A Rare Nativity

A Rare Nativity by Sam Beeson (Images by Nina & Terral Cochran)

“We’ve all heard the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and we’ve all seen the traditional Christmas crèche. Now, author Sam Beeson and photographers Nina and Terral Cochran combine these two classic Christmas icons to create A Rare Nativity. Upon reading the first lines of the book, it’s clear the narrator holds a bitter grudge as he sends his enemy crude and discarded gifts…Night after night the “gifts” pile up–shards of glass, rusty nails, gnarled twigs, and more. What the narrator’s enemy decides to do with each of these odious gifts is nothing less than a Christmas miracle. The photographic creation of the rare nativity at the end of the book is both a work of art and a wonder to behold. Forgiveness is something we all need to give and receive, and A Rare Nativity opens our eyes to the act of forgiveness and the true meaning of Christmas. It’s a universal message to be shared with readers of all ages. Christmas is a season for giving. Make it a season of forgiving.”
My Review:
I have to admit that this book was not at all what I imagined when I opened the cover. When I think of Christmas books, I think of the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, I think of angels and wise men, and I think of happiness and joy. I think of children smiling, of carols, and of family. I also think of yummy treats. When I opened this book I expected to find those things, or things that are similar. Especially thinking of the nativity, I think of Joseph and Mary with their baby in the stable. I think of angels, wise men, and shepherds. That is not what I found when I opened this book, and it definitely surprised me. This book is very different from every other Christmas book I have ever read, and I’m still trying to decide if that is a good thing or not. It opens with the line, “On the first night of Christmas I gave my enemy a briar from a tanglewood tree.” This includes a picture of a burr-like thing; I’m assuming it’s a briar. It goes on like that for many pages, with the narrator giving his enemy all these awful things. In the end, there is a good moral, it all comes together, and you understand. However, I felt like it focused way too much on the negative gifts and the enemy. Maybe it’s because it’s Christmas, but I just felt like it was 90% negative and 10% positive, and even though the positive was good, it wasn’t enough to win me over. It’s still a good book, and it’s a good lesson to teach my kids, but unfortunately it will not be my new favorite Christmas book. If you’re looking for something different this year, then A Rare Nativity will be just the book for you!

Rating: G (It’s clean)

Recommendation: Everyone

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Chocolate Touch

The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling

“John Midas loves chocolate. He loves it so much that he’ll eat it any hour of any day. He doesn’t care if he ruins his appetite. He thinks chocolate is better than any other food! But one day, after wandering into a candy store and buying a piece of their best chocolate, John finds out that there might just be such a thing as too much chocolate…..”

My Review:

Too much chocolate? No! I don’t think so! Or, at least I didn’t think so….until I read this book! Unfortunately, John has to learn the hard way that there is such a thing as too much chocolate! Bummer, right? I mean, who wants to eat broccoli instead of chocolate? No one! This is a cute story. It’s so fun, and it teaches a good lesson too. It’s well written, engaging, has good character development, and my kids loved it (I started reading it to my girls-7 and 9, and my boys, 13 and 11, joined us…they loved it too!). It’s a great read-aloud! And, I guess even the big kiddos enjoy it! I loved the descriptions in this book; I could just picture the expressions on the characters’ faces, and almost taste that delectable chocolate. And what is even better? This book is totally clean; there is no profanity, violence, or “intimacy” (Yay!).

Rating: G (Totally clean!!!)

Recommendation: Everyone! This book is especially great for all the chocoholics out there….. 🙂

This is the Turkey

This is the Turkey by Abby Levine
This is a fun story! It’s written in rhyme, which is always fun, and it’s actually well done. It is clever and full of some fun surprises. The illustrations are bright and colorful, and so cute! I love the expressions on the faces. I love that, although exaggerated a bit, it is real. Life with family on Thanksgiving never turns out perfectly, and instead of getting upset and angry, you just need to learn to roll with it. Also, we all make mistakes, and it’s okay. We shouldn’t “cry over spilled milk,” but be thankful for what we do have. I think this book is so cute!
Rating: G (Clean!)
Recommendation: Everyone

