Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Books For Review

Here's a sample of the books that have just arrived for review.  Check them out, then stop by our site soon to read the reviews.

Pride & Prejudice with a Side of Grits: A Southern-fried Version of Jane Austen's Classic by Jane Austen and Mary Calhoun Brown his modern adaptation of Jane Austen's beloved novel gives readers a deep-fried taste of their favorite characters.

My "what If?" Book by Tonya and Chad Walker My "What If?" Book takes a straight-forward approach to educating children about the threat of child predators and similar child safety issues. The text uses "what if?" questions to describe threatening situations that children may encounter in their daily lives, then provides appropriate responses in bold, vivid words designed to leave a lasting impression. The message in the text is reinforced with colorful, action-packed images that nearly jump off the pages. What makes My "What If?" Book unique is that it avoids the use of vague terms such as "stranger" that are often confusing to young children, and instead focuses on the circumstances the may pose a threat to children. The goal of My "What If?" Book is to stimulate discussion between parents and children that goes beyond the examples in the book. The initial pages of the book also provide a place for parents to list valuable information, such contact numbers, adults that the child can trust and a special code word that parents can designate in case of an emergency.

I Saw Zombies Eating Santa Claus by S.G. Browne Andy Warner has just escaped from a zombie research facility in Portland, Oregon, where he’s been subjected to experimental testing for the past year. With Christmas just days away, Andy figures that donning a jolly old St. Nick costume to throw off his would-be captors is just the ticket. But he never expects to encounter a sweet, lonesome nine-year-old girl who not only reminds Andy of the family he’s lost but who thinks he’s the real Santa. He also doesn’t count on being recognized as last year’s national quasi-celebrity by a clandestine group of decaying supporters who look to him for leadership. For the living and the undead, this unforgettable holiday tale will truly put on display just who is gnawing and who is nice...

Book Review - The Bracelet

The Bracelet

By: Roberta Gately
Publisher: Gallery Books: a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Publication Date: November 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4516-6912-1
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: November 1, 2012

Roberta Gately pulls the curtain back in her latest novel, The Bracelet and enlightens the reader to the hideous and inhumane business of human trafficking. Thirty-year-old nurse Abby Monroe sets out on a journey and life’s experience she may never have had, had she not lost her nursing job in Boston or been dumped by her boyfriend, Eric. Desperate circumstances call for drastic changes and suffice it to say, Abby goes to extremes when she responds to an employment ad for an overseas assignment. She is on her way to a UN clinic in Peshawar, Pakistan where she will be evaluating an immunization program—not exactly the most desirable place for a fair complexioned, honey blond, American beauty.

On the last leg of her journey to Pakistan, Abby sets out from her Geneva hotel, pre-dawn to take one final run. What she didn’t know was it would end in murder. Ms. Gately is specific in building a scene of peace and tranquility in the early morning hours only to rip the rug out from under the reader’s feet. In the next scene, screams are heard, a body is cascading downward and the mind’s eye zooms in on the first clue: a brilliant and ornately bejeweled, gold cuff—The Bracelet. Ms. Gately notes Abby’s frustration when she has her share specific details about the tragedy with a call to her best friend, Emily in Boston and a visit to the Police in Geneva. However, not only was a body never produced; but the notion of the mysterious bracelet was questionable as well.

Once in Peshawar, Abby cannot shake the fact that nobody believes her account of the murder she is certain she witnessed. However, Gately redirects the reader for the time being and moves forward on another course. She introduces a new character, Najeela Siddiqui, administrative assistant at the UN Staff House. Gately successfully achieves the element of the diversities between Western-cultured, Abby and Pakistani Najeela. In spite of their cultural differences, she does a tremendous job in establishing an instant connection between the two women. It is when New York Times reporter Nick Sinclair is introduced that another facet to the plot is uncovered. On the surface, Sinclair is on assignment to do a cover story about Abby and her UN services in Peshawar. However, there is a dirty, tightly-kept secret that festers globally and Sinclair’s mission is to expose it. With his Pulitzer winning writing abilities and a fair amount of adventure, it’s time to blow the top off the dirty secret once and for all.

Things never are what they appear to be on their surface and Gately is the master of spinning just that. She has managed to write an intriguing work of fiction and at the same time a compelling story that perhaps isn’t all too far from reality in many respects. She is compassionate in her address toward the many innocent unknowns throughout our world who have fallen prey to the inhumane crime of human trafficking that generates billions of untracked dollars on the black market. However, she does not lecture. Gately’s thought-provoking insights in The Bracelet deliver a clear message of her compassionate view of the subject matter. Gatley has hands-down passed the age-old litmus test of an accomplished writer in that, a writer writes what a writer knows - without question, Ms. Gately knew her topic and therefore, she wrote a fantastic book.

Quill Says: Current topic equals great read!

Book Review - Murder of the Cat's Meow

Murder of the Cat's Meow: A Scumble River Mystery

By: Denise Swanson
Publisher: Signet
Publication Date: September 2012
ISBN: 978-0451237811
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: November 1, 2012

Skye Denison’s fiancé, Wally Boyd, was Scrumble River’s chief of police. He seemed to keep everything and everyone in order except for Mrs. Griggs. Skye had inherited a house from her a couple years before and every time she and Wally decided to get it on, things would crash bang or the phone would ring. Honestly, inheriting a house was one thing, but a prudish ghost was quite another. Skye was a school psychologist and wasn’t exactly into paranormal exorcism, but something had to be done. Something also had to be done with Bunny Reid, her former boyfriend’s mother with whom she was still friends. Simon bought her a bowling alley to keep her out of trouble, but that’s when the trouble began. Big time.

Bunny called Skye in a panic and asked her to rush over to the alley. What was it this time? When she arrived she spotted Elijah Jacobsen trying to strangle Alexis Hightower. One of Bunny’s "latest harebrained schemes" combined a cat show with a speed-dating weekend, a surefire moneymaker. Alexis, the judge of the cat show, told Elijah that his "Princess was seriously flawed." Alexis may have been certified to judge cat shows, but etiquette certified she was not. She insulted everyone within reach, including the elderly twins, Sonia and Sandy. "And clearly you’re a loser." Even Skye wasn’t immune to the woman’s insults.

Skye agreed to help Bunny with her "bowler disco party" after things calmed down, but first up was the "speed-dating" event. It was a darn good thing she had Wally because the selection was a tad sparse. Things went from bad to worse when Bingo, Skye’s cat, left behind a "slime pile of poo." What next? Down to the bowling alley basement to get some rags. Instead of finding a pile of rags she found Alexis out cold for good on the floor. She’d been strangled to death with a cat toy. Huh? It couldn’t have been Elijah because he didn’t have the brain power to pull this one off. Looked like Skye and Wally would have an investigation on their hands. "Can you," asked Wally, "run faster than twelve hundred feet per second?" It looked like someone was going to strike out and it wouldn’t be at Bunny’s bowling alley.

This amazingly silly ‘n sometimes serious mystery in Scrumble River will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Of course some of the humor at the beginning of the book had me falling off my seat. This book is one that starts out with a heavy dose of humor and quickly settles down as Wally Boyd and Skye Dennison join forces to solve this most unusual murder. This soon to be family duo work side-by-side, a slightly different modus operandus than many cozy mystery sleuths use as they snag clues here and there. The humor resurfaces here and there as we meet the likes of the Doozier clan and return to Bunny who claims, "I just have a personality you can’t handle." If you want a light read with a dashing dollop of droll humor and a serious sleuth, you may want to check out what’s going on in Scrumble River!

