#Sponsored Book Spotlight: The Enchanted Sonata: Heather Dixon Wallwork

SYNOPSIS:Clara Stahlbaum has her future perfectly planned: to marry the handsome pianist, Johann Kahler (ah!) and settle down to a life full of music. But all that changes on Christmas Eve, when Clara receives a mysterious and magical nutcracker.

Whisked away to his world—an enchanted empire of beautiful palaces, fickle fairies, enormous rats, and a prince—Clara must face a magician who uses music as spells…and the future she thought she wanted.

The Enchanted Sonata, a retelling of The Nutcracker Ballet with a dash of The Pied Piper, will captivate readers of all ages.

MY THOUGHTS:Don’t dismiss this one as ‘just another person’s Nutcracker redo’. Yes, it’s a retelling of the original. However, it’s an AMAZING retelling of the original. Heather Dixon Wallwork has utilized her amazing imagination to add all the right things into the story.
It is just so darn cute. It has all the elements that YA readers adore: Love, War, and the fight of good versus evil. Romance fans will flip for the Clara’s love life elements. Action & suspense fans will really get into the whole kids-turned-into-toys plot. Fantasy fans will love just about everything as the Nutcracker is basically a fantasy tale.

It’s a timely retelling with Christmas being so close and a new Nutcracker movie debuting. But, I have a feeling that this book will be better than the movie. I give it 4 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: Ara the Star Engineer: Komal Singh

SYNOPSIS: Ara the Star Engineer inspires kids – especially girls and children of color – to explore STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as it follows a 6-year old girl, Ara, on a quest to build an algorithm to solve a big problem (suspense!).

During her adventure, Ara is helped by a diverse set of real-life women engineering leaders of color — a Tenacious Troubleshooter, Code Commander, Prolific Problem Solver, Intrepid Innovator. The book teaches basic problem solving & computer science concepts along the way in a whimsical manner. Ara also includes an attached mini-booklet with a deeper tech dive, and online activity sheets with hands-on tech activities.

All profits from the book sales will be donated to charities encouraging women’s and girls’ participation in STEM fields. This book is not an official Google product; but a grassroots, passion project of Google employees in their personal capacity striving for an equitable future for all girls.

MY THOUGHTS: First and foremost, I love this book! It isn’t just for girls. Boys can gain just as much knowledge from it as their female counterparts can. I love that the cast of characters Ara visits are real-life, superwomen. Their jobs aren’t just described. They are elaborated on so that ages 5+ can understand completely what each job entails. I’ll readily admit it- I learned a lot from this book! Anyone who has ever gone cross-eyed when someone mentioned ‘algorithms’ needs to read this too!

This is the PERFECT STEM book. But, it goes far beyond that label. It’s also a career guide. Readers who are already interested in tech can pinpoint career possibilities based off the descriptions given. It has a strong message, too. Never give up. Ara faces obstacles in her quest, but, she continues to work hard, no shortcuts, and perseveres. Yes, it’s also a female empowerment anthem. Female readers, especially impressionable ages, need role models. They need to know that it’s ok to be feminine, intelligent, and successful as a total package like the women in this book. It can also be incorporated into homeschool curriculums with classes such as math & tech.

This is the type of children’s book we need more of. Entertaining, educational, and with an outstanding message, it is 5 stars for our Star Engineer!

About the Author:
Komal Singh works at Google as a Program Manager in Engineering. As a techie, a mother, and an immigrant, she’s passionate about using technology as an enabler and an equalizer for all. She takes part in kids’ coding clubs, sits on hackathon judge panels, and volunteers with nonprofits on technology development.
ISBN: 978-1-989025-05-5 • Hardcover • $15.95 USD • $19.95 CDN
*The 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: A Rainbow in Her Pocket: Amanda Jayne

SYNOPSIS:Have you ever seen a sheep standing tiptoe on the ears
of a very tall giraffe while a crowd looks on and cheers?
And have you seen an owl helping them to tug
a rainbow from the sky, like a multi-colored rug?
This is the story of Mala the rhino who can’t help feeling blue after her friend moves away. Her friends, an owl, a sheep and a not-so-humble giraffe get together with sun and create a crazumptious plan to show Mala that blue is as beautiful as all the other colors. This colorful story of friendship, love and loss will delight children while encouraging them to embrace their emotions in a healthy way.

