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Review – The World that Loved Books

Posted by shelburns on 30th December 2008

Thank you to the author, Stephen Parlato, who sent me an autographed copy of this book, and thank you to The Picnic Basket for the chance to review this.

Title:  The World that Loved Books

Author:  Stephen Parlato

Illustrator:  Stephen Parlato

Review Copy Provided by:  author via The Picnic Basket blog

Summary of book (from back of book):  There once was a world where everyone loved books, even the animals.  Everyone loved to read so much that when they read their books, they became what they read.  When they closed their books they became themselves again…only smarter.

My Review:  This is an absolutely beautiful book!  I could sit for hours just looking at the pictures as each big picture is a collage of smaller pictures that take time to pick out and enjoy.  Imagine a horse made up of fish, or a cat made up of mice, rats, and hamsters.  It is truly unbelievable!  When I got this book, I was impressed with the cover art, much more so than the picture online did it justice.   I can’t wait to give this book to my students and see how they react!  Not only are the pictures amazing, but it has a great message.  There is not a “plot” to this story, just instances of how people and animals change with each book that they read.  I am always telling my students that with books you can go anywhere, become anything or anyone, and learn whatever you want to know.  This book solidifies the premise that we become what we read.  From each book we read, we take a piece of it with us and carry it around forever.  What a great message for kids and adults alike.  I will definitely be using this one with my reluctant readers because it is an easy read with a good message.  Some children may have a hard time reading it by themselves as the text is not always linear.  I like how the author manipulates the text into curves to accent the illustrations.  I know that there are a few of my boys that will fall in love with this book strictly because of the illustrations, and if that’s how I hook them, then I’ve got them!  I will recommend this to teachers and my librarian for the same reasons:  beautiful illustrations, easy read, great message.

I don’t usually give ratings to my book reviews, but since I am reviewing this book for The Picnic Basket, I was asked to rate the book on a scale of 1-5.  Here is how the scale works out:  5-Strongly Recommend, 4-Recommend without Reservation, 3-Neutral, 2-Recommend under Certain Reading Situations, & 1-Unlikely to Recommend.  When I review books for The Picnic Basket, I will be using these ratings and giving you my reasoning behind the rating.  So, without further adieu, I rate The World that Loved Books a 4 – Recommend without Reservation (This book should be in every picnic basket, it is as good as the perfect potato salad and would be welcome at a coastal or park picnic.  You would rummage through the picnic basket to read it.) based on the illustrations.  I think that children will ask to read it often because of it is short and so that they can see the pictures.

Stephen Parlato has another book, Dragons Love, that I can’t wait to get my hands on!

Other info about the book:

2003, Simply Read Books
36 pp, full color, 8 3/4″ X 12″, cloth with die-cut cover
Ages 6-11
US $16.95, CDN $22.95, UK £9.95, AU $24.95

Posted in Book Reviews, fiction, Picture Books, The Picnic Basket Book | No Comments »

Review – The Gift of the Christmas Cookie

Posted by shelburns on 19th December 2008

Although I’ve read some Christmas titles during the season this year, I haven’t reviewed any here due to other review obligations.  Imagine my surprise when I opened up a package in the mail yesterday to find this wonderful picture book!

Title:  The Gift of the Christmas Cookie - Sharing the True Meaning of Jesus’ Birth

Author:  Dandi Daley Mackall

Illustrator:  Deborah Chabrian

Review Copy Provided by:  Phenix & Phenix

Summary of the Book:  It’s the Christmas season during a time when people had little money to spend.  Cookie jars held pennies, not Christmas cookies.

So when Jack smells something delicious coming from the kitchen, can’t believe his nose.  Cookies!

But his excitement turns to disappointment when he learns the cookies aren’t for him.  Instead, Mother is baking them for the needy people at their church.  While Jack helps roll out the dough, his mother tells him the story of the Christmas cookie.

My Review:  My first impression of this book, without opening it, was beautiful!  The cover is nostalgic, with the scene of an old timey table spread out and messy with sugar cookie ingredients.  I fell in love with the cover and the fact that it was about my favorite holiday, Christmas.  One thing that I love to do during the holidays is bake, and I usually bake a few batches of cookies.  I knew that I had to read this book immediately.

I was not disappointed with this one.  Mackall takes a small action, making cookies with your mom, and turns it into such a large action, sharing the love of Christ with a stranger.  What a sweet story!  It is short, beautifully illustrated, and well written.  A must have for the Christmas collection! 