Quill says: No doubt this wild and crazy cozy mystery is one that really is the cat's meow!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Book Review - The Prodigal Son

The Prodigal Son: A Carmine Delmonico Novel

By: Colleen McCullough
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: November 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4516-6875-9
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: October 29, 2012

In her latest novel in the Carmine Delmonico detective series, The Prodigal Son, Colleen McCullough begins by introducing John Hall, long-lost son of publishing magnate Max Tunbull. Hall left his Oregon home and traveled to his father’s Holloman, Connecticut home for the reunion. The moment has arrived and he is standing on the doorstep. As he pushes the doorbell, Hall takes pause once the sound of Beethoven greets his ears. While this may seem inconsequential, Ms. McCullough artfully sprinkles this type of random humor throughout the book which tells me she is toying with the reader to pay attention. The door is whisked open shortly thereafter and Hall is greeted by a gushing and quite glamorous Slavic beauty. Hall soon learns she is Devina Tunbull, his step mother. She appears to be closer to his thirty-something years versus his estranged father’s sixty-something age. Once ushered inside, Ms. McCullough focuses on the scene before Hall; concentrating on the mix of high society snobbery, sumptuous cuisine, and just the right amount of pomp and circumstance. This is the family Hall never knew.

The plot continues to thicken once the dinner party is underway, but McCullough does not drag the reader through information ad nauseam. Rather, she caters to her audience; treating them to witty banter and simple dialect as she plants the clues in her 'who done it' garden. As she gains momentum on course to the first murder, McCullough presents two more key characters—Jim and Millicent (Millie) Hunter; quite the odd couple given they are a bi-racial married couple in the 60’s. She is explicit when she explains how unforgiving the aristocracy can be toward such an arrangement in that era; but quickly overcomes the 'taboo' by gracing both characters with impressive pedigrees of scientific knowledge and respective brilliance. Their connection with the Tunbull dynasty is not only their friendship with John Hall pre-Holloman; but also with Max Tunbull. It is the latter who holds their future notoriety once Jim's masterpiece, A Helical God, is published by Tunbull Publishing.
Shortly after dinner and before evening's end, the first murder occurs. A murder mystery would not be complete without its diabolical villain. In this case, it is a rare strain of poison called tetrodotoxin and is derived from none other than the unsuspecting blowfish. To complicate the plot further, the reader soon learns that Millie happens to be the scientist who developed the strain. Barely twenty pages into the novel, Ms. McCullough has successfully used her page turning real estate to commit the first crime. To be sure, the reader will continue on because she has only given the reader the mere tip of the ultimate iceberg.

It is impossible to sit and pay homage to each delectable character Ms. McCullough created without writing a ten-page review. Carmine Delmonico, however, deserves his time in the spotlight. He is the mainstay of this crime novel and holds the esteemed title of captain of the police force. He also becomes lead investigator of the multiple crimes that will unfold throughout this story. With the perfect balance between witty and direct, Ms. McCullough has done a superb job of creating not only likeability in Carmine Delmonico, but believability as well. She identifies his perseverance and passion toward crime solving by making him street-savvy and most familiar and comfortable with his detective lingo. However, to make him a bit more interesting, Ms. McCullough threw in a nugget to thicken the plot. It would seem Captain Delmonico is Patrick O'Donnell's cousin who just so happens to be Millie Hunter's father.

McCullough has mastered a culinary word delight in serving up this deliciously fast-paced and quite witty murder mystery. I liken this story to the glorious game of Clue. The Prodigal Son invited me to play and gladly, I did. I followed the bread trail with no intentions of quitting until I figured out who did what, where, how, when and why. Just when I thought I had it figured out, Ms. McCullough played her final card with her element of surprise ending. She is a seasoned and enviable veteran of the pen. She knows her readership and, in my opinion, accomplished what she set out to do. She wrote an engaging, on-the-edge-of-your-seat story that her readership will enjoy from the beginning to its very end.

Quill Says: If you haven't already done so, it's high time you investigate one of Colleen McCullough's Carmine Delmonico novels.

Book Review - Died with a Bow

Died with a Bow: An Accessories Mystery

By: Grace Carroll
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: September 2012
ISBN: 978-0425251560
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: October 29, 2012

Rita Jewel worked at Dolce’s, an upscale boutique that turned fashion victims into upscale fashionistas. Rita was Dolce Loren’s right-hand girl and mentor until Vienna Fairchild was hired and she was practically relegated to the “role of backstage understudy.” It was a seriously sickening situation. Honestly, from a top salesperson to unpacking boxes and folding clothes was demeaning at best. To top it all off, the three guys she had been dating, were simply not on the radar at the moment. Aunt Grace didn’t want her to act like a floozy and chase after men, but Rita still wanted to check in on Detective Jack Wall, the “sexiest cop” ever to walk the streets of San Francisco.

The annual Bay to Breakers Bachelor Auction was coming up and of course she was dateless. Oh, and penniless if you counted the fact that she wouldn’t have enough money to even buy a date at an auction. Vienna wouldn’t have a problem because she was not only hot and gorgeous, but also had more money than Carter’s had liver pills. Dr. Jonathan Rhodes, one of Rita’s not-on-the-radar this weekend guys, called and asked her to bid on him. He wouldn’t have any problem because Vienna would outshine her once again and not only bid on Jonathan, but win the date. Even Dolce had her hooks in William Hemlock, but after all was said and done, Rita ended up with Jonathan’s date ticket because Vienna’s boyfriend would kill her if she accepted.

Rita wouldn’t have to check in on Jack because it wouldn’t be long before he was checking up on her. When she went back to Dolce’s the next morning to take back her dress, she found Vienna lying on the floor all dolled up in “her dress with the pink bow.” She was deader than biker-chic and wouldn’t be rolling down the road anytime soon. Dolce’s protégé was some dead and if she didn’t want to be pegged for the murder she’d have to figure out whodunit because her prints were all over the place. “You can’t,” Jack asked, “pass up a good funeral, can you?” Everyone knew that murderers often showed up at funerals and she was right. “I was at her funeral, yes. And next I’ll be at yours ...” What kind of dead was Rita going to be? How could she possibly get out of this mess?

This trend-setting cozy mystery series is proving to be *the* series for readers with good taste. The tale was delightfully unpredictable and oh so realistic. Rita Jewel was stuck in a situation that most of us have found ourselves in at one time or another. The job hit a dead end when a young upstart took her place and her Saturday nights were disgustingly dateless. Rita wasn’t an overly pushy sleuth, but she was determined to prove her innocence by sticking her nose where it didn’t belong. I appreciated the light touches of humor, particularly when the professional writer turned out to be one who penned the “fortunes for fortune cookies.” If you want a very likeable sleuth, Rita Jewel is a definite gem!

Quill says: Everyone from those who love every-day wear to haute couture will love this cozy 'n classy mystery!

Book Review - Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Family Man

Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Family Man

By: Brian McGrory
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: November 2012
ISBN: 978-0307953063
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: October 29, 2012

There are a myriad of books today on dogs, and how those canines saved the author’s life, brought meaning to the author’s life, brought joy to others, and so on and so on...there are even books about cats doing the same things. But a rooster? I’m willing to bet there aren’t a lot of books on the market dealing with how a rooster changed a man’s life. Buddy, then, is one of the first such books.

Buddy is the story of Brian McGrory, who after finding himself divorced and then losing his best friend, Harry the Golden Retriever, finally came to the realization that Harry’s veterinarian, Dr. Pam Bendock, might just be his soul-mate. But dating, and later marrying Pam, will force many changes on McGrory, a diehard city boy. Pam lives in the suburbs, has two young girls, a couple of dogs, rabbits, and yes, a rooster named Buddy. While the other animals easily accepted Brain, and Pam’s daughters slowly came to appreciate their step-father, Buddy insisted Brian was an intruder and the rooster needed to protect “his flock.” Protection inevitably led to Brian, at times, fearing for his life as Buddy came at him, beak outstretched. Brian had to resort to carrying a rolled up newspaper around to protect his lower legs from the onslaught.

