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.

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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.

Book Review of Holy Stable by Heidi Hanseen

Holy Stable by Heidi Hanseen

(Summary taken from the back book cover) “The heavenly gift of Christmas transforms hearts and homes. Create lasting memories as you experience with family and friends the shared affection at Jesus’ birth. Mary and Joseph’s devotion to God and sublime caring for each other will bring you to experience the story as never before. As Joseph searches for comforting words to offer Mary, he is attended by angel children who sing along to welcome Baby Jesus. Discover how sharing the gift of Jesus’ love blesses relationships, as you enjoy the magic of children’s narration, original music, and song.”

This is a beautiful book! The gold-tipped pages are beautiful and give you a sense that what is in the book is important. The illustrations are well done and add greatly to the story. The story of Mary and Joseph is written in poem form and done very well. It is tender and not corny. The music on the CD is very soft and calming. The children’s voices are so sweet and convey the message of Christmas well. I love the idea of having the music, narration, and a downloadable script all wrapped up together with the book. This will make having the Christmas pageant in your home or church much easier. You can use her narration or just the music. There are many ways to make it fit perfectly with your needs. Thank you, Ms. Hanseen for such a beautiful book. I will definitely be reading this one to my children this Christmas season.

Rated: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Great for everyone!!

Discloure: I did receive a free book in exchange for this review; however, this does not sway my opinion. All my reviews are honest.

Book Review of What Are You Thinking by Valerie Ackley

What Are You Thinking? by Valerie Ackley

This children’s book is so fun! I absolutely LOVE the message of this book! The book talks about how powerful our thoughts are, and how you can do whatever you put your mind to. It also discusses how if you have “yucky” thoughts when you wake up then you may have a yucky day, but if you use your power to change those thoughts into happy thoughts then you will have a much better day. What a powerful message! I think I tell my kids this at least three times every day! I also like the illustrations. They are big and bold and bright, which catches the children’s attention. Some of the pages are a little overwhelming with all the different thoughts, but the overall message makes up for it. I highly recommend this book and will definitely be reading it to my kids over and over. Thank you, Ms. Ackley for such a positive book with a great message!!!

Rating: G Totally clean, hooray!

Recommendation: Everyone from 0-100 could use this reminder and this message.

Down By The Cool Of The Pool

Down By The Cool Of The Pool by Tony Mitton

(Summary taken from the back of the book) “Join sprightly Frog and his energetic farmyard friends as they frolic down by the cool of the pool. Where will the fun end?”

My daughter brought this book home from school today. I had never seen it before, and it is so much fun! I may need to get this one! Frog and all his friends: Duck, Pig, Sheep, Goat, Pony, Cow, Donkey, and probably more, dance by the pool. It’s fun because each animal does something different. It’s fun to act it out and almost sing along. They fall in the pool and do they stop dancing?? No, of course not! They keep dancing in the pool. So much fun!

Rating: G!!! (Good clean fun)

Recommendation: Newborn and up! It’s great for everyone. I think toddler to kindergarten will enjoy it the most, because they are still into dancing along, but I bet even my older boys would like it if I read it to them.

Just Fine the Way They Are by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Just Fine the Way They Are by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “Mr. John Slack, keeper of a tavern beside a rutted road in the early 1800’s, thought things were just fine they way they were. So did Lucius Stockton, who ran the National Road Stage Company in the mid-1800’s. So did the owners of the railroads when the first Model T appeared in 1908. The need to move around the United States more quickly, more comfortably, and, now, more “greenly” means things will never be just fine the way they are.”

I did not read that summary before I read the book (maybe I should have). I opened up the book and fell in love. The illustrations are amazing. The story is fun, educational, and historical. I love it when children’s books authors add history and make it interesting. I don’t know if all the people the book highlights really lived, or if they are just fictional, but the historical facts are supposed to be accurate. It’s a fun way to portray the evolution of transportation in the United States. I thought it would be a great tool for parents and teachers. I loved it! I was very excited to read it to my kids…..

….Until I got to the second to last page. And then I got so sad. And a little angry. The book takes a sad turn when it goes political on the second to last page. Oh, I can’t tell you how sad it made me. After looking at all these happy, light, airy illustrations, this page is dark and ugly.

Sorry, just let me stand up on my soapbox for a minute: I do not care what political affiliation you are. I don’t care who you vote for or campaign for. I don’t care what side your opinion of the political arena falls in. As an adult, I don’t care. I’m a big girl and I can listen to what you have to say and weigh the issues. I can take that information and make up my own mind. Unfortunately, children do not have that power. Children are influenced by everything around them, for good or bad. They do not have the power to look at the facts and make up their own minds. That is why politics should be left OUT of all children’s literature and movies. I find it very distasteful to try and slip a political agenda into a picture book. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a political agenda I agree with or disagree with, it should be left out. I would have been completely fine with Ms. Wooldridge skipping the second to last page and leaving in the last page. Both those pages are heavy in sarcasm, which children do not understand, but the last page is ok. Concluding with how the transportation we have now will probably not be what we always have is fine, and true. Even saying how we should not be the ones holding back the innovation would be fine. Unfortunately, she did not do that. She had to ruin this great book by adding her political views.

Will I read this to my children? Yes because 97% of it is fabulous. However, I will be skipping the second to last page, and most likely the last page as well. I will just skip over to the timeline in the back, which is a very good resource.

Rating: G Good, clean book, except for the last two pages filled with sarcasm and a political agenda.

Recommendation: 1 and up! The little kids will love the illustrations of the trains and other forms of transportation. My recommendation: skip the second to last page and maybe the last page. Teachers, especially, should stay away from the politics in this book. If my child came home from school touting something political he had learned from a picture book I would not be very happy.

