Book Review of Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown

Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown

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Book Review of Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown

I have worn glasses since second grade, and contacts since seventh grade. Pretty much, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t need glasses to see. I’ve never been made fun of or teased because of my glasses, thankfully, but the cover of this book totally had me curious! I loved Mustaches For Maddie, so when I saw that Squint was written by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown I knew I needed to read it. And I’m so glad I did. They have become quite the duo!

Blurb:

“Flint loves to draw. In fact, he’s furiously trying to finish his comic book so he can be the youngest winner of the ‘Find a Comic Star’ contest. He’s also rushing to finish because he has keratoconus—an eye disease that could eventually make him blind.

McKell is the new girl at school and immediately hangs with the popular kids. Except McKell’s not a fan of the way her friends treat this boy they call ‘Squint.’ He seems nice and really talented. He draws awesome pictures of superheroes. McKell wants to get to know him, but is it worth the risk? What if her friends catch her hanging with the kid who squints all the time?

McKell has a hidden talent of her own but doesn’t share it for fear of being judged. Her terminally ill brother, Danny, challenges McKell to share her love of poetry and songwriting. Flint seems like someone she could trust. Someone who would never laugh at her. Someone who is as good and brave as the superhero in Flint’s comic book.

Squint is the inspiring story of two new friends dealing with their own challenges, who learn to trust each other, believe in themselves, and begin to truly see what matters most.”

My Book Review:

What a great book! As I stated above, I love the way that Chad Morris and Shelly Brown write together. The voice in their stories just draws you in. It’s so real. It is full of emotion, expectations, and energy. It’s easy to read and understand, and yet it has an underlying depth to it. Although it’s not all rainbows and unicorns, it has such a positive feeling to it. The voice fits the characters and situations in the book perfectly.

This book feels similar to Wonder by R.J. Palacio. There are some similarities there as well. Flint, the main character, has a disability and the kids at school make fun of him, tease him, and stay away from him. Then someone is brave enough to look past the thick glasses and quirky habits. McKell wants to fit in with the popular crowd, but she doesn’t like how they treat Flint, also known as Squint. Her brother gives her these challenges to do, and since she’s afraid that the popular crowd will make fun of her for doing them, she asks Squint to accompany and help her.

Squint is not used to people actually paying attention to him and being nice to him. At first he doesn’t trust McKell because he expects it all to be a prank. But then it’s not. She genuinely wants to be with him. Now, she may still want to also be a part of the popular gang, but she makes it clear to Squint that she doesn’t like how they treat him. She’s nice, caring, talented, friendly, and kind. She has the ability to look past the glasses and quirks to find the real Flint.

Flint is also a great character. He used to be normal like everyone else. He played football, had friends, and could see perfectly. Then one day he began losing his eyesight. The diagnosis was keratoconus. It’s an eye disease. This is how Flint explains it in the book:

“It’s called keratoconus,” I said. “It’s not like super rare or anything. There may even be someone else in the school with it, but mine is pretty bad. Well, really bad. My corneas are getting thinner and thinner, and that makes my eyes bulge. It’s like the windshield of my eye to too weak to hold its shape ball…It makes everything look a bit like a funhouse mirror.”

I won’t complain about my poor eyesight after reading about Flint’s disease!

I think it’s great how Chad Morris and Shelly Brown use their books to bring attention to different situations in people’s lives. The more we talk, the more we realize how similar we are. The more books kids can read about how being different is ok, the better. If kids can read more books on how to treat people, the better off we’ll all be. We like to think we’re different. We’re unique, for sure. But we’re the same. We all want to fit in, have friends, be loved, and not be made fun of or teased. I think everyone wants to feel safe and acknowledged. It’s the relationships and the connections that matter.

I love books that teach such valuable lessons in such a great way. It’s a great reminder for readers of all ages that how we treat people is important. Everyone has a story. Everyone is fighting a battle. Some battles are front and center while others are more hidden. Learning to look past differences and see the real person behind the façade is a skill we can all improve in. Learning to accept and love despite differences is also something needed today. Also, there are always two sides to every story. Many times we get caught up in our own thoughts and feelings, and forget that others are involved, and they have feelings too. Thank you Chad and Shelly for writing stories that inspire, teach, and uplift!  