Sugar Cookie Recipe

(included in book)

4 cups sifted flour

4 cups powdered sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp anise extract

Stir all the ingredients.  Let the dough stand for two hours.  Then roll out the dough.  Imprint with cookie cutters, or use a designed rolling pin, or press into molds.  Let them sit while the oven preheats to 325 degrees.  Bake on greased baking sheets for about 15 minutes.


Posted in Book Reviews, Christmas, fiction, Picture Books | 5 Comments »

Review – Double-Dare Clare

Posted by shelburns on 18th December 2008

This is the 3rd book in the Clare Series.

Title:  Double-Dare Clare

Author:  Yvonne Prinz

Review Copy Provided by:  Chronicle Books

Summary of the Book:  Eighth grade has been pretty awesome for Clare, especially with her new BFF Allison around.  And now it’s going to get even better!  Winter break is coming up and Clare nad Allison have got big plans to spend some quality time together.

That’s of course, until Paul, Clare’s old friend, rolls back into town.  Paul’s all right, but only in a dorky, totally un-dateable kind of way.

Or at least that’s what Clare thinks.  Apparently Allison has some sort of weird X-ray vision thing that sees through Paul’s other dorkiness right to his tender, loving heart.  Paul and allison together?  Gross.

It’s a good thing Clare has Elso to rescue her – imaginary or not, she’s Clare’s oldest friend.   And friends always stick together…Don’t they?

My Review:  Another well written story for young girls, by Yvonne Prinz.  Each book in this series just gets better.  I continue to fall in love with Clare as she grows and changes, just like teenage girls do.  I love this series for pre-teen and teenage girls.  If you love other girl characters like Junie B. or Ramona, then you will love Clare.  In this story, Prinz brings back Clare’s friend Paul, who has been away at school.  Her new best friend, Allison ends up falling for Paul, which is not in the Winter break plans.  Clare gets pushed to the side while Paul and Allison get to know each other.  How many times does this happen to teenage girls and their BFFs?  Prinz really has a finger on the pulse of teenage girls, their issues, and what they have to deal with.  She continues to write from Clare’s point of view, which makes the story so much more real and believable.  Again, Clare does more growing up in this story.  She has gone from having just an imaginary friend, to a “real” best friend, and now, a boyfriend!

“Dear Elsa,

So, you were right.  Joshua became more than a friend tonight.  I think I may have finally done something right in the boy department.”

“Who could have guessed that Christmas vacation would be such a life-changing experience for me?  I would have been happy with presents and chocolate.”

Clare still has Elsa, when she really needs her, but she is learning how to be self-sufficient and believe in herself.  I’m sure that most pre-teen and teenage girls will fall in love with the Clare Series just as I have.  This series would make a great gift for girls on your list this year. 

I hope that this is not all that Prinz has in store for Clare. 

Thank you, Yvonne Prinz for the great interview post prior to these reviews, and thank you to Caroline from Chronicle Books for sending this series my way.

Posted in Book Reviews, fiction | 5 Comments »

Review – Still There, Clare

Posted by shelburns on 18th December 2008

Thank you to Caroline at Chronicle Books for sending me all three books in the Clare Series!

Title:  Still There, Clare

Author:  Yvonne Prinz

Review Copy Provided by:  Publisher

Summary of Book:  Clare and Elsa have been best friends for as long as they can remember.  some might say that they’re really diffetent; some might even call them opposties.  But something keeps them very close.  Unfortunately, there is one differnece between the two that is starting to worry Clare.  A lot.  You see, Clare is a real, live human being.

Elsa? Not so much.

Now that Clare is almost thirteen, she’s pretty sure that the kids at school are going to think she’s a tiny bit C-R-A-Z-Y for having an imaginary friend, which is never a great way to start the school year.  And it certainly isn’t the best way to make new, non-imaginary friends.  Oh, and Elsa’s not too thrilled about the whole “poof!-you’re-gone” scenario, either.

Clare knows she has an important decision to make, but how do you say goodbye to your very best friend?

My Review:  This book is the first in a, so far, 3 book series.  I had never heard of Yvonne Prinz before being asked to read this book, but I will be sure to read other works she does.  I enjoyed reading this.  What girl hasn’t had an imaginary friend?  What girl doesn’t worry about what others will think of her, especially when she turns 13?  Clare is one of those characters that I see many pre-teen girls relating too.  Prinz writes honestly about issues that pre-teen girls deal with.  I love the way she uses Clare’s imaginary friend, Elsa, as a sort of alter-ego.  Elsa is and does all the things that Clare wishes she could be and do.  When Elsa goes away, Clare writes to her, as a young girl would write in a journal or diary. 

