Wednesday, December 13, 2017

#BookReview - Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure

Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure

By: Joanne C. Hillhouse
Illustrated by: Danielle Boodoo-Fortune
Publisher: CaribbeanReads Publishing
Publication Date: November 2017
ISBN: 978-0-9992372-1-2
Reviewed by: Holly Connors
Review Date: December 13, 2017

Dolphin the Arctic seal is a playful, adorable seal who easily gets distracted and "day-dreamy." Thanks to his wandering mind, he's about to go on a very big adventure, and young readers will love following along to see what happens.

Dolphin has an odd name, considering he's a seal, not a dolphin. His friends call him Dolphin because of "...his funny looking nose," but his Nema tells him it's really quite beautiful, just like a bottlenose dolphin. Nema always knows what to say to make Dolphin feel special. She has also traveled further than any other seal and enjoys telling Dolphin tales of all the wonderful sea animals she has met. The Arctic seal loves to imagine those amazing animals as they swim and dance in the water.

The cute little Arctic seal also loves to play with his friends, and they frequently go swimming and exploring through the ocean. Unfortunately, Dolphin isn't very fast so he is constantly getting left behind. Combine that with his tendency to daydream, and Dolphin is in for some trouble. One day, while Dolphin is lost in a daydream, a big, black ship, spitting out dark smoke, comes hurtling through the ocean, right up alongside Dolphin. By the time the little seal notices the ship, it's too late - it bumps him on his nose and he's knocked out. When Dolphin wakes up, he quickly realizes that he is far, far from home. How will he get back to Nema?

Right after Dolphin wakes up, he meets a new friend - Coral the jellyfish. They talk a little and then Dolphin realizes there's another problem with his situation - the water here is much too warm for an Arctic seal! Coral wants to help Dolphin, and he suggests that they go meet with Coral's Nana (who, Dolphin discovers, is a lot like his Nema). Dolphin explains his dilemma to Nana and hopes that the wise jellyfish will know what to do. Will Nana come up with a way to get Dolphin home to his colder ocean, his friends, and most importantly, to Nema?

Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure is an enjoyable read that is sure to captivate young readers. The author has chosen an interesting topic to write about, and one that many people may not be aware of - the work of environmentalists to help Arctic seals (and other sea animals). The story is loosely based on a real event from 2001 when a hooded seal who had wandered far from his home was returned to his native shores. Like that story, Lost! has a happy ending that will satisfy children. The illustrations are fantastic and use every color of the rainbow, with several pictures reminiscent of Peter Max artwork from the 60s. Finally, at the back of the book is a fun maze to "Help Dolphin Get Home To The Arctic," as well as a fact page on Arctic seals.

Quill says: Meet Dolphin the Arctic seal, fall in love with the adorable sea mammal, enjoy a fun adventure while also learning some fascinating facts about seals in Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure.

Monday, December 11, 2017

#AuthorInterview with Christina Nordstrom

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Anita Lock is talking with Christina Nordstrom, author of Park Street Angels: A Chronicle of Hope

FQ: You mention the awkwardness you felt in trying to start a conversation with Bob, even though you’ve had your own taste of poverty. Do you think xenophobia (“fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign”—Merriam-Webster) may have played a part in your awkwardness? If not, what did?

NORDSTROM: The awkwardness I felt in starting a conversation with Bob had less to do with “fear of strangers” and more to do with what I refer to as a case of “terminal self-consciousness” that’s plagued me all my life. (I’m the dorky kid with the new, blue metallic cat’s eye glasses in Mrs. Niven’s fifth grade class who, in the late 50’s, sits frozen at her desk and starts crying when called upon in class to answer a question out loud, dreading that everyone will laugh at her if she gives the wrong answer.) In most every social situation when I’m with people I don’t know or don’t know well, I’m not the one that starts the conversation. And I’m not good at keeping a conversation going. I don’t think well on my feet; I’m more of a listener. (Maybe that’s why I prefer writing!) But, that said, I will say I was surprised when I came up with the words, “I’m sorry for your trouble” when I first started visiting with Bob.

