Review: Fribbet the Frog and the Tadpoles: Captain No Beard by Carole P. Roman

Summary

Fribbet's gone missing! The crew searches for the excitable frog and finally find him troubled and crying in the stern. Fribbet is very upset, and it's up to Captain No Beard and the crew to find out what's wrong.

Fribbet the Frog and the Tadpoles is another great voyage into problem solving and friendship, as well as an adventurous trip into the imagination.

Join the Captain No Beard and his friends as they learn the value of sharing our troubles with others and that help is always there when we need it.

Review

Filled with beautiful illustrations that complement the book, Fribbet The Frog and the Tadpole brings a few good lessons to the young reader that make it easier for them to understand. For many families that are expecting a child, especially when there is only one, it can be difficult to adjust. For many, children retreat and feel a bit of sadness and uncertainty. Well, that is what happens to Fribbet but he doesn’t understand that is what’s happening. Through an imaginative and creative way, the story is brought to life sharing some great lessons on expressing your feelings, family and the value of having wonderful friends that support you.  

Reviewed by Michelle Bowles

Review: When I Grow Up I Want To Be...a Veterinarian!: Sofia's Dream Comes True! by Wigu Publishing

Summary

Sofia wants to care for all the animals in the world. But Mom does not think Sofia is ready for the responsibility of even one pet. Ready or not, when a hungry and sick-looking cat appears at the family's back doorstep, Sofia takes action. When Sofia is found feeding the cat, Mom gives in and agrees that a trip to the vet will tell them if the cat is healthy and not someone's lost pet. As the veterinarian introduces Sofia and readers to the important and wide-ranging work of animal doctors, Sofia learns how she might help all kinds of animals, including a little stray cat!

Review

If you have a child that says they want to be a veterinarian or have a passion for animals, than this is a book that I would encourage them to read. When I Grow Up I Want To Be a Veterinarian, is a great lesson for kids to learn how to take care of a pet. Sofia, just like any kid wants to have a pet of her own but her mother doesn’t think she is ready. Just like Sofia, many children want a pet but don’t understand that there are responsibilities attached that they may not be ready to commit to doing. When Sofia is surprised by a cat that turns up on her doorstep, she knows that it is meant to be and jumps right in caregiver mode. Upon seeing Sofia feed her new friend, her mother decides to give in but notices that the cat doesn’t look that well. Convincing Sofia the importance of seeing a Vet, the reader is taken on a fun experience with Sofia to learn generally what a Vet does and the different types of animals that get treated. Informative, accompanied by beautiful illustrations and real photographs of animals that will keep the young reader engaged. Overall, this was another good book in this series. 

Reviewed by Michelle Bowles

Pages: 60
Publisher: Wigu Publishing (December 9, 2014)

Review: Mimi's Adventures in Baking Chocolate Chip Cookies by Alyssa Gangeri

Book Summary

Embark on a baking adventure with Mimi where she will measure, mix, and bake her way to the perfect batch of chocolate chip cookies. If Mimi can do it, so can you!

Review

Can you remember the first time you baked your first batch of chocolate chip cookies? Chances are, like me, it was with your Grandma. Mimi’s Adventures in Baking Chocolate Chip Cookies, was a delightful book that would appeal to the hearts of the younger child who has expressed interest in being in the kitchen as well as rekindling fond memories of what it was like experiencing the same experience. This sweet, fun story complimented with beautiful illustrations not only allows the reader to follow along but learn and experience baking right along with Mimi. As an extra perk, the book includes the recipe used, would be a great way to make this an interactive experience as the story describes how to and for you can create a great memory as you go along. I encourage if your child aspires to be a chef, baker or just likes to help in the kitchen to have their own copy. Looking forward to seeing what other fun adventures Gangeri brings for Mimi! 

Reviewed by Michelle Bowles

Hardcover: 38 pages
Publisher: Mascot Books (March 3, 2015)

Review: The Nest by Esther Ehrlich

Book Summary

For fans of Jennifer Holm (Penny from Heaven, Turtle in Paradise), a heartfelt and unforgettable middle-grade novel about an irresistible girl and her family, tragic change, and the healing power of love and friendship. In 1972 home is a cozy nest on Cape Cod for eleven-year-old Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein, her older sister, Rachel; her psychiatrist father; and her dancer mother. But then Chirp’s mom develops symptoms of a serious disease, and everything changes.

Chirp finds comfort in watching her beloved wild birds. She also finds a true friend in Joey, the mysterious boy who lives across the street. Together they create their own private world and come up with the perfect plan: Escape. Adventure. Discovery.

Nest is Esther Ehrlich’s stunning debut novel. Her lyrical writing is honest, humorous, and deeply affecting. Chirp and Joey will steal your heart. Long after you finish Nest, the spirit of Chirp and her loving family will stay with you.

