Friday, July 28, 2017

Book Review: Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend

Atmosphere, action, and adventure characterise Cheryl Carpinello’s second book featuring the young Princess Guinevere and her friend Cedwyn. I loved the first book, Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, where we got to know the young Guinevere and her best friend, Cedwyn. I was very keen to pick up their story and I wasn’t disappointed. Although this is the second book, the author fills in enough back story to indicate past events for readers new to the series, and those who have read book one will be delighted to see how much the two protagonists have grown and matured.

In Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend, the story opens with Britain at war, Guinevere anxiously awaiting news of her father, King Leodegrance, and her betrothed, the young King Arthur, both of whom have ridden north to battle. Some things don’t change though, and when Guinevere and Cedwyn, her childhood friend, slip away from Cadbury Castle, it’s to explore and find out more, this time about the ancient menhirs, the Wizards’ Stones. Magical energy abounds and the two young people are astounded to experience an incredible apparition, that of the Goddess, and she has a message for both of them. However, since peril is hurtling fast towards them, the message portends danger and destruction. Renegades from the north are planning to kidnap the young princess! After a tumultuous and shocking turn of events, Guinevere and Cedwyn discover that the renegades have burnt the Abbey to the ground, the monks have been murdered and, when they make their way back to the castle, they find the children have been taken in lieu of Guinevere to be sold into slavery! Can Guinevere and Cedwyn organise a viable rescue mission, and will it work, taking into consideration that Cedwyn’s message from the Goddess had some dark and foreboding overtones regarding his future...

Author Cheryl Carpinello sets the pace right away for this adventure and it does not let up. Although this author writes for reluctant readers, the narrative is not dumbed-down, and kids will enjoy being steeped in great atmospherics, experiencing every nail-biting, heart-pounding moment of the action, danger, and harsh conditions. Life in medieval times was no picnic and kids will learn just how brutal it could be. The author cleverly inserts relevant details about conditions back then and these help young readers to get a sense of the era and the surroundings the characters inhabit. Young Cedwyn seems to be destined for greater things as he takes the lead in this story, putting himself in danger to save the children. Relevant themes abound, such as making the right decisions, putting others first, keeping your promises, loyalty and friendship, leadership and responsibility, all values that have been forgotten to a large extent in modern society, where “me” is the watchword. In fact, in the very informative and interesting endnotes, Cheryl Carpinello outlines the history of Arthur, the concept of chivalry and the ideals associated with him, and why these concepts and ideals will never die.

Young readers won’t just turn the last page and find the end of the story. Questions for Discussion and Enrichment offer parents, teachers, and librarians a wealth of opportunities to find out how well the young readers remember what they have read, as well as exploring deeper themes for greater understanding. A list of characters and names of places, as well as a map and illustrations keep the young reader firmly entrenched in the story, with a clear idea of who is who, and where they are in the tale. This is a delightful story, filled with history, emotion, action, and adventure to keep those young readers, both reluctant and eager, turning the pages non-stop. The story ends on an exciting cliff-hanger, opening the door to yet another fantastic adventure in an age long past, with themes and ideals that we, living in the 21st century, would do well to remember. A wonderful tale for budding young knights, and those (a little older, perhaps) who remember their chivalric ideals. A great adventure for fans of Arthuriana!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Book Review: Sweet T and the Turtle Team

When Tara, aka Sweet T, visits Great-Aunt Mae on Gull Island, with her mom, she doesn’t expect to have all that much of a good time. She misses her older sister, Kristen, who stayed behind with their dad, and has only her younger sister, Jenna, for company. Oh, and of course Jenna’s blue stuffed rabbit called Fuzzy who has the annoying habit of always getting lost. So why are they even visiting Gull Island? It turns out that Tara and Jenna’s mom is involved in a special project at the Gull Island Aquarium.

The young reader is catapulted right into the story’s themes with the kids, including Billy (Great-Aunt Mae’s young neighbour), helping to save a pelican that had become entangled in fishing line. Tara meets a few local kids who are mysteriously rude to Billy. He won’t say what the problem is, but it comes out that Billy has a problem reading, something that Tara thinks she can help with. An impending storm heightens the drama over the special project with the aquarium – the annual hatching of the turtles! The kids can help by stepping in when a Turtle Team nest monitor had to drop out due to an injury. Will the storm prevent the baby turtles making it to the sea, and will the kids be able to help save as many hatchlings as possible.