The author, a writer and then editor for the Boston Globe, clearly excels at putting his thoughts down on paper. The book is well written, funny, and engaging. Retelling Buddy’s exploits from the meltdown he had at Brian’s Maine vacation home to the building of Buddy’s “McMansion” in the backyard will keep you turning the pages. It should be noted, however, that writing just about a rooster would make this a fairly short book so there is a fair amount of storytelling revolving around other characters such as Harry, the author’s beloved dog who introduced him to his future bride Pam. At first I was a bit disappointed that so much text was devoted to Harry, but honestly, the stories were so much fun that I soon found myself enjoying the Harry stories just as much as the Buddy adventures.

Quill says: While not entirely about a rooster named Buddy, this book will appeal to anybody who loves a good animal story.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The 13 Worst Reviews of Classic Books

Take heart all ye authors.  If you've ever received a less than glowing review, you're in good company.  Check out the Publisher's Weekly list of 13 worst reviews and get a load of the authors who were panned!
The 13 Worst Reviews of Classic Books

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Book Review - Bruja Brouhaha

Bruja Brouhaha: A Mind for Murder Mystery

By: Rochelle Staab
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0425251492
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: Octoer 25, 2012

A Saturday night fortune-telling game was in the cards for everyone at the Rojases’ house. Liz Cooper looked askance at what she deemed to be no more than a simple parlor trick, but everyone, including her boyfriend, Nick Garfield, an occult professor, took the coconut ritual very seriously. Lucia was a Santeria priestess and, with her husband Paco, owned Botanica Rojas. Drs. Carment Perez and Victor Morales, business partners at the Park Clinic, watched along with everyone else as Liz tossed the four pieces of the coconut shell. Eyebrows were raised and an aura of discomfort crept through the room. “You rolled Oyekun, Death.” Nonsense. Nick had to be joking, or was he?

Westlake’s Park Clinic was host to Liz’s down-to-earth Saturday Wellness therapy sessions. Not unlike everywhere else, women had stressors in their lives and needed help. The neighborhood also was host to gangs and prostitutes, an unremitting problem that had an impact on the Clinic. Parlor tricks seemed a bit frivolous in comparison, but what happened next would throw everyone into a frenzy. Shots rang out just outside the Rojases’ and a drive-by took out José Saldivar and Paco, who had gone down to the street level. Teresa Suarez stood next to the bodies, but just who the target was remained to be seen. Okekun, Death ... it had begun.

Shock echoed throughout the room, the neighborhood. Paco Rojas was much beloved, but there were those who marked his name in red on their enemy list. But who wanted to assassinate an old man? Perhaps he was a simple bystander who got in the way. Santeria was the way and someone would have to pay because the code of silence would not reveal the killer. Lucia’s fragility was obvious, but Detective Bailey would eventually have to interview her. Liz Cooper was shocked when Lucia thought the wake was an anniversary party, but a sudden turn of events became ominous when Lucia put a brujería on the neighborhood to exact her revenge. But would she live to see it?

This is a stellar supernatural cozy mystery series that will garner many fans. What surprised me the most was not the fact that I found a well-crafted plot, but rather the cultural information about seemingly opposing belief systems, Santeria and Catholicism. The mystery wasn’t one that kept me on edge, but rather piqued my interest with an increasingly intriguing and complicated puzzling plot. There were many Hansel and Gretel-type tidbits that were somehow connected, but how? Murder, drugs, an unexpected disappearance, a hex, the Oyekum Death were, to say the least, muy interesante. If you want to meet a fabulously spooky barrio brujería, you won’t be disappointed!

Quill says: This superbly crafted paranormal cozy mystery will keep readers on the edge of their seats ... waiting for the next installment!

Gilded Wings Coming Soon!

Countdown to Book II of the YA series that swept Kindle with over 20,000 downloads in one weekend!

The Angel Chronicles Book II
Gilded Wings!

Tune in Thursday 6PM MST Listen to Amy Lignor, author of the Angel Chronicles
Cowboy Wisdom NLI Radio or call in 718-315-6548

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Review - From Cocoa Bean to Chocolate

From Cocoa Bean to Chocolate

By: Robin Nelson
Publisher: Lerner Publications
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761365600
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: October 2012

Some kids just love chocolate, but how many know how it is made? If you take a look at the picture of some very unusual trees you'll see some large reddish colored pods growing on the outside. Inside these pods "are seeds called cocoa beans." After several months the pods are cut off from the trees and cut open. You can see several white beans inside the pod. Each one holds "twenty to fifty cocoa beans." After the cocoa beans are removed from the pods "they are left in the sun to dry for many days" and then are placed into sacks.

Once the sacks are filled they are loaded into a railroad car to be taken to a chocolate factory. At the factory the "beans are cleaned" and then roasted. The reason they are roasted is because it is "easier to take shells off [the] beans." In a photograph in this book you can see a man working in front of several huge copper pots where the beans are being roasted. You'll also learn about the machines that mash the beans, what happens when they are mashed, what is added to the chocolate, you'll see it "poured into molds," and will learn what happens until it is wrapped.

This is a fascinating look at the manufacture of chocolate from the pod to the final product. This is a simple beginning introduction to nonfiction for the young student. This book can be read by the confident reader or read and discussed during circle or storytime. The layout is alive with vivid photographs, visuals that are almost self-explanatory. There is a brief sentence explaining the concept in the paragraph beneath. For example, when discussing what happens when the beans are removed from the pods the sentence says "The sun dries the beans." This is one of six titles in the "Start to Finish" series about food for the beginning nonfiction reader. In the back of the book is an index and a glossary. There are additional complimentary downloadable resources on the publisher's website.

Quill says: This is one in the series "Start to Finish" that would make an excellent addition to any library or classroom shelf!

Book Review - From Maple Tree to Syrup

From Maple Tree to Syrup

By: Melanie Mitchell
Publisher: Lerner Publications
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761391814
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: October 2012

Cold Hollow Cider Mill often bottles their maple syrup in little containers that look like a maple leaf. The pure, sweet syrup is awesome, but how is it made and where does it come from? The "maple syrup comes from sugar maple trees" that are planted so workers can make syrup. All of these trees that are planted together are "called a sugar bush." As these trees grow they also produce a sap which is a "clear sweet liquid." When springtime rolls around it is time to harvest the sap that is flowing in the trees.

The first thing is to drill a hole in the trunk of each sugar maple tree. These trees need to be "at least fifty years old." Larger trees can have more than one hole, but the smaller ones can only have one. Once this is done metal spouts are inserted into the holes so the sweet liquid can flow into buckets that have been attached to the spouts. Once the buckets are full they are emptied and replaced to collect more sap. You'll also learn where the sap is taken, what a sugarhouse is, how it is processed, and put into those little maple leaf shaped bottles.

This is an excellent book for the young student to learn about maple syrup processing. This book can be read by the confident reader or read and discussed during circle or storytime. The layout is alive with vivid photographs, visuals that are almost self-explanatory. There is a brief sentence explaining the concept of the paragraph beneath. For example, when talking about the spouts the sentence simply says "Spouts are put in the holes." Words highlighted in orange are found in the glossary. This is one of six titles in the "Start to Finish" series about food for the beginning nonfiction reader. In the back of the book is an index and a glossary. There are additional complimentary downloadable resources on the publisher's website.

Quill says: This is a sweet book that the young student can learn about a food that most of them love and are very familiar with!

Book Review - Beyoncé: R & B Superstar

Beyoncé: R & B Superstar

By: Elaine Landau
Publisher: Lerner Publications
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761341475
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: October 2012

When Beyoncé was a child her “home was always filled with the sounds of pop.” Her parents, Matthew and Tina Knowles were music fans and it certainly rubbed off on their oldest daughter. Even though Beyoncé was a shy child, when she performed she was anything but shy. She was so unreserved she would even charge five dollars to people who’d come to hear her perform in her home. Her parents knew Beyoncé had the music bug and entered her into “talent shows and beauty contests.” She definitely was a star in the making at a young age and later stated that “I’d just strut my stuff and even finish by blowing a kiss into the crowd.”