FQ: Do you feel that xenophobia plays a major role in creating a great divide between society and the homeless?

NORDSTROM: I don’t think that fear of strangers – in this case people who are homeless – is what contributes to the division between the “haves” and “have nots.” In my experience it’s more about society making assumptions that someone who is found “wanting” lacks character, or they abuse alcohol or other substances, or it’s his or her own fault for being where they are. It has been said that we have a tendency to blame others so that we will look good. The lack of compassion and empathy are a few of the reasons why society asks: “Why don’t they just pull themselves up by their bootstraps?” Well, the answer is that it’s hard when you don’t have a pair of boots. It’s hard when life deals you a hand that negatively impacts your mental or physical health, or causes you to lose your job and you’re in your late 50’s and no one will hire you because you lack the skills to survive in today’s marketplace, or when a serious illness or accident leaves you bankrupt. Maybe if we were able to reframe our approach to life as living “out of abundance,” as one of the pastors at “Common Cathedral” (an outdoor ministry for people and friends of those who are unhoused) noted, we’d realize there’s enough to go around, there’s actually enough for everyone.

FQ: During your first visits with Bob, he makes rather interesting comments: “I’m afraid of people like you. You’re here one day and then gone the next.” He repeats this line of thinking much later in your relationship, which actually was a symptom of his dysfunctional background. At what point did you realize that his comments reflected his background? Explain.

NORDSTROM: I recognized his distrust of people (and the world) early on since my own upbringing was within a very dysfunctional family system. There are different degrees of neglect and abuse, and my experience wasn’t as extreme as Bob’s was, but I could still connect at some level with his experience.

FQ: Do you feel there is hope for people who have had horrific dysfunctional backgrounds to someday amalgamate with society? Explain.

NORDSTROM: There’s always hope, but I won’t say that it can happen to everyone; and it never happens in a straight line if it does. And as I implied before, not everyone who is considered “homeless” is in that situation because of a dysfunctional past; sometimes “life happens.” But people who have suffered serious neglect and abuse in their lives have been able to turn their lives around given enough support and resources. (And, if I knew more about it, I would talk about how “resiliency” figures in to one’s chances of success, but I’m a novice on this subject and am still learning about it myself.)

One successful resource, the former Boston Committee to End Elder Homelessness, which is now a non-profit organization named “Hearth,” has “ending elder homelessness” as its mission; it targets and provides outreach to frail elders who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless and has provided secure, supportive housing for thousands of seniors in the Boston area. Bob Wright was housed in Hearth’s assisted living facility where he and many others seniors like him received supportive health and social services in their beautiful facility in Roxbury.

As another example, health care practitioners will tell you that “Housing First” initiatives have shown that an individual, who is homeless and is living with an addiction or who has a mental health issue, has a better chance at being treated successfully if he or she first has a consistent place to live, safe from the challenges of living on the street. And programs such as Ecclesia Ministries, which was founded over 20 years ago in Boston and now has affiliates throughout the country, provides a supportive community with weekly activities for people who are homeless, including “Boston Warm,” “Common Art,” AA groups and a Sunday afternoon out-door worship service on Boston Common 52 weeks a year where some amazing life-changing stories are shared.

It’s my belief that we’re supposed to live “in relationship” to other people – to live as “neighbors,” using our hands to share our “time, talent and treasure.” I’m still working on being better at doing that. One place to start is by “tuning in” to our neighbor’s needs.

FQ: You mention that in your decision to build a relationship with Bob, for you “it was more important to be consistent, to show up one day at a time.” Explain.

NORDSTROM: My decision had to do with the importance of, and need to build trust in our developing friendship. In Bob’s experience, “people like you” are those that couldn’t really be trusted – all good intentions notwithstanding, they’d show up for a few days and help out some, but that would be the end of it. He’d never see them again. He learned that early in his life as he and his brother were neglected and abandoned by their parents as children, living in and out of foster homes.