Content Rating PGRating: PG (It’s clean, but there is some minor violence with fights, mean words, and bullies.)

Recommendation: Middle Graders (4th-6th) and up

My Rating: 4.5/5

4.5 Star Rating

 

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

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2y9OCsu

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

mustaches for maddie Wonder by R.J. Palacio  the hundred dresses
 

Monster Mayhem by Christopher Eliopoulos

Monster Mayhem by Christopher Eliopoulos

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Book Review of Monster Mayhem by Christopher Eliopoulos

I’m not a huge fan of graphic novels. Or comic books. I have to admit that I haven’t read many of them because they just don’t interest me. My kids, however, like them a lot. In an effort to be a good example and try a new genre, I offered to join the blog tour for this book. So what did I think? Did this book change my opinion of graphic novels? What about my kids? Did they enjoy it? Find out in my book review of Monster Mayhem by Christopher Eliopoulos.

Blurb:

In this funny, action-packed graphic novel adventure, a science-obsessed girl finds herself in the middle of one of her favorite monster movies. Can she invent her way out of disaster while also saving the monster who has become her friend?

Zoe’s favorite thing to do–besides invent and build robots–is watch classic monster movies. She has never been comfortable with kids her own age, and so she pretends she doesn’t need friends while inside she’s longing for connection. And then one day, Zoe finds a mysterious ring on her way home from school. She puts it on, gives it a twist, and–FRZAAKK! There’s a massive burst of light! The next morning, a familiar monster appears at Zoe’s window. He’s from one of her favorite kaiju movies, and he likes Zoe–he wants to be her friend. Has her secret wish been fulfilled? But it turns out that Zoe’s ring has brought more than just this friendly monster to life. More monsters have arrived, and they are hungry! Now she’ll need to reach out to other people to help her save her town from destruction. Good thing she’s a robotics genius!

My Book Review:

Well, I have to say that Monster Mayhem is actually a pretty cute book. The main characters are super cute. Zoe is a darling character. I love how smart she is! She will be a great example to all the girls that read this book. Unfortunately, Zoe is dealing with something that is all too common: not having any friends. And then when she finally does make a friend, she gets hurt. Ouch! I think we all know how that feels. So, emotionally, she just shuts down.

Zoe’s parents and teachers express the importance of friends, and she won’t have anything to do with friends. She’s so anti-friend that she creates a robot to be her companion. And then the monsters start showing up. Oh no! Through a series of events (sorry, I’m not going to tell you what happens), Zoe learns some great lessons.

The illustrations in Monster Mayhem are so fun! They are bright, colorful, and well done. I particularly love the facial expressions of each of the characters. There are different fonts and font colors to distinguish the characters, so it’s easy to figure out who’s talking. I love Zoe’s goggles! As a mom, I know that sometimes you have to pick your clothing battles! Whether it’s the cowboy boots, the princess dress, or the goggles, you just have to roll with it.

This is a fun book! I did enjoy it, and I especially liked the lessons that Zoe learned. Two of my kids read this book as well. Here are their thoughts:

I liked the drawings and the moral of the story.

            ~15 year-old boy

The illustrations are adorable, cute, and sweet. It was a little strange at times, but still cute. I liked that the girl learned that friends are important.

            ~10 year-old girl

Girls will especially like this book, but boys will like it too! For those kids who are into comic books or who don’t like reading, this book will definitely be a great option for them! I still don’t love the graphic novel format, but this book opened my eyes to the potential of graphic novels. It’s a fun story with colorful illustrations and a great moral—what else could a mom or teacher wish for?

Content Rating PGRating: PG (Clean! There are some monsters, and they might scare some very small children, but they aren’t too scary. There’s some minor violence when they’re fighting the monsters.)

