Monday, April 18, 2016

Book Review: Al, The Story of a Vegetarian Dinosaur

Al: The Story of a Vegetarian T-Rex by Ron Stoltz is a very different kind of dinosaur story … because Al is a very different kind of dinosaur. You see, Al is a vegetarian, something that’s unheard of in the carnivore community where everyone likes to eat meat. Al loves veggies and fruit, especially strawberries. He doesn’t even mind if a couple of bugs have taken a few bites out of the strawberries. The other kids laugh at him and think he is weird, but Al sticks to his choices. His parents are so concerned about Al’s eating habits that they send him to his aunt who is a great cook. She whips him up some Stegosaurus steaks, but it’s a no go, Al won’t eat it. His aunt gives up on him and sends him home. En route, a storm brews and all the lightning, thunder, and rain force the T-Rex kids to take shelter in the school. A huge tree falls over, blocking their escape. What can they do? Amazingly, Al has the answer, an answer that turns him into a hero.

What a delightful story for young readers! The illustrations are absolutely fantastic and bring the scenes to life on every page. Al is a truly lovable character that young readers will relate to and cheer on, especially when it comes to being a hero. The messages are subtle yet strong – it’s perfectly acceptable to be different, to make choices that determine your path in life, and to stick to your beliefs, even when the pressure is on from family members and friends. With many families eschewing meat products for various reasons, the child who may have felt uncertain will now be reassured that not eating meat is fine, if that’s what you want. This is perfect for parents and teachers to read aloud to kids, and to put on various voices and/or sound effects where necessary. An absolutely five-star read for the family.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Book Review: Patch Goes to Hong Kong

Patch Goes to Hong Kong is the second adventure that Patch, an intrepid Jack Russell, undertakes. His first adventure took him to London where he solved a mystery using clues given to him all throughout his journey. Patch’s new adventure starts right away when the mailman delivers a package … a wooden chest that Patch must open using the golden key on his collar. Inside he finds a ticket to … Hong Kong! Whoopee! A new adventure. Patch is so excited. What will he discover on this trip? The first of the clues appears while he is on the plane; a bracelet with a Buddha pendant. As Patch is led from one exciting and interesting place to another, he receives more clues from various dogs, taking him along on his journey. Each place he stops at is a famous tourist site, so he learns a bit more about Hong Kong with each stop. At last he reaches his final destination and meets … a very special person. Who can it be?

Patch Goes to Hong Kong by Anjalique Gupta is simply an adorable, five-star book for young readers. First, the cover and illustrations by Alexandra Gold are just superb, vivid, and do justice to the interesting places Patch visits. I loved them and young readers will have much to appreciate when they take their time over each page. The map at the very beginning is a wonderful idea because young readers can trace Patch’s journey as they read, and see where each place is in relation to each other. Maps are also such fun! This book is a great learning experience for young readers because there’s so much for them to investigate once they have read the story, such as the various kinds of dogs Patch meets, and the cultural aspects of Hong Kong such as the market place and the Dragon festival, and different kinds of food. The illustrations are so detailed and incorporate lots of traditional cultural elements as well. This charming tale of adventure and travel also includes subtle messages about family, love, communication, and caring. Just reading about where Patch visits, what he sees and does will inspire young readers to want to pack their suitcases and have an adventure of their own. The good news is that at the very end of the story we get a hint of where Patch might be going next…

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Cheryl Carpinello and The World of King Arthur

I’ve read all Cheryl Carpinello’s books and have enjoyed them very much, particularly the Arthurian themed stories. I asked Cheryl what started her writing on Arthuriana.

Cheryl: I’ve always loved Arthurian Legend, but it wasn’t until I taught high school English that I learned the value of the Legend. I would have students that refused to read the literature I assigned. When we when to the library to get reading books, these students stood by the book shelves, thumbed through several books, and returned them to the shelf. When the unit on King Arthur begin, I started off by asking my students to share what they already knew about Arthur. My non-readers usually had their hands up first! Over the course of the unit (3-4 weeks), these students who didn’t read, scrambled to get their hands on stories, books, and movies before anyone else. The first year this happened I was stunned. After about the 4th year in a row, I realized I had discovered the figurative ‘sword in the stone that propelled these students to read. I loved it!