One of Beyoncé’s earlier forays into the musical world found her in a group called Girl’s Tyme. The group wasn’t nationally successful and disbanded only to later morph into an R & B group called Destiny’s Child. Beyoncé, whose nickname was Bee, would continue on with this group through numerous changes. Bee’s father left his job to manage the group and her mother “helped with the group’s costumes, hair, and makeup.” No doubt the group was hot and by 1997 they signed with Columbia and within the year their first album, “Destiny’s Child,” was a smash hit. It wouldn’t be the last.

Later the other members of the group were in an uprising over what they perceived was Matthew’s mismanagement of the group. The group continued to evolve as members left and new members joined. Bee branched out into acting, started a clothing line, and later began writing songs. It seemed like “there was no stopping Beyoncé.” Perhaps she wasn’t stoppable because she continued to grow in popularity. And then she married her longtime love, Jay-Z in 2008. In this book you will learn about her family, her projects, how she became the “country’s highest-earning star under the age of thirty,” her break from performing, her pregnancy, her fans, and you’ll learn many other interesting things about Beyoncé, an R & B superstar.

This is a fascinating bio about Beyoncé, an R & B superstar. No doubt her diehard fans will know everything there is to know about Beyoncé, but the young fan will definitely love learning about her through both the text and the photographs in this book. The layout is very appealing with loads of pictures and informative sidebars. For example, one says “guess what Jay-Z bought Bee for her twenty-fifth birthday? A 1959 Rolls-Royce! The car was worth about $1 million.” In the back of the book is an index, source notes, a little bonus picture section, and additional book and website resources to explore.

Quill says: If you want to find out about hot R & B superstar Beyoncé, you're going to love reading this book!

Book Review - Justin Bieber: Pop and R & B Idol

Justin Bieber: Pop and R & B Idol

By: Nadia Higgins
Publisher: Lerner Classroom
Publication Date: October 2012
ISBN: 978-1467702959
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: October 2012

Many fans might think that Justin Bieber was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but in fact nothing could be further from the truth. His parents were quite young when Justin was born and there was very little money to go around. When Justin was a baby they split up and his mother Pattie suddenly found herself a single parent with very little money. As Justin recalled, “I didn’t have a real bed. I slept on a blue pull-out couch in my room.” There wasn’t very much in their fridge either. There was, however, something in abundance in their household and that was music.

The Bieber house was filled with music as the radio played and “musician friends from church [came] to jam at the house.” Justin began to sing and learned how to play several instruments. When he was twelve, it was a turning point in his life when he entered a local singing contest and became a young street musician. Pattie, who wanted to share his talent with friends and relatives, started placing videos of his performances on YouTube. They weren’t the only ones who were watching. Scooter Braun had his eye on Justin and soon things would start to move forward ... very rapidly.

There aren’t many fourteen-year-old kids who are destined to become overnight sensations, but Justin was. He “signed a deal with Scooter” and found himself working with Usher to hone his act. Pattie and Justin moved from Ontario to Atlanta where he “logged long hours in the recording studio.” In 2009 four singles were released, all of which became hits. Justin was on his way. In this book you will learn about his music, how success affected him, his “goofball” attitude, his friends, his siblings, problems he encountered with fame, his world tour, personal projects, and you learn many other fascinating aspects of Justin Bieber’s life.

This is a fascinating bio of Justin Bieber, a pop and R & B idol. Justin no doubt is a superstar that most teens and ‘tweens around the world are quite familiar with. This book offers the fan a lot of little extra things they would love to know about their teen idol. For example, Justin “has a random love of Band-Aids and wears them just for kicks.” The layout of the book is fun and vibrant with loads of full-color photographs and sidebars that add a little extra zing to the book. For example, one says that “Justin went to a school where everything was taught in French. To this day, he speaks the language fluently.” In the back of the book is an index, source notes, and additional book and website resources to explore.

Quill says: If you want to find out about heartthrob Justin Bieber, you're going to love reading this book!

Book Review - What Does a Hammer Do?

What Does a Hammer Do? (First Step Nonfiction: Tools at Work)

By: Robin Nelson
Publisher: Lerner Publications
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761389767
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: October 2012

If you look at the picture of the head of a hammer it might be hard to guess what it is. When you see one of the whole hammer, most kids know what it is. If you take a look at the tool belt you probably will know that "tools help us do jobs." The pliers, screwdriver, and hammer all "make jobs easier." The pictures show the hammer's handle and tell you to "hold on tight" to it. You will also see the head of it and will learn that it "pounds nails into wood." If you've ever used one you know that it keeps things from falling apart.

If you bend a nail, how do you take it out? You can see that the hammer has a claw and that "pulls nails out of wood." Carpenters and builders use them when they work to make and build things. Can you think of anything that you have seen someone use a hammer for? You can see someone working on the railing of their tree house using one. There's also another boy who is smiling as he works on a project. He is wearing safety glasses to protect his eyes.

This book is a good way for children to learn about the hammer and how it is used. The photographs are very clear and not only show how the hammer is used, but also names its parts. This beginning nonfiction book is one in the series "Tools at Work" which discuss the hammer, level, saw, screwdriver, wrench, and pliers. I do like the stress on safety measures as many kids enjoy using and learning about tools. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, a "Safety First" section, and one that discusses levers and fulcrums. There are additional complimentary downloadable resources on the publisher’s website.

Quill says: If you want an excellent series about tools for your classroom or library shelves, "Tools at Work" would be an excellent choice!

Book Review - What Does a Level Do?

What Does a Level Do?

By: Robin Nelson
Publisher: Lerner Publications
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761389811
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: October 2012

There are all kinds of tools, but some are easier to recognize. For example, most kids can recognize a hammer or a screwdriver, but some are a little more difficult. What is that tool that "has two flat bars" that has "small windows" between them? It's called a level. There are uses for all kinds of tools and "levels make jobs easier." Two boys look carefully at the bubble in the middle to determine if the board they have placed it on is level or flat. When you use a level they "work across and up and down." The woman with the hard hat and safety glasses on is using it up and down.

When you take a look at the level's little windows you will notice a small tube. Within the tube there is a bubble that moves back and forth. If you take a close look at the pictures you can see a level with three tubes and another with two. If you have a level you can try placing it on a shelf and watch as the "bubble moves to the center of the tube." Check out the library shelves in this book. In one the "bubble is centered" and the other it's not. It's easy to see that the first "shelf is straight or even." Can you think of other ways to use a level?

This book is a good way for young children to learn about the level and how it is used. The photographs are visuals that are very useful tools in themselves as it is easy to see the purpose of the level and how it is used. The two-page spread which shows the two library shelves will be particularly helpful. The series, "Tools at Work," discusses the hammer, level, saw, screwdriver, wrench, pliers, and their use. I do like the stress on safety measures as many kids enjoy using and learning about tools. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, a "Safety First" section, and one that discusses why we need levels. There are additional complimentary downloadable resources on the publisher’s website.

Quill says: If you want an excellent series about tools for your classroom or library shelves, "Tools at Work" would be an excellent choice!

Book Review - Let's Make a Picture Graph: Apples Picked

Let's Make a Picture Graph: Apples Picked

By: Robin Nelson
Publisher: Lerner Publications
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761389736
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: October 2012

Dan, Emma, and Ron had been busy picking apples, but they wanted an easy way "to show how many apples they picked." The way they decided to display their information was by creating a picture graph. By doing this they could see and compare their information. They started by writing "their names on the side of their graph," counted their apples, and drew them beside their names. The title of their graph was "Apples Picked" and at a glance they could see how many they picked as well as those their friends had picked.

Once the picture graph was complete they could start their comparison. For example, it was easy to see that "Ron picked five more apples than Emma." Dan picked four more apples than Emma and Ron picked four more than she did. Another chart they made simply showed how many apples they picked by using numbers. "The numbers [were] their data." When they wrote they names on the chart that was a label that told about the data.