Recommendation: As a silent read: 2nd-3rd grade, as a read-aloud: K and up

My Rating: 4/5

4 Star Review

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

 

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2nYHRVN

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

The Golden Plates 1 Adapted by Michael Allred Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl  Mr Poppers Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
 

Book Review of Carnival Magic by Amy Ephron

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Book Review of Carnival Magic by Amy Ephron

This book just showed up in the mail one day! Fun, right? I love bookmail, and surprise bookmail is even better! Needless to say, I was excited to read this. I’m always looking for fun, new middle-grader reads, and I had high hopes for this one. What could be more magical than a carnival at night with the lights, rides, acts, animals, interesting people, and yummy smells? Check out my book review of Carnival Magic by Amy Ephron to see what I thought!

Blurb:

“Tess and Max are back in England for another summer with their Aunt Evie—this time by the seashore in South Devon. And they’re incredibly excited about the travelling carnival that’s come to town. There are rides, games, and acrobats, The House of Mirrors—and even a psychic, with a beautiful wagon all her own.

In a visit to the psychic’s wagon, while Tess is being hypnotized, the wagon seems to move. Before Tess can shake herself out of the hypnosis, before Max can do anything, they seem to be travelling—along with the rest of the carnival—too quickly for the two of them to jump out. But where are they going and what awaits them? Will they be caught in a world different from their own? And do the Baranova twins, acrobats who miss their sister almost as much as Tess and Max miss their family, hold the keys to the mystery?

Internationally bestselling author Amy Ephron returns with a companion novel to The Castle in the Mist and creates a magical tale filled with adventure, mystery, fantasy, family, and fun.”

My Book Review:

Let me start off by saying that as I read I got the feeling that there was a book previous to this one. I didn’t know for sure that there is another book until after I finished this one. There may have been some things I would have understood more if I had read the first book. This book starts out as an adventure when Tess and Max’s mom drops them off at the airport. They fly by themselves from the United States to England. They’re going to stay with their Aunt Evie  for the summer.

Aunt Evie seems like the perfect, fun aunt. She has a fun cottage by the ocean and picks up tickets to the zoo on the way home from the airport. While at the zoo, strange things start to happen. The zookeeper allows her to run in for just a few minutes, 6 ½ to be exact. In those 6 ½ minutes she sees a baby tiger in pain and pulls a pin out of its paw. I think that’s exciting, but what? I’ve never been to a zoo that has the tigers available to touch through a rod iron fence. I’m good with fantasy though, so ok, I’ll keep reading. I didn’t quite understand the reason behind the 6 ½ minutes, but I figured it’d be explained later on.

The next day, Aunt Evie takes the kids to a roadside carnival. She allows them to spend most of the day by themselves while she checks out a local antique store. The plan is that she’ll meet them at 1:30 by the big dinosaur. Well, a lot happens before 1:30! It gets a little weird! Tess goes into a psychic’s trailer to be hypnotized and the carnival ends up moving. Magically. In minutes the kids are transported to who-knows-where. The strange thing is that it’s not the same carnival they end up in.

Honestly, from here on out I was a bit confused. The characters that the kids meet are fun and interesting, especially Tatiana, Alexei, Tara, Anna, and Julian. Maybe it’s my old brain (but I usually like middle-grader books!), but I just didn’t understand. Why? How? What purpose? The carnival moved, but they ended up at a different carnival. So, they had to be the ones to move, not the carnival, right? They kept talking about a ghost carnival, but which one was the ghost carnival? Was it the second one or the third one, or both?

The whole part about them escaping really confused me. What? You want two kids and a horse to do what? How? The 6 ½ minute thing was used a few more times, but never explained, so that was a big hole. Also, how time worked at the different carnivals confused me. I don’t want to give anything away, but it just really didn’t make sense.

The writing is descriptive and engaging and the characters are fun and personable. This book has so much potential! Unfortunately, it just falls flat. There are a bunch of holes and unanswered questions, and I felt like things weren’t explained well enough. If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you know that I’m good with middle-grader books. I’ve read and loved many of them. This one, however, just has too many holes. I would also recommend reading the first book because it may answer some of the questions I had. I’m going to hand it to my nine-year-old, have her read it, and I’ll let you know what she says.  