Let’s Celebrate Thanksgiving

Let’s Celebrate Thanksgiving by Peter and Connie Roop
We got this book a few years ago in a book order from the school, and I actually like it. It has some very good information about the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. It isn’t a fictional story, it is facts and information about the Pilgrims and the Native Americans involved in that first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Colony in 1621. I love that they tried to make it accurate. The Pilgrims did not wear black and white clothing, and the Native Americans did not live in teepees. It talks about the Mayflower, the hardships that the Pilgrims faced, how Squanto and Massasoit fit in, how the Wampanoag tribe helped the Pilgrims, and what they probably ate at that first Thanksgiving. As far as I can tell, the information is accurate with what I have researched myself. So that part is great for the parents! Then there are fun jokes and fascinating facts interspersed with all the information to make it more fun for the kids. For example, “The Mayflower traveled at a speed of 2 miles an hour. That is about 48 miles a day.” And, “If a Pilgrim threw a pumpkin into the air, what came down? Squash!” Hahaha….. The illustrations are bright and colorful, and they are well done. They are still cartoony (is that even a word??), but they try to be more accurate than most illustrators do. I also like that they talk about different Thanksgiving celebrations around the world, and that there were a few Thanksgiving celebrations before the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony.
I like the accurate information in this book! I like that the authors took the time to do the research and teach the children correct information. I love the illustrations! We talked about Thanksgiving last night in our family, and my 11 year-old son kept giving all these correct answers. When I asked him where he learned it (because I’m sure he didn’t remember it from last year, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t learn all of it in school), he said it was from this book. Yay! Love it!
Rating: G (Clean!)
Recommendation: Everyone!

The Adventures of Geo the Pebble

The Adventures of Geo the Pebble by Jay Gerald
“Have you ever picked up a pebble and wondered where it came from and the adventures it has had? This is the story of Geo, who was born at the top of a mountain and traveled all around the world to end up in the palm of your hand.”
My Review:
This is a cute story. It is fun to see what happens to Geo on his travels, and it definitely makes you think more about the rocks in parking lots and up in the mountains. It’s too bad that rocks don’t have some sort of tracking device so you can see where they have been. There is some humor, and a little potty humor (which isn’t my favorite, but the boys and little ones will love it). The illustrations are bright and colorful. They aren’t my favorite style, but they are well done. This book would be fun for a social studies class to read. This book is also great for boys because it’s about rocks and it’s not frilly or princessy. It would be fun to use this book as a kick-off to a rock unit. It would also be fun to have a class rock that children could take on vacations and such, and take their pictures with it all the different places they go. Then they could each write about it a class rock journal. 
Rating: G (Clean! There is that one little potty word, but even though it’s not clean, it’s clean-hahaha!)
Recommendation: Everyone!
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

[Book Review] T. Rex Trick-or-Treats by Lois G. Grambling

T. Rex Trick-or-Treats 
Lois G. Grambling

My boys were crazy about dinosaurs when they were little. We have tubs of dinosaurs. They don’t get played with very often any more, and it’s crazy, but I miss it. This book is cute, but I think I love it more because of the sentimental value. It reminds me of those crazy-fun dinosaur days. The illustrations are bright, colorful, and so much fun. The characters’ expressions are great! The fonts are fun and different, and there are even different colors! I love the idea of the book that T. Rex wants to be something scary for Halloween. Hahaha…….is there anything scarier than a T-Rex dinosaur? T. Rex’s friends try and help, but they end up taking all his ideas. So what does T. Rex end up being for Halloween? You’ll need to read it to find out! The kids love this book! I love that there are repetitive phrases and words that even little kids can say, and I love that it reminds me of my cute little boys who loved dinosaurs. Even though they are big now (13 and 11), they will still sit with me and listen when I read this story. My girls (9 and 6) enjoy this book too! This Halloween book is definitely a keeper!

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone!

Animal Motions

Animal Motions by Melissa Pilgrim
(This summary is taken from an email the author sent to me.) “Animal Motions” is a fun, easy to follow, low-impact movement routine told as a story in a colorful picture book for ages 3-6.  Follow Eric as he stretches and moves his body at the start of his day by using his imagination to become some of his favorite animals.  Travel with him to the jungle, the desert, the forest, the ocean—-and don’t forget to keep your body moving!  It’s inspired by the theatre games I used to play with my young actors in Chicago at my theatre there, and I’m hoping it helps all children everywhere stay “creatively fit!” 

The beautiful, full-page watercolor illustrations are done by the very talented Ira V. Gates.”

This is a fun new children’s book! I read it to my kids this morning. My six-year-old laughed and loved it, my eight-year-old said it was ok, and my eleven-year-old just shrugged. So there you go. It says ages 3-6 and that’s spot on. Eric wakes up in the morning and stretches his body. He moves like many different animals, and each animal is a different position or stretch. My kids were eating breakfast when I read it to them, but if we had all been sitting together I would have made them follow along. I think this is a fun concept. It gives kids a more exciting way to stretch and move. Not only is it great for families, it would also be great for preschool, kindergarten, or first grade classrooms. (There are lesson plans to go along with the book on her website, which I will give below.) It would also be great for a younger dance or gymnastics class as well. The illustrations are so bright and colorful. They are captivating and really bring the story together.  
The website that coincides with this book is a great resource for parents and teachers. The website is: www.animalmotions.com . There are lesson plans and a mini poster that you can print for kids to color. Also, there is an app that goes along with the book! It goes through all the animal motions and the kids can follow along. So fun! (It’s FREE on amazon.com for android today, Sept. 4th, so grab it while you can! It’s also FREE on itunes today!!!)
Rating: G (Clean!)
Recommendation: It is recommended for ages 3-6. I think even toddlers could do it.
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Here is the link to the app on amazon:
Here is the link to the book:

