A DIFFERENT POND by Phi Bao is one of the most meaningful children’s books I have ever read. 5 Stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 

Title: A DIFFERENT POND     

Author: BAO PHI  

Illustrator: THI BUI     

Genre: FICTION, CHILDREN’S FICTION, IMMIGRANT FICTION, MULTICULTURAL FICTION    

Length: 32 PAGES

Publisher: CAPSTONE   

Type of Book: JACKETED PAPER-OVER-BOARD   

Ages: 4 TO 8

Received From: NETGALLEY     

Release Date: AUGUST 2017 

ISBN: 978-1-62370-803-0  

Price: $15.95 U.S. / $19.95 CAN 

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟    

FROM THE BACK COVER:

An unforgettable story about a simple event – a long-ago fishing trip. A young boy wakes early, hours before his father’s long workday begins, to fish on the shores of a small pond in Minneapolis.

Unlike many anglers, the boy and his father fish for food, not recreation. A successful catch means a fed family. Between hope-filled casts, the boy’s father tells him about a different pond in their homeland of Vietnam. On these early mornings, the young boy begins the hard work of self discovery. 

MY REVIEW: 

Not only is this book beautifully written and illustrated, but the story within will enchant children while simultaneously evoking a sense of nostalgia in the child’s parents.

Despite the fact that the characters in this gorgeous children’s book are Vietnamese, every child will be able to relate to the main character’s delight in spending time with his father and in the disappointment when he is left behind while his parents go off to work. 

Readers will notice that the father and son are fishing for food, rather than fishing for fun. When they have caught enough fish: 

Dad smiles, his teeth broken and white in the dark, because we have a few fish and he knows we will eat tonight.” 

This line is an opportunity for parents to talk to their children about the immigrant experience and through this discussion, they can help to foster equality and to help eliminate racism in our society. 

Image obtained from http://weneeddiversebooks.org/


It seems trite to say that “Children are our future,” but as cliché as it sounds, it is true.

Books such as this one are important for many reasons. It is important for children of visible minorities to be able to find and read books that show people who look just like them, and that they can relate to. It is equally important that all children are exposed to multicultural books since we live in a multicultural society. 

The illustrations in this book are a cross between a graphic novel and a typical children’s book. This unique illustrative style is the PERFECT accompaniment to the story.  

I rate this book as 5 out of 5 Stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 and suggest that all parents, teachers and librarians put this book on their “To Be Purchased list” or that they go ahead and pre-order a copy today. I predict this book will win many awards upon its release. 

*I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

BAO PHI was born in Vietnam and raised in the Phillips neighborhood of South Minneapolis.

He is an author, a poet, a community organizer, and a father.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE     

GOODREADS      

FACEBOOK        

AMAZON    

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR:  

THI BUI was born in Vietnam and grew up in California and New York. Now all these places are a part of her.

She draws, writes, and teaches. She recently completed her first graphic novel, THE BEST WE COULD DO (Abrams, 2017), which is about her mother and father.

To learn more about this author/illustrator, visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE    

TUMBLR      

GOODREADS     

INSTAGRAM     

TWITTER    

THE NIB   

GOOGLE BOOKS   

GERTRUDE & TOBY MEET THE WOLF by Shari Tharp – A beautifully illustrated and wonderfully written book for ages 6-8 – COMING SOON

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Title: GERTRUDE AND TOBY MEET THE WOLF  

Series: THE GERTRUDE AND TOBY FAIRY-TALE ADVENTURE SERIES   

Author: SHARI THARP 

Illustrator: JIM HEATH

Genre: CHILDREN’S FICTION  

Target Readership: AGES 6 to 8

Number of Pages: 40 PAGES = 950 WORDS 

ISBN (Hardcover): 9780996967976           Price: $16.99

ISBN (Softcover): 9781945033001              Price: $7.99

ISBN (eBook): 999781945032                      Price: $4.99  

Release Date (Hardcover): December 15, 2016

Release Date (Softcover & eBook): January 5, 2017  

Publisher: ATLAS PUBLISHING    

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars    

 

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MY REVIEW:

“Gertrude and Toby are best friends and live at McFarland Farms. Every Friday when Farmer Sam goes shopping in town, Gertrude and Toby sneak off the farm for a fun adventure.”

This is the third book in the Gertrude and Toby Fairy-Tale Adventure Series and the first book that I have read. It is NOT necessary to have read the first book to enjoy the third. Each title works as a stand-alone story.

Gertrude is a goat and Toby is a tortoise. They seem to make an unlikely pair, but they work perfectly in the story. In each book the pair go on an adventure and they run into characters from other fairy tales.

At first I was skeptical that this concept would come across as fresh and unique, but it definitely does. I loved the fact that the pair head out to go fishing at Trout Lake and they decide that whoever catches the most fish will be the one to choose what adventure they will embark upon.

As they are walking a boy runs by on a few separate occasions yelling that a wolf is close by (from the fairy tale “The Boy Who Cried Wolf) and later in the story when a wolf actually does appear, readers meet the pigs from the fairy tale “The Three Little Pigs.”

The illustrations are simply gorgeous and a treat for the eye.

