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Snowlands

Feba, the white wolf cub, is constantly shunned by her pack. Believed to be a symbol of ill fortune, Feba finds herself at the edge of doom. Her only option is to flee her homeland and hope for a brighter tomorrow. But endless danger surrounds Feba, as she hurtles headlong into an adventure that will mean life or death for all she loves. Joined by new companions of all kinds, Feba must use her wits and wisdom to survive in the harsh, unforgiving prehistoric world in which she lives.

A graphic novel that takes place in the snowy mountains of the Snowlands, a setting clearly inspired by the Himalayas, Snowlands: A Blood Moon by Morr Meroz and Collin Fogel is an exceptional adventure. No humans appear in the harsh landscape formed of stone and cold; this is the era where the wild reigns supreme. The story is intense, gripping, and fast-moving, with a solid message of cooperation and forgiveness while finding a way to survive. The characters, Feba the courageous; Usha, the regal; and even Myo, the exceptionally disturbing, each have a level of depth that is impressive. I found myself forming a deep connection with this circle of friends, all searching for a place they could truly call home.

The art of Collin Fogel is nothing short of incredible, as each animal, including every single member of the wolf pack, is distinctive and full of life. Add gorgeous colors by Davi Comodo and a satisfying ending; there’s a lot to love in this action-packed graphic novel.

There are not any detractions to speak of at all in this amazing story of survival. There is, however, quite a bit of violence, fatalities, and blood on the panel, showcasing the harsh environment in which Feba and her friends live. Perfect for readers 13 and up who love stories of survival, courage, and wit.

Snowlands: A Blood Moon has a perfect balance of incredible storytelling, rich artwork, and a stunning conclusion. A tale of the true value of friendship in a world where survival is key is the thrilling start to what I hope will be a long-term series full of exceptional adventure.

Pages: 210 | ASIN : B09KVDSJDQ

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Hooray for Heidi! (The Sumatran Trilogy)

Heidi, the Sumatran turtle, is excited for the day ahead. Today is the first day of the Sumatran Games, and this is the first time she gets to attend. Heidi moves as quickly as she can, given her short turtle legs, but she falls behind the other animals. Finally, a kind, friendly elephant named Jose stops and asks if she needs help. When she explains she is trying to get to the games, Jose picks her up and carries her the rest of the way. Once at the games, the two new friends watch the events, and Heidi becomes sad watching all the things she can not do. Eventually, Jose also grows sad because of Heidi’s morose attitude. Once Heidi realizes her lousy attitude has upset her new friends, she comes up with a plan to make them both feel better about the skills they do possess. While her plan doesn’t work out exactly as they hoped, they learn a valuable lesson about teamwork.

Hooray for Heidi! written by Emma Sandford and illustrated by Olena Osadcha is a beautiful picture book about teamwork and appreciating the unique skills that everyone has. Not everyone in life is strong, fast, or flexible, but that does not mean that they do not have value. This children’s book highlights that kids often feel self-conscious when watching others that have better skills or abilities than themselves. It can be challenging to overcome those feelings and feel valuable.

Emma has written this fantastic book showing that everyone can contribute and be a valued member of the team. With a focus on teamwork, kids will learn how helping others and working together brings its own rewards, even if it is not the trophy they were after. The other focus in this whimsical picture book is friendship. For example, an elephant and a turtle become great friends despite being so different from one another. This is an excellent example for young children to look past the physical differences in each other and value people for who they are inside.

Hooray for Heidi! is a beautifully written picture book that teaches children the value of friendship and teamwork. This would be a wonderful book for preschool and kindergarten classrooms to help kids learn how to work together to achieve a common goal. There is also the message that sometimes things do not go as planned, which is okay too!

Pages: 30 | ASIN : B0BFNT32T1

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Boone and Jacque: Cytrus Moonlight

Boone and Jacque are back again in Boone and Jacque: Cytrus Moonlight! It has been 15 years, and they are living their best lives. Boone got married to Shammy, and they have two amazing children together. Boone and Shammy just want to live a life of peace and quiet. Jacque, on the other hand has become a detective and loves his job and his woman named Xantia, who happens to be a detective as well. Boone and Jacque still have a very strong friendship, but their lives turn upside down when a new mysterious murder happens. This throws Jacque and Boone into a new quest that they never wanted. They just want to live their simple lives.

The new book in the Boone and Jacque series is stupendous! Readers that have enjoyed prior books in this series will be blown away by the new characters and adventures. AG Flitcher takes readers on a magical and fantastical adventure that surpasses prior novels, going in a completely different direction and showcasing the growth of Boone and Jacque. In addition, this an inclusive novel. Jacque, Xantia, and Coralie are all part of the LGBTQI+ community.

Jacque and Xantia are a wonderful couple. Xantia was a great addition to the group and is a strong woman. Her character is well developed and fits perfectly into the story. Coralie is new as well, and I learned a bit about her, but I do hope to learn more about her in the next book. Reading about Boone and Shammy’s children is delightful; they add a new demension to the storyline. Boone’s character is still growing and figuring himself out, but I can say he is a loving father. It made me happy to see his character get some happiness after the childhood readers learned about in past books. Having Shammy to share his life with gives his story the joyful component he had been missing.