Content Rating PGRating: PG (It’s clean! There isn’t any profanity, violence, or “intimacy.” There are a few kind of tense, scary-ish parts.)

Recommendation: Middle-graders (4th-6th grades) and up

My Rating: 3/5 

3 Star Rating

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

If you’d like to purchase this book, click here: https://amzn.to/2JFmRwg

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Fablehaven book #1 by Brandon Mull Adventurers Wanted: Slathbog's Gold (Book #1) by M.L. Forman  Alcatraz vs The Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson
 

Make a Teacher Happy: Prevent Summer Brain!

Summer Fit 2-3

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Prevent Summer Brain with Summer Fit Workbooks!

Remember last fall when the kids went back to school and had forgotten most of what they’d learned the previous year? It’s called…Summer Brain. Ouch! All of that work–gone. How do you prevent Summer Brain? You have to be a mean mom and make the kids use their brains this summer. I know, it’s hard. I’ve grown callous to the mean summer mom eye rolls because I’ve been doing it for so long.  It’s a good thing, I promise.
 
I’ve tried a few different things like printing off my own packets, workbooks, and online programs. I finally settled on the Summer Fit workbooks. It’s so easy and mom friendly!
 

Why Use Summer Fit Workbooks to Prevent Summer Brain?

I have used the Summer Fit workbooks for a few years now, and I LOVE them!!! They have a level for each grade in elementary school (they start with pre-K and go to 8th grade), which is great. The workload is the perfect amount. Each day there is a page of reading and a page of math. It isn’t super hard, but it is hard enough to keep the kids from forgetting everything over the summer.
 
I love the Friday material. Every Friday is a value (compassion, determination…..that kind of thing), and it highlights a person who exemplifies that value. The kids do activities surrounding that value and person. Also, each day has an exercise for the kids to do. It’s not hard, but it gets them up and moving. And the great thing about these books is that it eliminates all the mom-work. There’s no searching the internet or printing off individual worksheets; it’s all right there in the book. It makes mom’s job so much easier!!! They even have a book for 7th and 8th graders, which is great because it’s harder to know what the older kids need. I highly recommend the Summer Fit workbooks!
 
 

Content Rating GRating: G (clean!!!)

 Recommendation: Pre-K to 8th grade

 

Which One Is Right For You?

(If you’d like to purchase a workbook, click on the image below.)

This post was first published on 5/23/16; Updated on 5/11/18.

Book Review of Janitors by Tyler Whitesides

Janitors (Book #1) by Tyler Whitesides

Book Review of Janitors (Book #1) by Tyler Whitesides

 What is going on at Welcher Elementary? What are those crazy things Spencer can see in his classrooms and in the halls? Why can’t anyone else see them? And what does the school janitor have to do with it? Who can he trust? My children and I have loved this book. It’s so fun! I hope you enjoy my book review of Janitors by Tyler Whitesides.

Blurb:

No one takes Spencer Zumbro seriously when he tries to warn his classmates about the mysterious things prowling the halls and classrooms of Welcher Elementary School. But when he sees Marv, the janitor, going after one of the creatures with a vacuum, he knows he’s not the only one who can see them.

With the help of his new friend, Daisy, Spencer has to find out what the janitors know. The children’s search uncovers the magic taking place behind the scenes of their seemingly ordinary school, where a battle is being waged for the minds of the students. Who can be trusted—and can Spencer and Daisy protect their school and possibly the world?

My Book Review:

My boys (ages 11 and 10) read this book awhile ago and have been telling me and telling me and telling me that I need to read it. They loved it. It made it even better that Tyler Whitesides actually came to their school and signed their book. I had so many other books to read that I hadn’t gotten around to it…until now.

If you’ve read my blog before, you have probably heard me say that I taught first grade before I had children. When I go back to teaching, I will not see the school in the same light. Ever. Do you trust the janitors? Or are they the bad guys? And please don’t tell me those creepy things are in my kids’ school too!

This book is a fun and fast read. It is filled with betrayal, action, crazy dust creatures, friendship, big messes, and lots of cleaning supplies. And these are no ordinary cleaning supplies! Mr. Whitesides has created a fun and exciting world filled with magic and secrets.

