Book Spotlight: The Vanished Child M. J.Lee

SYNOPSIS:Every childhood lasts a lifetime.
On her deathbed, Freda Duckworth confesses to giving birth to an illegitimate child in 1944 and placing him in a children’s home. Seven years later she went back but he had vanished. What happened to the child? Why did he disappear? Where did he go? Jayne Sinclair, genealogical investigator, is faced with lies, secrets and one of the most shameful episodes in recent British history. Can she find the vanished child?

MY THOUGHTS:This has to be one of the saddest books I’ve read. Just the thought that children actually went through some of the things that are mentioned in the book is heartbreaking and mind-boggling. I understand the desperation that some of the parents faced at this. To let your child go thinking they’re receiving the best of care and they’re receiving the worst possible nightmare of their lives is unbelievable.

Mr. Lee does an incredible job articulating the drama, the mysterious circumstances, and perseverance that folks of this historical era went through. Our main character, Jayne Sinclair, has perhaps her toughest case yet.
Not just from fact-finding perspective, but because of the emotional baggage that comes along with it. We learn a lot more about her family especially her new stepmother as the story unfolds.

Once again it reminded me why I’m such a fan of the series. Mr. Lee has definitely made this series stand out with his choices in Era, historical accuracy, and having a very tough female lead. Of all the books in the series, this one is by far the most dramatic. Make sure you have tissues handy while you’re reading. I have to give it 4 stars and I do recommend it.


Book Spotlight: The Silence of the Snakes: Ruby Loren

Synopsis: Madigan Amos is on her second-ever zoo consulting job, reviewing animal welfare conditions to recommend improvements. She didn’t expect it to include lions attacking one of the keepers, a series of thefts from the mansion of the family that owns the zoo, having a sick green mamba turned over to her by a stranger, or a woman dead of an ax to the head. She’s not at all sure she’s going to get out of Snidely Wildlife and Safari alive.

MY THOUGHTS: This second installment had a lot more mystery and suspense than the first. The happenings at her current zoo location are a bit hard to figure out initially. As with the first, it opens with a good, attention grabbing scene.
There are some slow points and some confusing scenarios. However, it is a good read and I will continue with the series. I give it 3 stars.

#Sponsored Book Spotlight: JOE DE YONG: A LIFE IN THE WEST: William Reynolds

SYNOPSIS: Joseph Franklin De Yong was a cowboy artist, protégé of Charles Marion Russell (Montana’s cowboy artist), and an historical consultant on western films. Dan Gagliasso wrote, “While director John Ford made extensive use of Frederic Remington’s art in his western films, it was the Russell ‘look,’ kept alive by De Yong’s costume designs, scenic sketch art, and historical advice, that influenced the form and feel of such classic Westerns as The Plainsman (1937), Union Pacific (1939), Buffalo Bill (1944), Red River (1948), and Shane (1953).” The authentic work De Yong did in film continues to influence the way costume and set designs for western movies are conceived, as evidenced in classics like Dances with Wolves and Unforgiven, and the mini-series Lonesome Dove.
Joe De Yong: A Life in the West (Alamar Media/September 2018) by William Reynolds is an in-depth biography that takes readers on an incredible journey exploring western culture of the early 20th Century through the story of one unsung cowboy. Reynolds tells De Yong’s story by including photographs of sketches, paintings and documents culled from private collectors as well as from the permanent collections of major western museums.
De Yong’s life was one of challenges, including overcoming cerebral meningitis in 1913 that left him totally deaf. Never one for self-pity, De Yong went on to become the only protégé of his artistic hero Charles M. Russell. He would take the skills he learned and make a life in the movie business working with Cecil B. DeMille and many others. The early films De Yong worked on created a pathway to authentic depictions that – while it was never loudly recognized – was utilized by many in the industry.

Over ten years of research, Reynolds reveals the life of a relatively unknown artist/illustrator who started out to be “just a cowboy” who turns out was quite a “mover and shaker” touching the lives of so many in the western art world of the 1920s through the late 1960s.
This long-awaited, in-depth, biography a treat for any western art fan or disciple of Charles M. Russell.

William Reynolds is an award-winning Western journalist and publisher who as worked in the Western industry for over 35 years. He is the author of several books on Western art and culture including The Faraway Horses with Buck Brannaman, The Cowboy Hat Book with master hatter Ritch Rand, and The Art of The Western Saddle. Reynolds is an active member of the Western Writers of America, Los Rancheros Visitadores, as well as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum and former board member of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, and the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum. For more information about him visit his website,

MY THOUGHTS: This book is absolutely amazing! The level of research and deciation that William Reynolds has given to this work is staggering. From page 1, readers can feel the passion that he had for this project. When an author believes this strong in his work, it’s contagious. You love it because the author loves it.