This is an excellent book that will help the young student learn about data and how to create picture graphs. The first graph curriculum usually introduces the picture graph. This is one in the series, "Graph It!" that introduces the basic concepts of the tally chart, bar, circle, and picture graphs. The photographs alternate between informational and pictorial. The process of the creation of the picture graph is shown and then there are two comparative graphs. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, a simple math section ("The Same Number of Apples"), and one on "How to Make a Picture Graph." There are additional complimentary downloadable resources on the publisher’s website.

Quill says: This book is part of a series that is a perfect introduction to basic graphing concepts.

Book Review - Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing

By: Sally Lloyd-Jones
Illustrated by: Jago
Publisher: Zonderkidz
Publication Date: October 2012
ISBN: 978-0310721635
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: October 24, 2012

In 2007, author Sally Lloyd-Jones’ book, The Jesus Storybook Bible was published and quickly shot to the top of the book charts. It proved a powerful tool for youngsters to connect to God through Lloyd-Jones’ wonderful storytelling. Now, this same author has published an inspirational book for children (and adults!) that is the perfect companion (or stand-alone book) to her first title.

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing is a collection of 101 thoughts, very short stories, riddles, and examples from daily life to give one joy in the gifts that God gives each and every one of us. Each “thought” is short, no more than a few brief paragraphs, to hold the attention of little ones. There is the story of Winkie, a pigeon who saved the crew of a downed WW II plane by flying home which Lloyd-Jones uses to tie into the theme of finding God, who is our true home. We’re given a riddle of guessing what the hardest thing in the world to tame might be. Is it a lion? An ant? No, it’s our tongue! And again, the author ties this into an important life lesson. On another page we meet the beautiful horse and learn how much God loves this majestic animal. Well, if God loves the horse so much, “how much more must he love you?”

Below each “thought” is a Bible verse that ties in nicely to the story. At the back of the book the author lists a bibliography and other sources that she found helpful while compiling the text for this book.
Of course, no review of this book would be complete without mentioning the absolutely wonderful artwork. The bright, vibrant, and engaging pictures that accompany each story are absolutely delightful and are sure to attract young eyes that might otherwise wander. From the bright pink and green cars to the rocket ship flying through space, there is something here for every taste. It is not surprising, then, to learn that the author, Jago, has won several awards to honor his talent.

Quill says: Listed as a book for children ages 6-9, this is truly a book that anyone who desires a closer relationship with God will enjoy.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Book Review - Oopsy, Teacher

Oopsy, Teacher

By: Stephanie Calmenson
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761358947
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: October 2012

It was eight o'clock in the morning and Mr. Bungles stretched his arms as a bluebird sang outside his window. It was time to get up because he had to hurry, hurry off to school. "Our teacher Mr. Bungles / is really very cool. / He always, always, always / tries to do his best at ... school!" It looked like it was going to be an oopsy day because as soon as he tried to sit he bopped his head on a shelf. Owww! It was getting late and he had to hurry, but when he took his shower soap got in his eye. Ouch! It sure did look like it was going to be one of those oopsy days.

When Mr. Bungles sat down to have his breakfast, the egg and toast were just dandy, but the jam decided to land on his tie. Oopsy! When he arrived at school he counted his students. First there were five, but someone was playing tricks because there were supposed to be six. It just wasn't going to be Mr. Bungles's day, but soon things would seem to get worse. "He went to clean out Nibbles's cage. / He opened up the door. / He had to sneeze and then--achoo! / Nibbles jumped down to the ... floor." The room was alive with excitement as Nibbles began to run. Would Mr. Bungles be able to catch him or would this be a really, really BIG oopsy day!

This humorous book about Mr. Bungles and his oopsy day will delight young students. Of course everyone just loves it when their teacher has an oopsy day, but Mr. Bungles is so lovable it simply adds to the charm of the book. This story in rhyme doesn't miss a beat and would be a fun book to read during circle or storytime, especially if the reader has an expressive voice. The artwork had a giggly aura to it that children will love. One of the most amusing scenes is when Mr. Bungles falls over a ball when he was chasing Nibbles. If you have a classroom full of students who would love a little bit of oopsy doopsy humor, you might want to add this book to your list!

Quill says: This oopsy doopsy book has just the right formula to get young children giggling up a storm!

Book Review - Let's Make a Tally Chart

Let's Make a Tally Chart: Food for Ben's Cookout

By: Robin Nelson
Publisher: Lerner Publications
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761389750
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: October 2012

Ben's family was gathered around their picnic table in preparation for a cookout. A large salad had been prepared and there was sweet tea and lemonade all ready to be poured. Hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken were cooking on the grill. It was Ben's job to ask everyone what they wanted to eat, but "how can he keep track?" He tapped his pencil on his cheek and began to think. One way he could do it would be by making a tally chart.

There are different types of tally charts, but Ben needed to find out three things. He knew that "a tally chart shows data" and that "data is information." He made a list that showed what was on the menu and when he asked what everyone wanted he made a tally mark next to the name of the food. After he had tally marks for four hot dogs, the "fifth tally mark" went "across the other four." When Ben gathered up all his data he gave it to his dad so he could serve up the food.

This is an excellent book for the young student to learn about data and how to use tally marks. This introductory math concept is one that often is introduced in a first grade curriculum. Many teachers have interactive ways to illustrate the concept, but I liked the way Ben created a data sheet to find out what everyone wanted to eat. There were also two other examples of tally sheets. One showed tally marks for two teams while the other one was a poll about favorite pets. The photographs were a mixture of informational data and Ben and his family. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, a section on "Reading Tally Charts," and one on "How to Make a Tally Chart." There are additional complimentary downloadable resources on the publisher’s website.

Quill says: This is an excellent book for young students to learn the basic mathematical concept of tallying.

Book Review - Sammy Spider's New Friend

Sammy Spider's New Friend

By: Sylvia Rouss
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761366638
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: October 2012

Sammy Spider watched as Josh Shapiro helped his mother mix up a batter. Sammy peered at the sugar, flour, and milk on the shelf behind Josh and asked his own mother what they were doing. It was going to be a special cake for their new neighbors and he listened carefully as Mrs. Shapiro talked to Josh. "When the cake is done we'll take it over to welcome out new neighbors who have just moved here from Israel". Of course Sammy wanted to bake a cake, but little spiders don't bake, they spin webs. He continued to listen from his web by the window and learned even more interesting things when Mr. Shapiro came in to talk to Josh.

It was customary that families should bring a loaf of bread and salt to those who moved. Mr. Shapiro told Josh that it meant that it would be their "wish that they enjoy many happy meals together." There were so many things that Sammy had to learn and he wondered why Josh suggested they also take along pita and hummus. "Pita is Israeli bread and hummus is a salty dip." Soon the moving van arrived and Sammy watched from the window as the movers began carrying furniture into the house. A quick breeze suddenly "snapped a strand of webbing" and off Sammy went, gently floating to the new neighbor's tree. A little boy was crying, but the tears stopped and he exclaimed, "Shalom, akavish." What did that mean? Would he be able to help this sad little boy?

This is a charming tale of how Josh and Sammy Spider welcome their new neighbors with a Jewish mitzvah. Many young children have begun their religious education with Sammy Spider as he explains things such as Haggadah, Hanukkah, Sukkot, Passover, Shabbat, and other Judaic customs and holidays. True to form, Sammy Spider's innocent and quite appealing demeanor make it easy and fun for children to learn. The collage artwork sparkles with vibrant color, animating the tale quite nicely. Now, to compliment the Sammy Spider books there is a Sammy Spider Plush Toy that little ones can cuddle as they listen and learn. In the back of the book there is a paragraph on the "Jewish Custom of Hospitality," a visual and written glossary of a few Hebrew words, and a recipe for hummus.

Quill says: If you want an excellent way to begin your child's religious education, Sammy Spider would love to help you!