MY THOUGHTS: Amanda Jayne has crafted her book in order to explain that all feelings are okay to have. I understand her intention and her intentions are good. However, if I am interpreting her correctly, blue is representative of depression. If that is correct, I would have liked to see more help for the rhino. She needed someone (animal or human) to give her better guidance. In this way, I felt the story was muddled.

Even younger readers, who will enjoy the multi-colored scenes, need to know that resources- fictional or not- are available when they feel blue. Perhaps I am overcomplicating the story. But, when we get into these types of topics, it’s a very fine line. Children already know how to be sad. It’s overcoming sadness that children need to be advised in.

Amanda Jayne did start off strong in the first several pages when our rhino’s friend moves away. That is a relatable subject that could have moved into different, realistic ways that Mala’s friends could have helped. Just because they are animals doesn’t mean that they can’t impact readers. If you go about it as simply a colorful children’s book, it’s a decent story. But, if you are looking for ways to help a child who is sad or depressed even, then a different book may be for you. I give it 3 stars.
*I received the aforementioned title in exchange for an honest review all opinions are mine
**Pic & Synopsis belong solely to the author/publisher.

Guest Post: Author Amanda Jayne

Author Amanda Jayne on the inspiration behind ‘A Rainbow in Her Pocket’.
A Rainbow in her Pocket started many years ago – not the story itself, but the desire for sadness and other emotions to be seen as okay. I had some challenges when growing up and, as happens in many families, feelings were avoided at all costs. I spent many years learning about emotions and how vital it is to all of us to simply be allowed to feel them – without ourselves or others trying to stop them, stifle them, give advice or make them wrong. The healing that takes place when emotions are freely felt is extraordinary.
A second element of inspiration for the book came much later after visiting a wildlife park, where the sweetest young rhino named Mala lived. Her big round eyes seemed to communicate pure love and I could feel her sweetness and her innocence. She had a huge effect on me, and I couldn’t stop thinking about her after I left the park.
The third inspiration came when I was playing a game with my friend’s son, Henry, who was 5 at the time. In our game of trains and tracks, Henry informed me that the man waiting in the station was very sad. I looked around the room and a wooden rainbow was lying on the floor behind me. I picked it up and began to tell Henry a story about the man and the rainbow that taught him that sadness was beautiful. He asked a million questions about the story (well, not quite a million, but many) and once we’d gone back to playing with the trains, he kept returning to the man with the rainbow in his pocket. For some reason, at that moment, Mala the rhino popped into my head and the story of A Rainbow in her Pocket appeared before me.
I started writing it that night as I find when stories come, they generally want to be written down as soon as possible. I write best when I’m in a coffee shop, surrounded by a buzz that seems to send me into my own world. The story of Mala and her friends flowed out of my pen in a local cafe over a few days and all I had to do was be there to let it come.
Once I’d finished the story and had it accepted by a publisher, I was offered a choice of illustrators to bring Mala and her friends to life. Although the illustrators were great, something felt wrong. I couldn’t get images of the brightest colours out of my mind, as if the story wanted them. After several days of struggling to choose who should illustrate, I found myself telling the publisher that I would illustrate them myself. She agreed and it was at that moment that I realised what I had let myself in for. I’d never illustrated before, I hadn’t really drawn much before, but I knew that I could do it because I loved the characters and I already had images of the pages in my head – all I had to do was start. That first line on a blank piece of paper is the hardest, after that, I gained more confidence, line by line and before I knew it, the book was done.
Since being published, several mums have contacted me to say how much their young children love the bright colours and how they are able to use the book to talk to them about emotions. One has a close relative who is terminally ill and she told me that A Rainbow in her Pocket was a great way to help her child feel the sadness around that. This is all I could want for the book. I believe that the more children grow up now being taught that feelings are there to be felt without shame or remorse, the easier they will be able to navigate in life. If A Rainbow in her Pocket can help even one or two children in this way, I’ll be very happy.

Thank you very much.

