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.


Charlie Sparrow and the Secret of Flight

Charlie Sparrow and the Secret of Flight by David Anderson
(Summary taken from goodreads.com) “Charlie Sparrow has no idea he can fly. It’s no wonder–in Tree City, none of the birds know anything about flying at all. Not Charlie’s parents, not his friends, not the doctors or police. But Charlie is sure there’s a magical secret behind his feathers. He’ll do anything to find out what it is, even break the laws of Tree City. Will he figure out the truth before Doctor Nightingale straps him in the plucking chair and pulls the lever, plucking his beautiful feathers?”

This is a cute, fun, and easy read. The mean doctor is kind of scary, and it’s kind of scary when they are going to de-feather Charlie, along with when the police raid the hide-out, but it’s not over-the-top and is more just really tense. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of the dad being so negative, I guess it’s good to see from a parents’ perspective that he just wanted his son to be safe. It reminded me of Marlin in “Nemo,” when he says, “You think you can do these things, Nemo, but you can’t.” Both parents had good intentions, but ended up stifling their children. As a mom, it’s good to remember those lessons. I loved Charlie’s character, and thought it was well done. He’s just like any kid: curious, active, and fun-loving.  I loved that he had ideas and thought outside of the “stairs.” The image of the birds hopping up stairs was definitely humorous. The best part about this book is the message it sends. Each one of us can fly and achieve our dreams if we work hard and don’t let others bring us down. This is a great read-aloud or silent reading book. It would make a good base for a character-development lesson in school. I will for sure be reading this to my kids.

Rating: G (Just a little tense–almost scary–in a few parts, that’s all! Clean other than that.)

Recommendation: Second grade and up for a silent read, five or six years-old and up for a read-aloud.

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

Emma and the African Wishing Bead

Emma and the African Wishing Bead by Valerie Redmond
(Summary taken from the back cover) “Emma and the African Wishing Bead” is a story about two girls, separated by an ocean and united by their dreams. It is about the beauty we all have to offer the world when we follow our passions, believe in ourselves, and unleash our true potential.”
I am in love with this book! It is fantastic! The story is well written, and the pictures are bright and beautiful. The content of this story is so needed today. This book tells the story of a girl who finds a bead on the beach. She just knows it is magical, and it is. How is it magical? Well, the story takes you back in time and shows you where the bead started out, in Africa. A little girl found it while sitting under a tree by the river. Her grandmother explains that it is a wishing bead. When you find one you sit and think about everything you are thankful for, then you put the bead on a string and tie as many knots as things you are thankful for so it stays on tight. Then you make a wish on the bead. Everyday you think of your dream and you plan how you can achieve that dream. Then someday, when the bead falls off, you let it be and you do not pick it up. Your dream will come true, and someone else will find it, and it will make her dream come true in the same way. Such a wonderful story for girls (and boys) to hear. You learn about the child living in Africa and how she just wants to be able to go to school, or have a well in the village so she doesn’t need to haul water from the river to her house. I know my kids take running water for granted. I know they take their education for granted. I love stories that help my children see outside of their small world. I love that this story takes them out of our nice home and into an area where people don’t have all the things we take for granted. I love that they can learn about how other people live, and I love that it teaches them to dream and to work hard for their dreams. 
Another great thing about this book is that, by purchasing this book, you can actually help a girl in Africa go to school. Half of the proceeds go to the Canadian Harambee Education Society (CHES), “a non-profit organization which provides secondary school scholarships to girls in Kenya and Tanzania.” You can also purchase your own wishing beads by going to: www.wishingbead.com . These beads are handmade in Kenya at the Kazuri bead factory. You may find out more about the company at www.kazuriwest.com . 
I received a bead with my book and it is beautiful. I hope it never breaks off because I don’t want to let it go. 
There are so many things to love about this book! I highly recommend it for girls and boys of all ages. Having a dream and then making that dream come true (not just waiting around for someone else to make it happen) is something every child (and lots of adults too) can learn from. Also, learning about the world around us is so beneficial for children. It’s good for me too; it never hurts to be reminded how blessed we are. I love uplifting children’s books, and this one is my new favorite!
Rating: G (Clean!!!)
Recommendation: Everyone!!!
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 
P.S. I have not checked out either CHES or Kazuri. I am not endorsing them or giving my stamp of approval; I’m simply putting the info. on the book on my site so you can go check it out if you want to.