Book Review - Elmer and the Big Bird

Elmer and the Big Bird

By: David McKee
Publisher: Andersen Press
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-1467703192
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: October 2012

Elmer, the patchwork elephant, and several other jungle critters were listening to his cousin, Wilbur as he tried to play his fabulous voice tricks. He could make his voice sound like it was a long, long way off even though he was right next to them. Elmer, a tiger, a crocodile, some bunnies, a lion, and the monkeys in the trees were all listening, but there was something wrong. All the little birds were missing. What could have happened to them? They all loved to listen to Wilbur when he made "his voice come from trees a long way off." Something was wrong, very wrong.

Elmer decided to go looking for them. "Yoo-hoo, birds. where are you?" All of a sudden a little blue bird came out from a cave and sat on the very tip of his trunk. It turned out that all the birdies were hiding from a BIG "nasty bully bird" who had been bothering them. Elmer said that he would talk to him, but no, it wouldn't do any good because that bully bird was just too nasty. He went to see the bully bird to talk to him and ask him not to scare the little ones, but he squawked, "Frighten them? They'll do as I say, or I'll do more than frighten them!" Elmer had an idea, but he needed everyone's help. Would they be able to stop that nasty bully bird or would he keep on bullying the little birds?

Elmer the patchwork elephant has a way of dealing with a bully bird that will delight the reader. Of course Elmer has turned into a classic and classy elephant that children around the world have fallen in love with. He is utterly charming and gentle, something that everyone adores, including the critters around him. Elmer does look a bit different than all the other elephants, but that makes him all the more special. He's very aware that this bully bird has been hurting the others and sends a message to children that bullying is simply not acceptable. The artwork is bright and bold and Elmer's crazy quilt look is especially appealing. If you have not yet made the acquaintance of Elmer, it's about time you did!

Quill says: If you want to meet a huggable lovable patchwork elephant named Elmer who doesn't put up with bullies, you'll love this book!

Book Review - The Vanishing Gourds

The Vanishing Gourds: A Sukkot Mystery

By: Susan Axe-Bronk
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761375036
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler

It was autumn and Sara smiled and threw her arms up in the air as she jumped in a pile of multi-colored leaves. The squirrels loved the season too as they hurriedly gathered acorns and scampered up a nearby tree to hide them in a hole. Sara's mother asked if she wanted to go to the farm for it was a special time of year and they needed to gather up some gourds to "decorate the sukkah." Sara just loved everything about Sukkot, her favorite holiday. She slung her little tool kit over her shoulder when it was time to help her father as they built the sukkah and she was quick to stir up the pumpkin pie mix in the kitchen when it was time to go back.

No doubt, Sara's favorite thing to do was help to "decorate the sukkah with colorful gourds they bought each year." Her brother, Avi, would proudly carry the box of Sukkot decorations when it was time to decorate and Sara would carry the gourds. Even their orange kitty cat loved to join in the fun, but first they must select the new gourds at the farm. The petting zoo was fun, but not quite as much fun as taking a look at the "many colors and shapes and sizes" of those gourds. Sara and her mother selected seven, including one that was S-shaped. At home Avi hoisted her on his shoulders to hang them. Oooh, oooh! The sukkah roof was beautiful, but all of a sudden the gourds began to disappear one by one. What possibly could be happening to them?

This is a charming, simple Sukkot mystery that young children will love to "solve." Even the youngest of children can enjoy decorating the sukkah and Sara's infectious excitement over her part will encourage other little ones to help and take delight in the process. Of course when her special gourds start to disappear, your young reader is sure to know just where they are going. The delightful twist at the end gives this story just the right amount of zing to bring a smile to anyone's face. The colorful, animated artwork elicits the special nature of Sukkot. This little mystery about vanishing gourds is the perfect way to introduce young children to the sukkah and Sukkot!

Quill says: This simple mystery surrounding the gourds that are vanishing from the sukkah has the perfect amount of allure that will generate excitement for the holiday for your little one!

Book Review - The Count's Hanukkah Countdown

The Count's Hanukkah Countdown: Shalom Sesame

By: Tilda Balsley and Ellen Fischer
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761375562
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: October 2012

Grover stuck his pointer finger in his mouth as he carefully looked over his grocery list. Onions, potatoes, apples, flour, eggs, sour cream, salt, and juice were all the things he needed to pick up for his Hanukkah celebration. It was going to be very special because Brosh and Avigail had come all the way from Israel to celebrate the eight nights of Hanukkah with their family. The Count held out his hand because he wanted to take a peek at Grover's list. Oh, my oh my! There were eight things on that list and the Count smiled and exclaimed, "Oh, how I love the number 8, ah ah ah!"

There were going to be just the perfect number of guests ... one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight! The Count considered the number eight to be the "perfect Hanukkah number." Later when he arrived at the house, the kitchen was buzzing with activity as everyone began preparing for the celebration. Grover and Brosh sat at the table "peeling potatoes for latkes" while Aunt Sara measured up just the right amount of oil. There was so much to be done. Soon it was time to light the shamash candle, but the Count thought there was a mistake. "Where are the other candles? We need 8." What was wrong? There were many things the Count needed to learn about Hanukkah, but how could the family help him?

This is a marvelously fun tale as Count von Count happily counts his way through Hanukkah. This book dances with Muppet excitement as everyone prepares for the celebration. Every youngster who watches Sesame Street knows how the Count loves to count and, of course, Grover's special Hanukkah celebration gives him the perfect opportunity to count up a storm. The eight guests, candles, days, nights, verses of a Hanukkah song, and other opportunities to count kept Count von Count smiling throughout these pages as he often declared that 8 was the "perfect Hanukkah number." I was especially impressed with the amount of historical information packed in this book, including the story of Antiochus and the Maccabees. The artwork was impressively colorful, dazzling, and lively. This is a new twist on Hanukkah that you most assuredly can count on becoming a classic countdown to the celebration!

Quill says: If you want a perfect countdown to Hanukkah you can count on Sesame Street's Count von Count to help you learn about the celebration!

Book Review - Jeremy's Dreidel

Jeremy's Dreidel: Hanukkah

By: Ellie Gellman
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761375074
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: October 2012

Jeremy longingly eyed the poster on the wall of the Jewish community center. There was going to be a dreidel workshop on Monday and the only thing that kids were asked to do was to "bring your own ideas!" Just maybe he had an idea to bring. Abby and David, who were friends of his, were already clustered around a table looking at a book when he arrived in the art room. David had his finger on the picture of a dreidel he was interested in making, but just maybe Jeremy had his own idea. Miriam, their workshop leader assured them that he could indeed make that dreidel, but first she wanted to know what they knew about them.

Adam knew that they spun it on Hanukkah, but Jeremy knew the dreidel was very special. "It has four Hebrew letters on it. `Nun,' `Gimel,' `Hey,' and `Shin.' They stand for `Nes Gadol Hyah Sham,' A great Miracle Happened There." Miriam went on to talk about how the tiny Macabee Army defeated the Antiochus army, the miracle the dreidel represented. More of the students chimed in with facts they knew, but Jeremy was still thinking about the idea he brought with him. After the discussion the children began to bring out materials they had brought in order to create their dreidels. Abby, Jacob, and Matthew brought some really interesting things, but the only thing Jeremy had was an ugly lump of clay. What could he possibly make with that?

This is the fascinating story of how Jeremy and his classmates learn about and create their own dreidels. Of course that ugly lump of clay was going to be Jeremy's gift of love for his father, who was blind. That "secret code" he was pressing into the clay was Braille. The tale nicely incorporates the history of the dreidel along with special feelings Jeremy has for his father as he tells his classmates how his father does things. For example, he says, "My dad uses a cane, so he doesn't bump into anything. And he has a tiny GPS that tells him when to turn right or left in a new place." In the back of the book are instructions for making three dreidels, including directions on how to play the game. There is a brief paragraph about Braille, including a sidebar with the English Braille alphabet and the dreidel letters. One thing to note is that the `Shin' is not a letter, but rather a second grade Braille contraction representing the letters `s' and `h.' This is a fun and novel tale about the dreidel you may wish to add to your library, homeschool, or classroom shelves!

