In order to eliminate discrimination and promote inclusion, we need to start with our children. They are the future of this world and if they can learn to love and accept each other regardless of what they look like or act like, then the world will be richer for it. Deborah Hunt takes this idea and uses it in her children’s book Same Inside Different Outside. It’s a lovely short story accompanied by equally wonderful pictures to help bring the message home. The colors are bright and the lines are soft. The story takes place in a school setting which readers should be able to connect with. This makes the message more relevant and easy to understand. It’s a clever way to deliver a sometimes difficult message to such a young audience.
The representation of a medical professional as a woman and the teacher as a man is a nice and subtle way of breaking down gendered stereotypes when it comes to careers. In traditional books teachers are women and any medical or science-related job is played by a man. In a book about acceptance, this is a key idea to get across. The children in the book are aware of their differences from each other, which is a normal discovery at their age. The doctor who is presenting to the children in the book is kind and patient with them as she goes over the parts of our bodies under our skin. As they move through the lesson the children voice their concerns and are answered honestly. This is key for the story because it also teaches readers that it is okay to ask questions and you will receive an appropriate response.
I felt like the children had a vocabulary and an understanding of body parts that were a little beyond kindergarten. But this is a minor concern that does not impact the integrity of the message.
Deborah Hunt is able to deliver a sometimes difficult message with ease in Same Inside Different Outside. The illustrations are very nice and pleasing to look at. The content isn’t difficult to understand and the message is clear and easy to digest without being muddled. Children and adults alike will find that the message this book sends is one we have been trying to share for a long time.
Pages: 32 | ISBN: 1945175702
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Woofed Cookies by Greg Bauder is an entertaining, but short read. The story follows Peter Moon and his dog named Cookies as they go through a whole breath of conflicts and tribulations. His best friend, Tiger Moss, pressures him into smoking, a strange man keeps appearing menacingly, and Tiger’s little sister is enamored with him. Peter confronts all of these with Cookies by his side who is gifted with a neat little trick; throwing up everywhere at any time.
The book begins with Peter being down on himself for not having a puppy and being alone most of the time, since his mother is a nurse. This situation is rectified, and the book truly begins, when he receives Cookies on his birthday. Bauder does a great job of recalling what it was like to be a preteen and getting into trouble with your best friend. The joy of having a puppy is felt here, even if I question the mother’s recommendation of “flushing the dog poop down the toilet”? I mean, what happened to the garbage can? The rest of the book precedes with what you would normally expect. The story did take some turns that I was not expecting and the point of view with Peter is arm’s length, so you are never really sure what he is going to do as the reader.
I do think that the book reads a little “simple” for the audience I believe Bauder is aiming for, but I can forgive that for the fact he has an entertaining story. To take the everyday, messy occurrence of a dog throwing up and make that the title, is rather ingenious. It also steals the show away from Peter, because I found myself reading the pages looking to see what Cookies was going to do next. The lack of agency on Peter’s part was a little of a let down, especially as a children’s book, but I believe that the escapades of Cookies makes up for it.
The actual pacing of the book is a little choppy and does include two scenes that almost entirely mirror one another, which is kind of strange for a children’s book. I would love it if Bauder could make Woofed Cookies into a series of books of Peter and Cookies and I would not mind at all. There is something timeless about a “boy and his dog” and as a reader I could not get tired of that. This story is a classic paradigm with a new spin and I want to see what else Bauder has up his sleeve.
All in all, I believe that Woofed Cookies is an excellent book to give to your child for an afternoon of adventure.
Pages: 20 | ISBN: 1683946812
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You need to be able to tap into a certain flavour of whimsy in order to write a good children’s book. Let’s not forget that the illustrations need to be catchy and colourful to hold the attention of the little ones either reading or being read to. A children’s book is most entertaining when it spins a different point of view on something that children have already been exposed to. Uncle Stubby Gets Married by S. Jackson and A. Raymond takes the idea of simple squirrels and marriage and melds them together. This book is part of a series with other animals and their lives. Perfect for children, this book draws out the marriage between Uncle Stubby and his betrothed Sparkles as their friends and family travel to help them celebrate it. The story is full of kindness, cheer and all the good feelings weddings are supposed to elicit.