Parents (or Grandparents) will enjoy reading this story to their children just as much as the children will enjoy listening to the tale of the two best friends. I highly recommend this truly wonderful book and I believe that it will make a terrific Christmas gift. Since this book is due to be released in hardcover ten days before Christmas, the timing is perfect.

I rate this book as 5 out of 5 Stars and I look forward to reading the first two books in the series as well.

I received a free copy of this book from the Publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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Shari Tharp is a graduate of San Diego State University and a former teacher. She currently lives in Southern California with her husband and son. Her debut book, GERTRUDE AND TOBY’S FRIDAY ADVENTURE, won a silver medal IPPY award for Best Illustrated Ebook.

The next two books in the series, GERTRUDE AND TOBY SAVE THE GINGERBREAD MAN and GERTRUDE AND TOBY MEET THE WOLF, are scheduled to be released in late 2016.

In addition to writing, Shari enjoys playing chess, hiking, biking, and reading (of course!).

To learn more about the author visit the following links:

SHARI THARP’S OFFICIAL AUTHOR WEBPAGE

FACEBOOK   

GOODREADS    

AMAZON CANADA

AMAZON USA      

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gertrude-nd-toby-award

 

PRESS RELEASE FROM ATLAS PUBLISHING:

BREAKING NEWS!

Gertrude and Toby’s Friday Adventure

Wins IPPY Silver Medal Award—Best Children’s Illustrated E-book  

 

 

3 Stars for THE FISHER FAMILY FLOATS AWAY by Barb Asselin – CHILDREN’S BOOK REVIEW


Title: THE FISHER FAMILY FLOATS AWAY 

Author: BARB ASSELIN

Series: A READ-WITH-ME BOOK

Length: 26 pages 

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Beginning Readers 

Release Date: May 13, 2015

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
MY REVIEW:

When you purchase this book, you receive a link to download a free activity book called AFRICAN ANIMALS ACTIVITY BOOK. This is a nice bonus. 

The Fisher family consists of Mom, Dad, Toby and Darcie. 

I’m not sure if Darcie is Toby’s little sister or if she is his big sister. Why am I unsure? Well, It is because the author refers to Darcie as both “little” and “big.” 

The story reads: “Toby’s wish had come true. ‘OK’ he shouted, then he ran into the house to get his favourite baseball cap and tell his mom and his little sister, Darcie.” Then a few paragraphs later it reads: “Hey, Darcie, Toby said to his big sister.” 

So, which is it? Is Darcie the little sister or the big sister? 

Another issue I have is that the word “mom” in the above paragraph is not capitalized. 

Toby is excited when his father comes home from work with a boat tied to the top of his car. The whole family then get in the car and head to the stream at their local park. They proceed to have an adventure in the new boat. The storyline is quite cute and I believe children will enjoy the story. 

However, I found this book confusing. The boat is referred to as a boat throughout the story and the paddles are referred to as “oars” BUT the picture clearly shows that the “boat” is actually a canoe. If that is the case, then the “oars” should be referred to as “paddles.” I’m not sure if I am just overly picky, but when I read a book to my grandchild I want her to know the proper names for things and to know that there is a difference between a boat and a canoe, even if she is only four. 

Additionally, I had an immediate negative reaction to the fact that when the family members get into the canoe, not a single one of them puts on a lifejacket. As a parent and a grandparent who likes to go fishing and who has experience with both boats and canoes, I would NEVER allow children near the water without a lifejacket. I believe that books should reflect life and that they can be terrific teaching aids.

Children are incredibly observant and I can visualize my granddaughter saying, “Why do I have to wear a lifejacket? The people in the story we just read didn’t wear them.”

The accompanying picture also shows the family in the canoe without lifejackets. 

With a bit of editing this could be a terrific story. I loved the ending and think that children will get a good laugh out of it, but currently the negative aspects of this book outweigh the positive. Because of the reasons stated above, I rate this book as 3 out of 5 stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Barb Asselin is a college professor and best-selling author who has published books in many different genres including education, cooking, law, real estate, Internet marketing, entrepreneurship, baby sign language and children’s books. 

Barb wrote her first children’s book when her first child was just six months old. Since then she has written many more. Her work has been published online and in Appleseeds magazine. 

Barb lives in Canada with her husband, Mike and their two adorable daughters. 

Feel free to contact Barb through any of the following social media outlets (she loves to hear from her readers).

Email: barb@barbasselin.com

Facebook 

Twitter 

Pinterest 

5 Stars for A TALE OF TWO MOMMIES by Vanita Oelschlager – CHILDREN’S BOOK REVIEW

A Tale of Two Mommies Cover Art

Title: A TALE OF TWO MOMMIES

Author: Vanita Oelschlager

Illustrator: Mike Blanc

Length: 40 Pages

Genre: Children’ s Fiction, LGBTQ Awareness for children

Target Readership: This book is appropriate for children from Kindergarten to Grade 4 – Ages: 4-8 years

Edition: Hardcover

Publisher: VANITA BOOKS

Release Date: September 1, 2011

ISBN: 9780982636664

Price: $15.95

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars *****

 

OFFICIAL BOOK DESCRIPTION:

A Tale of Two Mommies is a beach conversation among three children. One boy asks another boy about having two mommies. A young girl listening in asks some questions too. True to a child’s curiosity, practical questions follow. “Which mom is there when you want to go fishing? / Which mom helps out when Kitty goes missing?” To which he answers: “Mommy helps when I want to go fishing. / Both Mommies help when Kitty goes missing.”

