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The Way of Courage

Mia the small raccoon loves exploring and hunting alongside her mother and brothers. But when the unexpected occurs, Mia finds herself far from home and everything she knew. Thrust into a brand-new environment, and struggling to use her limited knowledge to survive, Mia finds herself in danger as she fights to adapt. Discovering new allies as well as new enemies, Mia and her friends, Coe the handsome raccoon, Henry the badger, and Gallant the crow work together to defend their forest home. Encountering both good and bad from their human neighbors, Mia and her forest community must find a way to protect their futures against a deadly foe.

Raccoons are one of nature’s most endearing creatures. When I was young, my family and I would safely observe these highly intelligent creatures from our own home. The Way of Courage showcases the raccoons propensity for mischief and their ingenuity in navigating situations. The message of protecting the forest environment as shown through the eyes of Mia feels authentic and grounded, while the characterization of the animals weaves a story that is both suspenseful and engaging. I loved the legend of how the raccoon got her mask, and I look forward to the day when leg-hold traps are effectively illegal nationwide. This is an adventure story that has intense moments, but that ends satisfactorily with no loose ends. This educational children’s chapter book also includes notes on safe observation tactics and how to chronicle your own nature findings.

I recommend The Way of Courage by Janet Hallagin for its ability to weave an important message of ecological protection into an interesting and informative narrative. A story of bravery, teamwork, and going the extra mile to protect the world from harm, The Way of Courage is a highly engaging children’s book about heroism, and how even one small raccoon can make a big difference.

Pages: 156 | ASIN: B0056J6WES

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Sway

Sway by Tricia Johnson is a collection of poems about the changing seasons and embracing nature from the author’s perspective. Johnson has written this second book of poems; readers who liked her first book, Whirl Away Girl, will enjoy her newest edition.

Johnson’s poems are written almost like a coded diary that is full of emotion and feelings that are deep and guttural and evoke emotions in the reader. The poems are easy to read, but I feel like the poems are open to interpretation. I found one poem blended into another, and without the strong theme of summer, fall, winter, and spring (in that order, I believe), I couldn’t tell one poem from another.

My favorite poem in this book would be Shadows Bold, as it holds a steady rhythm and is easily interpretable. Depicting the snow melting and spring coming alive. I liked how the author began and ended the poem with similar lines, “Sun makes shadows bold… As sun keeps shadows bold.”

I enjoyed the inconsistency of the poems, and it was a pleasant surprise that accompanied each poem. Most of the poems do not rhyme or form a particular structure.

For example, on page 17, the poem does not start with a rhythm; however, if you continue to read, there are two lines that start a rhyme “Nighttime haze/ Your eyes glaze…” Only these two lines, and then the rhythm is dropped. But the author then picks up the rhythm again in a chunk at the end. “Silent prick to eye/Unstoppable weather drifting by/Pop-up storm of emotion/Clouded by such devotion…” And the rhyme is dropped again. This does not follow any structure that I’m familiar with, and I find it interesting.

Sway is a pleasant and light read for those who enjoy poems about nature and enjoy the reflective nature of poetry.

Page: 108 | ISBN : 1639884203

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Alphabet of Flowers

Alphabet of Flowers by Gloria D. Gonsalves is a beautiful picture book for preschool through elementary level readers. Each page is a letter of the alphabet with a different flower, a few facts about the flower, and a crayon drawing of the flower. After the letter Z, there is a summary table with each flower’s name and its picture for a quick look at them all. Then there are a few activities at the end for children to do to review all the different flowers.

The first thing that readers will discover about this exceptional picture book is the artwork. It jumps off the page with vibrant colors and simplicity. Children will love seeing the illustrations done in a medium they have access to and can try and copy the flowers. Of course, this is encouraged by the author! The standard format for each page is excellent as well. It would make it easy to use this book when teaching about the alphabet and be easily turned into a lesson plan.

I was impressed with the variety of included flowers; many are ones I have not heard of before, and they are fascinating. The simple facts are interesting but not overwhelming for children. The language is easy to understand and flows well, keeping the same format for each page. This writing style, repetition, is perfect for the younger readers but is not overly simplified so that older children would lose interest.

Alphabet of Flowers is a stunning picture book introducing young readers to the wide variety of flowers that are out in the world. It also serves as a unique way to teach the alphabet to preschool and kindergarteners. In addition, teachers and homeschoolers could easily turn this book into a complete unit study on flowers with the activities included in the book for review.

Pages: 44 | ASIN : B09VX8N9QL

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Awaken! 

Awaken! A Collection of Poems is a chapbook written by Sylvia Sánchez Garza. This emotionally-charged collection is filled with poems covering topics like nature, the pandemic, immigration, social injustice, love and family, and deeply personal feelings that readers from all over will be able to relate to. This short collection has twenty-five poems and a glossary for those who do not understand the Spanish words included in the poetry. Each poem will leave the reader with something to think about.