The language in this book is very simple. It may be difficult for a child who is learning to read but it is perfect to read to a child. The pictures are bright and interesting, which should help keep the attention of the audience. At the beginning of the book there is a comprehensive breakdown of the entire story so parents or teachers can determine if the book will suit their needs or themes. As it takes place in the Valentine Forest, this is a good book to read around Valentine’s Day, if you are looking for theme-specific books.
The images are, for the most part, real photographs of various animals manipulated to be posed or displayed in a certain way. There are little additions like a crown or the plethora of sparkles and these add to the story. It is interesting for children to see ‘realistic’ pictures of animals they are familiar with engaging in very human activities. It allows them to have a sense of imagination and wonder just what exactly squirrels get up to when humans aren’t looking. The one downside to using manipulated photographs is that when a character appears that is either created by hand or through computer graphics they stand out a fair bit. This occurs with the Mouse Fairies in the Valentine Forest. Their appearance is a stark contrast to the other characters in that they are fully clothed with added hair. They are more anthropomorphic than a photo-enhanced squirrel with a sash around its waist.
Nitpicking aside, Jackson and Raymond know how to craft an interesting children’s tale. The story is cute and even though it is part of a series, it can stand alone quite well. Readers do not need previous knowledge of the characters to understand the story in Uncle Stubby Gets Married. For children, and maybe even adults, who have a fantastical view of the world this is a lovely tale of romance, happiness and friendship.
Pages: 40 | ASIN: B01MY5NJF0
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In a whirlwind of emotions and laced with tragedy, the lives of two women are laid out in Pamela Blake’s Eden’s Apple. Both of their lives are fraught with heartbreak, circumstance and secrets. Between drugs, sex and violence these women barely eek out an existence. Both are tainted, both are damaged. One of them will recover, the other will not. Rose and Lucy; our two heroines who are connected to each other by the special bond mother’s and daughter’s share will lose themselves for the sake of love and at the hands of love. Barely out of childhood Rose finds herself forced to endure her father’s expression of love that ends up changing her life forever. Lucy, a product of that illicit union is damaged not because of who her parents were, but because of the loss of love that she should have been entitled too. One woman will break from her burdens and the other will fracture almost irreparably.
The books opens with a scene of violence: Rose is being raped by her father. While readers won’t be aware of who the man is until chapter 2, Blake handles the violation with a strange sense of delicacy. It is through Rose that the reader will understand how damaging to her mind the act is. Set in early 1930’s in England Rose faces more discrimination and humiliating isolation than a modern woman would hopefully need to bear. The regret and self-loathing her father goes on to feel throughout the book seems a bit unrealistic, but it lends to the story.
Rose is damaged by this act of love; an act that is supposed to bring two people together. She bears her incestuous child, only to leave little Lucy with her parents and attempt to live a life that a girl of her age is entitled to. Blake does a good job of showing the delicate state of Rose’s mind as she struggles to understand what happened to her and what she needs to do to regain her sense of self. This is a dangerous path for writers to tread: too much realism can make a reader uneasy. However, not lending an air of reality to how a character handles such critical moments can be damaging to the novel as well. Blake teeters on the edge of this line. As we move forward through Lucy’s life and her experimentation of drugs and sex, the lack of consequences seems unfathomable. While one of her children does suffer from illness later in life, the fact that she gave birth to two healthy children while being addicted to opiates and other drugs steals some credibility from the tale.
The story itself is a captivating read. While Rose certainly had her life altered against her will at such a young age Eden’s Apple is more about Lucy and her struggle to find the love she should have received as a child. She struggles with loving too much and desperately needing confirmation of love in return. Pamela Blake tells this story of two women scorned by fate who struggle to overcome the cards that have been dealt to them. Eden’s Apple is a devastating tale of desperate love, true love and the agony laced between.