I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t familiar with Mr. De Yong prior to this work. Now, I can honestly say that I feel as if I really know him. As a homeschooler, I love biographies of often overlooked yet amazing individuals. Biographies such as this one give children a chance to explore the world how it once was and those who made it what it is today. Authors such as Mr. Reynolds give readers an opportunity to explore, grow, and extend their education beyond textbooks.

As opposed to many mainstream biographies, Joe De Yong’s contains a vast amount of images; in fact, over 500! That’s tremendous! If you happen to have a reluctant reader who is also a fan of westerns or cowboys, then you need to pick this book up. In addition to being a biography, readers are also treated to American History, western culture, and, of course, art.

It really is worth a read and it is a profound educational piece. Well-done! I give it 5 stars!


#Sponsored Book Spotlight: Lou Knows What to Do: Doctor’s Office: Kimberly Tice, M.S. CCC-SLP and Venita Litvack, M.A. CCC-SLP

Through an engaging and fun social story format, Lou Knows What to Do: Doctor’s Office, uses this evidenced-based therapy tool to teach social skills and eases children’s anxieties about new experiences like getting their ears checked or teeth cleaned. Lou Knows What to Do: Doctor’s Office, is designed to help children master these challenging social situations comfortably and competently. The book is written in a positive and patient voice to cater to special needs individuals, however children on all developmental levels will enjoy following Lou on his adventures.
Lou Knows What to Do: Doctor’s Office demonstrates the importance of patience in the waiting room, keeping hands safe in the exam room, and telling someone if you feel scared or frustrated. Teachers, mental health counselors and parents hail the series as “amazing,” “informative,” “entertaining” and “one of the best!”
Each book includes repeated phrases to help non-readers follow along and concludes with a tips page and comprehension questions.
MY THOUGHTS: ‘Lou Knows’ is an inventive and important series for children. I agree with the authors that the special needs/autistic reader audience is widely ignored. We need more main characters like Lou! He is the perfect character to introduce children to scenarios which may be uncomfortable. Even adults skip going to their doctors!

As a non-threatening, age-appropriate main character, Lou guides them through their visit with three different types of doctors- dentist, physician, and ophthalmologist. I can see how each one can cause any child to become frustrated and/or angry. The waiting room is probably the worst part.

Illustrator Andre Kerry is the unsung hero here. His depiction of Lou and the places he goes gives readers a feeling of really knowing Lou. He appears to be a fun-loving, inquisitive young boy. Drawing the various doctors as smiling, helpful folks is a definite plus.

I’ve recommended this series to several librarians nearby. Lou’s series should be available to all children to help them navigate their world. Excellent, well-written, and relevant, I give it a full 5 stars!
*Pic & Synopsis belong solely to the author/publisher
**I received the aforementioned title in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.

#Sponsored Book Spotlight: The Cow Said Neigh!: A Farm Story: Rory Feek

SYNOPSIS: A cow that neighs, a horse that quacks, a sheep that oinks – all characters in a new, fun and humorous tale of farm animals wondering if things might be just a bit better on the other side of the fence. The Cow Said Neigh!: A Farm Story (ISBN: 9781400311712, picture book and board book) is the first children’s book from performer, filmmaker and bestselling author Rory Feek, to be released October 2 via Thomas Nelson.
Things go awry when a group of farm animals investigate what it feels like to switch places – much to their farmer’s surprise! Inspired by some of the animals on Feek’s own farm south of Nashville, The Cow Said Neigh! is destined to become a fast favorite of children and parents alike with an entertaining story by Feek and vivid illustrations from Bruno Robert.
Feek is a father to three daughters, a New York Times Bestselling author, and GRAMMY-winning singer and songwriter. He is most well-known as one-half of Joey+Rory, a country music duo he began with his wife, Joey. The couple captured the hearts of many as Rory chronicled their love story on his blog, as well as the birth of their daughter, Indiana, Joey’s cancer diagnosis and their preparation for her passing in March 2016. Since, he’s released a documentary, To Joey, With Love as well as two memoirs, This Life I Live: One Man’s Extraordinary, Ordinary Life and the Woman Who Changed It Forever (Thomas Nelson) and Once Upon a Farm: Lessons on Growing Love, Life, and Hope on a New Frontier. He lives on a farm south of Nashville with his youngest daughter, who is now four years old, where they garden vegetables, raise animals and live a simpler life.