I still have some questions, but I imagine the next book will answer them. AG Flitcher seems to be very good at wrapping up loose ends. The story overall was well written. While I have my questions about Dr. Button and Jacque’s aunt and uncle, I am sure I will get my answers over time.

I give Boone and Jacque: Cytrus Moonlight 5 out of 5 stars. This novel felt very different from the others, but I can tell it is leading up to similar adventures with an extra twist. I look forward to the next book in this amazing series!

Pages: 350 | ASIN : B0B5SBNQ27

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How Do We Live With Our Mortality?

Author Interview William Loizeaux

Into the Wind follows a young boy who, while fixing up a sailboat, befriends his elderly neighbor. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

When I was a boy, I had a feisty, independent, widowed and elderly aunt who was an artist and loved sailing.  As she aged, she didn’t seem to mellow or retire or relax, but seemed to come even more alive, to throw herself with increasing energy at what she loved, even as that became more difficult.  She painted with a trembling, arthritic hand.  Some weeks before she died, she managed—in a wheelchair!—to get herself into a small boat and, with the help of someone who held the rudder, sail through some rough weather.  That was the germ of Into the Wind

Was there anything from your own life that you incorporated into Rusty’s and Hazel’s relationship?

Yes.  There is a certain amount of my relationship with my aunt in Rusty’s relationship with Hazel.  Like Hazel, my aunt was odd and demanding—you might even say cantankerous.  We rubbed each other the wrong way.  But she took an interest in me, and slowly I took an interest in her and came to appreciate her quirky sense of humor, the challenges she faced and the wisdom she had as an aging woman who mostly got around in a wheelchair.  We became unlikely friends.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

The main theme was intergeneration friendship.  How could that happen between a boy with his life ahead of him and a woman near the end of hers?   What might connect them?  What might each of them gain from that connection?  

Our mortality is another theme, something that children from eight to twelve are beginning to grapple with.  By then they may have lost a loved pet or, worse, a relative.  How do we think about that?  How do we live with our mortality?  Maybe Hazel shows Rusty a way.  Sadly, life comes to an end, but it can be filled, like Hazel’s, with curiosity, fun, humor, generosity, growth, energy, friendship, love, wonder, and meaning—all of which might be passed from one generation to another.  I hope that’s what readers feel and understand when they finish Into the Wind.

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

I write books for children and adults, and I’m usually working one or the other, or sometimes both.  At the moment, I have an adult nonfiction draft on my screen and parts of a children’s story in a folder on the side of my desk.  When might they be available?  I don’t know, as I haven’t finished them yet.  Sometime soon.  Fingers crossed.  Information about my previous books is available on my website.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

A character-driven novel about the unlikely friendship between a 10-year-old boy and an elderly woman. The old woman badgers the boy into taking her sailing, but when the weather turns bad, it becomes a wild sail. It becomes the last trip before she goes into the hospital where she dies: but not before the two of them share memories of their last sail together. Hazel helps build the boy’s confidence during a tough time in his home life. Both moving and joyful, Into the Wind is a poignant story about loss and love in a boy’s life, and the surprising and sustaining bonds that can grow between the old and young.

A Calf Named Brian Higgins

A Calf Named Brian Higgins, written by Kristen Ball, is a child-friendly story that addresses serious and interesting topics, including poverty, different cultures, friendship, mourning death, and personal development. The story follows Hannah Higgins, a typical grumpy teenager from suburban New York who is dragged to the plains of rural Kenya to visit her Uncle, Brian Higgins, while he is there doing charity work. Leaving behind her comfortable American lifestyle for one that is drastically less comfortable poses many challenges that Hannah needs to overcome, such as limited access to fresh water. By spending time with the local people and being immersed in the culture, she slowly understands why her Uncle loves Sauri so much.

This story answers a couple of important questions. How would a typical white teenager react to going into rural Africa? And what does it take for that teenager to change their perspective on their life? Ball tackles both of these questions in a way that is simple enough for children to understand but sophisticated enough for all ages to appreciate. This is a story of personal growth. Hannah goes from a naive and unworldly teenager to an individual who begins to value her life, others around her, and opportunities wholeheartedly.

Ball’s debut novel was written based on her experiences of being the first westerner to live in Sauri, the Kenyan village where her story is set. Therefore the book touches on many of her first-hand experiences, enabling her to paint a far more vivid and authentic landscape of an environment many Westerners (especially children) are likely not to be familiar with. Ball’s spin on the story’s events helps to give the story a more genuine and sincere feel. The reader is not being presented with a shallow story from someone with limited knowledge of these complex topics. Still, they’re experiencing the insight of someone who lived under these circumstances.

A Calf Named Brian Higgins is a fantastic novel to introduce children to heavy and challenging topics, such as poverty or entitlement, in a simple and engaging way. It’s essential for children to be exposed to several cultures and walks of life, and reading this novel with them and discussing it would be a great starting point.