Quill says: This is a perfect tale for children to not only learn about the history of the dreidel, but also about how differently-abled people see the world.

Book Review - Daniela's Day of the Dead

Daniela's Day of the Dead

By: Lisa Bullard
Publisher: Cloverleaf Books
Publication Date: August 2012
ISBN: 978-0761350842
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: October 2012

It might sound funny to some people, but Daniela was actually looking forward to the Day of the Dead. It was her "grandpa's favorite holiday." Even though Daniela and her family lived in the United States, her grandparents once lived in Mexico. Grandpa would laugh, smile, and play his guitar while Daniela sang along with him and pretended to play hers because it was a happy time, not a sad one. It would be different this year because she would help set up the `ofrenda,' or altar, for Grandpa because he had died. Mama told her that even though she won't be able to see him on the Day of the Dead he would be there.

There were many things the family would put on the altar for Grandpa. Grandma would put his guitar there and Mama would put up his picture. Daniela smiled as she tried on his wide-brimmed hat because that would go on there too. Mama took her to the market to look at the colorful sugar skulls and skeletons. No, they weren't scary at all and Daniela even found a little skeleton holding a guitar just like Grandpa did. Then it was off to the bakery and then to the cemetery to leave some marigolds for him. They must hurry because soon other family members would come to celebrate the Day of the Dead with them!

This book is an excellent way to teach children about an important holiday celebration, The Day of the Dead. The story does an excellent job of depicting the joyous nature of preparing an altar for Grandpa. Even though Daniela misses him, she is looking forward to his visit and wants to make it a special place for him. The bright, colorful artwork brings out excitement and anticipation as the family prepares for the holiday. Throughout the book are sidebars with informative vignettes. For example, one says that "In the United States, Day of the Dead is November 2. In Mexico, it often lasts for more than one day. There it might begin on October 31 or November 1." In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, directions for making a macaroni skeleton, and additional book and website resources to explore. There are free downloadable educational resources on the publisher's website.

Quill says: This book would be an excellent addition to any homeschool or classroom library for children to learn about this very special Hispanic holiday.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Book Review - Defining Moments: Breaking Through Tough Times

Defining Moments: Breaking Through Tough Times

By: Dorothea S. McArthur, PhD ABPP
Publisher: Cove Press
Publication Date: June 2012
ISBN: 978-0-9847735-1-0
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: October 22, 2012

It is certainly a fact that in this day and age more and more of us are suffering from pain, anxiety, tension, depression - you name it. The world seems to be far more difficult than it once was, and having that friend to speak to who will help us out of our troubles is almost impossible to find. That's what makes this particular book such a 'gift.'

Psychotherapy is defined as: "The treatment of mental disorder by psychological rather than medical means." But after reading these chapters that deal with everything from people's personal stories; to the effects of nature on our healing; to the power of communication - the definition of psychotherapy begins to fade. In fact, many readers will find that psychotherapy is truly the gift of being able to release the nightmares that we hold onto in order to live fuller, healthier - and far happier - lives.

This book offers real and practical help, and shows the true need of being able to change to the positive. In the very first section, nature is brought into the equation. In this fast-paced, Internet Superhighway world, most of us forget that the power of animals and the nature all around us is quite soothing. Animals have the ability to get back up when knocked down (a beautiful story is offered here about a deer). They have the ingrained sense to save themselves, shake it off, and move on - which is something that humans have great difficulty doing. In fact, we can become so wrapped up in our pain or troubles that we get physically ill; so simply taking a walk through nature every day, and taking that moment to relax and unwind, becomes a far more effective treatment than any pill handed out by a doctor.

The author moves on to sections regarding her own personal life and how, with her patients, she's helped them to overcome the various issues of no sleep, constant anger, etc., using the 'defining moments' in their lives. A defining moment is something - a situation, words, or images that have just been done or said; something that aids in the solving of a problem. And this author knows how to utilize these moments, open communication, even introduce her dogs and cats and show how therapeutic they are for her clients in order to solve problems without having to take medication.

There are so many issues to cover in this book that readers truly need to pick it up, sit in the quiet, and read about grief, money problems, society and life pressures and how to use communication and therapies to lift all the heavy weight off their shoulders. This author should be commended for her work and for her words. One of the most poignant areas covered is bullying, and how just because someone can bring you down - they can't bring you down forever. We have one life, and not living it is a tragedy.

Quill Says: A truly thought-provoking and informative work that is sorely needed to erase all the negativity in today's society.

Book Review - Kiss, Kiss, Bark!

Kiss, Kiss, Bark!

By: Kim Williams-Justesen
Publisher: Tanglewood
Publication Date: October 2012
ISBN: 978-1-933718-76-7
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: October 2012

The beauty of having a little brother is… Oh, wait, there really is no beauty when it comes to that; at least, not for Mattie.

Right off the bat readers are given an in-depth look at how Donny the Disaster (Mattie’s four-year-old brother) seems to get away with basically everything. Such as, if Mattie had painted the counters with, say, permanent markers when she was four, she would have been in big trouble. If Donny did stuff like that? He would simply be artistic.

Poor Mattie has been watching her annoying brother all summer long while she looks forward to her first year at high school and, frankly, she’s just about sick of it. Donny is in his phase of ‘being a dog,’ where he wears a collar, barks, eats his food from a dish on the floor, and basically drives her nuts. Now, Mom wants to encourage her son to be creative, and Dad wants Donny to keep going so he can film him and the family can perhaps win the top prize on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” but Mattie? She just wants to be able to go to her bff's house, be free, and stare at Livvy’s (her bff) brother Nate, with fantasies rolling around in her head.

Mattie has longed to be Nate’s girlfriend, but she figures he just looks at her like ‘his little sister's annoying friend.’ But when it turns out that’s not the case, and Nate very much wants to date Mattie, things really fall apart. After all, Livvy is where Mattie’s loyalty lies - they’ve been friends forever. But having to choose between a best friend who’s angry over Mattie dating her stupid brother; and Nate, who Mattie is dying to date, makes the end of the summer truly hard. Add in the fact that Donny the Disaster is getting even MORE annoying, and Mattie has a big mess on her hands.

This is one of those sweet, extremely funny stories with characters that bring you back to a time when it was a nicer world. No, that’s not a Little House on the Prairie statement - these chicks rock! BUT it’s really nice to read a book without Facebook, cell phones, text messaging, etc. This author delivers simplicity and a whole lot of fun!

Quill Says: A VERY nice and much-needed break from the constant supernatural and supercomputer books for young readers.

Book Review - The Opposite of Hallelujah

The Opposite of Hallelujah

By: Anna Jarzab
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-73836-1
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: October 2012

In a YA world that delivers ninety percent vampires, wolves and things that go ‘bump in the night,’ coming across this engaging and truly cool novel was like a breath of fresh air.

Hannah is Caro’s much older sister. She was the absolute ‘Barbie,’ with her blonde hair and incredible popularity. But years ago, Hannah all of a sudden transformed and became a contemplative nun, moving into a convent that was beyond strict. Caro hasn’t seen Hannah in ages, and basically has told everyone she knows that her sister died. Caro actually has been happy with her home life - being the only child and getting to do whatever she wants. But when she’s told that Hannah has renounced her vows and is headed back to the house, Caro finds herself truly angry.

On top of everything else, Caro is dealing with breaking up with her boyfriend on the first day of school, and meeting up with Pawel (pronounced Pavel) who is a new student that she finds herself falling for.

Hannah, however, is a real ‘drag’ and more than a little odd. She acts like a distant person, as if she’s still living in her ‘cell’ at the nunnery. She barely eats and looks as if she’s going to go to her ‘maker’ very soon. Caro can’t figure out what to say to this absolute stranger living in her home, but when a secret from the past is revealed, the two sisters find themselves coming together in a very odd situation and learning to deal with issues that range from romance to death.

