The Children’s Book of Birdwatching: Nature-Friendly Tips for Spotting Birds by Dan Rouse

5 stars Nonfiction Children’s

This is marked a children’s book but I think it could be used for all ages.  This nonfiction book is a great beginner’s book to learn about birds.  There’s quite a bit of information included inside this book and the pictures are cute and informative.  Don’t pass up this book just because it’s earmarked for children as it’s suitable for anyone who is interested in birds and someone who doesn’t want to get bogged down with too much detail.

I liked how the chapters were set up and all the different information that was included inside the chapters.  You have the typical where to find birds, what do birds eat, birdfeeders, birdbaths, etc. but this book goes beyond all that.  There are chapters on nest boxes, ponds, bird bills, what seeds attract which birds, and why birds need plants.

You want to get creative?  There are chapters on making bird food, a bird feeder, a dust bath, seed bombs, and growing your own plants for the birds. The book doesn’t stop there as you’ll find information on caring for the outside birds, what they need to make nests, watching the birds, and how to find some unexpected nests. 

Loads of fun and informative information inside this book and it’s presented in an entertaining way with pages that have a lot of illustrations with short text boxes.  The book is fun to read and it’s a book that you can pick up and read a few pages and put down and return to again and again.  So whatcha’ waiting for?  Go pick up this book, get bird educated.  Help these little winged creatures and listen to them sing in a yard near you.     5 stars

The Call of the Wild adapted by Ellyn Alcott

5 stars Picture book/Wonder book

This was a wonderful picture book. I was fortunate enough to get this in a Wonder Book so I was able to listen to the book after I read it.  From the way the story was presented to the illustrations, this book was prefect.

I don’t remember much about this book when I read it as a child.  I do remember having to read it in school with my classmates and how the dog Buck, found himself in some new surroundings, trying to adapt.  There are some individuals who get all emotional when you mention this book but as you can see, I’m not one of them. After reading and listening to this     I can understand how they feel.

The story begins with Buck living comfortably on a ranch.  He’s alone but he’s the “king of the ranch,’ and he enjoys that.  One night while out for a walk with one of the farm workers, Buck gets dognapped.  Buck is confused as he travels not just by truck but by trains and ship to his final destination.  Buck’s new home is a noisy, busy place.  Buck is no longer alone but he’s now become part of a team, a team of sled dogs.

The sled dogs were mean and the work was hard.  Buck was smart though and knew that if he had to work hard, if he was going to survive.  His owners had only one thing on their mind: seeking their fortunes.  Working in the snow was new for Buck but he got used to it and soon he became the lead dog.  Buck’s owners came and went but Buck, he was always the lead dog.  As spring arrived, Buck heard a calling in the wilderness, a summons that pulled deep within him. This past winter had been a rough one for Buck but also a good one.  Buck was different and he noticed it. This is a great transition in the book.  A terrific section where it’s good to think back over everything Buck has been though this past winter and to think about what will happen with Buck in the future. Buck is ready to take the lead again when he gets a new owner, but Thornton is different.  I liked how Thornton and Buck came together and the adjustment they made for each other.  The ending was perfect and I can see why some individuals get emotional when this book is mentioned.

The illustrations were terrific.  Bright, bold colors and just enough details to bring the story alive on the page.  There were instances of turmoil and chaos in the book and I liked the way that the frantic and wild illustrations that accompanied this.  The easy-to-read text had a great flow and the print was bold and easy to understand.   5 star read for me.    

Kat Kong by Dav Pilkey

5 stars Children’s Picture Book

The mice are at it again!  The Captain is sailing her ship with her passengers to explore a strange, uncharted island.  But it is really uncharted?    Looking at the picture on this page, I see a shape of a feline on the hillside.  Some natives are performing a ceremony as the group arrives on the island when suddenly the island starts to shake!  Through the forest comes Kat Kong!!   It must have been the can of tuna they were using or perhaps it was the chant that they were saying that drew Kat Kong to the ceremony.   Falling over the can of tuna, Kat Kong falls, hits his head, and passes out.