This book lets us look inside one non-traditional family, a same sex couple and their son. As the children talk, it’s clear this boy lives in a nurturing environment where the biggest issues are the everyday challenges of growing up.

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MY REVIEW:

This book was written by Vanita Oelschlager. Previously, she authored the book “A Tale of Two Daddies” and decided that it was important to write these children’s books so that they could be used/read aloud not only by parents, but also by librarians and teachers. In fact, if you visit the Publisher’s website you can download (for free) “An Educator’s Guide” to “A Tale of Two Mommies.” This guide is amazing and helps parents and teachers learn how to answer questions asked by their children regarding same sex parents. It also is a guide to how the subject of same sex parents can be talked about in a non-threatening way.

Firstly I want to talk about the gorgeous illustrations in this book. Mike Blanc has done a truly great job creating cute but also realistic child characters. The way he has shaped their faces gives them  friendly countenance. The fact that the three children in the book are all obviously friends despite the fact that the girl is Caucasian and one of the boys is Asian and the other is African-American is very nice to see. Children do not notice race or colour, they just see potential friends and playmates and his book reflects that fact.

This book takes place on a visit to the beach. The kid’s are asking their friend questions about his two moms. He calls one Mom “Momma” and the other “Mommie”

The kids ask: “Which Mom coaches your T-ball team? Which Mom’s there when you’ve have a bad dream?”

To which he responds: “Mommy is the coach of my T-ball team. Both Mommies are there when I’ve had a bad dream?”

The rhyming, lyrical quality to the writing is perfect for the target age group and I believe they will love to have this book read to them. It is a great way to open up a discussion about the many types of families that exist in today’s society.

The illustrations never include the moms, you see a bit of their hands, or the bottom half of their bodies, but you never see a full image of them. I think this was a brilliant decision because by not including pictures of the Mommies, kids will not get any ideas that Lesbian couples look a certain way. Very smart decision.

Overall I rate this book as 5 out of 5 stars. *****

CLICK THIS LINK TO BUY THIS BOOK: 
A Tale of Two Mommies on Amazon

** ALL PROFITS FROM SALES OF THIS BOOK WILL BE DONATED TO CHARITY**

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A Tale of Two Mommies author pic

Vanita Oelschlager is a wife, mother, grandmother, former teacher, current caregiver and, for almost ten years, author and poet.

She was born and raised near Pittsburgh. She is a graduate of Mt. Union College in Alliance, Ohio, where she currently serves as a Trustee.

She has also supported and helped her husband Jim as he built Oak Associates, Ltd. into a successful investment management firm.

Today, as an accomplished author, Vanita shares openly the experiences that she, Jim and their families have had with multiple sclerosis. She has likened MS to living with an elephant, one that won’t go away or be ignored. Together, she and Jim have found ways to live with this “elephant”, and to share some of the larger lessons about life they’ve learned through the disease.

 

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR:

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Mike Blanc is a life-long professional artist.  His artwork has illuminated countless publications for both corporate and public interests, worldwide. Mike contributes creative direction and illustration. He lives with his wife, Gail, in sunny Doylestown, Ohio. They enjoy their four children, and five grandkids.

Mike was born in Akron Ohio, in 1953. On February 9th, 1964 he witnessed the first performance of The Beatles on Ed Sullivan in the living room with his brothers; Pat, Gene and Joe and also his toddler sister Lisa. He went to Coventry Senior High, Class of 1971. Mike married Gail Smith in 1973 and they have 4 children and 5 grandchildren. Mike is a self-taught artist. He has created many hundreds of designs for t-shirt and textile impressions for Champion Bowling Supply in Akron, Hooper Handprints, Florida, and Air Waves, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. Mike worked in an artists’ colony, Halbert’s Incorporated in Akron for a year creating heraldic art. Looking back, he believes that his Halbert’s co-worker was Chrissie Hynde, the Pretender and art major (please confirm this, Chrissie).  He’s been self-employed at Mike Blanc Studios since 1974. From 1989 till present, he’s a full-time associate at Artists Incorporated and is associated with VanitaBooks, LLC, of Akron an independent publishing corporation.

ABOUT THE PUBLISHER VANITA BOOKS:

Vanita Books Header

–> – The information below was copied from the Publisher’s website.

We’re In Business To Help Others

100 percent of the PROFITS_logo_001

VanitaBooks publishes books for children ages 4-8 that are short tales teaching a moral or value. Each book presents a dilemma or fear that a child may have, and resolves those issues through the loving and reassuring guidance of a parent, or through the plot of the story itself.

VanitaBooks is a for-profit business. Our goal is to produce popular, fun books that we hope lots of people will buy. Because our other goal is to donate ALL of our net profits to worthy organizations.

