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A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol: (Retold by Norman Whaler and Illustrated by Bianca Milacic) by [Whaler, Norman]

Norman Whaler’s A Christmas Carol is an exceptional retelling of a classic Christmas story. The story of stingy and selfish old Scrooge who learns through a series of ghostly visits that he has the power to ease the suffering of others and bring joy to those around him.

Norman Whaler tells this story in short rhymes that were spot on every time. The rhythm’s were short and succinct but still summed up the expanded story perfectly. Each page is accompanied by high quality art that supports the narrative and fits the book’s tone. The art is so good that I wanted to see more of it. I felt like some of the paragraphs, because they summarized so much of the story, could have been on another page with it’s own art to give life to what was being told. But this is a critique that comes out of the desire to see more of the exceptional artwork already displayed.

This is a retelling of a classic Christmas story that highlights Christian themes throughout the book with a deft touch. At the end of the book readers are treated to bonus material in the way of Christmas sheet music. I can imagine that this book would be a nice way to start a Christmas night with the family, with a story followed by songs.

If you love Christmas stories, especially the classic one of Scrooge, you will want to pick this up for the young readers in your home.

Pages: 34 | ASIN: B07QF4BPKG

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Weepy The Dragon

Weepy the Dragon by [Hebert, J. J.]

Weepy the Dragon has proven to be a big hit in my household. I bought this book as a bedtime storybook for my two children, and having read this book (several times), I have nothing but good things to say about it. This book is full of illuminating pictures and cute dragon images which creates a very interesting plot line. J.J. Hebert does an exceptional job at captivating a young reader.

The characters were well drawn and my children loved them. I thought the plot about the dragon world was solid and teaches children about the importance of not judging a book by its cover.

The only negative thing I have to say, which is more constructive than negative, is that the writing could have been written in a larger font. Trying to get my two children to read along was a bit of a struggle due to the small font. But, other than that, the writing itself was clear and intriguing. I highly recommend this book to anyone with young children who love a good story! “Weepy the Dragon: the happiest, friendliest, and kindest dragon in the world” – a story for every child!

Pages: 36 | ASIN: B008CRVNKE

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Hey Baby – Deja’s New Adventure

With a new baby comes new responsibilities for an older sister. This is what Deja is about to learn. Join Deja on her new adventure in this picture book series with an empowering message: You are never too young to learn the value and joy of helping.

Deja has been waiting for her baby brother to arrive and he is finally here! Now she is a BIG Sister! While visiting her baby brother at the hospital, Deja gets a special gift. The gift gives her SUPER HELPING POWER!

Find out what happens with Deja as she begins a new adventure as a SUPER BIG SISTER, learning how to use her SUPER HELPING POWER to save the day!!

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The Land of Ick and Eck: Harlot’s Encounters

Harlot is mostly driven by curiosity and a desire to find interesting things. Like those blue flowers she loves so much. Harlot’s Encounters in the Land of Ick and Eck is a dark children’s story. Harlot walks through this mythical world and often finds ‘friends’ to walk the distance with her. Typical of all children, she makes friends quickly. Often voices her thoughts. She does not seem to understand the concept of fear even when she is encased in a dome with rising temperatures. It is interesting to look at life from such a perspective.

This is definitely a dark fantasy children’s story, but not too dark though. It would make for an interesting and wonderful Halloween pick. Micah Genest does a great job of painting vivid pictures. Even with actual painted pictures within the book. The book provides more than enough material for the reader with an active imagination to set the mental scenes. Very colorful and delightfully sinewy characters. Each with a quirk of their own. Perhaps the biggest take for an adult in all this is the way all the characters just move together despite being vastly different.

Harlot is typical of any kid, really. She’s innocent and looks at the world into which she is cast with pure interest and curiosity. Never judging anything and anyone. She is very trusting with almost blind optimism. Most children who read this book will understand her desire to follow voices and strange creatures. This book reads a lot like a dream. With vivid pictures and whimsical occurrences.

Oh my, the songs and chants. Imagine how fun it would be to try this out at a Halloween sleep over. They are so interesting and fun to follow. They almost take the gloom out of this decidedly morbid tale. This could very well be my most liked parts of the book.