The characters are well developed and realistic. I could picture the principal perfectly. I loved the descriptions of him. Spencer and Daisy seem like cute, normal kids. I thought they were childish enough that it felt realistic, yet brave enough to make it exciting. Spencer’s mom is the best! She’s awesome, and I could definitely see myself acting that way in order to protect one of my children.

The janitors are a little crazy, but great characters. I really enjoyed learning about how the creatures affected the students. Hahaha!!! Now we know why we tend to fall asleep in class, or why we sometimes get distracted while we walk down the hallways. Did I mention the cleaning supplies? I want some of them. Yep, I think I want a broom. That would be great!

 The story line was a little predictable, but it didn’t stop me from reading. It still has enough action and adventure, along with a few surprises, to be exciting. I liked this book a lot and I know the kids love it! And, the best part? It’s clean! Love it! I highly recommend this book! Now……I just need to dig through my kids’ rooms to find book #2!

Content Rating PG+ Rating: PG+ (There’s no profanity or “intimacy.” One of the main characters does die. It’s sad but not detailed or gruesome. They do fight the bad guys and the bad creatures, so there is some minor violence.)

Recommendation: 3rd grade and up (Middle-Graders)

Rating: 4/5

4 Star Rating

To purchase this book, click here: http://amzn.to/2pq4Wkw

 

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Mysteries of Cove by J. Scott Savage Wizard for Hire by Obert Skye  Fablehaven book #1 by Brandon Mull

(This post contains affiliate links. You don’t pay any extra and I receive a small commission.)

This post was first published on 8/30/13; updated on 3/20/18

[Book Review] Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz vs The Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

[Book Review] Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians (Book #1) by Brandon Sanderson

I haven’t read anything else by Brandon Sanderson, but I think he has outdone himself with this book. Let me just say that I haven’t ever laughed out loud at a book like I did with this one! I am so excited to share with you my book review of  Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians! 
 

Blurb:

 “On his thirteenth birthday, foster child Alcatraz Smedry receives a bag of sand in the mail, an inheritance from his lost parents. When it is immediately stolen, he learns that it is no ordinary bag of sand. With it, the evil Librarians who secretly rule the Hushlands–Librarian-controlled nations, such as the United States, Canada, and England–will finally overtake the Free Kingdoms as well. Alcatraz and his ragtag band of freedom fighters must stop them, once and for all.”
 

My Book Review:

 
One of my friends in my book group recommended this series to me about a year ago. I got them at the library for my son, but never had the chance to read them myself. I checked them out again for my daughter to read, and finally  read the first one. I have to say, this book is so much fun! The voice in the book is hilarious! It’s told in first person, and I don’t think I’ve read another book where the first person narrator has such an engaging, witty, and humorous voice. Alcatraz suddenly gets pulled into this crazy world of evil librarians and conspiracies. Even though he’s the supposed hero, the first words in the book are, “I am not a good person.”
 
This book is a (fictional) autobiography of Alcatraz. In it, he tells his life story. I love how he says in the book that the evil Librarians will advertise it as a fictional book (because they don’t want the truth out), but it’s really an autobiography. So fun! It is very well written, engaging, creative, imaginative, and humorous. Yes, there are some scary parts where Alcatraz, Bastille, Grandpa Smedry, and Sing are in grave danger and have to fight those evil Librarians, but the way they’re written makes it seem not so bad.
 
I love the idea of the different lenses (Want more info. on the lenses….read the book!). Did you know that there are actually more than seven continents on the earth? Those evil Librarians have gotten away with not teaching us about them. Hahaha!! I knew some of those librarians were secretly evil! Alcatraz is a great character. He’s definitely not perfect, but in the book that imperfection becomes his strength, which is a great lesson! I love the part about their different talents! Grandpa Smedry is awesome too. Bastille is a little rougher around the edges, but I liked her more as the book went on.
 