Acting fast, the explorers decide to tie Kat Kong up and take him back to the city with them.  The city of Mouseoplis is excited to pay to see Kat Kong, this” nine-lived wonder of the world!”  Kat Kong though is not excited to be shackled and on stage while all the mice stare at him.  He must escape and he must escape now! 

Ah…. This book is so funny!  I thought it was better than Dogzilla.  I loved all the little cat references and the movie tie-ins from King Kong. The illustrations are terrific and you really do need to read this one.  I did think that the ending was sad.  5 stars  

Dogzilla by Dav Pilkey

4.5 stars Children’s Picture book

You have to love it!  As First Annual Barbecue Cook-Off was getting underway in the city of Mousepolis, the succulent scent of BBQ filled the air.  He was hidden so the mice didn’t realize what problems awaited them.  Inside an ancient volcano, the scent reached Dogzilla and he emerged.  Soldiers, alerted of Dogzilla’s appearance, had their plans to capture the beast fail and now, he was roaming their city, causing chaos.  Well, maybe not chaos but “things that come naturally to dogs” like: chasing cars (“right off the freeway”) and chewing furniture (“and the furniture store as well”).

The Big Cheese needs to get Dogzilla out of the city, but how?

Some individuals might find this book cheesy but I thought it was cute and funny.  The book is packed with lots of dog references which some children might not understand or get.  My three-year-old grandson didn’t understand all of them but he still liked the book.   The pictures in the book are just as cute as the text.   Fun, entertaining story.  4.5 stars 

The Dam by David Arnold

5 stars Children’s Picture Book

The illustrations are just specular!  Knowing that this story is based on a true event makes this story much more heartfelt and emotional.   As the father and daughter walk into the valley together, there is this calmness in the story as he talks about how the dam will change life in the valley. No longer will there be joyous parties and dancing, the wildlife and animals will cease to come here, for this land will be forever changed.  They come to a tall, brick structure and go inside. The daughter is instructed to play her violin one last time inside this structure while her daddy sings along.  I can’t describe how wonderful the illustrations are as these two fill the room with their music.

The duo continues playing their music in all the buildings in this deserted community, filling “the houses with music,” until

“The birds heard.

The beast heard.

The earth heard.

The trees heard.

The ghosts heard.

The day was darkening.

Out of the valley they walked.” 

Water slowly covers the land, until, “This was covered over.  This was drowned.  The lake is beautiful.”  The father and daughter return to the land, the land they had last visited and played their duet.  It is new, yet it’s the same. 

The music is still there and it will continue and so will the memories.  Life changes but it’s still the same.  Fantastic story!!   Check out this beautiful picture book! Definitely a 5-star read for me!

That Flag by Tameka Fryer Brown

5 stars Children’s Picture Book

A very powerful book.   It’s all about thinking you know something but you really don’t.  The power of conforming to something but you’re unaware of what message you’re actually sending out.  How a person’s actions speak louder than their words. 

They’re inseparable at school, Keira and Bianca are like each other’s shadow.  From wearing their hair, the same way, to reading the same book, Keira and Bianca are like twins.  The girls even live on the same street.   Yet, these girls have never been to each other’s houses.  Keira and Bianca haven’t attended any party, any sleepover, they haven’t been able to run around their street together screaming and chasing each other because of something Bianca has.  A flag. 

Bianca’s parents fly the confederate flag on a flagpole near their house.  “It’s a celebration of courage and pride,” they tell her but Keira’s parents feel the flag is a symbol of violence and oppression.  The girls listen to their parent’s advice. 

One a school class field trip to the Southern Legacy Museum, the girls plan to be partners but the teacher breaks them up into two different groups.  Since Keira’s father came along, the father-daughter team discovers an exhibit about the historical South.  Keira is excited seeing the displays featuring historical technology and fashion but as they drift to other displays in that area, their demeanor changes. These exhibitions feature power, segregation, and slavery.  They also hanging from the ceiling, the flag. The same flag design that Bianca has flying in her front yard.