For a children’s book, the vocabulary is quite advanced and may prove challenging for children. However, this could be a good thing as it could be an exercise in building vocabulary. It could help develop an interest in learning and seeking out new words. It is doubtful that most children will read into the illustrations by John Bauer. See them as more than just pictures. You never know though, this could be another fun exercise for these malleable young minds.

This book may be aimed at children but adults will enjoy it too. It reads like a children’s book but the plot and writing itself are excellent. This book reminds me of the children’s book, In A Dark, Dark Room: and Other Scary Stories. Fascinating, morbid, curious, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Pages: 208 | ASIN: B07MXPYLJ7

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The Scopas Factor

The Scopas Factor by [Panettiere, Vincent]

When Mike Hegan’s last case ends tragically, the detective hopes to put everything behind him. His girlfriend instead brings him along on a hopeful job opportunity to a small town in north California and little does he realize the web forming there to ensnare them both. Hegan finds himself thrust into the middle of a kidnapping and double homicide. When a link that is too close to home provides a lead, Hegan decides that he must dive deeper if he is going to get to the truth. Antiques, forged art, and foreign drug dealers all come together to make an on-your-toes mystery.

Hegan is your typical somewhat damaged detective from the noir tradition. He is a well-rounded character and is interesting to follow as he attempts to piece together these varied elements into a conclusive solve. The emotional depth that Panettiere can bring out, because of how personal this mystery becomes is impactful. The reader can feel a certain amount of distress from Hegan as he continues to struggle to figure it all out. Hegan made this story such a joy to read and it is my hope that these books become more serialized as they go along. It would be interesting to see how he develops over time.

Panettiere’s mystery is an expansive novel that straddles the fence between a mystery and thriller. The length of this novel works against the suspense, since some of the more filler passages work against the tension built in the story. But this is made up by his poetic prose, beautiful descriptions and clever dialogue. But at times I felt the pace of the story slowed because of this, this may be the only mark against him, since all the other elements of Hegan’s arc coinciding with the plot arc was brought together quite well by the end.

Recommended for readers of thriller mysteries. Based on some of the more aesthetic qualities to this story, such as the forged art and antiques, those who enjoy such stories would not be disappointed either. This novel establishes Panettiere as a solid new writer in the mystery genre and I look forward to more of his work.

Pages: 310 | ASIN: B07JP69TH3

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Strong Is…

Strong Is . . . by [Pulliam, April B.]

What is strong? According to Merriam-Webster, strong is not mild or weak. But what exactly does that mean? To determine if someone or something is strong you need to look at it in context and compare it to other things that are similar. Strong Is… by April Pulliam and illustrated by Amy Grantham looks at the situation through the eyes of a child. The child is relaying all the ways they have heard the word strong used to describe people and things. Each situation gives a new view on what makes something strong or not. As you go through the book you encounter funny images like a stinky dog or a hungry lion, but then it starts to focus more on people and the images become more serious; a hospital, a distraught mother. It all leads up to the end with a picture of a small child. While the book never says cancer in the story line, it is implied with the imagery and by reading up on the author’s page at the end.

This is a challenging subject and this book is a great way to introduce a young child to what might be going on. Learning that it’s okay and even when you’re little you can be strong in your own way. I think this is a great book for siblings or even a child that may be going through this to read and gain some confidence. It’s an emotional topic that is handled with dignity and simplified for young readers. I recommend this book to anyone that knows someone going through an illness and trying to explain it to a young child.

Pages: 15 | ASIN: B07NKH1FNC

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Stay Faithful to the Stories in Your Head

Gloria D. Gonsalves Author Interview

Gloria D. Gonsalves Author Interview

Lamellia: The Kingdom of Mushrooms follows the king and queen of Lamellia as the kingdom is dealing with the appearance of a human child. What was the direction that you wanted to take this book that was different from The Wicked Queen?

Lamellia: The Kingdom of Mushrooms is the prequel to Lamellia: The Wicked Queen. There was no direction for the plot except that I honoured the file downloaded to me by nature. The story line seemed absolutely piffle but it nudged to be told and I had to respect the idea as it came to mind. Perhaps I was paying tribute to Paula Hawkins words “Stay faithful to the stories in your head.”

In this book we get to explore more of the king’s backstory. What were some themes you wanted to capture in his character?

