Sunday, November 15, 2020

Review: Mia and Nattie



Review of Mia and Nattie: 

One Great Team


        Mia and Nattie: One Great Team is a children’s picture book about a little girl and her lamb by Marlene M. Bell. When a little newborn sheep is abandoned in the barn, Mia brings her into her Grandmother’s house, and bottle feeds her. Eventually she grows big enough to live outside. Mia loves Nattie, and wants to keep her as a pet. Nattie is a very small sheep, too small to flock with the rest of the herd. She needs to find her a way to be useful so she can stay on the working farm with Mia.

        Mia and Nattie is an honest depiction of raising livestock, which is a little sad at times, although it all works out for the little sheep in a very nice way.

        The art is digital cartooning done in a two-dimensional style. Grace Sandford uses thick outlines, and pencil-thin lines for details and textures. There are lots of details in the scenes, there are wood swirls on the fences, and the fleece is fluffy. Lots of soft colors complement the natural colors of sheep’s wool. I liked all the drawings of the little lambs. They look very soft and friendly.

4 Stars!

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Review: Merren and the Heron


Review of Merren and the Heron

        Merron and the Heron by Tony Dow is a delightful rhyming story about a trip to the zoo. The children set out to “photograph an animal that sounds just like your name!” The children set out to do just that, and meet an adorable array of animals cutely camouflaged into their environments.

        The art here is just, wow. Darya Shch uses a soft-edged digital art that blends bold colors into gentle pastels. It’s cartoon style, and the characters are shown naturally moving from multiple angles. The scenes have been set up very nicely, so the animals are right there, even though it’s clear they are in defined spaces. The heron is an exception to this, as you see Merron and the heron having a captivating adventure throughout the book, and their story moves in the background of the other children’s adventures. Every child in the book does have a turn seeing their zoo animals. It’s very entertaining, and definitely something I would reread. Five stars.

        Obligatory note: Merren and the Heron is a cute story, and the heron seems to be in on the fun. However, please be aware that wild birds may attack if they feel threatened or if you come too close to their nests.
5 stars!

*Disclosure: I was given a review copy of the e-book by the author.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Review: Feelu: Explore your feelings



Review of Feelu: Explore your feelings

        Feelu: Explore your feelings by Nilofar Shafiei is a children’s book on basic emotional expression and meditation. This is a nice introduction to teaching children how to define and communicate the emotions they are feeling. The meditations are suitable for young, school-aged children. Feelu is more of a supplement to therapy or an educational book, not an entertainment piece (although the illustrations are very engaging). Shafiei did a good job with the research, and Feelu does a good job covering age-appropriate grounding techniques and strategies. While it provides some basic advice for handling bullies, action should be taken if bullies are an issue for the child, as being bullied can cause problematic behaviors and poor health (Lin & Lin, 2017). For normal situations, Feelu is great.

        The art is cute. It’s done in a simplistic cartoon style, with nice bright colors that will appeal to children, and there are many different and interesting animals. Fazel has drawn a charming baby elephant who is the main character in the book, and is featured in a visual mood chart for identifying feelings. I really like the frog in particular, as he looks very happy.

        There is an app that goes along with the book, which I have not tried.

4 stars!

*Disclosure: I was given a review copy of the e-book by the author.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Review: Lleydrin


Review of Lleydrin

 
       Lleydrin by J.B. Moran is a fun sci-fi fantasy novel. On a dinosaur-infested planet, a city keeps the forest dangers at bay with a shield. Danger looms as the intergalactic company Devcorp begins a blockade to force Lleydrin’s ruling family to sell the planet. A ranger core banished to the jungle long ago now finds mercenaries hunting them. Luckily, the city has been quietly building its own space program, and now needs teen recruits to learn piloting from a space pirate marooned on Lleydrin. The rangers send a martial-arts-expert teen girl to infiltrate the program, and find out who controls the mercenaries.

        Pretty much all the most popular tropes in 21st century science fiction, but Lleydrin is well put together. Moran keeps a fast, entertaining pace throughout. It made me laugh. Lots of action, and multiple characters working at cross purposes.  Every chapter is strewn with action and adventure. Tactical research was used for space battles, so there are some nice dogfights.

        The characters are fairly standard action heroes and villains, cliched but consistent. Good stock character archetypes, and they interact well. They are not deep, but they are fun. Most of them are kind. Moran tends to dwell on the good in people, and a few characters are able to make positive changes in their lives. Lleydrin is a nice light engaging read. I didn’t want to put it down. 