I wish I had a better review for this book because the beginning is so great!

A Gift of Love

A Gift of Love by Dr. Claus

(Summary taken from the press release) “[A gift of Love] is a children’s picture book written through the eyes of a second grade student not far from ground zero on September 11, 2001. As this story unfolds, you will discover how one brave New York City firefighter, father and husband, can inspire a nation and show us all how love for each other is as strong as any form of destruction. A Gift of Love highlights the love of a father for his family, his love for his community, the love of a nation and the ultimate in love. Follow a little girl as she goes from pajamas to pancakes and as she gets ready for her first day of school. Discover the events that happen at breakfast as the family prepares for the coming day.”

I received this book awhile ago, but I thought I would highlight it right before the ten year anniversary of September 11, 2001. This book is not happy, but neither was anything else that happened on that day. I am not from New York or Washington D.C., and I did not know anyone that died on that day. But as an American I felt sadness, fear, confusion, anger, panic, and many more emotions.

This book follows a second grade girl on September 11, 2001. It discusses the events that occurred in a very personal, intimate, and child friendly way. This book definitely requires a parent reading with the child. It serves as a good introduction to what happened and allows for discussions to begin from there. It will be easy to adapt the discussions from there to the maturity and level of each individual child. It teaches that love is more powerful than hate, and it teaches the importance of family. I think it also teaches that we should not take those that we love for granted, and that we should enjoy each moment we have with each other. You never know what will happen.

The illustrations in this book are not my favorite, but they are okay. The content and story make up for the illustrations.

I can’t say I’m excited to read this book with my children, but I think it will help a lot. With the ten year anniversary on Sunday (My oldest is not quite ten yet, so none of them were alive on September 11, 2001.) I know there will be stories about it everywhere, and I want to discuss it with my kids before they hear it elsewhere.  I will for sure read it with my two oldest, and I’m still trying to decide if I should read it to my third. My youngest is still little so I probably will not read it to her yet.

Thank you, Dr. Claus, for writing a story to help us parents discuss some difficult things with our children. It focuses on hope, not hatred or destruction, so it doesn’t leave parent or child with feelings of fear or hopelessness.

Rating: PG (The events of September 11, 2001 are discussed, and there is the death of a main character.)

Recommendation: 5 and up. This totally depends on the maturity of your children. My third is 5 and I’m not sure with her yet. For younger children (who can’t read) you could change the story a little to make it a little more on their level.

Birds Can Fly and So Can I

Birds Can Fly and So Can I: A Giraffe Soars from Dream to Reality by Noa Nimrodi
(Summary taken from the back cover) “A delightful giraffe has a lofty dream–to fly in the sky with the birds. Will her dream remain a vision, or will it–along with her other undiscovered talents–soar to reality?”
This is a fun little story with a big lesson to be learned: you can make your dreams a reality if you work hard and keep a good support group around you. This lesson is sometimes hard to teach because you don’t always see an end result as quickly as you might like. Ms. Nimrodi’s book allows children and adults to talk about achieving their dreams while reading together. Children can see that sometimes we may have dreams that really are impossible (like a giraffe flying), but it is still okay to dream. While dreaming we may find other talents we have and we can use those talents to help others and to make our other dreams come true.
I recommend this story to parents, children, teachers, and anyone else who has ever dreamed of doing the impossible.
Rating: G (Clean!)
Recommendation: Great for all ages, birth to 100+!!

Summer Fit

Summer Fit (www.summerfitlearning.com)

(Summary taken from the back book cover.) “Keeping brains thinking & bodies active during school breaks is entertaining and engaging with Summer Fit workbooks and online games and activities. Created by educators, fitness trainers, and parents, Summer Fit activities focus on key areas of child development, including academics, physical fitness, and core values. Right now it might feel like a million years away, but the first day of the new school year will be soon upon us. With Summer Fit, your child will take a seat better prepared to handle the mental, physical and social challenges of the new school year.”

I have the K-1 Summer Fit book and I’m very impressed. You may not know it, but I have my degree in elementary education, so I was very interested in these books. Last summer I drove my kids crazy because every day they had 20 minutes of reading and 20 minutes of homework. I spent a lot of time on the Internet searching for the correct math problems and reading activities for my kids to do. They learned a lot and did great, but it took a lot of effort on my part. This book makes it easy! All I have to do is buy a book (I haven’t seen the older books so I’m hoping I won’t have to supplement.).

This is a great idea. Why didn’t I think of it??? The summer is broken down into weeks and then days. There is a page for each day of summer (I haven’t counted, but it’s got to be really close.). On this page there are some brain activities like math problems or reading activities. There are also some physical activities. The kids not only have to exercise their brains but their bodies as well. There are cardio and strength exercises that switch off. There are lots of ideas and there are more online as well. Then each week there is a value. The first one in this book is Honesty. There is a picture of Abraham Lincoln and it discusses his nickname “Honest Abe.” It talks about how honesty is important and why. I hope the values are the same in each book so it will be easier to discuss with my kids all at once, but I’m not sure. For each week there is a certificate to complete when the child finishes the weekly activities and there is an incentive. The incentive could be whatever you want. It could be a treat, but it could also be a trip to a local museum or a picnic at the park, or a family game of kickball in the backyard. I love this! There are also a lot of activities, games, and more challenging work pages online.

As a teacher I would definitely recommend these books to parents, and as a parent I am so glad that I don’t have to do all the work this summer! I love that it is not just for the brain, but for the body as well, and I love that it allows me to have fun with the kids while they are learning. I have the K-1 book but now I need the 2-3 and the 3-4 books as well!