“Dear Elsa,

Hope you had a good flight.  How is Paris so far?  My life has been a disaster since you left.  I seem determined to destroy what’s left of my pathetic friendships by embarking on a self-destructive rampage…Hope you’re having a good time in Paris.  Come back if you’re not.



Clare’s story is one that girls and possibly boys won’t be able to put down.  It is a fun read and had me laughing out loud in some places.  Prinz writes in the first person, so you really get into Clare’s character and can empathize with her and live through her as you read.  I recommend this to pre-teen girls who grew up with Junie B. Jones, but are ready to read about a character closer to their age. 



















Posted in Book Reviews, fiction | No Comments »

Review – A Day with My Dad

Posted by shelburns on 6th December 2008

A big thank you to Paula from Author Marketing Experts for sending me this book. 

Title:  A Day with My Dad

Author:  Lance Waite

Illustrator:  Manuela Pentangelo

About the Book:  Singing and talking, and simply enjoying their time together, father and daughter take a break from the hectic daily routine to reconnect with each other, and nature.

My Review:  Told from the viewpoint of the child, a little girl recalls a day spent with her dad.  This is a sweet little picture book.  I enjoyed the rythm of the story as the little girl tells about her day with her dad.  What a great gift for a daughter to give to her dad this Christmas, or for Father’s Day.  The print in the book is not your typical block print, instead it is soft script that fits in well with the girls’ perspective of the story.  Manuela Pentangelo has great illustrations that use bright, vivid colors.   I would recommend this story to teachers who want to teach rhyming to their students as it is full of rhymes, hence the great rhythm that happens when you read it aloud.  I also recommend it to parents of girls because there is a great bond between fathers and daughters and this book describes it so well. 

More About the Book: 

Price:  $17.99

ISBN:  978-1-60131-015-6

Pages:  24

Posted in Book Reviews, fiction, Picture Books | 2 Comments »

Review – Bird

Posted by shelburns on 30th November 2008

Thank you to Hannah at Lee & Low books for providing me with a copy of this book!

Title:  Bird

AuthorZetta Elliott

IllustratorShadra Strickland

Publisher:  Lee & Low Books


About the Book:  Young Mehkai, better known as Bird, loves to draw.  With drawings, he can erase the things that don’t turn out right.  In real life, problems aren’t so easily fixed.

As Bird struggles to understand the death of his beloved grandfather and his older brogher’s durg addiction, he escapes into his art.  Drawing is an outlet for Bird’s emotions and imagination, and provides a path to making sense of his world.  In time, with the help of his grandfather’s friend, Bird finds his own special somethin’ and wings to fly.

My Review:  This is a book for young children that deals with heavy issues.  We don’t usually find books like this that so openly deal with issues like drug use and death, even though they are issues that today’s young children face.  I am glad that Lee & Low chose to take a risk and publish this one.  It carries the seal of the New Voices Award *Honor* from Lee & Low.  I shared this book with a group of 4th graders.  They enjoyed the story.  I’m not sure that they fully got the message, but we did discuss the fact that the older brother was “sick” because of the drugs.  The students that I shared this with could not relate to Bird in any other way than that he is African American, like they are.  However, I do know many students that would be able to relate in other ways.  I am glad to have found a publisher that chooses to publis books with multi-cultural characters because there are not enough of them being used in schools.  Children need to see characters like themselves, and I applaud Lee & Low for finding these books.  I love how this story is told from a child’s perspective, with real feelings.  I also enjoyed the fact that Bird used art as an outlet for what he was going through.  There are many children who do this, and they need to see that it is okay and be able to share that with others.  I think that parents and teachers should share this title with their children.  Drug abuse and death is something that we all have to deal with; we should not hide it from even our young readers.

More info about the book:


ISBN 978-1-60060-241-2

48 pages

Ages: 8-12

Published: October 2008

Read an interview with the author.

Click here to see a book trailer for Bird.

Check out this great podcast review of Bird by Just One More Book!


Posted in Book Reviews, fiction, Picture Books | 2 Comments »

Review – No Mush Today

Posted by shelburns on 23rd November 2008

Title:  No Mush Today

Author:  Sally Derby

Illustrator:  Nicole Tadgell

Review Copy Provided by:  Publisher (Lee & Low)

Summary from Book Jacket:  Nonie’s had enough!  Enough mushy mush for breakfast.  Enough of her baby brother’s crying.  So off she goes to live at Grandma’s house.  No mush or baby there.  Grandma attends to Nonie.  Grandma takes her out inot the world of grown-ups.  After a day away from home, will Nonie reconsider her move?  Maybe…maybe…if she can make a deal about breakfast!