Here are the groups we are supporting so far. We will add more as we publish more books. We urge you to support them too.

Holt International
An international adoption and children’s support organization.
www.holtinternational.org

National Multiple Sclerosis Society
National organization providing programs for people with MS and supporting research to find its cause.
www.nationalmssociety.org

The Oak Clinic for Multiple Sclerosis
Ohio-based clinic that provides state-of-the-art care.
www.oakclinic.com

5 Stars for OVERSCHEDULED ANDREW by Ashley Spires – BOOK REVIEW

Over Scheduled Andrew Cover Pic

Title: Over-Scheduled Andrew

Author: Ashley Spires

Illustrator: Ashley Spires

Type of Book: Hardcover

Price: $19.99 CDN

Release Date: January 12, 2016

Length: 32 pages

ISBN: 978-1-77049-484-8

Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Self-Help

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars *****

 

MY REVIEW:

Andrew loves putting on plays so he decides to join the drama club at school. Determined to make his performance the best it can be, he joins the debate club to practice his public speaking. He signs up for dance and karate to help with his coordination. Then he’s asked to play for the tennis team and edit the school newspaper. Before long he’s learning to play the bagpipes, attending Spanish classes and joining the French film club. Suddenly Andrew doesn’t have time for anything or anyone else, not even his best friend Edie. And he definitely doesn’t have time to sleep.

It astounds me how over-scheduled kids in today’s world seem to be. OVER-SCHEDULED ANDREW highlights the perils of this rampant practice. While this is a children’s book and has gorgeous illustrations and is written in the simple prose that will appeal to young children, it contains a lesson, not only for the children, but for their parents as well.

Andrew signs up for more and more activities and the reasons that he signs up are admirable, but as his schedule becomes more and more full, he becomes more and more exhausted. Andrew finds himself not only tired, but also confused. He no longer has time to simply be a kid or to play with his best friend. Sadly, this happens to many, many children today.

Proof of this is easy to see. Go to any subdivision on a beautiful, sunny day and look around. When I was a child (in the 70s and early 80s) that subdivision would have been full of children outside playing with friends, riding their bikes, etc. Now, that subdivision looks like an adult-living community where no children actually reside. The kids all seem to be inside their houses; either watching television or playing video games. As far as I am concerned this is an epidemic.

Of course, as parents, we want the best for our children. I believe that is as true today as it was in the past, but unfortunately many parents have fallen into the trap of over-scheduling. They want to offer their children every opportunity and so they sign them up for every activity possible. This can actually have a negative impact on the child rather than the positive impact which was the original intent.

I absolutely LOVE the illustrations in this book. Andrew is a bird and his best friend, Edie, is a deer, but the illustrations are stylized perfectly. Each illustrated scene shows just enough detail to be relevant to the wording on that page, and does not contain distracting elements. The balance between detail and simplicity is simply superb. The illustrations also contain the perfect amount of humor.

I rate this book as 5 out of 5 Stars and I highly recommend it for children between the ages of 3 and 7. I recommend that all parents read this book no matter how old their children are since it contains a simple message that all parents should heed.

Purchase this book online at the following retailers:

Amazon.ca

Chapters-Indigo Books

McNally-Robinson Books

Amazon.com

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: (Illustration obtained from www.ashleyspires.com)

Ashley Spires Author Illustration

Ashley Spires is the author and illustrator of numerous funny books for children including The Most Magnificent Thing and the Binky the Space Cat series.She was born and raised in BC with eight cats and a dog.

After spending some time living in Toronto and Saskatoon, she has returned to the BC life, living in Ladner with three cats, one dog and a man. When she is not running or bike riding or over-scheduling herself, she makes children’s books, many of which have won numerous awards, including Ontario’s Silver Birch Express, the Atlantic Province’s Hackmatack, Saskatchewan’s Shining Willow and BC’s Chocolate Lily Award.

Visit Ashley at her website www.ashleyspires.com or follow her on twitter: @ashleyspires

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Stars for IF YOU WERE ME AND LIVED IN CHINA by Carole P. Roman – BOOK REVIEW

  

Title: IF YOU WERE ME AND LIVED IN … CHINA

Series: A Child’s Introduction to Culture Around The World

Author: Carole P. Roman

Illustrator: Kelsea Wierenga

Type of Book: eBook 

Length: 30 pages

ISBN: 9781511440844

Genre: Children’s Non-Fiction

Release Date: June 7, 2015

Publisher: CreateSpace

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 

~ I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

I really love the idea of having children’s books that introduce kids to other cultures. In today’s global economy, it is will be very important that children grow up knowing about other races, religions and cultures. 

This book won the NABE Pinnacle Book Achievement Award 2015 – for Children’s Interest 

I believe these types of books are also essential to eliminating racism and prejudice from our world. Everyone knows that today’s children are our future leaders and instilling a sense of global community in them at a young age can only be a good thing. 

I love the fact that the author has included the information of how to pronounce the words that may be unfamiliar to the reader, such as showing that China is pronounced as Chai-Na. What a great idea!

