Tuesday, October 18, 2016

#BookReview - The Spice Box Letters

The Spice Box Letters

By: Eve Makis
Publication Date: September 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
ISBN: 978-1-250-09580-0
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: October 19, 2016

Eve Makis takes her audience on a journey of rich family history in her latest novel, The Spice Box Letters.

Katerina’s grandmother (Mariam) has passed. When Katerina’s mother gifts her mother’s ornate spice box to Katerina, little did Katerina know she was about to embark upon a journey that would transcend from Cyprus to New York in order to learn the many facets (and secrets) of her dearly departed grandmother. Raised in England, Katerina sets out on holiday to Larnaca, Cyprus with her girlfriend Jenny. All of the letters and diary contained in the spice box were written in Armenian and sadly, Katerina had never learned the language of her heritage. While on holiday, Katerina meets a boy, Ara, and challenges him: "...I didn’t catch your name," he says. "Katerina. And yours?" "I’m Ara." "That doesn't sound Greek." "It's not. I’m Armenian..." Suddenly, this happenstance meeting is more than a sign for Katerina. Perhaps she has found her translator for her grandmother’s letters.

As time unfolds, Katerina and Ara spend more time together as they pour over the letters and the pages of her grandmother’s diary. Even though her grandmother survived the Armenian genocide of 1915, her survival came at a grave expense. She was separated from her beloved brother Gabriel when she was exiled from her home in Turkey. The road ahead was compounded with further grief when she lost her first love. As Katerina and Ara continue to read her grandmother’s diary, it would seem miracles truly can happen as much for those in the present as those who are now memories from the past.

Eve Makis delivers a bittersweet story that ties a family’s past tragedies to the present. There is a sense of warmth in the contrasts she portrays between Katerina’s present day life and the horrors of her grandmother’s exposure (and survival) of the Armenian Genocide decades before. Even though this is a novel, I applaud Ms. Makis for the specific historical events she weaves throughout this story when it comes to the nuance of families and their history. I found myself often wondering what my own familial history would uncover should I explore its past at some point. Her characters are not over the top heroes nor are they martyrs. Rather, she has breathed a credible life into each of them; complemented by dialogue that flows. This is a story that certainly has its moments of tragedy, but the overall tone is one of hope. Well done Ms. Makis. I look forward to your next novel.

Quill says: The Spice Box Letters is a wonderful novel that accomplishes tying the past to the present with a heartwarming theme of hope throughout the story.

#BookReview - After A While Crocodile

After A While Crocodile: Alexa’s Diary

By: Brady Barr and Jennifer Keats Curtis
Illustrated by: Susan Detwiler
Publisher: Arbordale Publishing
Publication Date: August 2016
ISBN: 978-1628558340
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: October 2016

Alexa is a young girl who lives in Costa Rica and is involved with a very important project at her school. The American crocodile is endangered in Costa Rica and she and her schoolmates are raising baby crocs so that they can be released into the wild. After A While Crocodile follows Alexa as she raises her crocodile.

Written in the form of a diary, Alexa introduces her readers to Jefe (which means “boss” in Spanish), her little baby crocodile. She describes the noises he makes and what he likes to eat. She also uses numerous Spanish words (with the English translation in parenthesis) – a nice way for kids to learn a few new words. Each entry in the diary shows Jefe a little bigger, a little stronger, and a little closer to his release date. Alexa talks about the American crocodile and the caiman, the two species found in Costa Rica. She talks about how Jefe and his siblings were collected in the wild, the importance of crocodiles in the wild and how and why she takes measurements of her little charge.

After A While Crocodile takes on the important subject of animal conservation and looks at one way an endangered species is being saved. With a nice mix of photos and drawings, the story of Alexa and her little crocodile will draw readers into the world of conservation. At the back of the book are four pages “For Creative Minds” which offers additional information on crocodiles and conservation and is an excellent starting point for those wanting to do additional research.

Quill says: An informative book that explores the process of helping save an endangered species – an excellent addition to the classroom or homeschool library.

#BookReview - The Moon Inside

The Moon Inside

By: Sandra Feder
Illustrated by: Aimée Sicuro
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Publication Date: September 2016
ISBN: 978-1554988235
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: October 17, 2016

Ella loved the daytime - the fun things she could do, the birds chirping, and the bright sunshine. Best of all, her favorite color, yellow, was everywhere during the day. But every night when darkness came, Ella grew afraid.

Each evening, as darkness approached, Ella would lead her mother from room to room, and turn on as many lights as she could. It was her attempt to keep the darkness out of the house as long as possible. Ella wanted her favorite color, and the sun that shared that color, to stay because yellow made her happy. But darkness was scary.

Ella's mother decided it was time to help her daughter get over her fear of the dark. With gentle guidance, she brought her daughter outside at dusk to see the wonders that came out at night. Ella saw the playful fireflies with their yellow bellies, she heard the crickets chirp and noticed the big, yellow-golden moon. Would it be enough to get over her fear of the dark?

The Moon Inside tackles one of those very common childhood phobias that so many parents have to deal with - fear of the dark. Without lecturing, author Sandra Feder tenderly guides her young readers on a tour of the night. She shows children some of the wonderful nighttime events (such as fireflies and a big, bright moon), which may help lessen their fear. Children will share Ella's enchantment with the various animals she sees at dusk as well as enjoy the glow of the golden moon. With a strong emphasis on the color yellow throughout, the illustrations add a lovely gentle feel to the entire story. If you have a child afraid of the dark, consider adding The Moon Inside to your bedtime reading collection.