MY THOUGHTS: I have enormous respect for Rory Feek. He and Joey are such an inspiration. When I was given the opportunity to review his book, I HAD to! I was honored to be contacted. I’m so glad I did, too. It is as fabulous as I knew it would be!

With an easy-to-follow storyline and fantastic characters, this one is sure to be a hit! I’d say it’s best for the elementary set (even though I loved reading it at 40-something!). Bruno Robert is the illustrator and did an amazing job fitting the animals & farmer to the story. I have to admit that the pig is my favorite. The rhyming is perfection and don’t be surprised if this one replaces ‘Goodnight, Moon’ in your house! It’s quite catchy and you may find yourself reciting it throughout your day. 5 stars!!



#Sponsored Book Spotlight: Dreams: Jessie Chris

SYNOPSIS: Jessie, the victim of bullying in school has set a goal of visiting 100 schools in 2018 to speak with students. To date she has visited 51 and is scheduled to visit another 75+ in the fall. She is the face of The Ad Council’s #BeMore Campaign as well as Sylvania Lighting’s #BeTheLight Campaign. Bose will be supporting Chris during this fall’s tour. Jessie released her latest single and empowerment anthem “ROME” which she first performed as the featured artist at this year’s Gracie Awards. “ROME” was written by Jessie Chris, Summer Overstreet (daughter of Paul Overstreet), and David Spencer and Produced by Spencer (Hunter Hayes, Jacob Whitesides) and Mixed by Matt “McV” McVaney (Kane Brown, Levi Hummon).

MY THOUGHTS: ‘Dreams’ is definitely relevant in today’s world. All children see on television are adults who can’t stop bullying each other and then, many times, they have to go to school and witness it there as well. Jessie Chris definitely has the write idea. Using creativity to reach little ones is gentle and effective.

Her life in general speaks volumes as to what children can do when they think like overcomers. I hope that her book sparks these feelings in its readers.  If it can change just one child’s view of themselves and the world around them, then it was worth it.

Autumn Dickens has done a beautiful job illustrating. These colorful pictures along with the rhyming, easy-to-follow story make this book a winner. Teachers should consider it for circle time and homeschoolers should add it to their libraries as well. Sometimes are homechooled  kiddos get bullied, too. It’s perfect for early elementary students.

I give it 5 stars!
*Pic & synopsis belong solely to the author/publisher.
**I received the aforementioned title in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.

#Sponsored Book Spotlight: Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art: Hudson Talbott

SYNOPSIS: The story of an immigrant from England who arrived in America 200 years ago and – through his passion for art, landscape, and the Hudson River Valley and the Catskills – came to define America’s visual identity and set in motion an artistic legacy that continues to impact art and culture to this day. A major international exhibition of Cole’s work, organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, is now on view at the National Gallery, London.

Thomas Cole pictured for the world an America that would become known as “America the Beautiful.” Until then, there was not a clear succinct image of our country. In the process, he became a pioneering advocate for environmentalism, raising the alarm over industrial destruction of our landscape long before there was an environmental movement.

Hudson Talbott has written and/or illustrated more than 25 books, including Newbury Honor Book Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson, ALA Notable Book Leonardo’s Horse by Jean Fritz, and We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story, adapted into an animated film by Steven Spielberg, starring the voices of John Goodman, Jay Leno, and Martin Short, among others.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hudson Talbott is a resident of the Hudson Valley and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, NY. In many ways, Picturing America is a companion book to Talbott’s River of Dreams: The Story of the Hudson River, which was named the New York State Children’s Book of the Year in 2009.

MY THOUGHTS: There is so much to love about this book! For homeschoolers, this book touches on multiple classes. Art (of Course), geography, & history are all part of Thomas Cole’s story. Students will also experience a biography about an immigrant who worked hard for his success. Those who are looking to get into a career in art or excel in the subject will find Mr. Cole’s story inspiring and worth their time.

Younger students will marvel at the stunning pictures. Mr. Cole was beyond talented. His vision of American is one worth imitating. He found it beautiful and desired for the landscape to remain rural. This is the perfect resource to discuss the Industrial Revolution, immigration, and art history.

Brick-and-mortar students will definitely benefit from having a seldom discussed artist’s biography. It would be a unique book report and/or history project. Even parents/guardians will love this book. From the pictures to the story itself, this book is phenomenal and gets 5 stars from me.

*I received the aforementioned title in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.

**Pic & synopsis belong solely to the author/publisher.