#Sponsored Book Spotlight: THE BOOK OF INGENIOUSLY DARING CHEMISTRY: 24 Experiments for Young Scientists : Sean Connolly

National STEM day is November 8th

SYNOPSIS: THE BOOK OF INGENIOUSLY DARING CHEMISTRY: 24 Experiments for Young Scientists (Workman Publishing; On-sale: October 30, 2018; Ages 9 and up; $14.95) turns questions like “Why does helium make balloons float?” and “How does fluoride protect teeth?” into learning opportunities. It’s a journey through the periodic table of elements with the master of daring STEM books, Sean Connolly. Ingeniously marrying science and fun, it is a perfect introduction to chemistry for curious kids as well as those who might prefer a more engaging approach to science. It’s like having a miniature science lab between two covers!
THE BOOK OF INGENIOUSLY DARING CHEMISTRY puts knowledge into action using household ingredients to conduct 24 awesome, hands-on experiments, including:
Sodium: Make “hot ice” by crystallizing vinegar and baking soda into sodium acetate.
Neon: See how this gas emits light by powering a light bulb with static electricity.
Iron: Submerge steel wool in vinegar to see how this metal oxidizes.
Phosphorus: Play cat detective by using ultraviolet light to locate bad cat smells!

MY THOUGHTS: One of the best ways to review a book such as this is to try one of the experiments. My 15 year-old son & I did just that! We re-created Experiment #19 which involved vinegar & eggs. Not only did he learn about acid’s effect on the eggshell, but, the experiment coincided with what he’s learning in his Biology class.

What I loved about the experiment was, well, everything! It gave clear, concise directions that were difficult to screw up (Hooray!). The ‘ingredients’ were inexpensive and, actually, on-hand. But, it went way beyond a typical experiment. After the directions, it told us exactly what we were seeing, what was happening, and why. We won’t tell the textbook company, but, we learned more from this book than we did from the textbook! Plus, it was way more fun!

I was stunned by the wealth of information this book packs in. Gone are the bland, business-as-usual experiments. This brings modern takes on chemistry that entertain while they teach. We will be utilizing this book OFTEN throughout the rest of his academic career. I just wish it had been published sooner. It’s a full 5 star rating from us!

Recommended for ages 9+

*Pic & Synopsis belong solely to the author/publisher.
**I received a copy of the aforementioned title in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.

#Sponsored Book Spotlight: One Day, So Many Ways: Laura Hall

SYNOPSIS:Discover what daily life is like for kids all around the world! Meet children from over 40 countries and explore the differences and similarities between their daily routines. Over 24 hours, follow a wide variety of children as they wake up, eat, go to school, play, talk, learn and go about their everyday routine in this stunning retro-style illustrated picture book that celebrates different cultures.

MY THOUGHTS: The idea behind this book is really sweet. I love the thought of children learning about different cultures by reading about their peers in different countries. The illustrations are simplistic, but in a good way. They didn’t need to be complicated.
My only issue is with the amount of text. Although it would be for younger children, say younger than 3rd grade, there isn’t a ton of information given. It’s just a sentence or two. I’d have loved to see a little more elaboration. All in all, it reminded me of the Richard Scarry books. It’s a good weekend/bedtime book. I give it 3 stars.

Laura Hall is a travel writer from the UK who now lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark, with her husband and two daughters. Laura was one of the founding team of award-winning family-friendly travel firm Kid & Coe. One Day, So Many Ways is her first book for children.

Loris Lora is a Los Angeles based illustrator & designer. Her illustration style is largely inspired by Mid Century illustration & design, pop culture and her Mexican upbringing. In addition, her work largely reflects the humour and humility of everyday life with her colourful approach. Her clients include NoBrow Press, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
*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: Famous Family Trees: Kari Hauge

SYNOPSIS:Explore the fascinating family histories of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Charlotte Bronte, John F Kennedy, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Maria Tallchief, and many more with 30 family trees from around the world.
This accessible, visually-stunning compendium of family trees features some of history’s most loved — and loathed — famous faces and is great fun for the whole family to explore.
Genealogy and history combine to make a fascinating, fact-filled treasury of family trees belonging to famous people throughout the ages.
Here are some samples:

MY THOUGHTS: OH MY GOODNESS! How I Love This Book!! From the first page, I was smitten. It is the most comprehensive, engaging genealogy book I’ve come across- adult or children’s. It’s not simply a book full of family tree pictures, either. Each family tree contains historical information about the family members and explanations of often used genealogical terms.

This is, simply put, a must-have for every homeschool library. The illustrations are adorable and will keep even early-elementary readers entertained. Older students can follow the examples in order to create their own family’s tree. Homeschoolers can create a lesson off each family given in the book for endless discussions and learning. I give it an absolute 5 stars! Bravo!

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

ISBN: 9781786032263