Nature is one of the main themes in this collection, and many of the author’s poems use nature to express her thoughts on the world and what is happening. Two poems that I felt connected humans and nature well are Dance and Delusional Dream. Dance is a profound poem, taking a look at life from a flying bug. While the exact insect is not named, the perspective is eye-opening. Humans forget when they view these dancing bugs as an annoyance to their outdoor experience, these bugs have a short life span, and the outdoors is their only home. Fly swatters, and bug zappers take these creatures’ joy and short life away. With such a short time to live, they should dance and love just as we like to. Moving right from the fragile life of bugs, readers are given a poem on the fragility of human life. This heartbreaking poem talks about the pandemic and how much was lost during this time, human lives, dreams, experiences, and just living their lives.

Some of the other thought-provoking topics that Garza explores include immigration, migrant workers, fear, and the politics surrounding these issues. The poem Soar With The Angles made me cry. The words are chosen so artfully that each strike at different emotions. This poem says what so many have felt, and their voices went unheard when the events surrounding George Floyd occurred.

Not all the poems are dark or sad. Mr. Sunshine turns a gray morning rain into a thing of beauty and something to be welcomed and appreciated for its gift. It reminds readers that we must experience rain at times to grow and experience the beauty that the world has to offer us.

Awaken! A Collection of Poems is a beautifully written chapbook that is filled with introspective and passionate works that readers will not forget. Those who enjoy reading current and relevant poetry on contemporary society will find this expressive collection moving and filled with passion.

Pages: 44 | ASIN : B09N6QLQBG

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Brilliant White Peaks

Brilliant White Peaks by Teng Rong is a spellbinding novel that follows a pair of wolf cubs who are born in a valley surrounded by mountains. Their parents teach them how to hunt a variety of different animals. But when winter comes and snow covers the mountains, the family has to leave their home in search of food. When the family is attacked by another pack of wolves, the two pups are separated from their Ma and Pa. White Ears is injured and the pair of young wolves have to wait for her to heal before they go in search of their parents. They set out toward the ocean where they hope to find their Ma and Pa waiting for them. When White Ears and her brother reach the coast, will they finally be reunited with their parents?

This epic adventure story is told from the point of view of a wolf. Written in the first person perspective, the narrator is never given a name. He thinks and talks as one would imagine a wolf would, he uses paws and wolf-lengths as units of measurement instead of the human equivalents. Teng Rong opens the novel with descriptions of the two wolf pups venturing out of the den for the first time at the beginning of the story, and discovering a whole new world of sights and smells and sounds and creatures. This opening transports readers into the world he has created, propelling them into the mind of a young male wolf and setting the stage for a fast paced journey that he is about to undergo.

After the main wolf protagonist is separated from his parents readers will get to know his parents through his memories of their advice. Although White Ears and her brother had been taught to fear wolf strangers, the pair is willing to take in other wolves who were alone without a pack and make them part of their family. Watching how these two adolescent wolves adapt to the struggles they face and grow from them is fascinating. I enjoyed the wonderful character evolution these wolves go through during their journey as readers will see them mature as the novel progresses.

Brilliant White Peaks is a riveting adventure novel for young adults and teens and that will capture the heart of animal lovers of all ages. The unique point of view of this novel, along with it’s engrossing storyline and compelling characters, make this a captivating coming of age story that will be hard to put down.

Pages: 237 | ASIN : B09F2LY8F6

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Treasury of Feel-Good Stories

Karina McRoberts
Karina McRoberts Author Interview

Dargo: Eco Hero follows a lonely young man as he rises from despair in his going-nowhere-fast job to his new position as hero for the environment. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

This came from many sources. Part from a dream (the character’s first name and the bone thing). Part from my childhood adoration of my older brother. Part from a recent visit to Northern California, where I was shocked by mile after mile of freeway with memorials to fallen highway patrol officers, many with Hispanic names (hence Fernandez). Part from my own experience of being bullied in the workplace. Part from my ongoing love affair with music. Part from my life-long love of nature. Part by the First Nations American elder who saved his people from annihilation due to his translatory skills and eloquence of speech. Part from the ordinary cold-war Russian soldier who did NOT hit the red button to signal incoming nuclear attack (otherwise, we would not be having this conversation, I suspect). All this reminded me of what just one person can do, even though they may feel at the end of their tether.

Dargo is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

There are plenty of people who don’t fit into everyday society. So many have suffered as a result, and of course still do. I wanted to say that no matter how hard things get, be exactly who you are.

And please BE. Don’t give up. Things will turn around. Hang in there. There may be 7.5 billion people and counting in this world, and the pressure to conform to the idealised ‘thing’ is greater than ever, but we need YOU! As Samara Jones learns in The Girl with Ten Diamonds, my companion novella to Dargo, “You can’t clone a soul”.

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

This disconnect between humanity and nature, and how that problem might be addressed. Because it absolutely must be! You can’t save it if you don’t love it, and you can’t love it if you don’t know it.