        Clean language, minimal fantasy violence, focuses on friendships instead of romances. There is a set-up for a second book, but the Moran ends this one nicely and it feels complete. (I am looking forward to reading the next one, of course!)

Four stars!

*Disclosure: I was given a review copy of the e-book by the author.


Saturday, September 19, 2020

Review: Melody Finch


Melody Finch cover

Review of Melody Finch


       In Melody Finch, by Ian Boyd and Gary Luck, an Australian girl named Melody Klomp turns into a finch. In bird form, she travels upriver, meeting a diverse range of Australian animals. Melody learns about a lot of different animals, and sees how they are struggling with drought. While the different creatures are the main focus of the book, there is also an interesting plot to keep it moving. Melody must reach her grandmother to tell her of the coming rains so she will not sell her tourist boat. There are villains: A fisherman with abysmally bad gun safety standards, and his carnivorous pet Osprey.

      Melody Finch is politically pro-environment, pro-animal rights, and anti-gun. Mild language.

      I enjoyed Melody Finch because there is such a variety of Australian wildlife shown in detail. Boyd and Luck include a lot of information on each animal, including what they eat, and details like the Rainbow Bee-Eaters build their nests in the riverbanks instead of in trees. It’s informative, and the story moves at a nice pace. Melody turns into a Diamond Firetail Finch, which is a very beautiful bird, and meets a Rainbow Bee-Eater, who is just gorgeous.

Four stars!

*Disclosure: I was given a review copy of the e-book by the author.

Diamond Firetail
Diamond Firetail. Image Credit:
Francesco Veronesi from Italy / CC BY-SA 


Rainbow Bee Eaters
Rainbow Bee-Eaters.
Aviceda / CC BY-SA 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Review: Celdric Kane: The Unwished



Review of Celdric Kane: The Unwished


        I really enjoyed reading this Celdric Kane: The Unwished, by Nina Mofme. In a magical world, the leaves of the magical Sphiere tree can grant magical wishes to deserving children. Celdric Kane and his brother, Dyl, witness the theft of the tree’s only seed. In their haste to escape the burglars, they cause a magical accident, and Dyl is flung into the realm of non-humans clutching the seed. It’s up to Celdric, his sister Sera, and their grandmother to bring Dyl back safely and solve the theft.

        The Unwished is really well-written. The magical system is very clearly defined, and presents a variety of different magical wishes and objects consistently. Celdric Kane’s family are supportive of each other, and go to great lengths to keep each other safe. Some of the magic is a bit convenient to the situation, but it’s always set up earlier in the book, so the magical gifts are not just flying out of nowhere.

        What is most impressive about this book is how there is almost always someone watching or protecting the children. There is danger and suspense, and Celdric gets in a mess of trouble, but it is a nice worry-free story, and the plot focuses on how they will evade the villains and save the Sphiere Tree seed. Excellent for the middle grade audience it is intended for. Plenty of action, monsters and fairies.

        This is book one, but is fairly self-contained, as Mofme wraps up most of the important plot points by the end of the book. However, it is very clear that the story continues. Only book one is out right now, and I am very eager to read book two.

        Needs proofreading, mostly use of plurals that should be singular and vice versa. It’s well worth rereading, and I really enjoyed this one, which puts it at five stars, minus half a point because it needs proofreading throughout, so four and a half stars. First time author, and proofreading is fixable.

4.5 stars!

*Disclosure: I was given a review copy of the ebook by the author.


Monday, August 3, 2020

Review: The Jolly Bupbup


Review of The Jolly Bupbup


        In a fantasy land inhabited by tea-drinking Twinkles, a small Bupbup lives in a cozy cottage with two cats. A Bupbup appears to be a small, cat-size humanoid. It is raining, and the rain washed away the Jolly Bupbup’s boat. She has to wait for the rain to stop so she can go find it, because she doesn’t have an umbrella, and the cats do not want to get their feet wet. While she is looking for her boat she meets a duck who likes to splash in puddles. It is an engaging story, with lots of charming descriptions.

        What makes The Jolly Bupbup by Ann P. Borrmann stand out is a unique incorporation of fantasy characters and poetry. Borrmann starts with an excellent poem about the Twinkles. I would reread this just for that poem. It is a delightful rhyme advising how to meet the reclusive, tea-drinking creatures. The Twinkles are never shown, but are described as shy but friendly beings. They are larger than Bupbups, but still small enough to hide behind trees. I like the choice not to show the Twinkles. I’m curious to know what they look like, but having an unknown fantasy creature pushes the reader’s imagination.