I recall seeing this big, ugly and brown mushroom during a forest walk. As I sat down to write the story based on that particular mushroom, it seemed natural that regardless of its appearance it’s going to be the story lead because I saw it first and the idea of the book followed.

Why did you choose mushrooms to be a large part of your world?

This book was not planned at all. I got the idea while out in the nature. One could say that the inspiration was fuelled by my husband, who likes to point out names of wild plants in the forest.

Being authentic with this story was important even though to some people it seemed ridiculous or not one to pay most money.

Some parts of the books might appear harsh to a child. I am not keen to block truth and reality from a child such as there are poisoning mushrooms out there or some human behaviours have negative impacts to nature.

I also remember one marketing person who saw the draft and told me that their child did not like the story and went further to suggest I write a different book based on trending topics at that time which made more money. It did not put me off because humans are different and our motivations are diverse. A child who is not raised to explore nature and its residents will probably not be excited by this book. It was essential to tell this story without money being the motivator.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I am working on two projects simultaneously. One is a children’s Swahili book co-authored by Tanzanian writers. The other is of course the continuation of Lamellia story. For the latter, I am open minded to receive ideas for where Lamellia story should go but I trust to know when the end has come.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

Lamellia: The Kingdom of Mushrooms by [Gonsalves, Gloria D.]

Can a lost baby girl find a new home in a world of enchanted, talking mushrooms? King Polipoli is kind to all who enter his magical kingdom. When he learns that a human baby girl needs his help, he sends out all his mushroom troops to rescue her. But the journey wont be easy. After all, how can the little fungi carry a baby? Or feed her? Mushrooms of all shapes, sizes, and species must use teamwork and creativity to bring the girl safely to the kings castle. Lamellia: The Kingdom of Mushrooms is a delightful educational picture book for children. During the fun-filled adventure, your children will discover the importance of kindness, tolerance, and acceptance. If your child likes seeing beautiful illustrations, learning about nature, and using their imagination, then theyll love this charming fantasy tale. Journey to Lamellia today to have a fun time with fungi!

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A Forest Walk

Gloria D. Gonsalves Author Interview

Gloria D. Gonsalves Author Interview

Lamellia: The Wicked Queen takes place in a magical mushroom kingdom where a baby appears and causes suspicions to rise. What was the inspiration behind this books story line?

Lamellia: The Wicked Queen is a story continuation that was begun in Lamellia: The Kingdom of Mushrooms. Sometime in May 2012, I saw a big and ugly brown mushroom during a forest walk. Thereafter, I began paying attention to mushrooms. One day, I had an idea to write a story involving mushrooms.

In August 2015 while visiting Austria, I photographed a lot of mushrooms as well as visited a mushrooms museum for further character inspiration. The inkling to include a human baby in the story was inspired by the movie Avatar.

Nobilia is an interesting character. What were some driving ideals behind her character arc?

After publishing the first book, I was mostly in disbelief for having written a story involving mushrooms taking care of a human baby. A sequel story wasn’t in my mind because I doubted myself with the absurdity of the story which I have shared with the public.

The idea for a follow-up-story was instigated by a potential reviewer of the first book. She declined to write a review as it would be totally negative. Instead, she took time to write a long feedback and potential ideas for a sequel. She had some ideas all involving a conniving queen. I took the backbone of her suggestions–an evil queen–and created Nobilia.

The reviewer concluding words were, “…I get excited when I meet someone who can write really well. I love seeing them succeed…”

The art in this book is beautiful. What was the art collaboration like with Katerina Brunot?

Katerina Brunot was a contact through an online magazine acquaintance. We spent ten months communicating back and forth, her based in the USA and myself in Germany. It was pleasant working with her. At one point, she was unable to continue due to sickness. She offered to involve someone else and have a combination of illustrations from herself and another illustrator of my choice. I declined and agreed to wait until she recovered. I will not hesitate to work with her in the future.

What do you hope young readers take away from your story?

  1. Learning the importance of showing kindness, following the rules and understanding consequences.
  2. Enthused to go outdoors and learn from nature.
  3. All inhabitants of this world (living and non‐living) deserve to be respected and loved.
  4. If we care to listen, nature selflessly gifts us all the time with artistic inspirations such as stories and poems.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

Can a human baby possibly be a mushroom?