Also, personal redemption. So very, very important in this increasingly crowded and competitive world. I wonder how many fell through the cracks-of-no-return just today…

So, as Dargo discovers, he begins by lifting spirits, and that includes his own.

I really hope this book lifts readers’ spirits in these very tough times we find ourselves in. Especially important for those trying to save the Earth. It’s a tough gig, and I hope Dargo can provide a little solidarity and joy.

Find nature and you will find yourself — worked for me!

Thanks for reading.

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

Kahnilla the Dragon. She will be the 6th instalment in this Treasury of Feel-Good Stories. This series follows the style of Dargo – examination of serious, topical issues through humorous story-telling.

The series has stories for all ages. Kahnilla is another adult fairy-tale. It deals with hate and its cost, and how young people and others learn to hate by following wrong information. The story focusses on the importance of true listening, thinking for oneself, and getting one’s facts from reliable sources. We really need to, more than ever!

Kahnilla is in production now, and will hopefully be out early next year.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

HILARIOUS, HEART-WARMING, DIFFERENT and DELIGHTFUL!
A lonely young man suffers a massive defeat. When all is lost, he meets a fiery fortune-teller who pleads with him to save her.
Can he re-invent himself as a hero?
A light-hearted but poignant little story, Dargo is humorous and heart-warming; a fairy-tale for adults.
You can also read this to your children who care about Earth. And, if they don’t, Dargo will help them to do so!
An enjoyable timely tale that will appeal to the magic in all of us.
Illustrations

The Great Cyprus Think Tank

Larry Lockridge has a way with words and will have the reader hooked from the first page. The Great Cyprus Think Tank may appear like it is starting slow, but the reader soon realizes that the writing style Larry Lockridge applied was best suited for the book. You get to read a paragraph and enjoy the narration even before getting the full concept of what is happening. The Great Cyprus Think Tank is your ideal book if you enjoy deep stories that have real life lessons that touch on various phases of a man and different sectors in the running of a nation.

The Great Cyprus Think Tank is a great book to read if you enjoy political satire, discussions on contemporary society and insightful exploration of issues that affect human beings. The book is set in the distant future. In the book, we follow the story of Bart Beasley, a somewhat miserable Canadian author of cultural memoirs. In his misery, Bart Beasley has always wanted to go back to Cyprus. This country is special and significant to the Canadian author as it is the place where he spent his younger years and also made major memories. Bart Beasley treasured his time in Cyprus and the reader can see why. As a reader, you get to visualize the time in Cyprus and get to virtually experience the country.

The country is in the middle of political turbulence. Everything seems to be in disarray and citizens appear to be in anarchy. The social, political, economic and even environmental state of the nation is nothing but disorder. The rising sea levels are a threat to the renowned sea turtles, songbirds are being eliminated by native epicures, and Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. Bart Beasley decides to create a think tank of experts. They include a zoologist, meteorologist, neurologist and others. Though professionals, these experts have some flaws, which made their characters more interesting, grounded and authentic. I loved how Bart’s mind worked. In some instances, the reader would feel that the Canadian author is trying too hard, but Larry Lockridge would soon show a different side of him that the reader never expected. Bart is an excellent main character; entertaining to follow, unpredictable, but also solid on whatever stance he took.

Larry Lockridge wrote an exciting book that will get one to think about the future, human activity, governments and how nature can be kind or cruel depending on what path humans choose. The Great Cyprus Think Tank has a lot of political themes, which was great to read especially for readers that enjoy stories on governance, civics and political satire. Larry Lockridge was also exceptional with the description of events especially when the storyline had romance and human struggles in it.

Pages: 202 | ASIN: B09FS83VWX

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BIRDS AND HUMANS: WHO ARE WE?

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Birds and Humans: Who are we? The Miracles of Earth by David Campbell Callender is actually written in the memory and honor of the gentle Irish Naturalist by his granddaughter Ruth Finnigan. She has used the affectionate account and the same photographs as he might’ve used.  Since Ruth is an anthropologist and thus has no expert knowledge of birds, the book deliberately strays away from the use of specialist terminologies and Latin names. The book is a refreshingly different take on the usual encyclopedias about birds; rather, it talks about birds with a child-like fascination.

The book talks about the parallels and contrasts between the world of humans and birds. It draws out the idea that even though we’ve had very different ancestries, with birds being the last living species of dinosaurs and humans sharing ancestry with the apes, there is more in common between the two than one would expect.

While I enjoyed the book and found the information in it to be enlightening, I thought the book could have benefited from formatting, but otherwise the information readers will find within will more than satisfy your curiosity on the subject.

Birds and Humans: Who are we? provides a plethora of facts about birds and does it with an air of enchantment on the subject that I find rare in nonfiction books. The author’s deep connection with the birds is clear and awe-inspiring. I would recommend this book to anyone curious about birds and to readers who are looking for a light but informative book.

Pages: 271

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