I was hoping that dad and Keira read some information that was included in the displays as they walked through the museum instead of just looking at the items.  The next page in the story, is a total mood changer.  Bianca runs up to Keira and tries to hug her, claiming that she has been trying to find her.  Keira, deflated because of the exhibit, just points to something that has upset her and walks off.  Total relationship changer as the girls have witnessed the flag being used in history. 

So, what is the real story now?     This story has a great ending and I really enjoyed the About the Confederate Flag, Author’s Note and Illustrator’s Notes at the back of the book. 5 stars!!

Black Dog by Levi Pinfold

5 stars Children’s Picture Book

He’s huge!  The Hope Family was greeted one morning to a gigantic dog, I mean an enormous size dog outside their house.  Peering from their windows, the husband thought it was the size of a tiger, the wife saw it a bit bigger, perhaps the size of an elephant but the children…….well, they each saw the black dog in their own way.  A T-Rex?  A Big Jeffrey?

And then, there was the littlest child, Small who thought her family was being silly for being afraid of a dog and decided to open the door (despite the warnings from his family) and see for herself.

Ha!  I thought for sure that Small would find a small little black puppy but NO, she found a massive, black, shaggy dog looking down at her. Was Small scared? She didn’t seem to be, as she called the dog a guffin (mythological creature) and the dog leaned down to her. Small makes the dog chase her if he thinks he’s going to eat her and the race is on. Small leads the black dog all over town, over and under, singing and calling out to the dog as she runs ahead of it.  A sweet, happy ending to a scary beginning. 

“You might be big, I may be small, but I’m not afraid of you at all.”

This is the second book I have read with Levi Pinfold’s name on the cover and it’s just as amazing as the first one.  If you haven’t checked out one of his books, I highly suggest you do.  This cute book has whimsical illustrations that had me racing through the story, wondering exactly what Small had in mind as she took this black dog on an adventure.  I think the dog with its long hair and its beautiful eyes makes this book so special to me.  

The size of the dog is comical and I enjoyed all the little details included in the illustrations and the use of the smaller black and yellow tinted illustrations with the larger, more colorful drawings.   Are they really afraid of the dog or is it something else?    

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner

3.5 stars Children’s

I’m on the fence on this one.  This is a sweet, slow story which might not capture the attention of some children (like my young grandchildren) but I liked that it actually shows how animals live in winter.  This might be a good picture book for older readers who are looking for information on animals or a good bedtime story but my little readers didn’t care for it when I read it to them.

The story is told from the point of view of a young boy who is snow-skiing with his father out on the fresh-fallen snow.  Quietly they are alone, using hand-poles and navigating around trees and up and down hillsides throughout the story.  The story begins when the boy notices a squirrel scamper by and then, it vanishes.  The boy asks his father, “Where did it go?”  The story takes off as the father explains all the different wildlife that is hiding under and around the snowy area.

There are lots of animals included in this story: from the owls on the branches which the boy can see, to the hidden tiny shrews and voles in the chilly tunnels under his feet, and the fat bullfrogs sleeping under the snow, the duo continues on their journey through the snow.  They’re thinking about all the creatures that are around them in this white landscape.  You’ll need to stop and look at the illustrations in this book as many of the pages, the illustrator has layered the landscape so the reader can see the chipmunk under the snow with his nuts and leaves, the queen bee safely sleeping under the roots of an tree, and the mice cuddling up together to stay warm (just a few of the examples).  While not a bright and colorful book, the book hues take on the warmth of the story and the quietness of the snowy day.  3.5 stars

Paradise Sands by Levi Pinfold

5+ stars Children’s

Cover Love!  I fell in love with the cover of this book while browsing the new picture books at my library.  As I thumbed through the book, I knew I had to read it as the illustrations were just spectacular!  I flipped to the back of the book, to read the author’s bio and then, I headed to my library’s website and placed all of the author’s books that they had on hold.  Levi’s debut picture book Django was the Winner of the Book Trust Best New Illustrator Award and her other book, Black Dog also won a different award.  I think Paradise Sands should also win an award as the illustrations are magnificent!  Great artist detail and I loved how the author combined real world with fantasy to create such stunning artwork.  Ok, on with the book.