Book review of The King’s Ransom: When the King’s Ransom, a wondrous jewelled medallion, is stolen from Pembroke Castle in Wales, it is up to three young heroes to band together to solve this mystery and save a life. Prince Gavin (12), the youngest son of King Wallace and Queen Katherine, and his two friends, Philip (13), an orphan, and Bryan (15), a blacksmith’s apprentice, are an unlikely trio, uneven in terms of social status, but firm and loyal companions. Their friend, the Wild Man, is accused of murdering the king’s advisor and stealing the marvellous medallion, a symbol of absolute power and justice, but only in the right hands. Kings have enemies, and it soon becomes apparent that someone was after the medallion for the prestige it would bestow. Gavin, Bryan, and Philip race against time to find the medallion, reveal the true killer, and save the Wild Man’s life. They have only a few days before the arrival of King Arthur. If the medallion is not found, the Wild Man will be executed in front of Arthur. Can they overcome their fears and fulfil this momentous quest? Is it possible the Wild Man has tricked them all and simply used their friendship to get closer to the medallion?

What a delightful five-star story. I am familiar with Cheryl Carpinello’s writing from reading and reviewing her first Arthurian book, Guinevere: On the Eve of a Legend. Then I was entranced by the author’s spell-binding descriptions of life in Arthurian times and her meticulous attention to detail. Cheryl’s skills have remained as bright as ever with the unfolding of this fast-paced tale, threaded with mystery, adventure, a bit of magic, danger, darkness, and lovely twists in the end. I so enjoyed the factual information about weapons, clothing, daily life, and places, cleverly interspersed in the text and dialogue to inform without overwhelming young readers. The author has a gift for delving into the depths of each young hero’s psyche. The way each one of the trio faces their fears, learns to believe in themselves, and finds their true meaning and path in life is moving. This is a superb coming-of-age story, set in a time of chivalry and pageantry, and harking back to an age when a hero was truly a hero.
Fans will love that there is a FREE Study Guide to help expand their knowledge of King Arthur and his era. You can find out more about Cheryl’s books here.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Book Review: Antiques and Avarice

Could anything bad possibly happen in a small, pretty town in New Hampshire? Of course not, but then maybe it could. Olivia McKenna, an antiques buyer for her collector clients, inadvertently stumbles upon a murder in an antiques shop, and thereafter becomes a target for someone who might just be the murderer. But why? Olivia hasn’t seen anything that could make a killer worried. Or has she? And what about the poor old man who met his demise, the poor old man who turns out to have had a criminal past… Olivia crosses paths with handsome detective Josh Abrams, who also has a few secrets he’s keeping under wraps. Join Josh and Olivia, and not forgetting Molly, Olivia’s adorable (and clever) Golden Retriever, and Sheyna, the cat Olivia rescued from the scene of the crime, as they try to solve the murder before anyone else gets hurt.

If you like antiques and love a readable, cosy murder mystery, look no further than Antiques and Avarice by author Jane Firebaugh. I found myself drawn into the story, the beautifully described locale, and the characters, both main and secondary. Olivia is a spunky heroine with backbone, not needing a man to take care of her. Josh is a totally swoonworthy hero, the kind of man every woman would love to date: handsome, courteous, considerate, romantic, just delicious. Through appealing details, the author lets the daily activities of her characters unfold, giving the reader a bird’s-eye view of their lives and motivations. The plot is nicely done and the reader does not get tangled up in too many red herrings or false leads. A lot happens and there’s a strong back story of robbery, fraud, and corruption which will surprise readers. I only wish the author had included the recipes for some of the mouth-watering dishes the characters tuck into as the story progresses. I got hungry every time they had a meal!