FQ: Were you surprised when Bob provided an answer to those who don’t know how to help the homeless by giving food, gift cards, make a sandwich, or bring leftovers from dinner, warm socks and underwear during the winter? If so, why?

NORDSTROM: Yes, Bob’s answer did surprise me. He knew that people were hesitant to give money to someone on the street because they thought (assumed) that the person would only spend it on drugs or booze. His practical solution provided a way for people to help support another’s basic material needs. So many people I talk to about giving money to those who are homeless say they would like to but don’t because, as Bob explained, they don’t want it to go to drugs and alcohol. But they are always grateful to hear about his suggestions for giving gift cards, making sandwiches, etc., and feel empowered to do something.

FQ: On a scale from one to ten—one being the lowest and ten the highest—how far and wide would you say his answer targets the needs of the homeless today?

NORDSTROM: Insofar as this “material giving” targets one of “the needs of the homeless today” – which is to be seen or acknowledged as people (not ignored) – it’s a 10. So many times Bob would say that he didn’t care if you gave him anything; all he asked for was to be recognized as a person, like any other person. “Just say hello.” His sign, “SMILE: It’s the Law,” was his clever way of engaging people, to see him and acknowledge him with a smile instead of just walking by and ignoring him. He often talked sadly about how homeless people were invisible to society.

FQ: Bob mentions during one of your visits that he can’t vote because he’s homeless. Is this still an issue today? If so, how do you feel the government should address voting with the homeless?

NORDSTROM: A little Internet research shows that there are ways for people without a consistent address to register to vote. Some states are very creative, but according to the National Coalition for the Homeless ( “Although it has been established that homeless individuals do not need to live in a traditional residence to register to vote, many homeless and low income individuals may not have the appropriate identification documents required by some states to register or to vote. Furthermore, many individuals who are experiencing homelessness may lack the resources to educate themselves about candidates or may not be able to get to the polls on Election Day. To overcome these obstacles and encourage greater voter participation among low income and homeless citizens, the National Coalition for the Homeless and other national advocacy groups co-sponsor National Homeless and Low Income Voter Registration initiatives, such as the “You Don’t Need a Home to Vote Campaign.”

FQ: Bob inspired you to create songs. Do you find that troubling issues of today, such as poverty, still inspire you to create music? If so, have you found ways to share that with the rest of the world in the hope of inspiring others?

NORDSTROM: Yes, troubling and challenging issues have always inspired my songs. In fact, through the writing of these songs, I’m able to interpret and “give voice” to a situation or issue that needs attention. In addition to illustrating an issue, such as the need for us to be heroes for our children in the song, “Sand Castles,” folk music in the traditional sense enables us to tell our stories, documenting and sharing the history and culture of “the people” that one wouldn’t otherwise find in a textbook. The actual singing of this history – the music – has the added advantage of enhancing the message to expand its meaning, and can inspire others to act. One of my songs, “Henry Berg,” recounts my father’s true World War II story of how he and his two cousins met in the Mariana Islands in August of 1945 (they were all in the armed forces). His cousin, Henry, had just gotten back from the sortie that dropped the first A-bomb on Japan. For me, the war became more of a reality after hearing my father recount the terror that Henry felt when he got back to base after experiencing this horror, and knowing my father was there hearing the first-hand account. The final lines are: “On the 6th day of August, the year ’45, just one bomb was dropped, not one soul stayed alive. The mushroom cloud loomed overhead in the sky, as shockwaves and fire consumed every cry! Never this way again should one life have to die!” Another song I wrote told the story of Mafeja, a young campesino youth in El Salvador, who was killed as the result of gang violence in that country, and how the community responded. I am a volunteer with the Salvadoran Association for Rural Health, and have participated in five work-study trips to El Salvador to learn about the people there and to experience living “in relationship” with the campesinos, the families in that country.

