Posted in Book Reviews, Homeschooling

#Sponsored Book Spotlight: There’s a Monkey In My Backpack!: Don M. Winn

SYNOPSIS:Did you know? One in five children in the United States has a learning difficulty such as dyslexia or ADHD. These challenges can make children feel inadequate, misunderstood, and frustrated in and out of the classroom, yet – if harnessed correctly – they can also be viewed as beneficial and consequently empower the kids who live with them.
In the clever and truly helpful new book There’s a Monkey in My Backpack! (September 2019), Winn explores how learning difficulties affect kids in a unique way that helps children and those who care for them to better understand their challenges. Winn writes from his personal experience as a lifelong dyslexic reader and writer.
There’s a Monkey in My Backpack! follows Anna, a third-grade student who has an unusual companion – a monkey in her backpack! Not everyone can see him, but he causes a whole lot of trouble for Anna by mixing up her spelling letters, distracting her in class, and making it hard for her to keep up with her schoolwork. He causes so many problems for Anna that she wonders if she will ever make it to the end of third grade with the other children. But she learns that her troublesome monkey can also be a big help to her if she learns to understand, accept, and appreciate her unique situation.

MY THOUGHTS: Written for the elementary school reader, ‘There’s A Monkey’ offers a unique perspective to learning disabilities. Instead of an invisible thing, the author portrays the issue as a physical thing that can be handled, seen, and communicated with. Third grader, Anna, our heroine, is given two choices: either fight the monkey or accept and deal with his antics. By showing children that they can regain control of their actions and learning path, Mr. Winn offers them options they may not have considered. It’s empowering.

Illustrator Dave Allred has done a wonderful job depicting Anna and her monkey. The colorful pictures will keep younger readers engaged while giving a great visual to older readers. This book may not be geared toward every child, but I believe it will be helpful to those who’ve been recently diagnosed, don’t understand their diagnosis or have a sibling with learning disabilities. These kids have a lot on their plates so anything we can do to help them is a plus.

Encouraging and engaging, I give it a 3 star rating.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Don M. Winn is a multiple award-winning children’s author of thirteen picture books and the Sir Kaye the Boy Knight® series of novels for independent readers. As a dyslexia advocate and a dyslexic himself, he frequently addresses parents and educators on how to maximize the value of shared reading time and how to help dyslexic and other struggling readers to learn to love to read. Winn lives and writes in Round Rock, Texas.
In addition to his latest picture book, Winn’s first nonfiction book, Raising a Child with Dyslexia: What Every Parent Needs to Know is forthcoming this fall. In October, Winn will be the keynote speaker at the Central Texas Dyslexia Conference.
Find out more at http://www.donwinn.com

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

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Posted in Book Reviews

#Sponsored Book Spotlight: Diversity is Key: Bryan Smith



SYNOPSIS:
It’s diversity week at Amelia’s school, and she has no clue what it means or why it matters. Every day, she’s introduced to cultures, cuisines and customs that push Amelia outside her comfort zone and test her preconceived notions about people and places. Is Mei really asking me to bow when I introduce myself? Is Rosa really celebrating toes, and how the heck do I eat something wrapped in a corn husk? And why is Malia’s mom gyrating in a grass skirt? Amelia has lots of questions (and a few concerns), but the more she experiences, the more she realizes how diversity makes life more fun. She also discovers that differences shouldn’t divide people because everyone shares something in common. Diversity is Key! was penned by Bryan Smith whose Without Limits book series celebrates children with character. 32 pgs.

MY THOUGHTS: Full disclosure: I was hesitant about this one. Many times when the word ‘diversity’ is used, the author pushes a specific narrative that may be against my own religious beliefs. I am SO relieved that Bryan Smith had more integrity than that!

In fact, he did an amazing job CELEBRATING diversity. He nailed the reasons why it’s a good thing and left out all the PC narrative nonsense too many of us have to listen to on media. It isn’t a risqué book in any way. Instead, we have 3 students who bring 3 separate identities to their classroom. Do’s and Don’ts in regards to politeness are discussed, but the children aren’t forced into participation or controversial topics. Even the mention of the Day of the Dead is handled beautifully. While it could’ve been presented in a Halloween-type way, our author takes the high road and specifies that it’s a celebration of the deceased loved one’s life. Well done!

The illustrations are spot on as are the multiple messages. Respect each other. Be polite to those who are different. Try new things. Respect those in authority and those older than you. Great messages. I enjoyed Amelia and her class. I give this one 5 stars.
https://www.boystownpress.org/

Posted in Book Reviews

#Sponsored Book Spotlight: Freddie the Fly Bee On, Buzz Off: Kimberly Delude

SYNOPSIS: Freddie, our lovable fly, is tappin’ and flappin’ his way to trouble. He whirls around to and fro, buzzing from one distraction to another. Is it any wonder he forgets his lunch, fails his spelling test and leaves the house semi-undressed? Freddie is a go-go-go kind of guy who has no time to listen, focus or pay attention. His lack of concentration causes a real fright when he finds himself lost and alone at the zoo. Will that be the scare Freddie needs to finally take action and turn his BEE on and his BUZZ off? Readers will love finding the answers in this delightfully insightful tale by speech-language pathologist and educator Kimberly Delude.