        Cute illustrations by Bonnie LeMarie. Good color choices. LeMarie used digital art, with soft color and texture choices that resemble watercolor. There are only nine illustrations, but they are full-page, and the story is printed opposite each picture. The duck in particular is very well-done, and looks delighted.

5 stars!

*Disclosure: I was given a review copy of the ebook by the author.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Review: Arthur's Good Manners


Review of Arthur's Good Manners


        Arthur's Good Manners (also published as Spaghetti Manners) is a Little Golden Book by Stephanie Calmenson. This very entertaining story follows a young alligator who is trying to remember all his manners, because his grandpa is coming for dinner.

        I loved it when I was a kid because the illustrations were either relatable or absurd. It’s relatable because it’s normal kid stuff. Arthur’s playing, helping his mom, and having dinner. Only he’s an alligator, and takes alligator size bites. The little alligator is blowing bubbles in his milk. There is a discussion of the problems with having spaghetti in a rocket ship. There is a picture of an alligator inside the cabinet with the pots and pans, which my siblings and I thought was hilarious. 

        Lisa McCue Karsten did a marvelous job illustrating Arthur’s Good Manners. She used soft colors, and created lots of little details (including alligator shoes). The alligators use bipedal locomotion and interact with objects like they are human, but have retained an unmistakable alligatorness in their proportions and tail movement. Excellent attention to detail.

        The adults are positive role models, which I like rereading it now. They are patient with Arthur, spend one-on-one time with him, and listen to him. When Arthur messes up, he gets a hug and age-appropriate instructions. 

        Grandpa teaches the fork and spoon method of spaghetti twirling.

        Note for buyers: This Little Golden Book seems to have become a collectible since I was little. The used copies are currently (July 2020) more reasonably priced. The "new" copies are not.

5 stars!


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Review: The Color Kittens


Review of The Color Kittens

        The Color Kittens by Margaret Wise Brown is a bright and cheerful Little Golden Book about two kittens in overalls, Brush and Hush. (Brush has purple overalls, and Hush has blue). The kittens have buckets of paint, which they are mixing on their quest to find green, and make “all the colors in the world.” I bought this for a little one because I remembered it very fondly from my own childhood. It’s a very endearing story, with lots of details and little poems.

        The illustrations by Alice and Martin Proversen are very cute. The kittens and their dreams are mostly brightly colored cartoons, and the landscapes are stylish. There are lots of different animals and objects sorted by color, which are very appealing to small children. There are fish, goats, a little bear, and all sorts of animals and things to identify. The story covers paints and color mixing, which is good for learning both color names and color theory. When the kittens eventually discover green, after much exploration, they have silly dreams in riotous color.

Looking the edition of childhood memories?


        In some modern reprintings the illustrated end pages are excluded. Not a big deal plot-wise, but if you want the complete version, try the original 1949 edition, or the 1958 reprint,. The original will have a color wheel made of paint buckets on the front and back inside covers, and a cute closing song: 

"Sing Ho for the color of Brush
Sing Ho for the color of Hush
Sing Ho for the color of Brush and Hush
 Sing Ho for the color of color 
Now hush!"


        The 1994 version was illustrated by Kathi Ember. Same story (no closing song), but a different art style. Ember draws rounder shapes, and adds more dimension to her cartoons than the original. Her version is also very cute. Ember's edition features the dancing green cat, which is the one I loved growing up.




5 stars!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Review: Harold and the Purple Crayon


Review of Harold and the Purple Crayon

        Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson is an imaginative classic. I love how the story flows so neatly from one thing to another. For instance, Harold’s sailboat never actually moves relative to the scene, Harold simply adds land. The art itself is uncluttered crayon-style outlines, except for Harold himself, who toddles about in a plain blue sleeping bag.

        Plenty of plot. Harold has a new adventure looming with each page turn. (Johnson wrote six sequels if you need more). There are also several cute word-puns in the story, which make me feel engaged as an adult. The story raises a lot of questions. Do dragons eat apples? How many kinds of pie actually exist? Why does the moon follow people wherever they wander?

        Harold is safe in his room the whole time, while also running around experiencing dangerous adventures. It’s the perfect juxtaposition of adventure and safety for a toddler hero. Harold’s adventure draws a wonderful suspension of disbelief, but no matter what happens, Harold is in control. He holds the magical purple crayon that defines his world.

        I need a magical purple crayon.

        In short, the story is absolutely fantastic. The art is simple, but suits the story perfectly. 

5 stars!