The story is labeled, “A Story of Enchantment” and it definitely is.  A girl is taking a car trip with her three brothers. From the faces on the children and the tone of the book, this is a serious trip.  The siblings are visiting their mother.  Sister wants to take their mother flowers so Bill pulls the car over and they all get out. 

In the desert, this is a destination that they all recall, there’s white roses in Teller’s Hollow and they’ll take them.  I liked how the text and illustration came together to show the family’s relationship.  On foot, the four siblings climb the sandhills and rocky hills to gather flowers on this deserted rocky ledge.  They spot a building in the distant.  Sister wants to continue on their journey, they need to go see their mother while the brothers want to quench their thirst from the building.  The brother’s thirst wins and they travel toward the building. Sister refuses to get a drink from the fountain but she watches as they do.  They can’t leave now, the brothers feel the building calling them to enter, a feeling the boys can’t deny.  Sister is on edge, memories from her mother flood her head and she knows they should be leaving.  Her brothers seem to have forgotten about their original plans as they are now charmed by the paradise that this building is providing them.     

It seems a bit odd why Sister is not behaving like her siblings in the building and why do mother’s comments pop into her head.  Is there something more sinister happening here?  When Sister is approached by the Teller, he tries to understand why she’s not accepting this “wonderful, safe place” that he’s offering them. 

She tries to explain yet the Teller wants to strike up a deal with her.  As she accepts this deal, I wonder what the Teller was capable of doing?  Was Sister strong enough for this deal?  Will they see their mother, wherever she was?

The illustrations inside this book were phenomenal!  The way she captures the characters on the page was just remarkable and bringing in the element of fantasy, I was whisked away to where anything was possible.  The story comes full circle and I had to start the book over again to experience the joy all over again.  What an experience!  I need to share this book with everyone I know!  So yes, definitely pick this book up, I highly recommend it.  Pick it up for yourself and then, share it with everyone that you know.  I can’t wait to read the author’s other books! 5+ stars

The Berenstain Bears Meet the Easter Bunny by Mike Berenstain

2 stars Children’s Level 1 Reader

I was looking forward to reading this book with my grandsons but I think we all felt disappointed in the story.   I was confused with the whole story and I thought the Berenstain Bears had better storylines than this.  My grandson’s (ages 3 and 3.5) read it with me a few times and boy, they had some questions.  They wanted to know why the Easter Bunny didn’t come the first time, where the bunnies came from when the Easter Bunny needed help, and where the bunnies were taking the candy at the end of the story.   From reading the story and the looking at the illustrations, I had no idea so we just came up with some answers together.   

The story is about Easter, a holiday that the Berenstain Family loves.   It’s Easter morning and the family can’t find any Easter eggs.   They hunt around the house and no one can find any traces that the Easter Bunny has been there.  That’s ok!  Papa Bear will dress up like the Easter Bunny and hide the eggs.  If only, it was that easy.

Papa Bear tries but he can’t take the place of the Easter Bunny so the family takes off to search for the actual Easter Bunny.   They locate his house and each of the children tell him that they need him, in their own way.   Why he didn’t come earlier, I have no idea.  He must act quickly if he’s going to try to save this Easter.

My older children grew up reading the Berenstain Bears so I was excited to start my grandchildren on them but this book fell short on my expectations.  I remember reading stories to my own children and they had life lessons or principles in them.  I still have all their original books.  I felt this book was self-centered.  I love Easter, I love candy and eggs.  I didn’t get any so someone get some for me.  Daddy tried but he didn’t do a good enough job so I’m still not happy.  Find the Easter Bunny and tell him I need him to get me some candy and eggs.  He worked hard.  I got my candy and eggs and now, I am happy.   That’s just my opinion but what about individuals who didn’t get any Easter candy?  Why didn’t the Easter Bunny come earlier?  Did he oversleep?  Could they have brought something for the Easter Bunny – a carrot, a scooter so he can make faster deliveries?  Not a good fit for me  2 stars