The only negative I could come up with regarding this book would be that I would have liked the font to be larger and that I would have preferred to see an extra empty line between sentences just to make reading the book easier. 

This series has books about many different countries and I hope to get a chance to read all of them. I am also looking forward to sharing these books with my three year old granddaughter and introducing her to other cultures. 

According to Amazon, these books are targeted at readers ages 3 to 10, but even adults may find themselves learning things they had not known before. 

The illustrations are clean and relevant. They are the perfect compliment to the story. 

I rate this book as 5 out of 5 stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

  
Named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best of 2012 for her first book, award winning author Carole P. Roman started writing as a dare from one of her sons. Using an imaginary game she played with her grandson as a base, Captain No Beard was born.”Captain No Beard- An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate’s Life” has not only been named to Kirkus Best of 2012, it received the Star of Exceptional Merit, and won the Pinnacle Award for 2012. “Pepper Parrot’s Problem with Patience” Book 2 in the series, received 5 Stars from The ForeWord Review The Clarion Review. Strangers on the High Seas has won second place in the Rebecca’s Reads Choice Awards 2013. It has followed with six more books to the series.

Her new non fiction series, “If You Were Me and Lived in…” combines her teaching past with her love of exploration and interest in the world around us. The debut book in the series, “If You Were Me and Lived in…Mexico” has won the Pinnacle Award for Best in Children’s Non Fiction 2012. France, South Korea, and Norway. Rebecca’s Reads has given If You Were Me and Lived in…Norway an honorable mention in the 2013 Choice Awards. If You Were Me and lived in …France won second place. ForeWord Review has nominated If You Were Me and Lived in…France for best in children’s non fiction literature 2013. They will be followed with Kenya, Turkey, India, and Australia. She plans to do Portugal, Greece, and Argentina next year.

Writing for children has opened up a whole second act for her. While she is still working in her family business, this has enabled her to share her sense of humor as well as love for history and culture with the audience she adores. Roman lives on Long Island with her husband and near her children.

http://caroleproman.livesitehost.com/

http://caroleproman.blogspot.ca 

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR:

  
Kelsea Parks Wierenga graduated with a BFA in Illustration from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in 2006. She has worked seven years as a professional illustrator and designer for CreateSpace.com, a Print On Demand book publisher in Charleston, South Carolina. Sometimes I’m a Fire-Breathing Dragon is an original story that Kelsea wrote, illustrated and published in 2010.

Kelsea is currently illustrating author Carole P. Roman’s cultural children’s book series available on Amazon.com. These informative and entertaining books detail every day life for kids living in countries around the world including: Mexico, France, South Korea, Norway and many more.

To learn more visit https://kelsea.carbonmade.com/about 

5 Stars for THE BLACKTHORN KEY by Kevin Sands – BOOK REVIEW

  
Title: THE BLACKTHORN KEY

Author: Kevin Sands

Type of Book: Hardcover

Length: 371 pages

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction 

Release Date: September 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4651-8

Price: $17.99 U.S. / $21.99 Canada 

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 



~ I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. A review was not required, but it is appreciated. 

Wow! According to the publisher, this book is aimed at Middle Grade readers (ages 10-14) but I can easily see older young adult and adult readers absolutely loving this book, much as I did. 

I feel compelled to compare “The Blackthorn Key” to the Harry Potter series for a couple reasons. First, this book does not cater to kids of a lesser intelligence, nor does it patronize its readers. This book is aimed at articulate and intelligent readers who want a complex story with multiple plot twists and a smart but still likeable protagonist. Secondly, the lead character (Christopher Rowe) is extremely loyal and has a highly developed sense of right and wrong. Christopher has to make many choices throughout the book and he rarely jumps and makes rash decisions. When he needs to make a choice his sense of morality and loyalty to his master are factored into his decisions.

I love the choice of time and location, as well as the choice of apothecaries as central to the plot. Kids reading this book may not realize it, but they are being educated at the same time as they are being entertained. 

There is a King, a cult, baker’s and their sons with hidden talents (especially with rolling pins). There are orphans, beggars, noblemen and women. There are crazy people who talk to ghosts, corrupt officials, true friends, bitter enemies and even assassins. This book has it all. 

If you want a book that will both challenge and delight you, look no further than THE BLACKTHORN KEY. 

I cannot give this book anything other than a perfect 5 out of 5 Star rating. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 

This book (if it isn’t already) is sure to make the bestseller lists. Christopher Rowe’s name may even come to be known on the same level as that of “Harry Potter” and Christopher’s friend Tom is the “Ron Weasley” of this historical world. 

I am hoping that the author plans to continue this series with many more tales of mystery, alchemy and adventure. I know I will be keeping my eye out for absolutely anything else that writer Kevin Sands publishes. 

It is hard for me to believe that this book is Kevin Sand’s debut novel. I am proud of the fact that this Canadian author has burst onto the literary scene with such a polished and professional work of fiction. 

This book needs to be on everyone’s MUST READ list. If you fail to buy this book you will definitely be missing out on an exquisitely crafted book. 