Pages: 272 | ASIN : B07DNKC7G4

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Into the Wind

Into the Wind by William Loizeaux is a children’s story about how an unlikely friendship develops between a young boy and an older woman in a wheelchair. It takes place during a difficult summer for both on the island where they live. After Rusty’s mother is admitted to an inpatient treatment facility on the mainland for depression, Rusty’s neighbor gives him an old sailboat that he works on repairing and learning how to sail. Hazel is a widow whose family lives far away on the west coast, and she hires Rusty to do odd jobs around the house for her to earn a bit of money. As they spend time together, the two find that they share an unexpected connection. 

The author has an engaging writing style that will draw readers into the story. The main character is relatable and believable, with a sometimes humorous point of view. This heartwarming story takes place on an island, and the author’s descriptions of the boats and water paint a vivid picture of the quaint tourist town where Rusty and his family lived. I could easily imagine the smell of the sea and the sound of the seagulls as they flew over the boats tied to the dock as though I was experiencing what Rusty did in the story.

I learned a lot of interesting things about sailing while reading this book, and I liked that various sailing terms were explained organically throughout the story for readers who are not familiar with sailboats. The author also includes a glossary of nautical terms at the end of the book. Watching the friendship between Rusty and Hazel is magical. Two people so different, in different stages of life, can find common ground and connect on a deep emotional level. They are both going through some challenging moments in their lives, and spending time with each other helped them cope.

This memorable book includes illustrations by Laura Jacobsen. They are done in shades of gray, like pencil drawings. They really add to the story as they are sparsely used and added to key moments in the story. My favorite was the image of Rusty pushing Hazel through the park with cards clipped to her wheelchair wheels. The innocence and simplicity of the scene remind readers to hold onto the small moments in life.

Into the Wind is a middle grades level chapter book. This emotional story deals with friendship, compassion, death, and grief. It is a wonderful story to help kids learn about love and loss and about the importance of treasuring the moments you have with people.

Pages: 138 | ASIN : B08PDGZRXS

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THE HEART OF A LION: AND THE BODY OF A CAT

When a young lion cub is often sick, it is hard to stay in on the days when he feels better. One day, the young cub was feeling ok and decided to run out and play. The next day he was sick. It took a long time for him to get better again, but he ran back out to play as soon as he was able to. The cub’s parents have warned him to stay inside when the weather is terrible, but he would not listen. He just knew he had to run and play as hard as he could while he felt good. The next day the cub was sick again. This time it took longer for the cub to get better. Will the little cub, learn how to play safely so he does not keep getting sick?

The Heart of a Lion: and the Body of a Cat is written by Shani Night and illustrated by Reggie Howard. Together they tell the story of a cub that is battling an illness. While the cub’s illness is never stated, the story is inspired by the author and illustrator’s own little girl that has Sickle Cell Anemia Disease. This book is written for all the children that must fight a debilitating disease each day. Knowing the background for this amazing story made it even more emotional to read.

This picture book is filled with images that range from cartoonish to fine line drawings that look like the lions could jump off the page. However, the contrast of illustrations is appealing, and children will find the bold color of the characters accompanying the story to really draw them into the narrative.

The Heart of a Lion: and the Body of a Cat is a heartwarming picture book for children in preschool through elementary school age. It is a fantastic way to open up discussions on disabilities that are not something you can see on the outside. It is an inspirational children’s book that will help kids fighting diseases like Sickle Cell Anemia to know they are not alone and are seen.

Pages: 79 | ASIN : B09R6T6K13

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Erift’s Journeys: Secrets of The Sealed Forest 

Joseph and Eric can’t wait to start their summer vacation filled with video games and pizza ’til sunrise. But when the two best friends receive an unexpected invitation to try out the most anticipated game of the year at an exclusive tropical island resort, they jump at the opportunity. However, once they arrive, they are thrown into a fantastical adventure where nothing is what it seems. Friends and foes must be sorted, puzzles deciphered, and their own hidden abilities discovered. They will have to fight with all they have because life is not a video game, and there’s no respawning.

In Erift’s Journeys: Secrets of the Sealed Forest, author J.T. Tenera gives us a “finding one’s true self” adventure filled with action and video game references. The main characters go through various settings trying to stop an evil force from being released into the world. There are moments of calm in the book while the main characters enjoy a tropical vacation and meet new friends, followed by fast-paced danger when they encounter enemies much stronger than they are. The heroes are never guaranteed a win in their fights and end up seriously hurt at times. Characters “level up” throughout the book, just as video game characters would. In fact, the book is filled with references to video games – “tutorials” where they learn about hidden abilities and magic spells, new weapons and items found during quests, and a band of characters with specialized skills.

Younger readers may also connect to game streaming references, with one of the main characters trying to build a subscriber base. I felt at times there were many cryptic messages and long-winded explanations that didn’t add much to the storyline. Young readers will find characters they can identify and relate to, such as the arrogant, wealthy classmate with a posse and a slightly crazy scientist/professor with exploding inventions.

Erift’s Journeys: Secrets of The Sealed Forest ends with many questions unanswered. This is the perfect lead-in to the next book in the series. This coming-of-age novel for young adults will entertain them with action and adventure on a topic they love, video games.

Pages: 297 | ASIN : B09DMFR44V

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