Fern Valley

Fern Valley: A Collection of Short Stories by Aileen Stewart
(Summary taken from amazon.com)Follow the adventures of delightful young farm animals who are just like you. Fern Valley is home to a group of wonderful animals who have fun and face some of the same problems children everywhere do. Roberta and Mildred Cornstalk are creative chickens dealing with the loss of their beloved granny, and they’re looking for something to do to cheer them up. Want to know what adventures they find? Want to know what happens to Roberta and Mildred’s brother, Edward, when he goes fishing, what birthday surprise is in store for Betsy Woolrich, or what lesson Kimmy Curlytail learns when she keeps something that isn’t hers? Then follow this endearing cast of characters as they enjoy their time together and learn important lessons. A perfect addition for any child’s personal library and a joy for families to share, Fern Valley is a collection to be treasured for many years to come.”

This is a fun little collection of short stories. The characters are really cute. They are written mainly for younger children; maybe through age nine. I don’t think my 6th and 5th grade boys would be too interested in reading them silently. As a read-aloud, however, I think they would sit and listen. Even big boys still get interested in mom and dad reading out loud. Even for younger children I think they would be better as a read-aloud, just because there are some difficult words for stories geared toward younger children. For example, the words “rummaged, array, brooches” are all on the same page. I know my 2nd grader would not know those words, and she would struggle to sound them out. Don’t get me wrong, I think they are great words, and I definitely think children should increase their vocabulary. However, younger readers may not understand them or be able to sound them out. That’s why it would be great as a read-aloud because you could stop and discuss those words. Thus, adding them to the children’s vocabulary. The characters have some fun experiences, and some not very good ones. I think there is a good assortment of girlie stories and boy stories. There are some really good lessons taught. It’s a fast, easy read, and it’s fun to have some short stories. I haven’t read short stories like this in awhile, so it’s a fun change of pace. I will be reading these to my children.

Rating: G (Clean! Yay!)

Recommendation: Good for everyone. Older children may not be interested in reading them silently, but they would most likely enjoy them as a read-aloud. I’d say up until age 14 maybe, as a read-aloud, and probably 9 reading silently. 

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

Hello, We’re the Fuzzwippers

Hello, We’re the Fuzzwippers by Marilynn Halas
This is a very cute story about these little fuzzwippers. They look like cute fuzzy balls. I received one with my book, but I’m not sure if they come with all the books. These fuzzwippers come from many places throughout the world, with the hope of sharing one thing with the children they come to: “You are loved, no matter what.” That is always a great lesson for our children, and one they need to hear and see often. There are four of these books listed on the website, and each has an uplifting and special message for the children. In a world filled with stress, violence, profanity, unemployment, etc. it is wonderful to have uplifting messages to read to my children. My kids have read this book and loved it, especially because they got to play with the little fuzzwipper while they read it. 
Rating: G (Clean!!)
Recommendation: Great for all ages!!!
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Frindle

Frindle by Andrew Clements

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “Everyone knows that Mrs. Granger, Nicholas Allen’s fifth-grade teacher, has X-ray vision, and nobody gets away with anything in her classroom. To make matters worse, she’s also a fanatic about the dictionary, which is hopelessly boring to Nick. But when Nick learns an interesting tidbit about words and where they come from, it inspires a great plan: to invent a new word. From now on, a pen is no longer a pen–it’s a frindle. It doesn’t take long for frindle to take root, and soon the excitement spreads well beyond his school and town. His parents and Mrs. Granger would like Nick to put an end to all this nonsense. But frindle doesn’t belong to Nick anymore. All he can do now is sit back and watch what happens.”