Pages: 260 | ASIN: B01C4F5QCU
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Bean in the Garden is the first book of the children’s series, Bean in the Garden, by Ann Bevans and Matthew Ethan Gray. The books are designed with preschool children in mind, so Bean in the Garden is short, colorful, and easy for young children to understand.
Bean sets out to take a walk around the garden, and packs his favorite toys in his backpack. On the way, he meets Mrs. Berg, who has a new teapot but is out of tea. Bean offers to get her some tea as part of his adventure. Along the way, he meets three little peas who are about his own age, and they all have toys just like his. When he discovers a hole in his backpack and all of his toys are gone, he realizes the three peas were trying to return what they had found. The story is all about sharing, making friends, and being kind; a great message for preschool kids.
The first thing that struck me about the book was the illustrations. Mr. Gray’s artistry fills the page with bright colors and engaging images. This is a world of vegetable people. Bean is, of course, a bean and his mother is a lovely red beet. His neighbors include a friendly lettuce, Mrs. Berg, and a potato, Miss Tots. The clues to Bean’s toy dilemma are right there in the pictures so adults can encourage their children to search for the “lost” toys as they read along. Kids may also want to look at the pictures and imagine their own Bean adventures.
Another message I got from the story is that some things that seem bad, like a hole in your backpack, don’t have to be a big crisis. Bean reacts with shock when he realizes his toys are lost, but instead of being angry, he realizes that the three peas were trying to help him all along. It’s a good way to teach children about kindness and understanding, especially since kids who will be reading this are learning how to control their expectations and emotions.
There are three books in the series thus far, each available in both print and eBook formats. For toddlers and preschoolers, you can’t go wrong adding this book to their reading list. You can get more information about the authors, the series, and links to purchase the print and eBooks at http://beaninthegarden.com/
Pages: 36 | ASIN: B01LNRBK7K
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Children’s books are more than just fun stories on paper. More often than not they are designed to teach the readers a skill or lesson that will serve them as they grow older and interact more with the world. The key is to make the lesson seem so natural in the story that it gets absorbed without much notice. Diane Mae Robinson does this with Sir Princess Petra’s Mission. The book is the third in a series and the very beginning gives a synopsis of the two prior installments. This is exceptionally beneficial for those who are coming into the tale so far behind. In our story we find Petra, the Princess Knight, who has been given a mission by her not-to-pleased father. As is the case with many books where young women strive to be outside the ‘ordinary’, Petra’s father is displeased at the fact she is a knight. He charges her with a mission that he desperately hopes she will fail in an attempt to conform her to his views.
The language is very fun and easy to read. There are several pictures throughout the story which give a great addition to the words. It is always fun for readers to have an idea of what the author intended when they describe something and this is a welcomed bonus for young readers who are possibly reading for pleasure for the first time. The text is simple enough for children yet interesting enough for adults to actually be engaged with what they are reading with or to their children.
Petra is a strong female character who has a desire to live her life the way she wants. Much to the chagrin of her father this means being a knight and going on knightly adventures. This means no pink frilly dresses and no classes on how to faint properly. The story of the young girl going against expectations has been around for quite some time, but Petra truly needs no saving by anyone. She is not a trapped princess who needs help getting out of the tower or the princess who tries to fight a dragon but needs help from a male. Petra takes every task head-on and does her best to deliver results with her own hands. Even when she is faced with a difficult question or situation, she does her very best to think about what the right answer in her heart would be.
It’s truly sad that Petra’s father can’t be excited for his daughter and proud of everything she has done for the kingdom. How many princesses subdue a snarling dragon, only to become allies with them? Not many, even in the realm of children’s books. Sir Princess Petra’s Mission is no different in that her father hands out an impossible task, yet when she does her best to achieve her mission and strives to straighten out some incorrect information on the way, her father’s response is less than delightful.
Robinson weaves a wonderful tale of adventure and excitement that any boy or girl could love. With an underlying message that doesn’t scream from within the pages all readers, adults too, are sure to come away with the desire to emulate Petra’s wonderful tenacity; even if only for a while.
Pages: 106 | ASIN: B01AX8G1Q0
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