I’m trying to share these stories through performances in local coffeehouses and through recordings. I perform as a solo artist or with my folk group, Earth Harmony ( Some of my original songs can be heard at that website or at

FQ: In retrospect, what things would you have done differently with Bob?

NORDSTROM: I would have collaborated sooner with my friends, Jonathan Margolis and Suzanne Straley, to help find supportive housing for Bob. During our time together visiting with him on his corner at Park Street Church, it was obvious that his health was deteriorating. I wish I had known about the resources available in Greater Boston to help people living on (and off and on) the streets, and that I had been more of an advocate. Now I’m trying to use my book to spread awareness of the crisis of elder homelessness. I’ve spoken to a few local congregations, participated in a couple of book discussion groups and presented at one of Curry College’s community health promotion classes to share the story and message that there is a solution (one of which is Hearth, Inc.’s housing program). And I have created a website ( to share more information about the story and resources for people who may be interested in becoming involved. I also have a dream that this story might be produced as a documentary, or docudrama, and used in schools, such as schools of public health and social work, and with community organizations and area faith communities in the hope that they would not “neglect to show hospitality to strangers” because, by doing that, they might have a chance to “entertain angels” themselves...and “SMILE: It’s the Law.”

To learn more about Park Street Angels: A Chronicle of Hope please read the review.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

#AuthorInterview with John Henry Hardy @midightyankee

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with John Henry Hardy, author of When Brothers Meet

FQ: This story is a recipe that includes everything from thrills to emotional heartache. Where did this idea first come from? Did it have anything to do with the many years you served in the Marines?

HARDY: Yes, this have everything do with my service in the Marine Corps, an organization that makes its members acutely aware of world events that relate to the security of the United States. Most of the major wars fought by mankind from Genghis Khan, the Roman Empire, World Wars I and II, Vietnam, Iraq etc. etc. were precipitated by countries ruled by dictators. China is ruled by a virtual dictator, who has usurped the human rights of its citizens, and its actions in the South China may be another prelude to war. There it has usurped control of waters and islands that have been claimed by other countries for centuries, and is doing so by a show of military force. The reason for this intrusion is the billions of gallons of oil lying beneath the waters of that sea. I wrote this book to make Americans aware of what is actually going on there. As Dr. Kent Moores wrote in his book, The Great Game, "He who controls oil controls the world." That in my opinion is China's goal - to one day control the world.

As for the heartaches, while being absent from home, well I missed so many of my children's birthdays that I lost count of them.

FQ: When you first began to write, it was while working as a Public Affairs Officer for the Marine Corp., was it not? When did you decide that writing was most definitely the career path you wished to follow?

HARDY: I wrote a book when I was 18 years old, but it was never published. I fell in love and life got in the way. But hundreds of articles I wrote were published in newspapers and magazines around the country when I became a Public Affairs Officer.

FQ: Can you share with readers one of the most interesting experiences you have had throughout your military career? And, as well, have you had any fan experiences – emails and such – that have stuck with you throughout your years as a writer?

HARDY: I had a lot of amusing and not so amusing experiences during my career, but the one I remember the most vividly was when I was a platoon commander with the 4th Engineer Support Battalion. We had a get together for a Staff Sergeant who was leaving his wife and two children and heading for Vietnam in what I remember as being April 1968. In May 1968, we attended his funeral. He was an excellent noncommissioned officer, and had laid out a protective mine field around a military installation somewhere in Nam. As he was inspecting his work, he somehow tripped and fell on one of his antipersonnel mines. It was a grim reminder that you can get killed in a lot of different ways in a war.

FQ: Having your background, and with the world as it is today, can you share your personal views on how we could perhaps make this country better and/or safer for its citizens?

HARDY: What we have right now in the White House is making our country better and safer. Unlike another administration, that roamed the world, bowing to princes or kings, apologizing to the world for America's world-saving military actions, and kissing everyone's ass, we now have a president who wanders the globe kicking ass. I don't care what he Tweets, says or has done in the past. He is the strong leader this country needs right now, particularly fixing the $800 billion dollar trade deficit with China (they became a world power on American money), and the $70 billion dollar trade short fall with Mexico and Canada.