I had never heard of this book before, and then my friend reviewed in on goodreads. I thought it would be great for my boys (4th and 5th grades), and when I asked them if they had read it, they both said, “Yes!” That doesn’t usually happen. I had no idea. Anyway, they had both read it, so I picked it up and started reading. It is so cute and fun! I read it in one sitting, so it’s a very fast and easy read. It’s very imaginative, and I think it teaches kids a great lesson about words, about using your imagination, and also about how one person can make a difference. I love Nick’s character. He is witty, imaginative, and funny. I also liked Mrs. Granger because of the teacher in me. I loved how the word just took off, and it reminded me of when I was in high school and “like” was just beginning to be used more, and how  my drama teacher pounded it into our heads not to use it. Unfortunately, she was not able to stop the “like” movement, but that’s okay. The word frindle took off in the same way. What a fun idea! This woud be a great read-aloud, but it’s also great for a silent read.

It’s a clean read, so it’s great for everyone, which I like!

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: 5 years and up (I have a four-year-old, and I don’t know if she would quite understand it yet.) as a read-aloud. I think it’s about a third grade reading level for a silent read.

When a Dragon Moves In

When a Dragon Moves In by Jodi Moore

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “If you build a perfect sandcastle, a dragon will move in–and that’s exactly what happens to one very lucky boy on the beach. The boy and his dragon brave the waves, roast marshmallows, roam the shore, and have a perfectly amazing time together. but when the boy tries to share the news of his magnificent dragon, no one believes him. That’s when the mischief begins. The dragon devours every last sandwich, blows bubbles in the lemonade, and leaves claw prints in the brownies. Is there really a dragon running around on the beach, or is someone’s imagination running wild?”

My daughter brought this book home from the school library a few days ago, and I was hooked from the first page. The illustrations are amazing! Brightly colored pages draw you in, and you stare, captivated, until the end. And, then you want more. It’s a really cute story, and it hit home for me because my sons loved dragons when they were little. I could totally see this happening to my oldest. And, I could understand each and every reaction from the parents. I could also see myself in the sister. Hahaha. I know it’s hard to believe, but I have been accused of being a bit too serious at times. I need a few more dragons in my castles sometimes! I may need to purchase this book! I just want to read it over and over.

Yes, I love this book, and yes, I wholeheartedly recommend it!

Rating: G (Clean!!!)

Recommendation: Great for everyone 0 to 125!

Kirby Puckernut and the Christmas Surprise

Kirby Puckernut and the Christmas Surprise by Alicia Richardson

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “Kirby Puckernut is Santa’s cleverest little elf. While dreaming up marvelous toys for good girls and boys, Kirby has his best idea yet–a real elf in every home, all through the holidays, spreading Christmas Magic! Santa finds the perfect family and allows Kirby to serve as the test elf for the first momentous visit. Fun and adventure are at every turn, but not everything goes as planned….Will Kirby’s idea be a success?”

If you’re like me, you love Christmas books. I love Christmas books! I try to have books for every holiday, but I have at least three times more Christmas books than any other holiday. I like to get a new Christmas book every year, and this year’s book is fabulous! It’s a cute story, well written, and it talks about the “Christmas Magic.” It is not just about the presents, it’s about the feeling of Christmas, the opportunities for service, and about thinking of others during Christmas. The characters are believeable and quite life-like. The 13 yr-old girl Izzie has a grumpy attitude about Christmas and no longer believes in “Christmas Magic.” She thinks it’s only for babies. Unfortunately, her feelings and how she behaves with those feelings, impact the entire family, especially her younger siblings. It’s a good story about attitude and family.

The illustrations in this book are amazing! I love them! They are beautiful and bring the book to life. I had all four of my kids squished around me on the couch, even my 11 yr-old, and they were captivated with the story and the pictures.

