#Sponsored Book Spotlight: Love Big: Kat Kronenberg

I received the title in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Pic/Synopsis belong solely to the author/publisher.

SYNOPSIS: “Set in the heart of the African Savanna, Love Big follows moody Baboon as he discovers another powerful secret.

The once lush, thriving, African savanna has turned dry and desolate. Hungry, miserable, and mean animals seek only their own interests. Baboon watches as, one by one, Rhinoceros destroys Termite’s castle in his race to find food, Hare chooses not to share food with her family, and Lion steals food from his pride.

But after Baboon sees Rhinoceros give Hare his snack-on-a-stick, everything changes! Baboon realizes that a transformative power exists between the animals and the star-dust that surrounds them once they share smiles and truly believe in themselves and each other. When Baboon tries out this secret by helping Lion, they share a smile, and CATCH-M, The Magical, Mystical, Miraculous Star-dust that surrounds them, whooshes into their lives to wham! ignite the courage in their chests too. Read on to see if Baboon can save the savanna with this new secret and a very stinky, unlikely hero . . . ”

MY THOUGHTS: Today is a day to celebrate love. Unfortunately, I did not love this book. In all honesty, I didn’t like much about it. Understanding that the author is highly acclaimed, I expected a home run, out-of-the-park hit. What I got was a book I didn’t want to finish.

As always, I encourage readers to experience books for themselves. Apparently, some readers did enjoy it. I found it muddled and confusing, especially being that it is geared toward younger readers. The main character, despite those mentioned in the synopsis, is a literal piece of poop. In fact, there is a lot of talk about this poop. Termite uses it for his home and it becomes a main character.

Another issue I had with it were the ‘transformative’ powers of the star-dust. While I understood this to me a ‘mythological’ story, which is fine, this felt more new age, evolutionary to me. As a Christian parent, that’s a no-go. I hoped to find happiness in the illustrations, but found them to be a huge left-down as well.

I appreciate the message of kindness and the message of a strong community. But, the author tried to jam-pack a host of public service messages into one book. It didn’t work. I give it 2 generous stars.

Learn more about Kronenberg at http://www.katkronenberg.com


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Guest Post: Children’s Books to Welcome Spring By Deb Chitwood on behalf of LittlePassports.com

This is a pre-written guest post and belongs solely to the author.

March is not only National Reading Month in the USA, and Little Passportswants to help you celebrate the start of spring! Spring is a wonderful time for garden adventures, both in the backyard and through the power of reading. Use this reading list to find amazing children’s books that feature gardens and plants around the world, for ages 3-5 and 6-10. Of course, the ages will often overlap and vary according to each unique child.
Garden Adventures for Ages 3-5
1. One Child, One Seed: A South African Counting Book, by Kathryn Cave (Author), Gisèle Wulfsohn (Photographer)
This is a creative counting book about a child planting a pumpkin seed in South Africa. This book tells the story of the seed while sharing the culture of a child growing up in rural South Africa.
(Recommended for ages 3-7.)
2. The Flower Alphabet Book, by Jerry Pallotta (Author), Leslie Evans (Illustrator)
This beautifully illustrated book can be used to combine a study of flowers around the world with letter work.
(Recommended for ages 4-8.)
3. Oh Say Can You Seed?: All About Flowering Plants (Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library), by Bonnie Worth
This wasn’t written by Dr. Seuss, but it still has a fun adventure with the Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2. That it gives scientific information about plants is a bonus.
(Recommended for ages 4-8.)
4. The Empty Pot, by Demi
This tale from China has vibrant, detailed illustrations, gardening inspiration, and a clear moral to the story.
(Recommended for ages 4 and up.)
Bonus reads: Don’t forget about preschool classics like, The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle, Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel (which includes the tale of Frog giving Toad seeds to grow a garden) and of course, Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.
Garden Adventures for Ages 6-10
5. The Magical Garden of Claude Monet, by Laurence Anholt
This is the type of book that can help spark an interest in fine art. It’s a combination of fiction and biographical fact in which a girl from Paris becomes friends with a gardener (who she later learns is the garden’s owner, Claude Monet) in Giverny, a few miles from Paris. The book includes reproductions by author-illustrator Laurence Anholt, of Monet’s famous waterlilies painting, which Monet completed in his garden at Giverny.
(Recommended for ages 6-9, although many preschoolers will love the story, too.)
6. A Seed Is Sleepy, by Dianna Hutts Aston (Author) and Sylvia Long (Illustrator)
The illustrations of a wide variety of seeds in this book are gorgeous, making it a wonderful addition to a study of seeds and plants around the world.
(Recommended for ages 5-10.)
7. Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney
Miss Rumphius wanted to travel the world and make the world more beautiful. The lupines along the coast of Maine are from seeds scattered by the real Miss Rumphius.
(Recommended for ages 5-8.)
8. Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai, by Claire A. Nivola
This lovely book is about Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. It tells about her native Kenya and how she returned home to bring back the trees and gardens.
(Recommended for ages 5-8.)
9. The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
This classic book is timeless. It tells the story of a young girl on the Yorkshire moors of England. She discovers a secret garden and works to bring it back to life.
(Recommended for ages 7-12.)
Bonus reads: Mud Pies and Other Recipes by Marjorie Winslow. While not a traditional garden book, it encourages children to go outdoors and enjoy imaginative adventures in their own backyards and gardens, creating “dishes” their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents may have enjoyed creating as children. Grab a book and head outdoors with your kiddo!