I also believe in an armed citizenry. This country was born on the strength of armed patriots, which I view as a last line of defense for this country. When I was fourteen, our family lived in an isolated location in New Jersey. One day while my mother and father were at work I was home alone with my sixteen year old sister and her girlfriend. We had no phone-no way to call for help in an emergency. Our dogs started barking and I spotted two men crawling through the knee-high cornfield surrounding our house. I got my father's double barreled shot gun and fired a shot above their heads-and that is when I learned the necessity of being an armed citizen. It is the only defense you have when you are alone-the police can't be everywhere they're needed!

FQ: Noting that your book is set in the year 2041, is writing in other realms something that you may wish to do one day? Such as, would you like to try your hand at another fiction or non-fiction genre in the future?

HARDY: I have already written a saga of the Vietnam War, Whisper In My Ear (three volumes), which is a tale based on the historical facts of the war. I also wrote a book called The Place Where the Giant Fell, a story about racial discrimination in pre-statehood Arizona, which is also historically correct. Then I wrote a humorous book entitled The Day God Played Baseball, a story about a little league team that lies and cheats to win baseball games-until it runs into a mysterious and angelic young pitcher who teaches a small town that good can triumph over evil.

FQ: Do you have your own personal favorites when it comes to authors and genres? Who would that/those be, and what about their work appeals to you?

HARDY: I am a Civil War buff and loved Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee is another of my favorites. Both novels portrayed strong women. I like novels where the human spirt triumphs over adversity, and good overcomes evil.

FQ: Can you tell readers about any future projects you have on the horizon that we should be watching for?

HARDY: I am currently working on a book - a tale - of aliens from another world who choose to settle on Earth that I call The Phantom Effect. Their sun is dying and they are very much like the human race that sees them as a threat; rumors abound about them taking over the earth and enslaving the world. Harpie Colcek, a reporter for the Rocky Mountain Times, discovers they are a peace loving race, highly intelligent, and they have the cures for many of earth's most horrifying diseases. But the FBI and the CIA view their presence as a threat and believe they are really agents from other countries that are planting spies and saboteurs in the United States.

FQ: It has to be your book you have a female President. Do you believe that perhaps a woman should be sitting in the Oval Office once day, if she is qualified and the correct person for the job?

HARDY: You can bet I believe that a woman will one day be POTUS. I have five daughters and a step daughter. I learned how strong, smart, and merciful women can be growing up with a strong mother and father, and being taught by nuns in a Catholic school setting-they did a lot more than the priests did! There are also many strong women in the military services. I would certainly vote for a woman to be president who was more or as qualified as a man-but not one who is a lying cheat. We already have enough men like that in public office.

FQ: In conclusion, if you could have dinner with one person, whether this is a historical figure, writer, etc., who would that be and what question would you love to ask them?

HARDY: My hero is Abraham Lincoln, a man who rose from poverty to the highest office in the land, and was married to a mentally ill woman; yet he managed to be perhaps our greatest president. I want to know how he dealt with the deaths of 600,000 men and women (yes a few women served in union combat units disguised as men) who were casualties of that war.

To learn more about When Brothers Meet please read the review.

#BookReview - When Brothers Meet @midnightyankee

When Brothers Meet

By: John Henry Hardy
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Publication Date: March 2017
ISBN: 978-1-541384347
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: December 7, 2017

The snow is falling outside the Oval Office windows in the year 2041, as the latest national crisis breaks out. The person sitting behind the Resolute Desk, however, goes by the name, Madame President Constance Higgins. This is a woman with a great deal of experience and not a whole lot of patience for people who try to disagree or go over and around the law. She has just had the mantle of President passed to her, and with it came an immense amount of garbage that her predecessor and their administration left behind. Now, here she is, sworn in as the fiftieth president, and about to head to her first cabinet meeting hoping for answers.