If you’re looking for a fun middle-grader/YA series (moms like it too), you’ve come to the right place! There are five books in this series. As a mom, I love finding series for my kids to read. It’s great because then I know I have five good books in a row for them to read. If you want to laugh and learn the secrets of the evil Librarians then you need to read this! The kids love it because of the humor and the adventure, and I loved it for the same reasons. It’s very creative, imaginative, and unique. I highly recommend this book! 
 

Content Rating PGRating: PG (There is no profanity and no “intimacy.” There is some violence with characters being tortured-it’s not too graphic, fighting with different weapons, and lots of stuff breaking. Of course there is a bad guy, and he’s a really good bad guy!!)

 

Age Recommendation: 3rd grade and up (It’s a great middle-grader/YA book!)

Rated 4/5 Stars

4 Star Rating

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

Fablehaven book #1 by Brandon Mull Adventurers Wanted: Slathbog's Gold (Book #1) by M.L. Forman  Janitors (Book #1) by Tyler Whitesides
  
 
 
 

This post was first published on 12/23/16; updated on 2/27/18.

[Book Review] Christmas Jars-The Collector’s Edition by Jason F. Wright

Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright

[Book Review] Christmas Jars: The Collector's Edition by Jason F. Wright

Blurb:

“Hope Jensen is a young, single woman and an aspiring newspaper writer, and when she receives a much-needed but anonymous Christmas gift, she’s determined to find her benefactor. That search leads her to an unusual family with a longstanding Christmas tradition. Sensing a front-page feature article, Hope desperately wants to publish their story, but doing so would be a breach of trust. What she decides to do will changer her life forever. Destined to become a classic Christmas tale, Christmas Jars is a heartwarming story that will restore your faith in mankind and make you want to start your own Christmas Jar tradition.”
 

My Review:

Over the years I have read a lot of Christmas books, and have loved many of them. This book is definitely somewhere at the top of my favorite list! It’s well written and engaging, and the characters come to life on the page. I felt as if I were there with them; we are best friends now, and I’d love to meet them! Not only that, but the story serves a larger purpose in that it explains what a Christmas Jar is and how Christmas Jars help both giver and receiver. I’d never heard of this before, but what an amazing idea! At the beginning of the year you take an old, empty jar and put it in a safe spot. Then each day when you get home from school or work, you take the change out of your pockets and you put it in the jar. You do this every day all year long. Then the week before Christmas, you take your now-full jar, and you secretly deliver it to someone in need (you could also put a copy of the book with the jar to explain it, but it’s not necessary).
 
You could give the jar to someone with a financial need, but it could also be someone who needs a gift of hope or love. Sometimes the receiver could be someone who needs to know she’s not alone. The possibilities are endless! I love this idea so much! I’ve already talked to my husband about starting our own jar for next Christmas. I’m going to read this book to my kids after Christmas, and we’re going to start a new tradition of a Christmas Jar. My only problem is that I never have cash or change on me, so maybe I’ll need to begin using cash more.
 
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The story is heartwarming, and the real experiences at the back of the book are just as good! I loved reading them. You’ll need a box of Kleenexes handy, but it’s worth it! And who knows? Maybe you’ll want to start your own Christmas Jar tradition!
 
If you want to read more about this book, learn about the author, or read more amazing Christmas Jar stories, head over to: http://christmasjars.com/
Or you may go to the Christmas Jars Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/christmasjars/ 
 
 
Content Rating G

Rating: G (There’s no profanity, “intimacy,” or violence.)

Recommendation: Everyone!

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

Other Christmas Titles You May Enjoy:

Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas by Emily Belle Freeman and David Butler   The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson   A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
 
 
 
 
 

[Book Review] Celebrating A Christ-Centered Christmas by Emily Belle Freeman and David Butler

[Book Review] Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas by Emily Belle Freeman and David Butler

Blurb:

“Discover how each figure of the Nativity can lead your family closer to Christ this Christmas season. This children’s edition of Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas will guide you through seven meaningful traditions inspired by the Nativity setting. These simple experiences are not meant to add more to an already crowded holiday season but to offer something different. They will give your family an opportunity to escape from the frantic bustle of the Christmas season and spend time reflecting on the baby Jesus and the miracle of His birth.
 