Guest Post: Q&A WITH LEO M ROZMARYN, M.D. AUTHOR OF Lone Soldier

The following is a guest post from Author Leo M Rozmaryn about his historical fiction novel, Lone Soldier.
It was prewritten via his publisher.

AUTHOR OF Lone Soldier
Question: What exactly is Lone Soldier all about?
Leo M Rozmaryn: Lone Soldier brings alive the shifting motivations and allegiances of larger- than-life characters during the early 1970s, some of the most significant years in the history of Israel and the United States. In the spirit of Herman Wouk’s novel, The Winds of War, Lone Soldier is part military thriller, mistaken identity and complicated star-crossed love story. Fast-paced action is paired with meticulously researched historical events. Lone Soldier features a mixture of real and fictional characters to create a sprawling epic of the tensions between Israel and the U.S. and between a range of social issues in a time of love and war. What emerges is the portrait of one man, Arik Meir, a hero for his time – and for all time.
Question: What are the real-life historical aspects of Lone Soldier?
Rozmaryn: The Six Day War in 1967 marked the beginning of what is considered today to be modern Israel. For the first time in nineteen centuries the old city of Jerusalem and all of biblical Israel was in Jewish hands. The stunning success of that conflict and the fact that for the first time Israel’s borders were relatively far away from its main population centers gave Israelis a deep sense of security and for many, invincibility. Although faced with the new threat of Palestinian international terrorism, unrest in the main centers of Palestinian population and a continuous war of attrition across the Suez Canal, and the Egyptian border, Israelis experienced a cultural revolution where the classic Zionist “kibbutz” lore was exchanged for European and American culture, fashion and rock and roll. This was also the beginning of real “class consciousness” and a struggle between the various Jewish ethnic groups which arose in part from the civil rights struggle that was taking place simultaneously in the US.
There was also a genuine sense at the time that Israel would never again have to fight an existential war for existence. In the Israeli army that translated into a sense that the Arabs would be too afraid or inept to start another war. This illusion was shattered in October 1973 when on Yom Kippur Israel experienced a sudden invasion from two fronts that nearly ended the Zionist enterprise. This era saw the real beginning of the modern American Israeli alliance, whose effects are still felt today.
Question: What makes this book different from other Jewish historical fiction works?
Rozmaryn: Very few books focus on the inner life of modern orthodox Jews or religious Zionist Jews and even fewer focus on the period of time from 1969-1974 as it relates to U.S and Israel. Lone Soldier covers both of those aspects, which though under-represented in Jewish fiction literature are still very fascinating. I’d been told that “you can’t write a book about modern orthodox Jews. We’re simply too boring.” I beg to differ. While it’s true that most Jewish genre fiction relates to the holocaust, the life in ancient and modern Israel, Hasidic tales both old and modern and the travails of assimilation into Western culture, virtually nothing has been written about this narrow strip in the spectrum of Jewish cultural life. It is generally assumed that Modern Orthodox Judaism is synonymous with Religious Zionism. While there is some cross over, they are quite distinct and become much more apparent after the Six Day War in 1967. Most books that focus on the years between 1967-1973 are non-fiction. This period and it’s people are brought to light in many different ways in Lone Soldier.
Question: Why did you choose the years 1969 – 1974 to set Lone Soldier in?
Rozmaryn: Those were my “coming of age” years which I spent partly in the U.S. and partly in Israel. This period had a profound influence on the type of person I became and the kind of life I’ve lived since. As one moves through adolescence into adulthood there are many issues and experiences that remain unresolved for most people. Many choose “the couch” to resolve them. Although this book is truly fiction, the process of writing it helped me move back through those years in a meaningful and constructive manner.
Question: Can you discuss how your fictional characters interact with genuine historical figures?