Watch a video preview of The Blackthorn Key
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

  
Since escaping from university with a pair of degrees in theoretical physics, Kevin Sands has worked as a researcher, a business consultant, and a teacher. He lives in Toronto, Canada. The Blackthorn Key is his first novel. – See more at: http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Kevin-Sands/501383023#sthash.HXZ5oPcg.dpuf 



READ AN EXCERPT: 

The Blackthorn Key  

CHAPTER 1  

“LET’S BUILD A CANNON,” I said.

Tom wasn’t listening. He was deep in concentration, tongue pinched between his teeth, as he steeled himself for combat with the stuffed black bear that ruled the front corner of my master’s shop. Tom stripped off his linen shirt and flung it heroically across the antimony cups gleaming on the display table near the fire. From the oak shelf nearest to him, he snatched the glazed lid of an apothecary jar—Blackthorn’s Wart-Be-Gone, according to the scrawl on the label—and held it on guard, a miniature ceramic shield. In his right hand, the rolling pin wobbled threateningly.

Tom Bailey, son of William the Baker, was the finest fake soldier I’d ever seen. Though only two months older than me, he was already a foot taller, and built like a blacksmith, albeit a slightly pudgy one, due to a steady pilfering of his father’s pies. And in the safety of my master’s shop, away from the horrors of battle like death, pain, or even a mild scolding, Tom’s courage held no equal.

He glared at the inanimate bear. The floorboards creaked as he stepped within range of its wickedly curved claws. Tom shoved the curio cabinet aside, making the brass balances jingle. Then he hoisted his flour-dusted club in salute. The frozen beast roared back silently, inch-long teeth promising death. Or several minutes of tedious polishing, at least.

I sat on the counter at the back, legs dangling, and clicked leather heels against the carved cedar. I could be patient. You had to be, sometimes, with Tom, whose mind worked as it pleased.

“Think you can steal my sheep, Mr. Bear?” he said. “I’ll give you no quarter this day.” Suddenly, he stopped, rolling pin held outward in midlunge. I could almost see the clockwork cranking between his ears. “Wait. What?” He looked back at me, puzzled. “What did you say?”

“Let’s build a cannon,” I said.

“What does that mean?”

“Just what you think it means. You and me. Build a cannon. You know.” I spread my hands. “Boom?”

Tom frowned. “We can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Because people can’t just build cannons, Christopher.” He said it like he was explaining why you shouldn’t eat fire to a small, dull child.

“But that’s where cannons come from,” I said. “People build them. You think God sends cannons down from heaven for Lent?”

“You know what I mean.”

I folded my arms. “I don’t understand why you’re not more excited about this.”

“Maybe that’s because you’re never the one on the pointy end of your schemes.”

“What schemes? I don’t have any schemes.”

“I spent all night throwing up that ‘strength potion’ you invented,” he said.

He did look a little dark under the eyes today. “Ah. Yes. Sorry.” I winced. “I think I put in too much black snail. It needed less snail.”

“What it needed was less Tom.”

“Don’t be such a baby,” I said. “Vomiting is good for you, anyway. It balances the humors.”

“I like my humors the way they are,” he said.

“But I have a recipe this time.” I grabbed the parchment I’d leaned against the coin scales on the countertop and waved it at him. “A real one. From Master Benedict.” 

“How can a cannon have a recipe?”

“Not the whole cannon. Just the gunpowder.”

Tom got very still. He scanned the jars around him, as if among the hundreds of potions, herbs, and powders that ringed the shop was a remedy that would somehow get him out of this. “That’s illegal.”

“Knowing a recipe isn’t illegal,” I said.

“Making it is.”

That was true. Only masters, and only those with a royal charter, were allowed to mix gunpowder. I was a long way from either.

“And Lord Ashcombe is on the streets today,” Tom said.

Now that made me pause. “You saw him?”

Tom nodded. “On Cheapside, after church. He had two of the King’s Men with him.”

“What’d he look like?”

“Mean.” 

“Mean” was exactly what I’d imagined. Lord Richard Ashcombe, Baron of Chillingham, was King Charles’s loyal general, and His Majesty’s Warden here in London. He was in the city hunting for a pack of killers. In the past four months, five men had been butchered in their homes. Each of them had been tied up, tortured, then slit open at the stomach and left to bleed to death. 

Three of the victims had been apothecaries, a fact that had me seeing assassins in the shadows every night. No one was sure what the killers wanted, but sending in Lord Ashcombe meant the king was serious about stopping them. Lord Ashcombe had a reputation for getting rid of men hostile to the Crown—usually by sticking their heads on pikes in the public square.

Still, we didn’t need to be that cautious. “Lord Ashcombe’s not coming here,” I said, as much to myself as to Tom. “We haven’t killed anyone. And the King’s Warden isn’t likely to stop by for a suppository, is he?”

“What about your master?” Tom said. 

“He doesn’t need a suppository.”

Tom made a face. “I mean, isn’t he coming back? It’s getting close to dinnertime.” He said “dinnertime” with a certain wistfulness.

“Master Benedict just bought the new edition of Culpeper’s herbal,” I said. “He’s at the coffeehouse with Hugh. They’ll be gone for ages.”