My Review:  I enjoyed this book.  It is short and simple.  Who hasn’t had their oldest child, because of a younger sibling, want to run away?  I think it is something that every older sibling goes through.  Now that the new baby is here, some of the attention is gone.  That is how Nonie feels.  Plus, she is tired of having mush for breakfast.  Things will be better at Grandma’s (next door).  Or will they?  Children will relate to this story.  I like the fact that the story is about an African American family.  We need to expose children to all cultures and books is one way to do that.  Children also need to see other children like them in books, and Lee & Low does this so well with the titles they choose to publish.  I love how the illustrator uses facial expressions to show Nonie’s feelings.  As you read, you notice these even though the author doesn’t tell you how Nonie feels.  This adds so much to the story.  Young children will love this story for it’s illustrations, and it’s message.  Things may be better somewhere else, but home is the best place to be.

Posted in Book Reviews, fiction, Picture Books | 5 Comments »

Review and Giveaway – The House on Tradd Street

Posted by shelburns on 14th November 2008

Today’s review is part of a blog tour for Pump Up Your Book Promotion.  I am pleased to bring you my review of The House on Tradd Street.

Author:  Karen White

Review copy provided by:   Pump Up Your Book Promotions

Synopsis:  Melanie Middleton is a ghost seeing realtor.  This is a fact she does not like to let others know.  After she meets with an old man, she thinks to list his house, she ends up inheriting his entire estate.  She doesn’t like old houses; she just likes to sell them.  What will SHE do with a rundown old house in Charleston full of wonderful antiques?  The house is historic and full of ghosts who want and need Melanie’s help.  In walks, Jack Trenholm, a good looking, unsolved mystery loving, writer.  He worms his way into the house and Melanie’s life because he believes that hidden in her house on Tradd Street, are missing Confederate diamonds.  Jack falls for Melanie, Melanie doesn’t know she’s fallen for Jack, and the ghosts are fighting against them and each other.

My Review:  Whan I received this book, I was excited to read it, but it took me a little while to get into it.  I am so glad that I stuck with this one.  Romance lover?  Mystery lover?  Ghost story lover?  Historical Fiction lover?  If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, then you should enjoy this book.  I haven’t read any of Karen White’s other books, but now I will.  She writes in such a way that you can connect with the characters and feel like you are right there, in the story.  I enjoyed The House on Tradd Street because of the intrigue and the mystery.  Will they ever find the diamonds?  Who are the ghosts and what do they want?  Finding the answer to these questions is what kept me reading.  Also the fact that I couldn’t wait to see if Melanie and Jack got together.  I love how White tells the story of Melanie dealing with her own ghosts: her relationship with her father (who controls the estate money) and her broken relationship with her mother (who left when Melanie was young).  Being fond of Civil War history, it was wonderful to see how the story line and history came together.  Charleston, South Carolina is a very historical town, and White makes that known through references in the book.   I would recommend this book to others who enjoy chick lit, historical fiction, and/or mysteries.  It’s a great ghost story and made me want to go to Charleston to visit some of the old houses and see if they are really haunted.

I enjoyed this book so much, that I want to pass it on for others to enjoy.  If you’d like to receive my copy of The House on Tradd Street, leave me a comment.  I will randomly choose a winner on Nov. 18.  Giveaway open to US addresses only.   You can earn multiple entries by:

  • blog about this for 2 more entries
  • subscribe to my blog for 1 entry
  • have others say they heard about this giveaway from you for 1 more entry
  • you could have a total of 5 entries! 

Since this is a blog tour, don’t miss the other stops:

Divine Caroline (Author Interview)
S. Krishna’s Books (Book Review)
Blogcritics (Author Interview)
The Writer’s Life (Guest Post)
Publishing Secrets of Authors (Guest Post)
The Book Rack (Book Review)
Savvy Verse & Wit (Book Review)
Scribe Vibe (Guest Post)
Savvy Verse & Wit (guest post & book giveaway)
The Book Czar (book review)
Musings of a Bookish Kitty (book review)
The Book Stacks (guest post)
American Chronicle (author interview)
Musings of a Bookish Kitty (author interview)
In Bed With Books (book review)
Review Your Book (book review)
The Plot (book spotlight)
The Plot (character interview)
The Friendly Book Nook (book review)
Reading Mama (book review)
Zensanity (author interview)
Dear Author (guest post)
Diary of an Eccentric (book review)
Bookish Ruth (book review)
Cafe of Dreams (book review)
The 1st Page (book spotlight)
Diary of an Eccentric (author interview)
As the Pages Turn (book review)
The Tome Traveller’s Weblog (book review)
Real Hollywood (author interview)

Posted in Book Reviews, fiction, giveaways | 31 Comments »