Rozmaryn: Historical fiction set in a relatively modern era is replete with real-life characters that are well known and accessible both in terms of their biographies and character traits. In many cases there are people living today who knew the people who took part in the story and the real-life events that surrounded them. In such cases the author must be exceedingly careful to portray the “real people” in a sensitive and true to life fashion. This requires an enormous amount of research into non-fiction books of this period and also detailed interviews with people who knew the real people. The interaction between my fictional characters and the real-life ones must be seamless and “feel real”. While an educated reader will forgive the author for “inaccuracies” in the narrative of historical events constructed to advance the fictional plot, that reader will not forgive the author for gross misrepresentation of real-life people, especially those who lived heroic lives and are universally admired.
While I certainly beat up on my fictional characters, I generally leave the real ones to the judgement of history.
Question: What role does prejudice play in Lone Soldier?
Rozmaryn: Much ink has been spilled over the years on the terrible cancer that is prejudice which we all experience to a greater or lesser extent. Mostly we read about the victims of prejudice and rightfully so, but not enough is said or written about the corrosive effect that being prejudice to others has on its perpetrators. Lone Soldier explores the myriad forms of bigotry and the terrible cost that is paid by all involved. Most of us when asked what prejudice is, say racial prejudice. While that is the most pervasive form of prejudice especially in the US, in Lone Soldier prejudice is about making judgements about any person without the benefit of sufficient factual support. Reading the book with “an ear” towards prejudice will open the plot and make the reading of the book a much richer experience. Studying the effects of prejudice is becoming increasing important in our day with an upsurge in its ugly face all around the world.
Question: What about the Israeli Palestinian conflict do you want people to take away from Lone Soldier?
Rozmaryn: War and conflict is a messy business that rarely corresponds to the tidy accounts taught in schools. That can certainly be said about Israel’s struggle. Intellectual honesty demands a hard look at all aspects of the turmoil and its effects on both Israelis and Palestinians. This book explores the travails of one man caught up in the maelstrom of that story and the price he pays for his idealism.
The Arab Israeli conflict is exceedingly complex. In my view, the Israeli Palestine conflict will never be resolved at its root cause until each side reaches a profound conclusion that the other has a valid narrative that binds them to that land. Only then can the process of true mutual respect begin, coupled with the understanding that in no way shape or form can one side hope to exert total control over all the land. Once that is understood both sides are left with three options: unending conflict, division of the land where each side must compromise deep seated religious beliefs, or all living as equal citizens in one multiethnic society. Teaching students only one side of the story, something that is becoming increasingly prevalent in American universities today, is not only intellectually dishonest but will ultimately perpetuate the conflict indefinitely.
Leo M Rozmaryn, M.D., is a reconstructive hand and microvascular surgeon by trade. A native of New York City, Dr. Rozmaryn graduated from Queens College in 1977, and later received an MD from Columbia University. Dr. Rozmaryn has a busy private practice in the Washington DC area, and has been selected by Washingtonian Magazine as one of its “Top Doctors” for the past twelve years, and has been cited by the Washington Post and the U.S. News and World Report for professional excellence.

Dr. Rozmaryn grew up in the religious Zionist/Modern Orthodox Jewish community. Besides his medical career, Dr. Rozmaryn has a keen interest in history, especially Middle East history. An avid reader of Jewish and Israeli history and a frequent visitor to Israel after completing high school there, he brings to bear a lifetime of experience and scholarship into the writing of his debut novel.

