace – unwrap the layers buried within yourself as you are ready.  I had a plan when I first opened the book – which included starting at the beginning and going through the exercises in order to the end. I quickly found there were some areas I was not mentally capable of exploring – yet. To me, that is part of the beauty of self-discovery. It’s not easy – it takes time, a steady practice and a commitment to see it through.

When I let go of my perfectionist tendencies and approached the entries as a tool for growth and not a “writing assignment” it was an entirely different experience. And, though I’m still not writing every day, keeping this journal on my night stand encourages me to pick it up and write whenever I need a moment to collect my thoughts or even just slow down for a bit.

Overall

“Writing for Bliss: A Companion Journal” by Diana Raab will appeal to a wide audience and is a worthy guide for all levels of writers. Whether you are looking of a place to begin your writing journey, are experimenting in different ways of healing, are interested in writing memoir, or an experienced writer wanting to get back to your roots – the thoughtful, inspirational guidance found in these pages will help you achieve your goals.

Review Copy

WRITING FOR BLISS: A COMPANION JOURNAL
Diana Raab
Loving Healing Press (2019)
ISBN 9781615994274
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (2/19) 
Disclosure in Accordance with FTC Guidelines 16 CFR Part 255

Picture Book Review: “If I Could Drive, Mama”

Picture Book Review: “If I Could Drive, Mama”

If I Could Drive, Mama

Author: Cari Best
Illustrator: Simone Shin
ISBN: 9780374302054
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2016)
Age Range: 4-6 Years
Grade Level: Preschool – 1

Amazon Synopsis:

When Charlie turns a plain cardboard box into a zippy new car, he can’t wait for Mama to have the first ride. He adjusts the mirror, checks to be sure there is enough gas, and reminds Mama to buckle up. Then off they go―REV REV VROOM! There are places to visit and bumps along the way. There is even a traffic jam! By the time they return home, Mama is exhausted, but Charlie can’t wait for her nap to be over so he can drive her someplace else.

My Review

This is an adorable story about a little boy who wants to take his mother to all of her favorite places (around their home) in his new car. In the story, Mama and Charlie spend the day together in an imaginative role-reversal setting, visiting the dress shop (mom’s closet) that has all the right-sized clothes; the library (living room) with its massive bookshelf full of books; the playground (backyard), etc. After a busy day, while Mama naps, Charlie washes his new car, getting it ready for the next adventure.

Memories

For me, the story carries sweet sentiments of days past, when my own son was an imaginative little boy, and that sweetness permeates throughout the book. The mother-son relationship – an unshakeable love and bond.

The Characters

Charlie takes center stage, as he should. His delightful imagination is fun, creative, and takes “playing grownup” to another level. Mom is a great sidekick and Dad even makes an appearance, but it’s clear that Charlie is in charge of the story, doubling as the narrator.

The Writing

Overall, the writing is good, I love the storyline and the concept. It was, however, just a bit choppy for me. There are too many dialogue tags that make it a bit confusing and redundant, for example:

I say, “Which one would you like?”
And you say, “The one with pink and green.”
“That’s my favorite, too!” I say. “You can wear it to
Charlie’s Diner, which is where we are going for lunch.”

It’s a matter of preference, I think, and while it certainly doesn’t kill the story for me, I maintain it would be less confusing without all the tags.

Subtle Lessons

There are subtle lessons about car safety, sprinkled throughout the story, such as adjusting the car mirror, checking the gas level, buckling up, using turn signals, etc. These “lessons” are introduced in such a manner that kids can pretend to perform all these actions along with Charlie while they listen to the story.

The Illustrations

The illustrations are soft and muted and sets a comfortable mood and setting for the story. Charlie is an adorable toddler and his sparkle and energy jump off the pages. The pictures of the various rooms in the home and yard create the cozy feel of a child comfortable in his environment.

Overall

Overall, “If I Could Drive, Mama” is a delightful story that sparks the imagination and is a fun, creative adventure.

About the Author

Cari Best is the author of Three Cheers for Catherine the Great! She grew up in New York City and lives in Weston, Connecticut.

Review Copy

I obtained a copy of this book to review from my local library. I’m working my way through 500 picture books. Need a picture book review? Contact me!

Picture Book Review: “This is a Good Story”

Picture Book Review: “This is a Good Story”

This is a Good Story

Author: Adam Lehrhaupt
Illustrator: Magali Le Huche
ISBN: 978-1481429351
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (2017)
Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3

Amazon Synopsis:

From E.B. White Read Aloud author Adam Lehrhaupt comes an inspiring new picture book that takes apart the pieces of a story—hero, heroine, setting, conflict—and asks the reader to put the story back together again.

As a child takes her pencil and begins to draw pictures for a story, the narrator takes her and the reader through a rollicking sequence of events in this classic tale of bad guys and townsfolk and dungeons. With simplicity and flair, Adam tells a story and then a meta-story of the parts of the story at once! A wonderful primer on the parts of a story and an imaginative way to encourage creative thinking, writing, and storytelling.

My Review

This is such a fun book that encourages young readers and future authors to write their own stories!  The author takes all the elements of a story (setting, conflict, plot, etc.) and weaves them into a story about writing a story.  Here’s an example:

“Our Story begins with Hero and Heroine.”