This interactive book invites children to watch each figure approach the waiting manger and encourages them to ask what they might have done if they had been there on the night Jesus was born. Seen beautiful ornaments have been created to accompany the lesson each figure teaches. Displaying the ornaments throughout the Christmas holiday will remind your children of the lessons they are learning about the baby Jesus. Your free download of the ornaments can be found at www.christcenteredcelebrations.com.

 

My Review:

Children’s picture books are one of my favorite things, and Christmas books are even better! I love reading them, and I especially love reading them to my kids…still! Even though they are big (my baby is 9!), they will all sit and listen. This book will be a wonderful addition to our Christmas books, I am so excited to share it with them! I love the illustrations in this book; they are beautiful; whimsical, and yet so full of emotion.
 
You’re supposed to begin reading this book a week before Christmas. Each day you read another page and add another figure to the Nativity scene. There is a question for every day, and as you answer the questions and ponder about the person discussed, you learn more about yourself and your feelings toward the Savior. There is also a quick activity you may do with your family that is suggested for each of the seven days. For example, on the second night it says,
 
What secret act of Christmas kindness could your family participate
in this season? As you perform your secret act, think of Joseph. 
His quiet acts went uncelebrated, but they were
so needed. When you have finished this activity,
place Joseph’s figure in your waiting stable.
 
The activities are mostly activities you may do anyway, and I’m sure you could do your own activities if you already have these traditions. It’s just a simple way to get the family together at the end of the day and remind them of the true meaning of Christmas. There is also an ornament for each day. You may purchase them ready-made or there is a free download on the website listed above. There’s also a cute banner that you may purchase, along with a simple Nativity scene. You don’t need anything fancy; just spending time together thinking of the story of the Nativity will bring the true spirit of Christmas into your home. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it!
 
Content Rating G

Rating: G (Clean!)

Recommendation: Everyone

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

[Book Review] The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson

The Little Match Girl
by
Hans Christian Anderson
Retold by
David Warner
Paintings by
Greg Newbold

Blurb:
“It’s Christmas Eve, but for one little girl, there will be no stockings hung lovingly above the fireplace or shiny presents wrapped under the tree. The best that the little match girl can hope for is a warm, dry corner of the street to protect her against the freezing snow that has been falling for hours. Helpless and cold, the child seeks a bit of comfort from the only source she has–the bundle of matches in her apron pocket. She had struggled all day to sell even one, but the crowds of people had only hurried past her with hardly a glance as they finished up their holiday shopping and rushed home to begin their feasts. Alas, at least she has the matches now, each one holding the promise of a few short seconds of warmth and light. But as she strikes each match, she discovers a truth that sets her heart soaring–all along, even in times when she has felt most alone, she has been lovingly watched over by those who have gone before her and have anxiously awaited a joyous reunion. She learns she is not forgotten, and in the learning shares a poignant message of love and service. The tender tale of the little match girl reminds each of us to take notice of the least of those among us and to do our part to extend a kindly hand–at Christmastime and always.”
My Review:
Happy December everyone!! I wanted to get this review out earlier today, but life happened! I did go for a run and get my house cleaned though, so that was something. I wanted to start December out with this beautiful Christmas picture book. The illustrations are amazing. Seriously. They are so beautiful! The story is so sad, but very well written. I haven’t read it before, so I wasn’t prepared. Grab your Kleenexes my friends, you’ll need them. Even though it is very sad, there is a little bit of hope for something better. In the intro. it says,
Though on the surface, the little girl seems the picture of misery and despair, her story is one of 
hope for a better life and assurance that a joyous reunion in heaven is awaiting even God’s most helpless children. Despite her suffering, the little girl finds warmth and light, ever believing that all will be right in the end. It is a message that has stood the test of time–and one that reminds each of us to look for ways to bring warmth of love and light of understanding to others. 

