Award winning author churns out one that lacks passion

Perhaps I expected more from a previous Carnegie and Newbery award winning author. I was a bit let down with Fortunately, the Milk. Our children deserve better writing, better stories, more character development and less of the quick-fix, computer generated, graphic novel type. The blurb of the book states that the author has also written two episodes of Doctor Who and appeared as himself in The Simpsons. That, in a nutshell, is what this book reminded me of: a not very well constructed Doctor Who story crossed with a not very funny Simpsons show.

The plot is that Mum has gone away for a few days, and Dad is in charge of the children. He goes out to buy the milk and has a series of zany action-packed adventures. He meets a dinosaur in a time-travelling hot air balloon; gets abducted by space aliens and; meets intergalactic police, pirates, and volcano gods. He then returns to his children and narrates… click here to read whole article and make comments


Mastodons sighted in the American colonies

Unlike his three older brothers who have struck out on their own, Billy Bartram has always wanted to follow in his father's footsteps. John Bartram is a botanist with a world famous garden. Billy assists him by drawing the plants in the collection, but the boy longs to accompany his father on his frequent expeditions. It never occurs to Billy that his Quaker father might have interests beyond the natural sciences until one night a group of French spies break into John's office clearly searching for something specific.

Billy's courage during the incident does not go unnoticed by his father. When Benjamin Franklin visits to discuss the botanist's next trip, John suggests that Billy come along. Franklin, seeing Billy's artistic talent, agrees, and the young man is promptly initiated into the American Philosophical Society, a group of brilliant men who have put their talents at the service of the British colonies. Their next mission: to find the descendants of the… click here to read whole article and make comments


A story that needs to be told

Leon Leysen was only ten years old when the Nazis invaded Poland, and his family had to move to a ghetto. Years later after surviving the death camps, he is prepared to speak about it all in this book. He tells his story without malice, without bitterness. It is not too dismal or dark, so children of nine years and up would be able to cope with it. It is something students need to study to be aware of what happened and to negate historians who even now make a career out of alleging that the Holocaust never happened. Above all it is a tale of hope, of getting up again and starting again despite the worst.

Generous was the word his daughter chose to describe him at his funeral years later: generous with his time and generous with his children - generous in so many ways. This is why I enjoyed reading this book so very much. It made… click here to read whole article and make comments


Sweet story, sour delivery

As the only Korean in school, Park has always felt like an outsider. As a matter of fact, most of his peers' parents grew up in his neighborhood, even his own Irish father. Park's parents met and fell in love in Korea, so he is really only half Korean, but many of the other students treat him as if he were from another planet.

When Eleanor gets on the bus for the first time, Park realizes he is not so different from his classmates - not compared to Eleanor. She wears a jumble of clothing items, most of them discarded men's garments. But Park knows what it is like to be the target of cruelty, so he lets her sit next to him. Park's sense of decency gets the better of him, and slowly he befriends the girl, sharing comics and music. It takes a while for him to get past the series of barriers Eleanor has established to protect… click here to read whole article and make comments


An innocent joke carried too far

The humour in this Amazon editor's pick of 2013 story will definitely appeal, but I would not read the story aloud with younger siblings present.

The story goes that a pet goldfish is being kept as an experiment for a school pollution study by Mark who is lightly portrayed as doing the "evil scientist" thing at first. The innocent joke is carried too far by the author who at times portrays Mark's younger brother as fearful and obsessed by the "evil" of his older brother. A younger sibling reading this could easily be influenced to view his own brother in a similar way, and the story makes it seem adrenaline busting and fun to do.

"Bbedlam" (Bedlam) is the subject of the second part of the book, spelled incorrectly because it is said to be cool and original to misspell words. Big brother is shown frequently as knocking over or squashing his little brother and taunting a smaller boy by… click here to read whole article and make comments


Royal family disappears

Every castle has a history. Castle Glower's origin is unknown, but anyone who has lived in or near it believes it has a life and mind of its own. No one is more convinced of this than eleven-year-old Princess Celie who knows the Castle better than any member of the royal household, even down to the new rooms the Castle adds to its footprint every Tuesday.