MY THOUGHTS: If there was any character I could ever relate to, it’s Freddie! Having Parkinson’s means never sitting still and having the MOST difficult time concentrating. Poor Freddie can’t keep it together, either. Although flies may not be the most popular insect, this fly will find his way into your heart.

Kimberly Delude has done a terrific job addressing a problem that many elementary school parents see daily- forgetful kids who can’t stay focused. I love Gus, the zoo guide. His gentle guidance makes all the difference. It’s definitely a hat tip to patient parents! Freddie delivers on several fronts. His story promotes teamwork when he teams up with a fellow student to help each other. He demonstrates respect for authority by heeding the instruction & advice of those in charge. He shows responsibility for his actions by admitting his inattentive nature. Plus, he provides a solution in the end.

Adorable illustrations via Brian Martin add humor and depth to the characters. I am now a ‘fly fan’. There are two previous books in the series which I’d recommend also. ‘Freddie’ gets a 5 star review from me!
https://www.instagram.com/boystownpress/
https://www.facebook.com/BoysTownPress/

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

Posted in Book Reviews

#Sponsored Book Spotlight: Parker Plum and the Rotten Egg Thoughts: A Story about Learning to Look on the Bright Side: Billie Pavicic

SYNOPSIS: Parker Plum wakes up to find a little green egg filled with rotten egg thoughts on his pillow and he must learn to unscramble his self-defeating thoughts before it explodes.

MY THOUGHTS: I love this book. I combines all the best elements of children’s storytelling. First, we have a strong, relevant, moral message. ‘Be positive’. In a society bombarded by negativity, it is so easy for children to dread the start of every day. Regardless if your readers attend a brick-and-mortar school or are at home, they will no doubt face every situation Parker does. Parker himself is an easily relatable character. He isn’t too in-depth as to cause a switch in focus for younger readers. He is simply a boy, dealing with a real-world situation.
It is a completely clean book. No risky business. No violence, etc. Beginning readers will expand their vocabulary while older readers won’t be bored with overly simplistic language. Illustrator Susan Garber has nailed it with her drawings. Each one adds to the story without being overwhelming or distracting. Billie Pavicic adds humor with a young man with a flatulence issue (without it being too gross or too important to the story) and with a very wise lunch lady.
Also of note, Parker has surrounded himself with quality friends. They don’t judge. They encourage him to change his view for his own good as well as those around him. That’s a very good underlying message for today’s youth. Bottom line: ‘Parker Plum’ is a 5 star children’s book worth purchasing and adding to your classroom library.

About Boys Town Press:
Boys Town Press publishes children’s and educational books, and produces resources for educators, parents, and youth-serving professionals, all in line with Boys Town’s goal of “Saving Children, Healing Families.” Boys Town Press is a division of Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home, a mission-driven organization that works in diverse communities with the highest-need kids and their families. Its publications are based on the proven techniques used in Boys Town programs.

Learn more about Boys Town Press and its titles at http://www.boystownpress.org.

https://www.facebook.com/BoysTownMission
I received the aforementioned title in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine. Synopsis & pic belong solely to the author/publisher.

Posted in Book Reviews, Holidays

#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

Posted in Book Reviews

#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.

Posted in Book Reviews

#Sponsored Book Spotlight: I See the Sun in the USA: Dedie King

SYNOPSIS: I See the Sun in the USA tells the story of Stella and the children and families she meets, with a variety of ethnicities and cultures, while on a family vacation.  Each child is also presented by a family tree depicting the blending of their families, hence the blending of American culture.  Glorious illustrations express and enhance the storyline.

MY THOUGHTS:  This book, for grades 1-5, offers a little bit of everything. We have a fictional family who goes on vacation to real, geographically accurate places. The pictures are fabulous and will add to the adventure. Readers will not only experience different, cultural representations, but also history & geography. I love when books combine subjects for this age bracket.

With all that their minds an absorb, it’s good to get a little extra education in with their reading. I also appreciate the introduction kids get to genealogy. There’s a lot of talk nowadays about DNA & family histories. It just may inspire younger students to chart their own family trees.

I give it 4 stars.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Author Dedie King was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the mid-sixties in Nepal where she taught school.  She uses her world travel experiences past and present as the basis for the stories in the I See The Sun series.  Presently, Dedie practices Classical Five Element acupuncture both in Hardwick and in Amherst, Massachusetts.

 

Illustrator Judith Inglese designs and fabricates ceramic tile murals for public spaces such as schools, healthcare facilities and nonprofit organizations.  In the I See the Sun books, she combines photography, cut paper and drawing in her collage illustrations. Like her ceramic tile murals, her illustrations are colorful and detailed with strong forms and line work.  Judith Inglese resides in Western Massachusetts.

Find it on Amazon.

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

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