It is at this meeting that Madame President brings up many topics and speaks the absolute truth about all of them. Everything from the overpopulation of the U.S. because the southern borders were not secured by previous administrations to the higher number of people on Welfare, is addressed. From Social Security turning almost invisible as well as how the strength of the U.S. military has been cut in the last ten years in order to save money, makes everything even worse. It seems that the U.S. has received an ultimatum from the Chinese government: The Secretary General of the Communist Party of China, Zhang Li, insists that the U.S. pay their debts in gold rather than dollars, if what’s currently overdue in interest payments is not taken care of within ninety days.

Secretary of Defense John Mahood feels that money is not what this is actually about. He believes there is something far worse going on. As the only one offering a helpful suggestion, he tells the President that since Zhang Li has given them ninety days to comply, they should not do so. If at that time the Chinese do not go forward with their threats about gold versus paper, then they have revealed something far worse is actually up their sleeves. Mahood is right in his assumption. What is being planned is a scheme of monumental proportions called Operation Dragon, where the U.S. will have to face another battle.

Back in the ‘real world,’ Mike Dalton is the perfect male specimen. Not only is this guy a heartthrob for all the young ladies who call the Columbia University, NY, campus home, but he also just won the NCAA championship with his winning basket. Sean, Mike’s younger brother, also loves his sibling but is envious of the attention he receives. Worse, he hates Mike for his relationship with Kyla MacGregor. A girl from Scotland, she is pre-med, highly intelligent, and equally as stunning as Mike.
When a family fight ensues that leaves the “golden” son to graduate top of his class and head into the U.S. military, the feeling of guilt at what happened with his brother goes with him.

So what does a patriot of the U.S. who has had an argument with his brother have to do with the Chinese military moving into the U.S.? And who is NSA Agent Jim Hawkins, and what does he uncover about the Chinese government under a table through a trap door inside a restaurant in Chinatown? These answers cannot be given here, but you will simply note that this is one fast-paced, powerful story with questions galore.

The author has done a wonderful job keeping the thrills happening while telling the tale of brothers who are on an emotional path that may make going to war look like a walk in the park.

Quill says: Readers who love everything from history to war to family sagas that hit you directly in the heart, will find that this book answers each and every call.

BookReview - Tamara Turtle's Life So Far

Tamara Turtle’s Life So Far

By: Regan W.H. Macaulay
Illustrated by: Javier Duarte
Publisher: Mirror Publishing
Pubication Date: June 2017
ISBN-13: 978-1612253688
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: December 2017

Tamara the turtle, a red-eared slider, was just a baby when she found herself in the pet store. Placed in a small tank with other red-sliders, she was hopeful that somebody would buy her and take her home. Soon a young boy tapped on the glass and thought Tamara would make a good pet.

Tamara’s new home at the boy’s house was soon set up and life seemed good. She had a tank with clean water to swim in and a little dock for her to rest upon. But as time passed, the boy grew bored with the turtle. The water became dirty, feedings were forgotten, and Tamara’s shell grew soft – not a good sign!

Realizing that her son had lost interest in his pet turtle, the boy’s mother released Tamara into a creek that run behind their house. Poor Tamara! She didn’t belong in that creek! Would she survive being released into the wild, a place she definitely did not belong? Would she ever find a good, loving home?

Author Regan Macaulay has written a heartfelt story about the plight of unwanted pets – particularly turtles. Most of us probably know of a family that bought a pet on a whim – a dog, a bird, a rabbit – that eventually fell out of favor with the family. In the case of small animals such as fish and turtles, people think they’re doing the animals a favor by releasing them into the wild. The author, however, shows what a bad idea that is when readers see what happens to Tamara in that creek. The story does have a happy ending, and teaches young readers an important lesson along the way about the importance of caring for pets and the very necessary work that various rescue organizations do each and every day. At the back of the book is a two-page spread with a list of various organizations where further information on red-sliders can be found, as well as numerous turtle rescues that help find forever homes for these sweet little reptiles.