Tom pressed his ceramic shield to his chest. “This is a bad idea.”

I hopped down from the counter and grinned.

•  •  •

To be an apothecary, you must understand this: The recipe is everything.

It isn’t like baking a cake. The potions, creams, jellies, and powders Master Benedict made—with my help—required an incredibly delicate touch. A spoonful too little niter, a pinch too much aniseed, and your brilliant new remedy for dropsy would congeal instead into worthless green goo.

But new recipes didn’t fall from the sky. You had to discover them. This took weeks, months, even years of hard work. It cost a fortune, too: ingredients, apparatus, coal to stoke the fire, ice to chill the bath. Most of all, it was dangerous. Blazing fires. Molten metals. Elixirs that smelled sweet but ate away your insides. Tinctures that looked as harmless as water but threw off deadly, invisible fumes. With each new experiment, you gambled with your life. So a working formula was better than gold.

If you could read it.

↓M08→

02160911101825261310092611221315240322132410220710092611221315141607011613010417261122131514142207151126152613021304092514261122132215260720080419 

Tom scratched his cheek. “I thought there’d be more words and things.”

“It’s in code,” I said.

He sighed. “Why is it always in code?”

“Because other apothecaries will do anything to steal your secrets. When I have my own shop,” I said proudly, “I’m putting everything in code. No one’s going to swipe my recipes.”

“No one will want your recipes. Except poisoners, I suppose.”

“I said I was sorry.”

“Maybe this is in code,” Tom said, “because Master Benedict doesn’t want anyone to read it. And by ‘anyone,’ I mean you.” 

“He teaches me new ciphers every week.” 

“Did he teach you this one?”

“I’m sure he’d planned to.” 

“Christopher.”

“But I figured it out. Look.” I pointed at the notation ↓M08→. “It’s a substitution cipher. Every two numbers stand for one letter. This tells you how to swap them. Start with ‘08,’ and replace it with M. Then count forward. So 08 is M, 09 is N, and so on. Like this.” 

I showed him the table I’d worked out.

A=20, B=21, C=22, D=23, E=01, F=02, G=03, H=04, I=05, K=06, L=07, M=08, N=09, O=10, P=11, Q=12, R=13, S=14, T=15, V=16, X=17, Y=18, Z=19 

Tom looked between the cipher and the block of numbers at the top of the page. “So if you replace the numbers with the right letters . . .” 

“. . . You get your message.” I flipped the parchment over to show the translation I’d inked on the back.

Gunpowder

One part charcoal. One part sulfur. Five parts saltpeter.

Grind separately. Mix.

Which is what we did. We set up on the larger display table, farther from the fireplace, based on Tom’s reasonable suggestion that gunpowder and flames weren’t friends. Tom moved the bleeding spoons from the table and got the mortars and pestles from the window near the bear while I pulled the ingredient jars from the shelves.

I ground the charcoal. Sooty clouds puffed into the air, mixing with the earthy scent of the dried roots and herbs hanging from the rafters. Tom, glancing uneasily at the front door for any sign of my master, took care of the saltpeter, crushing the crystals that looked just like ordinary table salt. The sulfur was already a fine yellow powder, so while Tom swirled the ingredients together, I got a length of brass pipe sealed at one end from the workshop in the back. I used a nail to widen a hole near the sealed end. Into that, I slipped a loop of woven, ash-colored cord.

Tom raised his eyebrows. “Master Benedict keeps cannon fuse?”

“We use it to light things from far away,” I said.

“You know,” Tom said, “things you have to light from far away probably shouldn’t be lit at all.”

The mixture we ended up with looked harmless, just a fine black powder. Tom poured it into the open end while I propped up the pipe. A narrow stream spilled over the side, scattering charcoal grains onto the floor. I stamped the powder in the tube down with cotton wadding. 

“What are we going to use for a cannonball?” Tom said.

Master Benedict didn’t keep anything in the store that would fit snugly in the pipe. The best I could come up with was a handful of lead shot we used for shavings to put in our remedies. They scraped down the brass and landed with a hollow thump on the cotton at the bottom.

Now we needed a target, and soon. It had taken a lot longer to put everything together than I thought it would, and though I’d assured Tom that my master wouldn’t return, his comings and goings weren’t exactly predictable.

“We’re not firing this thing outside,” Tom said.

He was right about that. The neighbors would not look kindly on lead shot flying through their parlors. And as tempting a target as the stuffed beaver on the mantel was, Master Benedict was even less likely to appreciate us going to war with the animals that decorated his shop.

“What about that?” I said. Hanging from the ceiling near the fireplace was a small iron cauldron. “We can shoot at the bottom of it.” 

Tom pushed aside the antimony cups on the other table, leaving enough space to put down the cauldron. I picked up our cannon and pressed it against my abdomen to hold it steady. Tom tore a scrap of parchment from our deciphered recipe and held it in the fire until it caught. Then he lit the cannon’s wick. Sparks fizzed, racing toward the pipe like a flaming hornet. Tom dived behind the counter and peeked over the top.

“Watch this,” I said.