Picture introducing the protagonists in "This is a Good Story"

The elements of the story are boldly displayed and capitalized. Another example:

“They live in a good town, filled with good people,
called our Setting.

As with any Good Story, ours has a
Conflict, a problem that needs fixing.
and it’s a good thing, too, because without
a Conflict there would be no Plot.”

Picture describing the setting of "This is a Good Story."

Whenever there is a problem with the story (which is being written by a little girl), the narrator comes back and encourages little girl to revise her storyline.  For instance, when the little girl creates a wishy-washy antagonist, readers can feel the the narrator almost stopping her in her tracks (notice the look on her face),when he says,

“That’s not an Evil Overlord!
Come on. That’s barely a Creepy Sidekick.”

Picture of the Evil Overlord in "This is a Good Story."

The Illustrations

The pictures are amazing! I love the little girl who is “authoring” the story.  Though the narrator does all the talking, we can see how the little girl is working through the writing of the story through the pictures. Some of the looks she gives the narrator are priceless!

Glossary – An Added Bonus

There is also a one-page glossary in the back highlighting and defining all the elements of a story. This is a great addition kids can use to make sure they have all the elements included in their story.

Overall

Overall I absolutely loved this book. It’s fun, it’s creative and will inspire the imagination of  budding young authors! The age range listed on this book is 4-8 years. I’m thinking kids at the higher end of that range will enjoy it more, though the younger ones will definitely enjoy the lively, fast-action pictures!

About the Author

Adam Lehrhaupt is the award-winning picture book author of Warning: Do Not Open This Book!, Please: Open This Book!, Chicken in Space (A six book HarperCollins series continuing with Chicken in School June 20, 2017), I Will Not Eat You and I Don’t Draw, I Color as well as the upcoming Wordplay (Scholastic, July 2017), This is a Good Story (S&S, September, 2017), Idea Jar (S&S, Spring 2018) and several more he is not yet at liberty to discuss. Among the awards his titles have won are the E.B. White Read-Aloud Honor, the Wanda Gag Read-Aloud Award and the Hudson Readers Thumbs Up Award. His books have also been honored among ALA notable books, Huffington Post notable books, CCBC Choices, Bank Street Choices, Ontario Library Association ‘Best Bets’ and more.

Adam has traveled to six continents, performed on Broadway, and lived on a communal farm. He firmly believes that opening a book is a good thing, even if there are monkeys in it. Adam currently lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA, with his wife, two sons, and two bizarre dogs. 

Review Copy

I obtained a copy of this book to review from my local library. I’m working my way through 500 picture books. Need a picture book review? Contact me!

“37 Lessons on How to Gain from Loss”

“37 Lessons on How to Gain from Loss”

37 LESSONS ON HOW TO GAIN FROM LOSS
Huma Zuellah Ahmed (2019)
ISBN 9789990150452
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (8/18)

“37 Lessons on How to Gain from Loss” by Huma Zuellah Ahmed is a book about personal transformation.  It is also the author’s journey from trial and loss, to living triumphant and free from the pain that held her back.  Using her personal experiences, Ahmed takes the reader through her most devasting trial, the illness and subsequent passing of her mother, and explains the steps she took to find her way to freedom.

“37 Lessons on How to Gain from Loss” is unique in that it is part self-help, part spiritual and part memoir.  As the author takes the reader through the journey of her mother’s illness, it reads like memoir passages, and at the end of these passages Ahmed lists her lesson and the steps to take to achieve the goal of the lesson, incorporating many self-help and spiritual concepts.

Savor the Journey

There is a lot of information in this book, so it’s not one to read through quickly.  I found myself taking notes all along the way, noting the pages and topics I wanted to go back to and revisit in greater detail.  37 different lessons may seem daunting at first, but a lot of the steps blend together in a quite natural procession and some are lessons you may have experienced yourself throughout your own journey. I was comforted to read passages that felt familiar, as if the author knew of my particular struggles.

In fact, the author, who describes herself as a human being, Muslim and Spiritual Self-Discovery and Mindset Coach and Trainer, has a wealth of experience to share that many readers will connect with and feel a “part of” on so many levels.

Mindfulness

Much of the writing resonated with me. The entire book is laced with wisdom such as those following.  Mindfulness is one of the strong themes I identified with most. I’ll list but a few for the purposes of this review.

“Becoming self-aware is the first step to conscious living.” (pg. 30)

“Nothing has the power to hold you in the state of pain except your own self.” (pg. 38)

“Your energy is where your thoughts are.” (pg. 67)

“Objects that are sometimes given far more importance than they deserve.” (pg. 133)

Inspiration – The Same and Different

The author’s journey was driven by her deep spiritual beliefs and that is included in the text as well.  She often quotes the Quran as that is what fuels her passions.  I found the messages inspiring and not so different from what I grew up learning. 

Overall

I highly recommend “37 Lessons on How to Gain from Loss” by Huma Zuellah Ahmed. An open mind and a willingness to do some work, as the author suggests, are all that is needed to start your own journey towards freedom from pain.

Review Copy

37 LESSONS ON HOW TO GAIN FROM LOSS
Huma Zuellah Ahmed (2019)
ISBN 9789990150452
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (8/18)
Disclosure in Accordance with FTC Guidelines 16 CFR Part 255