Review

In her exceptional debut, The Nest, Esther Ehrlich, introduces us to an unforgettable heroine that’s childlike innocence graces the pages with its beautiful prose, capturing the heart of the reader. This is one of those special books that’s subtle beauty lies in the story being told. Simplistic and inspiring, we are invited into the home of the Orenstein’s. The heart of the story, seen through the eyes of Naomi, known as Chirp, steals your heart with instantaneous love that makes this one that you don’t want to put down. I will go on a limb and say this is probably one of the best stories to be read this year. Geared towards the young reader, it delicately deals with loss literally & figuratively from the juvenile perspective that is tangible and endearing. 

The richness and depth of the story allow you as the reader to connect and sympathize. The Orenstein’s could be any family you know. Mr. Orenstein, a psychiatrist, loves his family and wants the best for them. Even though it is easier to heal the pain of others, he is put to the test, when it comes to his own. Mrs. Orenstein, a dancer, is the kind of mom you just love. She loves her family and her passion of dance is the essence of her being. Upon noticing a few changes in her health, she is confronted with news that changes her life forever. Rachel, the oldest daughter, is your typical teen, trying to make the transition from kid to almost grown up. Then there is Naomi or as you will get to know as Chirp. She is a lovable character who sees the beauty of the world through the lens of her love for birds. She is the closest to her mom, which ultimately makes her life challenging. It is through this difficult time, she finds an unlikely support system in her neighbor, Joey, whose friendship brings tenderness to the book. He has his own pain but together they find solace and create a safe haven that lead to a bonded friendship.

Without giving too much away, The Nest, is a story of friendship and the love of a family who through their darkest time are determined to find light and strength collectively. Between their love as a family and the friendship of Joey and Chirp, they just pull you in and don’t let go. The sincerity and purity of them are a testament of her writing inspiring character that move and connect you. Overall, I loved everything about this book. This is definitely a book that would be great conversation for all to read and talk about. It bring up issues of mental and physical health, family, peer issues, and loss in a way that could open the dialogue with the young reader to understand and learn from. I would definite recommend not just a read for the young reader but for anyone as well. I would definitely add to your must read list for the year.

Reviewed by Michelle Bowles

Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books (September 9, 2014)

Review: The Golden Pathway by Donna M. Mcdine

Book Summary

Be transported through time to the Underground Railroad, where high-pitched screams echo each night. David’s cruel Pa always chooses the same victim. Despite the circumstances during slavery, David uncovers the courage to defy his Pa.

Raised in a hostile environment where abuse occurs daily, David attempts to break the mold and befriends the slave, Jenkins, owned by his Pa. Fighting against extraordinary times and beliefs, David attempts to lead Jenkins to freedom with no regard for his own safety and possible consequences dealt out by his Pa.

Review

It seems like a rarity that we have books now that incorporate significant events in American history for kids. Mainly due to our PC culture diverting from moments that might have been horrible, it's so important to educate our children of the past to understand where we came from to progress forward for a better future. Not only that but there is so much that has happened in our history that seems like they don't learn about anymore.

Even though slavery is a tough subject, it's still a part of history that has so many stories that can be told. As horrible as we have learned about the bad part of it, when you read a story like The Golden Pathway, it teaches children about the Underground Railroad which was a significant part that tried to free slaves and the people who risked their lives to help them. 

Being told from the perspective of a child I thought had more of an impact that really made this book inspiring. Beautifully written as well complemented with its illustrations, I thought not only was this a wonderful story being told but the lessons of character and humility of what one person would sacrifice for another really deserves praise. For such a serious topic, I felt it was written eloquently capturing that childlike innocence but comprehensive for their age range. 

The recommended age for this book is 8-12 which I agree with. I would definitely recommend this book. Her ability to blend history storytelling makes this a great read that not only kids will like but adults as well.

Reviewed by Michelle Bowles

Publication date: 8/12/2010
Pages: 24

Review: Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle by George Hagen & Scott Bakal (Illustrator)

Summary

This fast-paced, exciting, and emotionally rich fantasy novel for middle graders reads like a cross between The Phantom Tollbooth and Harry Potter.

How can 11-year-old Gabriel find his missing father, who seems to have vanished without a trace? With the help of Paladin—a young raven with whom he has a magical bond that enables them to become one creature—he flies to the foreboding land of Aviopolis, where he must face a series of difficult challenges and unanswerable riddles that could lead to his father . . . or to his death.

Review

Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle is an adventurous narrative that leaps the imagination of the young reader through a place of magical fantasy only one could’ve dreamt of. Sprinkled with wit, capturing the reader from the beginning, we are led through a three part novel that embraces a beautiful story that will entertain and inspire. 