On a side note, you can purchase your own “Kirby” on the author’s website, and have your own personal elf this season. I didn’t do that, but it could be fun!

I really enjoyed this book and so did my kids. I’m sure we will be reading it over and over before Christmas comes. I definitely recommend it!!! It’s a new Christmas favorite.

Rating: G (Clean and great for everyone!)

Recommendation: Everyone will enjoy this book, young and old.

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

Home

Beau and the Beanstalk

Beau and the Beanstalk by Lee Baker

(Summary taken from www.mediaguests.net)
“Beau and the Beanstalk is being released as a revolutionary Interactive App. Children will be able to read along with the text as Lee Baker narrates the story as well as hear the characters speak as they interact on their PC, Mac, ipad, iphone, Android pad, Android phone or Kindle Fire.

Author Lee Baker created a fun new book for children of all ages to enjoy. A reverse on the classic tale, Jack and the Beanstalk, Baker’s Children’s book Beau and the Beanstalk is about an adolescent giant who is ridiculed in a magical kingdom in the clouds and climbs down a beanstalk to meet Jack, a hack-magician with a love of fire tricks, who will do anything to be the star of the circus.
This book is an instant hit with parents and educators. The book teaches values like overcoming difficulties, taking care of mistakes, standing up to bullies and choosing the right friends. The illustrations will immediately draw the reader into the story.”

This is a fun book! It’s not like your ordinary picture book you read to the kids at bedtime. This book will definitely engage younger readers because it is on the computer and it is fun! The story line is really cute and a play on your typical “Jack and the Beanstalk.” The illustrations are wonderful and it was fun clicking on all the characters to see what they had to say. There are some really good lessons for kids in the story as well. It teaches taking responsibility for your actions, that bullying others is not okay, and that if you work hard enough you can overcome whatever problems you may have. It isn’t very long and will for sure hold the children’s attention. There are some scarier pictures, but they aren’t too bad and should be okay with the kids. I enjoyed reading this story and will definitely open it up for my kids tomorrow. I think all my kids will enjoy it, even my 11-year-old son. I did receive it for my PC, but I think I’m going to look for it for my android phone, that way I have it at those unexpected times when I need something to keep the kids busy and all I have is my phone.

Rating: PG (A few pictures are a little bit scary, bullying, some fighting)

Recommendation: Everyone! Just make sure with the really little kids that you go through it beforehand to make sure it’s not too scary. It will be fine for my four-year-old, but it might scare yours–all kids are different.

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

Book Review of Laura’s Star by Klaus Baumgart

Laura’s Star by Klaus Baumgart

I love this book! It is such a sweet story. Laura wishes on the evening star for a friend. She sees something shiny fall from the sky and runs outside to see what it is. It is a beautifully shiny star (and it really is shiny….love it!). She takes it up to her room and find that it is broken. She puts a band aid on it and then falls asleep with it next to her. In the morning it is gone and she is so sad. She searches everywhere, but to no avail. All day long she is heartbroken. That night she goes into her room for bed and sees the star right there on her pillow. “Stars only come out at night.” She is so happy. She plays games with the star, reads with the star, and finds that the star is getting cold in her hands. She knows she needs to send the little star home. So she ties her balloons to the little star and lets it fly back to its home in the sky. Each night when she looks out at the stars she finds her little star and knows she has a friend.

Need I say more??? What child hasn’t wished for a friend?? And what child hasn’t looked up at the night sky and felt in awe of the stars? This story relates to almost everyone and is just so sweet. I love that the star is shiny. It just makes this story (sorry, I hate overusing this word, but it fits here, I promise) special. My kids love this story. They point out the shiny star every time we read it. I highly recommend this story! This is a great read-aloud!!

Rating: G Hooray for children’s books that are clean!!!

Recommendation: Everyone!!! Girls may like it more, but my boys have always enjoyed it as well.