Sweet T and the Turtle Team is an absolutely adorable book about lots of things that young readers will love: turtles, island life, wildlife and how we can help, friendship, family, and being there for each other. Author Cat Michaels very cleverly weaves both wildlife information and doing the right thing into the story without bogging the young reader down with too many details, or coming across as preachy. I have to mention the stunning illustrations! The images of the wildlife in particular (not forgetting Fuzzy, who has a couple of pics of his own) just make the story come to life and help draw young readers into the chain of events, as well as clarifying wildlife details. Irene A. Jahns is a brilliant illustrator. I also enjoyed the images of the text messages between Tara and Kristen, and this will appeal to the slightly older young reader who no doubt will be using text messages.

The characters are nicely developed and young readers will be able to relate to them easily. From feeling sorry for herself and wishing she were anywhere but on Gull Island, Tara rounds out very well into a lovely young person who thinks of others and tries to help. My favourite just had to be Great-Aunt Mae who, in the manner of many eccentric great-aunts out there, has boundless energy, can cook like a dream, and is always thinking up fun things for everyone to do. I really wish I had a Great-Aunt Mae who would make me triple fudge peanut butter pie for dessert!

The story ends on a bittersweet note, taking into consideration that nature can be harsh and only the strongest survive in times of storms and harsh conditions. I loved reading how the community come together to help the baby turtles find their way to the sea, where they will grow and thrive. The end of the book is not quite the end with some wonderful and relevant material, including gorgeous wildlife photos, which parents and teachers can use to amplify both the story and the information and lessons learned. Mind Ticklers are questions in a quiz to see how much the young reader remembers of the facts of the story. Brain Stretchers ask the young reader their opinion, what would they do in a particular situation. This is ideal for youngsters to start thinking about dealing with social issues, caring about others who are not like them, or who may have a problem, and what they think is the right behaviour in a situation.

Author Cat Michaels spent more than twenty years helping students of all ages, and her experience and expertise are apparent in this lovingly written story. Wise words from Dr. Seuss end this delightful tale, reminding us of the freedom that all creatures deserve. “And the turtles, of course... all the turtles are free, as turtles, and maybe, all creatures should be.”

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Book Blast: Sweet T and the Turtle Team

BeachBoundBooks is pleased to be coordinating a Blog Tour for the beautiful children's book written by Cat Michaels and Illustrated by Irene A. Johns, Sweet T and the Turtle Team. The tour will run from July 12 - August 9, 2017.

 About the Book


Title:  Sweet T and the Turtle Team
Author:  Cat Michaels
Illustrator: Irene A. Jahns
Publication Date: July 2017
Publisher: 2101 Ink
Number of Pages: 72
Recommended Ages: 6 to 11
Summary: It’s nesting season for loggerhead sea turtles on North Carolina's Gull Island. Nine-year old Tara (or Sweet T as her family sometimes calls her) is determined to see hatchlings make it safely from their nests to their ocean home.Summering on Gull Island with Great Aunt Mae could be tons of fun, but T is having a hard time making new friends with island children, let alone finding kids to help her monitor a sea turtle nest.There’s little sister Jenna, but Jenna is, well, little.  Fuzzy is around, too, but Jenna’s blue stuffy rabbit gets lost all the time.  Besides, a toy bunny can’t help protect turtle nests. Tara befriends Billy, a moody island child.  He teaches her skimboarding and shows her the best shelling spots. But Billy stomps away when she asks him to read the “Turtle Team Guide” and join her in saving baby sea turtles. What’s up with Billy?  He’s nice one minute and grumpy the next.  And why does he refuse to join T’s Turtle Team?  T can't figure him out. A tropical storm threatens Gull Island just as the sea turtle nest is ready to hatch. T must abandon the nest and prepare for bad weather.
  • Will Sweet T and her friends keep safe from the storm?
  • Will the sea turtle nest survive angry ocean waves?
  • Will Billy reveal his secret?
Dive into adventure, fun and secrets on Gull Island with “Sweet T and the Turtle Team” to find out! “Sweet T and the Turtle Team” is the third book of the Sweet T Tales Series of chapter books for early and reluctant readers by Cat Michaels, MS., Ed.  With a glossary, comprehension quiz, sea turtle hatch photo gallery, and discussion questions, “Turtle Team” delivers powerful messages about protecting marine life while helping young readers empathize with children who struggle to read.