This book is a wonderful way to start the Christmas season. Christmas is a wonderful time of year to remember those around us, and to try a little harder to help and serve those around us who are in need of our help, love, kindness, smile, comfort, friendship, and service. With that, I thought I’d share this wonderful opportunity with you. I don’t do this often, but I think this one is important. It is put together by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes called the Mormon Church), but it is non-denominational. It is people and service oriented. It’s called “Light the World,” and it’s 25 ways to serve for 25 days. It started today. Each day from now until Christmas there is a short movie clip and an idea for an act of service. I’ll post the first movie here. If you would like to participate (you don’t sign up or anything, it’s just on your own), you may go to www.mormon.org to find out more information and to see the daily videos. Merry Christmas everyone!!!

[Book Review] Adventurers Wanted: The Axe of Sundering (Book #5) by M.L. Forman

Adventurers Wanted: The Axe of Sundering (Book #5) by M.L. Forman
Adventurers Wanted: The Axe of Sundering (Book #5)
by
M.L. Forman

Blurb:
“Whalen Vankin is a great and honorable wizard, and he has only ever personally trained two other wizards. One is Alexander Taylor, a young man who has earned a reputation as a brave adventurer, a warrior, and a man of honor. They other is Jabez, Vankin’s nephew–a man whose choices have led him down a different, darker path. Dark magic has covered Westland, and evil is stirring. Whalen and Alex must journey together into the heart of danger, confronting a sea serpent, and facing down more than one dragon. Alex must find the legendary Axe of Sundering–the one weapon that offers a chance to defeat Jabez–and protect the land from  the dark wizard’s plans. But finding it will be an adventure of its own as the only pathway to the Axe leads through the underground tunnels and secret passages of the Castle of Conmar. But Jabez has a final weapon at his disposal: the powerful Orion stones, which could spell the end to Whalen and Alex both.”
My Review:
May I just say how much fun this series has been? My boys have read lots of books and series (they are now 16 and 14) and this series is high up there as one of their favorites! My 14 year-old put this book on hold at the library a couple of years ago, because it’s anticipated date of publication was back then, and it was on hold for a year. After the year was up I redid it and it was on hold again for awhile, then the library took it off. My son asked every couple of months if this book was out yet. There were some complications in getting this book written and published; I think the author was very sick or something. Needless to say, at my house, the anticipation for this book was enormous! So, when I was asked to review it, of course I said, “Yes!” And, both of my sons read it before I did; they were so excited! Did it let them down? Nope! (Thank goodness!) The Axe of Sundering is a great end to the series. I will really miss reading about Alex and his amazing adventures. This book has some great twists and turns, and there are a few times that you are very worried about both Alex and Vankin. Will they pull out of this one? Will they be able to defeat all this evil? They both put themselves in some sketchy situations in order to try and defeat the Brotherhood and its leaders. I missed having the familiar adventurer friends in this book, but some new friends were introduced, and by the end they had won my  approval. I just love the creativity of M.L. Forman; what an imagination! The concept of the Axe of Sundering is quite clever, and the different places that Alex and Vankin travel are so unique and interesting. This book, along with the rest, is well written, the character development is great, it is exciting and full of adventure, and it’s a great end to the series. There were some unanswered questions and a few things left undone, but I know the author’s health was not great, and I’m glad he persevered to finish. I loved the twist at the end, and thought it was very fitting! I highly recommend this book, and the whole series! 
Rating: PG+ (There is no profanity or “intimacy,” but there is quite a bit of violence. They are in the middle of a war against evil, and there is quite a bit of fighting. Some prominent characters die; some of the deaths are a bit graphic.)
Recommendation: 4th or 5th grade and up (Perfect for middle-graders and YA readers…and their moms!)
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Adventurers Wanted Series:
(Click on the images to find out more about each book!)
Adventurers Wanted: Slathbog's Gold (Book #1) by M.L. Forman
Book #1

Adventurers Wanted: The Horn of Moran (Book #2) by M.L. Forman
Book #2

Adventurers Wanted: Albrek's Tomb (Book #3) by M.L. Forman
Book #3

Adventurers Wanted: Sands of Nezza (Book #4) by M.L. Forman
Book #4
Adventurers Wanted: The Axe of Sundering (Book #5) by M.L. Forman
Book #5