Joy’s Journey Home

Joy’s Journey Home by Timothy Connolly
(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) “A heartwarming adventure seen through the eyes of a kitchen named Joy on her way back home. This story is a tale of growth and connection, which is filled with lovable characters, each with their own adventures and lessons learned, all leading Joy toward home where she belongs.”
I liked this book, for the most part. It’s a fast, easy read. Most of the characters are cute and lovable. I liked that one of the main characters, Angela, is deaf and uses sign language to speak. I have never read a book that has a deaf character in it, and I liked that it brought deafness and sign language to the forefront. I also liked that there were some good lessons to be learned. The characters learn about love, family, and helping each other. I did think, though, that for a cute little kitten story, it was more violent and scary than it should have been. Even though it’s with a cat, there is essentially a “birds and the bees” story. I mean, it is a cat, but she falls in love with a stray boy cat, and goes off with him, then he leaves her and she comes back pregnant. She is dejected and upset because he left her alone and pregnant. I’m not sure if a little child would catch it, but I would be uncomfortable reading it to my daughters the way it is written. It’s a bit much. There is also a part where a fire burns a barn, collapses, and kills a few kittens. That was a really sad and scary part. Now, there is a surprise at the end that may or may not make things better, but it happens after the sad and scary parts. I know my girls would be upset after reading that part. 
So, it has a good ending, it teaches some good lessons, and it brings deafness and sign language to the forefront. I like those things. The illustrations are very cute as well. There were a few parts, though, that I didn’t think should have been in the story, or I think they should have been toned down a bit. It’s tough because some of the scenes are geared more toward middle graders, but this story of a cute little kitten and her friend Angela will not appeal to them. The story line is geared toward younger children. If I read it to my girls I will definitely read it to them, and I will alter those parts a bit. It is worth reading, though, because the characters do learn some good lessons. 
Rating: PG
Recommendation: It’s kind of tricky. Because it’s a kitten story, middle graders really won’t be interested, but a few scenes are too much for the K-3 girl crowd. I’d say K-3rd grade girls, but I’d recommend that parents read it first. Maybe other parents will be fine with it. If they read it silently, I’d make sure to discuss those parts with them. It’s probably a 2nd grade reading level.
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Discover America: From Sea to Shining Sea

Discover America: From Sea to Shining Sea Illustrated by Julie Olson
(Summary taken from amazon.com) “Follow the patriotic journey of a little red balloon as it makes its way from the West Coast to the East Coast of the United States. Accompanied by the words of one of Americas most beloved anthems America the Beautiful, From Sea to Shining Sea shows the diversity and beauty of our great country through the eyes of our nations children. To add an interactive experience, kids all across the United States will be able to go online to send their own balloons on their own journey.” 

I have always loved the poem “America the Beautiful” by Katharine Lee Bates, and this children’s book, illustrated by Julie Olson, is a perfect fit. The words of the book are the words of the poem, and the illustrations are beautiful. I love this book! Not only are the illustrations extremely well done, but there is a fun side story with a red balloon floating across the country. The illustrations are of real places, and the balloon ends up floating from the west coast of the country all the way to the east coast. There is a map at the end that shows its route, and it was fun to see that I have been to a few of the landmarks. This book is perfect for home, school, and everywhere in between. It will be a new favorite at my house, for sure. There is also a website that goes along with the book. It is www.discoveramericabook.com, and it has some great resources. You may send off your own digital balloon and track it, there are coloring pages, quizzes, lesson plans, and so much more. I highly recommend this book to everyone!!!

Rating: G (Clean!)
Recommendation: Everyone!

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Escucha Means Listen

Escucha Means Listen by Talia Aikens-Nunez
(Summary taken from an email sent to me by the author) “This bilingual picture book journey through our world introduces children and toddlers to the sounds around them in English and Spanish. From the blaring sound of an ambulance to the buzzing of bees,Escucha Means Listen is written mostly in English but sprinkled with Spanish to introduce children to the language.”

This is a darling book! The pictures are bright and colorful, and the little girl is so cute! Not only is it a book children will love, it is also one they can learn from, which I love! The little girl tells you to listen (escucha), and then she takes you on this journey of sounds. From the ambulance (la ambulancia) to the squirrels (las ardillas), and everything in between, children will hear the sounds, learn the words, and love every minute of it. I love that the Spanish versions of some of the sounds are very different from the English sounds, but some of them are the same. This would be great for a beginning Spanish class. It is also great for people like me who speak some Spanish, but who don’t have a clue how to teach it to their kids. It’s just an all-around fun book. I really enjoyed it! I read it to my 5 year-old daughter and she said she liked it. I recommend this book for everyone!

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone!!!

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.