When King Polipoli, the ruler of Lamellia, finds a human baby in his mushroom kingdom, he adopts it immediately to satisfy his wifes desire to be a mother.

But when the baby mysteriously grows weaker and weaker under the queens care, suspicions start to arise.

What is the queen doing to the baby? How did the baby get there? Will it survive and fulfil its purpose before it’s too late?

Get your copy now to find out the answers and reveal to your children the importance of showing kindness, following the rules, and understanding consequences.

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Jai the Albino Cow

Jai the Albino Cow: Jai Ng’Ombe Zeruzeru by Gloria D. Gonsalves (with illustrations by Nikki Ng’ombe) is a book intended for children in Grades 3-4. The story features a family of Ankole cows that live in the meadows of Kole Hills. There are two brothers, Lutalo (Bello Bello) and Tokei (Spotty), and their sister, Anjait (known as Jai). But Jai is different–she’s an albino cow. And some of the cows in Kole Hills believe that she is cursed. But others believe that she is a relative of unicorns. And it’s true. She is a magical cow whose dancing produces stars, silver glitter, and a rainbow of colors. She is the first female cow to join the dance of the cattle kings.

I really enjoyed this book, especially the fact that the story is written in two languages, with both shown on the same page. Besides English, Jai’s adventure is also told in Swahili. Which allows a larger audience to read the book, as well as helps to teach readers another language.

I liked the message in this story, that what makes a cow (or person) different is what makes them special. This book teaches children to show kindness to others, even those who are different. And it also encourages children to try new things, even things that no one else has ever tried before.

I loved the illustration that were included in the book, showing various scenes from the story. The pictures, showing Jai and her family and the Kole Hillls, featured realism rather than cartoonish qualities and were drawn using vivid colors that appeal to young readers.

I would have liked it if the story had been just a little bit longer and included Bello Bello and Spotty’s reaction to seeing their sister’s magical abilities, but otherwise this was a great book.

Pages: 30 | ASIN: B07HBZ8D5T

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Lamellia: The Kingdom of Mushrooms

Lamellia: The Kingdom of Mushrooms is part of a series by Gloria D. Gonsalves. In this series, Gonsalves weaves together a whimsical kingdom of royalty, guards, and an army made up entirely of personified mushrooms. Gonsalves follows the mushrooms as they discover a human baby in the forest of their kingdom. In true foster-parent fashion, the mushrooms make sacrifices to care for the lost child. The community of mushrooms rallies to take care of young Tiara. Gonsalves does a good job of introducing each type of mushroom and their specific jobs much like she did in Lamellia: The Wicked Queen.

When so many characters or character types are introduced at once, I think it is important to give a thorough explanation of who they are. Gonsalves does that in the first few pages. Having this as an introduction lets readers know they can always flip back to that section for reference if needed. This book focuses more on the king than the queen of the kingdom of Lamellia. It gives a little more backstory and insight into the king’s young life growing up. He is described as a sort of monster-like figure when he was young, but grew into a king and adopted a new name to go with his new role. I like that he didn’t look the part, but grew to be a wise and kind king. This emphasizes how unimportant outward appearances can be.

The book is generally an easy read with a few challenging words throughout the pages. I think the book would be good for young readers, but I would suggest some slight parental guidance for especially young readers. There is mention of a mushroom’s inclination to poison the baby. Also, there is talk of humans being mean to mushrooms, picking them and throwing them away, and cooking them to death. This might be a little scary for young readers.

Young readers will enjoy the brightly colored illustrations that seem to be hand drawn and painted. They will enjoy the imaginary world of Lamellia with mushrooms walking about and talking. They will also appreciate the fairy tale-like happy ending of the book. Having read The Wicked Queen, I did spot quite a few discrepancies between the stories. It seems more of a retelling of the same story than a new part of the story. I’m not sure which came first in the series, but the story-line of the baby in the story is quite a bit different than in The Wicked Queen. I’d think this might be a prequel and the queen’s sinister influence might come after except for  the “happily ever after” part of the story at the end. It was a much less happy fate for the baby in the other book. This book had a much lighter mood than the other part of the series.

I think this is a book that kids will enjoy reading. I like the characters and the story-line. I’d like to see a different scenario with these characters in the future, or the progression of baby Tiara’s life.

Pages: 38 | ISBN: 1524634972

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