Gabriel Finley, is like any other kid his age. Inquisitive and curious but unlike others, one day his father just disappeared, then his mother. Whenever the subject was brought up about their disappearance, his aunt became uneasy. Three years had passed, his 12th birthday growing near, strange things started to happen. The time being right, his aunt gave him a notebook which at first he had forgotten. As he started to read, realizing that it was his father’s dairies, a spark ignited within him realizing that he might be holding the key that might lead him to finding his father. Using his love for riddles, he is led on an adventurous quest with the help of some friends, and then the magic begins. Will he find his father?

Ideally and age appropriate for the middle school grader, the story has many attributes other than being a well written, engaging narrative. What I think is both enlightening and entertaining are the riddles and puns. I thought it was such a creative tool to enhance the quality of the story and also encourage the reader to think and use their imagination. Throughout the book, the imagery of the animals, including the ones who transform into humans as well as their interactions with them, illuminates the beauty within the story which brings it to life. Considering this is the age range that is starting to understand their emotions and developing their opinions, I feel what each character is going through in their own lives and how they interact with each other is something that they could identify with it and learn from. Every chapter is themed and at a good length that will keep them interested. I think this would be a good read that both the kids and the parents will enjoy. 

Reviewed by Michelle Bowles

Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 8/26/2014
Pages: 384
Age range: 9 - 12 Years

Review: Rocket Robinson and the Pharaoh's Fortune by Sean O'Neill

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Summary
Set in Egypt in the 1930s, this graphic novel adventure story follows the exploits of 12-year-old adventurer Rocket Robinson who, along with his monkey sidekick, tries to unravel the mystery of a hidden, ancient treasure located somewhere in the city of Cairo. Along the way he befriends Nuri, a gypsy girl who shows him the secrets of Cairo’s subterranean world. But before long they encounter master criminal Otto von Stürm and his bloodthirsty henchmen, who will stop at nothing to find the treasure before our heroes. Fans of classic adventure storytelling at any age will love seeing the streets of Cairo brought to life in these lively, vibrant pages, while young fans of ancient Egypt will immediately be drawn in by the references to hieroglyphics, mummies, pyramids, and pharaoh’s tombs. Designed for beginning to intermediate readers, the story is free of inappropriate language, gender, or ethnic stereotypes as well as violent images, so it’s truly for comic fans of all ages. But don’t worry—it’s still packed with action, danger, and plenty of fun!

Review
Filled with fun & adventure, Rocket Robinson and the Pharaoh's Fortune, is one of those books that a young reader won’t be able to put down. Blended characteristics of Indiana Jones and Sherlock Holmes, this graphic novel comes alive as you follow the adventure of Rocket Robinson as he tries to unlock the mysteries of ancient Egypt. The story is easy to follow with engaging characters and a plot that keeps you reading. The references of everything mystique about ancient Egypt such as the tombs, pyramids and hieroglyphics are not only educational but will excite their curiosity as the plot unravels. If you are looking for something light & fun, I would add it to your young reader’s book list. I believe both boys and girls will enjoy and the recommended age ranges  for this book would be between 9 – 12.  

Reviewed by Michelle Bowles

Publisher: BoilerRoom Studios
Publication date: 10/1/2013
Pages: 240

Review: Chicago Bound by Sean Vogel

Summary
Jake's plan for a carefree holiday at a musical performing arts camp in the Windy City hits a sour note when he stumbles upon a long-hidden message from his late mother, art historian Karen McGreevy. She had traveled to Chicago thirteen years earlier on a dream assignment, never to return home. With his violin and his mother's mysterious letter in hand, Jake, his best friend Julie, and new pals Ben and Natalie are heading west, where they will follow the clues and uncover the truth about a missing masterpiece, the meaning of friendship, and the enduring bond between a mother and her son.

Review
When a kid grows up without a parent, it can be sort of tough. There is always an empty part of you that is filled with a million questions wandering everything about them. As with Jake McGreevy, his mother passed away when he was two years old to an accident not giving him a chance to get to know her. Before heading out on a winter break camp trip for students gifted in the arts, he found a stuffed animal with a note written by her. Not knowing what it meant, many questions about her went through his mind especially if he should tell his dad but he kept it to himself. 

Coincidentally, his trip going to the same town that she died, he saw this as an opportunity to find out what happened to her. While Jake and his friends decide to play detective and follow the clues that help him unravel her mystery, they encounter obstacles that lead the reader through a great plot with a  surprise ending that makes an exciting conclusion to this fun read. 

If you didn't read the preceding book in this series, it’s not necessary but recommended based on the quality of this one. Ideally geared towards the preteen reader, I thought Vogel created a story easy to read, with likable characters that the reader can connect and relate to. Besides all the fun and adventure as the story unravels, it also embraces a story filled with loyalty, friendship and determination. So much a reader can appreciate, this is one that I think they will enjoy.