The blast nearly blew my ears off. I saw a burst of flame, and a mound of smoke, then the pipe kicked back like an angry ox and nailed me right between the legs.” 

By Kevin Sands 

5 Stars for the Children’s Book – DRESSING BASIL UP AND DOWN by Diana Duncan – BOOK REVIEW

  
Title: DRESSING BASIL UP and DOWN

Author: Diana Duncan

Type of Book: Large Softcover

Genre: Children’s Fiction

Illustrator: Lyle Jakosalem

Release Date: September 8, 2015

Length: 26 pages

Publisher: Partridge Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-4828-5305-6 

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 

* I received a free copy of this book through the Goodreads Giveaway program. A review is not a requirement to receive a book, but an honest review is always appreciated. 

Basil is a dog. 

Matilda loves to dress Basil up. 

Basil is a Labrador and looks ridiculous dressed up in clothes and costumes. 

When Matilda’s Mom takes the kids to the zoo, she attempts to relate to the children how ridiculous the animals would look if they wore costumes. 

But, will Matilda take the lesson to heart? Or will she continue to use Basil as her own personal dress-up doll?

This book is terrific for ages 3-5. The large size of the pages and the bright coloured illustrations will capture any child’s attention. The rhyming writing makes the story flow very well and lends itself perfectly to reading it out-loud to children. In my opinion, this would be a perfect bedtime story. 

Parents will love the book for its perfect length as well as the message it contains about respecting animals.

I rate this children’s book as 5 out of 5. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 

Check out the book’s page on the Publisher’s website: 

Purchase online at Amazon.com

Or on Amazon.ca 

5 Stars for THE GIRL WHO WANTED TO BE A PRINCESS by Bruce Lansky – BOOK REVIEW

 

 Title: THE GIRL WHO WANTED TO BE A PRINCESS

Series: NEWFANGLED FAIRY TALES

Author: BRUCE LANSKY

Type of Book: eBook

Length: 20 pages

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Fairy Tales

Target Readership: Ages 7-12, Grades 2-7

Release Date: March 11, 2014

Publisher: Meadowbrook Press – A Division of Simon and Schuster
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 

~ I received a free copy of this book from www.SimonandSchuster.com It is also free on Amazon and in iBooks. ~

This book is from the “Newfangled Fairy Tales” series which is edited by Bruce Lansky. This series is a collection of revised fairy tales with new twists on older themes and even some modern characters. It includes the story of “…a beautiful princess who is put to sleep for 100 years because she is so cranky… and Hansel, who is so obsessed with candy that he steals Gretel’s piggy bank and runs off to the Old Witch’s Candy Factory.”

This series is suitable for both male and female children from the ages of 7 to 13. 

I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS BOOK! 

At only 20 pages it is a quick read and despite the fact that the target readership is children, this is also a great short tale for adults to enjoy as well. 

The main character is a ‘tweenage’ girl named Michelle Koszlowski. This girl is like many other girls her age and she is 100% believable. She lives “…with her parents and her bratty little brother, Donald, in a gray house with white shutters. The Koszlowski house looked just like all the other gray houses with white shutters on Maple Street in Sheboygan, Michigan.” Anyone who has ever visited (or lived in) modern day suburbia will recognize what Michelle’s house looks like. 

Michelle is very similar to some modern day tween girls I know. She doesn’t like her house; she thinks it’s too “ordinary”. She’s lazy, spoiled and feels like it is her right to have everything she wants given to her immediately. In short, she’s an annoying, spoiled brat.

Michelle wants to live the life of a Princess.

But, when her dream comes true, will Michelle be happy? You’ll have to read the story to find out.

Since this fairy tale is available free of charge courtesy of Simon and Schuster Publishing you have nothing to lose by giving this book a chance. If you have children that are between the ages of 7 and 13, you really should have them read this book. Or, better yet, sit and read it together. You will enjoy the story and its moral shines through and could open up a new topic to talk with your child about.

I rate this “Newfangled Fairy Tale” as 5 out of 5 stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR/EDITOR: 

  
Bruce Lansky has edited a number of poetry anthologies (including Rolling in the Aisles, Kids Pick the Funniest Poems, If Kids Ruled the School, A Bad Case of the Giggles, Miles of Smiles, and No More Homework! No More Tests!), and 3 silly songbook anthologies. Lansky created the popular GigglePoetry.com website for children and the PoetryTeachers.com website for teachers. He also created the Girls to the Rescue series, the New Fangled Fairy Tales series, and the Can You Solve the Mysteries series. 

Read Bruce’s biography here: 

http://www.meadowbrookpress.com/t/Bruce-Lansky 

Visit his Facebook page at https://m.facebook.com/bruce.lansky.3/ 

 

 

Zaria Fierce Series by Keira Gillett – More Info

   
 

Blurb: When her friend, Christoffer, is kidnapped by a river-troll, Zaria Fierce must team up with his three best friends and complete a quest to rescue him

Available in E-book | Print | Audio Book formats.

Author Website: http://www.keiragillett.com/ 

Visit my other blogs:

YA Book Blog: http://www.literatureyoungadultfiction.com/ 

Romance Novel Blog: http://www.loveromancepassion.com/