Quill says: A sweet bedtime story to help children overcome their fear of the dark.

#BookReview - Animal Legs

Animal Legs

By: Mary Holland
Publisher: Arbordale Books
Publication Date: August 2016
ISBN: 978-1628558432
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: October 2016

What can you do with your legs? Run fast and wiggle your toes? Did you know that legs are really amazing things? Many animals can do very cool, very remarkable things with their legs. What can they do, you ask? Check out Animal Legs to find out!

Animal Legs explores the varied, and useful, things different animals use their legs for. You might think that caterpillars have lots of legs but actually only the first three pair are true legs. The others are called “prolegs” that have hooks to help the caterpillars climb up smooth surfaces. The ruffed grouse, a very pretty bird, actually grows small flaps on the side of each toe in the fall to help him walk on the snow. Did you know that some animals use their legs to taste? When you read this book, you’ll learn all about them.

Author Mary Holland has done an excellent job of introducing young readers to animal legs and the many functions they perform. With easy to understand explanations, she takes children on a journey through the animal world to explore all the various uses of animal legs. There are plenty of vivid photos of the animals, and many are close up views of the legs to allow better inspection of that creatures’ appendages. At the back of the book is a section “For Creative Minds” that can be used for further study.

Quill says: With its instructional, easy to understand exploration of the animal world, Animal Legs is an excellent addition to a school or home library.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Do You Have A Backlist Title?

Did you know our awards program now offers a "Backlist" category? If you have a book that was published prior to 2015, you can now nominate it in the backlist category for a chance to win some great promotional opportunities. Learn more at:

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

#BookReview - Saving Kate's Flowers

Saving Kate’s Flowers

By: Cindy Sommer
Illustrated by: Laurie Allen Klein
Publisher: Arbordale Publishing
Publication Date: August 2016
ISBN: 978-1628558708
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: October 12, 2016

Kate is an adorable young bunny who loves helping her mother out in the garden. What fun it is to take care of plants and watch them grow. In this sweet new book, young readers will learn about the plant lifecycle as they watch Kate try to save all those plants from the impending winter weather.

When day, as the cold weather approaches, Kate asks her mother what happens to all the plants in the winter. While some plants are perennials and come back next year, explains Kate’s mother, others die from the cold. Kate decides that she wants to save some of those plants and asks for her mother’s help.

Kate has soon learned how to transplant various plants as well as collect seeds. She has high hopes for bringing lots of plants into the house to be saved. When the phone rings, Kate’s mother heads to the house to answer it and that’s when things get really interesting. As her mom talks and talks and talks on the phone, Kate gets very busy trying to save every single plant. By the time her mother gets off the phone, Kate has managed to fill every nook and cranny in the house with a plant from the garden. Kate’s mother is not very happy with the way the house has been taken over, and when Kate’s father starts sneezing, it’s time to think of someplace else to keep the plants. But where?

There are so many books for children about planting a garden, but this is the first one I’ve seen that addresses what happens to that garden at the end of the growing season. Explaining what happens, in an easy to understand way, combined with the delightful illustrations will engage and teach children. Add in the four pages of plant and planting facts at the end of the book, and you have a winner that young gardening enthusiasts will love.

Quill says: A charming book full of fun facts on plants and their life cycles.

#BookReview - Tuktuk

Tuktuk: Tundra Tale

By: Robin Currie
Illustrated by: Phyllis Saroff
Publisher: Arbordale Publishing
Publication Date: August 2016
ISBN: 978-1628558791
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: October 12, 2016

Winter is coming and the arctic animals have to get ready. Soon the sun will go down for three months and it will get very, very cold. Like the other animals, Tuktuk the collared lemming needs to find a way to stay warm. What will he do?

One day, Tuktuk hears a commotion outside his burrow. Poking his head out of his hole, he sees a sled, pulled by dogs rushing by. As it glides along, it hits a bump and a furry kamik (waterproof boot) falls off the sled. Tuktuk waits for the dogs and sled to disappear across the snow and then he hurries over to the boot. The fur-lined boot will be perfect in his nest and will keep him warm and cozy all winter. But as he starts to drag the boot toward his burrow, Putak the polar bear spots him and declares that the boot will be perfect for him. How will Tuktuk outwit the big, powerful polar bear? And what about the other animals getting ready for winter? They too, will want the boot. Tuktuk will have to think quickly if he wants to keep the boot for his burrow.

Arbordale Publishing has become synonymous with quality, educational books that are carefully wrapped up in fun stories that children will want to read. Tuktuk is no exception to this and like the other books from this publisher, the illustrations are amazing and add so much to the story. Children will love following along with Tuktuk to see if he can outwit the polar bear, fox and caribou. At the back of the book are four pages “For Creative Minds” that include information on “Polar Seasons,” “Arctic Skies,” “Arctic Vocabulary” and “Life in the Cold.” If you haven’t yet checked out these books, be sure to pick up Tuktuk for your little one or classroom – I’m sure you’ll be hooked.

Quill says: A beautiful book full of facts and entertainment.