Quill says: A good tale to engage young readers and teach them the importance of caring for pets, as well as the necessary work rescue groups do for at-risk animals.

#BookReview - Wild Zoo Train

Wild Zoo Train

By: Carmela Lavigna Coyle
Illustrated by: Seve Gray
Publisher: Muddy Boots
Publication Date: October 2017
ISBN: 978-1630763060
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: December 7, 2017

Attention all young boys and girls – the Wild Zoo Train is boarding right now, and it promises to be a very crazy, very fun ride!

Toooot-Toooot!!!! The train is about to leave the station and the kids are eager to get on board. With a map to the City Zoo Tour in hand, they jump on the train. But wait! The conductor says it’s the Wild Zoo Train and the first stop is Canyonlands! How can that be? “I don’t see it on the zoo map,” notes one young rider. Stay tune for a crazy trip! Choo-choo-choo, ding-ding-ding and clickety-clack goes that train as it chugs along. Over a bridge and then the train slows the canyon.

Watch for...lizards and hogs,
coyotes and frogs;
cacti and cats,
vultures and bats!

That wasn’t in the City Zoo brochure! Next stop the Amazon jungle! Just what kind of wickedly fun train are the children riding?

Wild Zoo Train is a very clever tale about a train that takes a decidedly different track to several wild and interesting places. Readers are kept guessing as to where the train will go next, and what they will see in those mysterious places. The illustrations, are bright, colorful and the zany expressions on the animals’ faces will give kids plenty of giggles. There’s no doubt children will want to catch a ride on the Wild Zoo Train.

Quill says: Wild Zoo Train is one ride you’ll love taking with your children every night as it quickly becomes their favorite bedtime story.

#BookReview - Hu Wan and the Sleeping Dragon

Hu Wan and the Sleeping Dragon

By: Judy Young
Illustrated by: Jordi Solano
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: December 2017
ISBN: 978-1585369775
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: December 2017

The year is 1572, and the place is just outside Beijing, China. Hu Wan, an inquisitive nine-year-old, lives with his grandfather. The two spend their time tending to their vegetable garden and make their living by selling gourds that they grow and then carve into ladles and bowls.

When a heavy rain comes, Hu Wen proves his mettle by helping his grandfather raise all the gourds above the water that is soaking the ground. Hu Wan’s grandfather soon falls ill from the dampness and it is up to the boy to tend to the garden. Fortunately, grandfather recovers and all seems well.
Every year, one special gourd is grown inside a uniquely shaped clay pot that Grandfather makes and turns into a cricket cage. This year, he has given the honor of making the clay pot, and overseeing the growth of the special gourd to Hu Wan. The boy is honored and takes the project seriously. When it is time for the gourd to be removed from the clay pot and carved into something special, Hu Wan decides the gourd looks like a sleeping dragon.

Hu Wan makes a lovely cricket cage out of the gourd and when he catches a cricket and puts it into the new gourd cage, both he and his grandfather enjoy the cricket’s songs all night. The next day, Hu Wan discovers that the emperor has died and the leader’s nine-year-old son is now emperor. He learns that gifts are being requested in the hopes that the presents may cheer up the new emperor. After some thought, Hu Wan decides to offer his sleeping dragon cricket cage. But when a guard outside the Forbidden City mocks the handmade gift, Hu Wan is saddened at the thought that the emperor may not accept his gift.

Hu Wan and the Sleeping Dragon takes readers to an interesting point in Chinese history and shows what life was like for the peasants living outside the gates of the Forbidden City. As well as learning a little history, youngsters will see the sacrifice Hu Wan makes in the hopes of cheering up another boy - an important lesson for all. The author was inspired to write the story after seeing a museum exhibit of ancient cricket cages. The art of creating these fascinating cages is explored through Hu Wan’s learning how to make one. And their use, the enjoyment of cricket songs in the house, will ignite children’s imaginations as to how they could perhaps create their own cricket cage.

Quill says: A very interesting story that gives young readers an inside look at what life was like in China so very long ago.