Pre-order Now ~ Available July 21, 2017

Take a peek inside the book...
Watch the book video...

About the Author

Author, blogger CAT MICHAELS, M.S., Ed., has more than two decades of experience helping students from kindergarten to college with learning disabilities and Asperger’s syndrome.

Her chapter books and Sweet T Tales series for beginning readers tell of every day life with a twist of magic and mischief.  Cat’s books encourage young and reluctant readers to use their imagination and solve kid-sized dilemmas as they enjoy reading.

Cat lives in North Carolina with her family, where she enjoys digital photography and graphic design, creates pocket gardens, works out as often as she can, and writes.  

Find Cat’s books on Amazon and iTunes

Blog Tour Giveaway

Prize: One winner will receive a $75 Amazon gift card or $75 PayPal cash prize, winner's choice Giveaway ends: August 9, 11:59 pm, 2017 Open to: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Cat Michaels and is hosted and managed by Stacie from BeachBoundBooks. If you have any additional questions feel free to send an email to a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Book review: The Shadow of the Tudor Rose

The Shadow of the Tudor Rose, the ninth adventure that twins Jemima and Joe Lancelot and their friend Charlie find themselves undertaking, starts off in a typically mysterious way. Catching a quick breath of fresh air outside one evening, Max, their handsome, big boned (certainly not fat!) talking Tonkinese cat, hears a strange voice calling across time and space ... “El Gato!” Of course, everyone know that means cake, right? But somehow the voice, the words, combined with a storm make Max hurry back inside, hoping that the scenario does not presage another adventure back in time, back to usually uncomfortably dangerous situations. Max is not cowardly, just cautious, and although he also wants to help the twins locate their parents, who had gone back in time and are now lost in the past, the reader is ever mindful that a cat only has nine lives. Max might have used up eight already ... who knows? And if this is their ninth adventure, well, it could be the final one.

Every time the twins, Max, and Charlie step into history, using the magical book and key, along with clues in a poem, they manage to experience some dramatic event or other, and several of the events have been particularly hair-raising. This latest adventure is no less exciting than all the others. It is the year 1588 and a dastardly plot is being hatched on the part of the Spanish to invade England using the Spanish navy, the Armada. Although the twins are desperate to locate their parents, of course they can’t ignore the fact that this event is of the upmost importance, even though they already know the outcome. However, this is a three-pronged plot that involves more than just a naval battle. Sabotage, treachery, and assassination are involved! And what of the mystery of the Tudor Rose, since the price of treason is the ultimate punishment...

Once again, under the skilled pen of author Wendy Leighton-Porter, history comes to life! The dangerous intricacies and machinations of court intrigue, the enduring animosity between England and Spain, and the life of people in Elizabethan England are clearly laid out. From the (disgusting) lack of sanitation, to problems involving having no local money, to where to sleep, to how to get food, to how to survive being maybe considered a spy (horrors!), to meeting people now famous for their achievements, young readers get lots of history woven into an incredibly fast-paced and exciting plot that has Max really shining as the ultimate hero. He even gains royal favour! Max has a particularly poignant relationship with young playwright Christopher Marlowe (Kit) that is very special, and very moving.

I enjoyed how the author included so much of the Elizabethan flavour in both the language and phrases (very easily understood) and the events of the times. The twins meet Shakespeare himself, and this does annoy Kit more than a little because, after all, wasn’t Shakespeare just a country bumpkin? Readers who have been following the kids’ adventures, as well as Max’s own independent adventures, will learn more about the Guardians of Time. Once again, lovely word play ensues as characters misunderstand certain words, or else significant clues are embedded in phrases – all very important in foiling this plot. The end of the book contains a glossary of words and phrases, plus details of the major characters who were real life people of the era.

Max is by far my favourite character, and in this story he outdoes himself in terms of bravery and his importance in foiling the plot. To his great relief, he was not required to don a disguise, although he cannot understand why so many ancient prophecies abound which all make mention of some hero’s extreme courage that is necessary for all to end well. And, in this tale of conspiracy and derring-do, “all’s well that ends well!”

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to teachers as well as parents because there is so much interesting information, wrapped up in an exciting, suspense-filled package, to get young readers eagerly delving back into the past. Young and of course young at heart readers are in for an incredible treat.