Reviewed by Michelle Bowles

Publisher: MB Publishing LLC
Publication date: 10/22/2013
Pages: 178

Review: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

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Summary 
A luminous retelling of the Snow Queen, this is the story of unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard who doesn't believe in anything that can't be proven by science. She and her sister Alice are still grieving for their dead mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows. On her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long forgotten room.  He is a prisoner of Her Majesty the Snow Queen.  And he has been waiting for Ophelia's help.As Ophelia embarks on an incredible journey to rescue the boy everything that she believes will be tested.  Along the way she learns more and more about the boy's own remarkable journey to reach her and save the world.

A story within a story, this a modern day fairytale is about the power of friendship, courage and love, and never ever giving up.

Review
Every now and again, you come across a book that inspires your imagination and opens your belief for a moment to believe the impossible.  With the magic of the Chronicles of Narnia combined with a splash of the modern day fairytale, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, escapes the young reader on a page turning journey that will get them hooked from the start not wanting to put it down.

Not only is this just a beautifully written story that tells a tale of love, loss, friendship and courage but it’s also filled with elements of mysterious creatures, animals and people coming to life heightening any imagination and curiosity. This story featuring an unlikely heroine will inspire the young reader that anything is possible if you believe and to never give up on what seems impossible. Even though this book is geared towards the young reader, it is one of those stories that anyone would fall in love with. 

Without wanting to give anything away that will spoil this wonderful book, I promise you that it will probably be one of the best stories for the young reader this year. I strongly recommend you adding it to their reading list because it is one that people will be talking about.

Reviewed by Michelle Bowles 

Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 1/28/2014
Pages: 240

Review: The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson

Book Summary
Fans of The City of Ember will loveThe Mark of the Dragonfly, an adventure story set in a magical world that is both exciting and dangerous.

Piper has never seen the Mark of the Dragonfly until she finds the girl amid the wreckage of a caravan in the Meteor Fields.

The girl doesn't remember a thing about her life, but the intricate tattoo on her arm is proof that she's from the Dragonfly Territories and that she's protected by the king. Which means a reward for Piper if she can get the girl home.

The one sure way to the Territories is the 401, a great old beauty of a train. But a ticket costs more coin than Piper could make in a year. And stowing away is a difficult prospect--everyone knows that getting past the peculiar green-eyed boy who stands guard is nearly impossible.

Life for Piper just turned dangerous. A little bit magical. And very exciting, if she can manage to survive the journey.

Review
In her children's debut, The Mark of the Butterfly, Jaleigh Johnson brings to life an engaging fantasy adventure that will be quite the page turner for the young reader. Once you get past the first couple of chapters, the story really takes off and encourages you to jump right in. 

We are introduced to a young girl named Piper, whose life as a scrapper hasn't been that easy. Between losing both parents and trying to take care of herself, survival has been dependent upon the salvaging of items found in the fields after the Meteors storms that hit her town. Tired of living this life, all she wants is to find a way out to a better life that is far away from the one she currently has. 

During one of the storms, while trying to find her best friend, she discovers a young girl named Anna, who is badly hurt with no recollection of where she came from. While trying to help her, she notices that she has a tattoo of The Mark of the Butterfly. Never having seen this before but knows anyone who has is part of the Dragonfly Territories, which is protected by the king. She decides that if she can bring her back home, there might be a reward given for her return.

Things turn when she get a knock at the door. When a man claims to be her father pushes through her door, a sense a fear overcomes Anna. Piper gets the feeling that he really isn't and judging by the way he is so desperate to get to her, there is more to this girl that appears. When things take a dangerous turn, Piper decides to put her plan into action. Not knowing what to do or how they are going to get there, she grabs what she can and the girl and head for the only way out of the town, which is the 401 train, the only way to the Dragonfly Territories. From this point on, the reader is taken on an exciting adventure that is filled with plot twists and turns that are themed with magic, danger, and friendship. 

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. I felt she had well thought out characters as well as a story that was easy to follow along with the right pace. At times, I thought the characters seemed more mature than their ages but considering their experiences in their lives, it added a wholesome depth that gave them their appeal. 

One part of the story that left me disappointed was that I felt like we were left hanging with what happened to Micah. I thought he was such an important part of the story that connected her life there which if it wasn't for her searching for him, she wouldn't have found Anna. As a reader, it would've been great to get closure on that because even though she wandered what happened, knowing would've closed that part of her life to begin her new journey. That's just me but when you read the book and see what happens, you might feel differently. Who knows, fingers crossed, optimistically hoping maybe they'll be another book that could possibly revisit and wrap this up. Hey, just throwing that out there...It's definitely worth the read. I would add this book to the reading list. Ideally my recommendation is for the young middle school age range but this is one that others can appreciate as well.

Reviewed by Michelle Bowles 

Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 3/25/2014
Pages: 400