Castle Glower not only constructs and changes its floor plan; it also chooses its king. It has indicated that Celie's brother Rolf will succeed their father, King Glower the Seventy-ninth, and the people of Sleyne would never dream of questioning the Castle's decision. The royal family's enemies, however, have other plans. When the king and queen as well as their eldest son Bran disappear, Celie, Rolf and their sister Lilah have their hands full protecting the throne.

Spurred on by deep respect and love for her parents and siblings, Celie remains an undaunted heroine,… click here to read whole article and make comments


Rush Limbaugh’s book for kids sells 200,000 in first week

I have to confess, I did not actually read this book. I listened to it on CD. It seemed logical since the author is a famous radio talk show host. This may be why the book struck me as a read-aloud for elementary school children rather than a book for middle school students.

Limbaugh, encouraged by his wife, decided to write a story about the Pilgrims to help teach young Americans about the history of their nation. Rush Revere is a substitute history teacher whose time traveling horse, Liberty, takes him back in time to meet "exceptional" Americans. Their first adventure lands them near Plymouth Rock where, with two of Mr. Revere's students, they meet William Bradford, Miles Standish, Squanto and other well-known figures from the time of the founding of Plymouth Colony. They even witness the first Thanksgiving, all the while assuring that their actions do not change the course of history.

Aside from a few linguistic anachronisms (e.g.,… click here to read whole article and make comments


Overscheduled children and overtired parents

In our highly scheduled society, children are often shuttled from one frenzied activity to another. Just being together as a family at home without a rush is becoming less the norm and more the rarity. It is great to have a picture book that highlights the precious time spent together as a family when the parents decide that day they will take it as it comes at home - they have no plans.

In Today We Have NO PLANS, the young girl starts off her school week in a rush and a fright. Her active week involves school preparation on Monday, swimming on Tuesday, after-school care on Wednesday, orchestra practice on Thursday, grocery shopping on Friday, and netball on Saturday. By Friday Mum has "had enough". How true this story is; how accurately it reflects reality.

The story then takes a quieter pace, the world seems to visibly slow down as the double-page spread highlights the words: "But then..." The… click here to read whole article and make comments


Why do boys love trucks so much?

A lovely, warm and reassuring picture book for young children, this book has been almost constantly a bestseller since it was first published in 2011. How much these days we are all caught up in a busy world and yet yearn for a simpler time when things moved slowly and predictably as they do in the world of the picture book construction site. Readers are invited to "turn off your engines, stop your tracks, relax your wheels, your stacks and backs..."

You can almost hear the clank of steel beams being placed in their positions as each truck carefully folds itself down into place, snugly preparing for sleep. When read slowly and with flair, the descriptive words will nourish young minds.

Illustrations appear simple and naive but a closer look shows they are skilfully packed with emotion. For example, the "tough and strong" bulldozer is by the end of the day somewhat reduced in stature and expression, his eyes are… click here to read whole article and make comments


A mother’s love; a father’s sacrifice

A mother's love knows no bounds. Sprout longs to share that love with her own child, but as an egg-laying hen she has never been allowed to hatch one of her eggs and raise a chick. She longs to "fly the coop" and live in the barnyard with a family of her own, but is trapped in her cage. Oddly, hope arrives when the farmer’s wife discovers that Sprout can no longer produce eggs.

Culled with the other worn-out hens, Sprout manages to escape both the Hole of Death and the weasel with the help of a friendly mallard, Straggler. Chased from the barnyard by the other animals, Sprout finds an unattended egg nearby. For reasons unknown to Sprout, Straggler provides for her as she cares for her adopted egg. It is not until her chick develops into a duckling that Sprout understands Straggler and the paternal sacrifice he made.

Sun-mi Hwang's international best-seller tells the story of a father's… click here to read whole article and make comments


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