This is an incredible look at siblings and how two from the same family, who walk such different paths in life, can find a way to realize that no matter what happens, they’re still sisters and have each other’s back. In a world of ‘supernatural’ creatures, this is a novel that truly stands out!

Quill Says: Warmth, fear, pain and, most of all, the subject of faith, has a place in this novel that you won’t soon forget.

Book Review - The Unfailing Light

The Unfailing Light: The Katerina Trilogy Vol. II

By: Robin Bridges
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-74024-1
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: October 2012

What began in the very popular, The Gathering Storm, moves forward in this new novel which is even more enticing than the introduction.

Katerina is a necromancer who is basically a savior for the aristocracy of Mother Russia. In the first novel, her gifts were able to revive the tsar and she became a favorite of the Court. Even though Katerina had tried to hide her gift, she soon found out that the royal world was full of members who had supernatural powers, including some very dark ones found in a world of vampires.

Choosing to leave her homeland behind and head to Switzerland to study medicine, Katerina believes that she can protect the boy she loves and her own family, so that any dark powers will head straight to the Alps and leave her loved ones alone. BUT, what Katerina doesn’t expect is being trapped by the boy she loves, who believes that in order for her to be safe, she will stay inside the walls of the finishing school she despises. There, the tsar’s wife casts a spell on the building in order to keep all dark forces away - such as Prince Danilo who desperately wants Katerina for his own dark purposes. Unfortunately, the magic goes wrong when a phantom menace is awakened inside the school that may be far more powerful and mean than any Katerina has met up with before.

Not only is this a story of true love between a necromancer and the tsar’s son who has only one year to convince his own mother that Katerina is the girl he will marry no matter what; but this is also a battle of wills between two specific social circles, where Konstantin the Deathless is still doing his best to win the royal role he believes he deserves.

Fans will love this tale, as it delves even deeper into the adventure and beauty that this land and its characters provide. Not only that, but the surprise ending for Katerina’s own mother will have fans eager for Book III.

Quill Says: The author has done a brilliant job with this series thus far. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Book Review - Velveteen


By: Daniel Marks
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-74224-5
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: October 21, 2012

WOW! That's the way to start out this particular review, because the author has thrown a brand new world into the YA mix that truly blows the mind.
Velveteen was only sixteen when she met a brutal end at the hands of a serial killer. When her soul left the world, however, she ended up in a place that is neither Heaven nor Hell. In fact, with all the back alley businesses, and various groups that do particular odd jobs in order to keep this world running, this city of the dead feels very much like a regular city.

Here, things called shadowquakes are going on that have been rocking the city and making people fearful that they're going to die. Why? Because the Departure is coming. You see, the Departure is all about a few like-minded people banding together in order to get out of the city. They don't know what will happen once free, but they're definitely planning on getting the heck out of there.

Velveteen is the leader of an important group. She and her friends travel when they need to save or collect a soul. Think of them as the Search & Rescue team (the salvagers that rescue wayward souls). On one trip, however, she and her crew duke it out with a dark force and end up saving a young man named Nick, who is not only handsome but funny, and has Velveteen's heart tripping over itself when he looks at her.

Nick becomes part of their crew and the gang has to prevent the city of the dead from falling to ruin, as well as deal with Velveteen's very own solo journeys to earth where she spends her time haunting and destroying Bonesaw - the serial killer who took her life.

This author offers a truly amazing world. From little things like having to wear ash on the face in the city of the dead; to the origami store run by one of the kind men who Velveteen cares about; to the crew that contains everything from a humorous playboy to an undertaker with heart to Velveteen's bff and her brother - who are the best poltergeists in the biz - this book is perfectly 'drawn.'

Yes, this is more than dark - but the plot, romance, humor, haunting of the bad guy - you name it, there is something fresh on every page.

Quill Says: A YA that goes well beyond what's already been done. All that can be said is, "Give Us More!"

Book Review - The Fire Chronicle

The Fire Chronicle: Book II of the Books of Beginning Trilogy

By: John Stephens
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 2012
ISBN: 978-0-375-86871-9
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: October 21, 2012

In The Emerald Atlas, readers got their first look at three siblings who were literally thrown into another world by their parents who were doing their best to save Kate, Michael and Emma from certain death. From the onset, the kids ended up on an adventure with a wise wizard named Mr. Pym; a journey that would have them discovering the first ‘Book of Beginning.’

As the novel opens, the kids are still trapped in the Edgar Allan Poe Home for Hopeless and Incorrigible Orphans (my absolute favorite ‘title’ in all the YA’s out there). They are waiting for Pym to reappear and get them the heck out of there. It’s been seven months since the wizard disappeared from sight and Kate is getting more and more worried because of the nightmares she’s been having. Kate can feel the darkness creeping closer to her and her younger siblings, and wants to take the Atlas (the book she’s the keeper of) and get the heck out of there.

Right off the bat the demons arrive and Kate must throw herself into the past in order to get the monster away from her sister and brother. In the past, she will leave it and return, but…things don’t go the way she plans. Kate finds herself locked in NYC in 1899, a few weeks before the big break occurred where the magical and non-magical worlds split apart. There, a witch sells Kate to an evil man and she is saved by a young boy named Rafe; a boy who’s linked with her future and has a huge part in how this adventure will ultimately end.

While Kate is trying her best to get back to her siblings, Emma and Michael are traveling with the wizard Pym, as they try to unlock an old secret that will lead them to the second Book of Beginnings - The Chronicle. This is the Book of Life, and Michael is the one chosen to be its keeper. Deep inside a crypt a map is found and the trio soon find themselves in a world that should be below zero temperatures and covered in ice. However, it is all about fire - a fire filled with a crazed member of the Order, an egocentric dragon, and a choice that could destroy them all!

The adventure is outstanding in these books, as well as the humor and fun that the characters bring to each and every page. For those who did not yet read The Emerald Atlas, get both of these outstanding novels, sit in a quiet room and soar! The author has, yet again, done a magnificent job!

Quill Says: Bring on Number III! After reading this, you’ll most definitely need to be a part of the tale when the Book of Death comes to light!

Book Review - Animal Helpers

Animal Helpers: Wildlife Rehabilitators

By: Jennifer Keats Curtis
Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing
Publication Date: June 2012
ISBN: 978-1-60718-671-7
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: October 2012

Wildlife Rehabilitators by award-winning nature author Jennifer Keats Curtis is a terrific educational resource for her 4-9 year old target audience.

Ms. Curtis begins with an explanation of what a wildlife rehabilitator is and the importance of what they do. She is specific in outlining the stark differences between the rehabilitator versus the family veterinarian one takes their domestic dog or cat to. Through each page, she casts a spotlight on wildlife ranging from baby opossums to the majestic bald eagle with life-like photos. The fact that she uses real photos in a backdrop of the creatures’ natural habitats in some instances sets an educational tone throughout the book; yet it doesn’t take away from an enjoyable learning experience for this particular genre. Rather it assists the reader in processing what makes each breed unique to its wildlife home and gives them a concept of where they live.

Once underway, Curtis provides information about survival tactics, sleeping and feeding habits along with the dangers that lurk among predators to name a few. She is patient in her explanations toward what constitutes normal lifestyle and what to look for when assessing an injured animal versus one who has been abandoned. She provides scenarios to assist in recognizing the differences between the two situations. There is an element of tenderness portrayed in certain images. She has captured a coupling of fawns snuggled down in a portable play pen on one page and a juvenile raccoon suckling on a baby bottle on another.

I found this to be an enjoyable read for the 4-9 year old audience. At the end of the story, Ms. Curtis provides thought-provoking questions that encourage the reader to engage in discussion toward what they learned. After reading Animal Helpers: Wildlife Rehabilitators, there is no question as to how Ms. Curtis acquired her award-winning stature as a nature author. Her writing exudes confidence toward her knowledge of the subject matter. I would highly recommend anyone with a child in the 4-9 age groups to select this work for their personal library not only because of its educational value but the photographs as well.

Quill Says: Great information for the next time you take a walk on the wild side!