Dr. Rozmaryn lives with his family in Silver Spring, Maryland. For more information visit www. lonesoldierbook.com.

Polar Vortices and Engagements

We’ve laughed for years that one of our meteorologists loves to say ‘Polar Vortex’. He’s used it to the point where no one really knew what it was any more. Now, we really have one. Our area is setting 2 records for lowest temps- one today & one tomorrow. Of course, then on Tuesday, it’s supposed to be 55. What?! Yeah….

My fur babies have their cozy sweaters on. My sinuses are killing me. Schools are closed for the next 2 days. The world- from my kitchen window, anyway- is silent. They even said it was too cold to snow. However, it is, in fact, snowing here. Everyone is stiff, sore, and cranky- at least those I encountered last evening. The only thing not silent is my mind.

February 1st, my son will be 22. I won’t be able to give him a birthday hug or even call him. He was cut me out of his life completely. I haven’t heard from him in over 6 months. I was keeping tabs on him through Facebook. His girlfriend had never unfriended me. When he found out, he blocked me. I sent word repeatedly through various friends of his that I love him and miss him. His replies aren’t fit to type.

So, yesterday, my mom went to his girlfriend’s Facebook page and there, she discovered the relationship status changed from in a relationship to engaged. Now, the last time I’d spoken to him, he’d mentioned the ‘M’ word. He said they were ‘discussing’ it. I guess now they decided.

I still, in all honesty, am not sure exactly why he cut me out of his life. He was using cocaine. I know that. He admitted it. I told him how much potential he has and that he didn’t need drugs in his life, reminding him that his older brother is a heroin addict. I told him I was afraid he’d die. Basically, I did a lot of nagging. But, there isn’t one thing I can put my finger on that was SO bad that he wouldn’t want to talk to me. That makes it worse.

At least if I knew what I’d done, I could get closure? I guess. I just go over and over the conversation and can’t pin point what it was. For now, it’s something I must live with. So, as the world around me is cold and frozen, I feel the same way in a part of my heart. The part where my baby boy is missing. When the weather finally thaws, I hope his heart will too.

Frozen Pipes and Dog Sweaters

Yesterday was one for the books. We have had a number of ups and downs with temps. Weird precipitation- we went through rain, sleet, & than snow all within hours thanks to a storm named Harper. Odd name for an odd storm. Regardless, we thought we were well prepared.

Thought being the key word. We were mistaken. Monday it hit -1. I was so very thankful that my fur babies had their sweaters. Although Buster insists that his be removed as soon as he enters the house, I felt that it was worth the trouble. I worry about Butter most. Little dogs normally don’t do well in weather this cold. She’s a snow bunny at heart, often we have to be stern to get her into the house. She loves her sweater. I’m grateful for that, too.

I limited her time and watched her out the window. As soon as she was finished, I rushed her in. As an added benefit, they looked gosh darn adorable. Even though they are Christmas-themed, who cares? It was a bright spot in the day.

I know for fact that I had left the water trickling in the bathroom. Somehow, someone turned it off. We woke up to frozen pipes. My husband cancelled his work for the day and had to stay home. Because of our rural conditions, things to do with erosion and water collecting in strange places, we’ve had difficulties before. But, this is the first time since we got public water that our pipes froze.

Due to the heavy rain the day before, we also had incredible, epic flooding around where the pipes are located. Those leading to the house were fine. These were the ones which would’ve been exposed to the elements. However, he’d insulated them. What he discovered, though, was that the heavy rain had caused all the insulation to collapse. This resulted in the flooding and freezing.

Now, we were in a pickle. Forecasters had called for Tuesday being the only good day this week. Being that it gets dark around 5:30, we were up against the clock. The warmest part of the day was between 10 and 11 AM. Due to the flooding, my poor husband had to balance himself on a 2×4 with a welding torch. It would’ve been funny if it hadn’t been so tragic.

A lot of prayer and a few hours later, we saw a trickle of water. Unfortunately, the pressure regulator switch had died in the deep freeze. A trip to Lowe’s, more prayer, and some above freezing temps and we had water again. Now, we have to figure out how to keep it from happening again. More prayer!