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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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The Tribulations of August Barton

The Tribulations of August Barton by [LeBlanc, Jennifer]

The Tribulations of August Barton by Jennifer LeBlanc follows the somewhat unwilling adventures of a young man who feels as if the world is on his shoulders. August Barton is a  nerdy college freshman with growing anxiety not helped by the declaration of his parent’s decision to divorce. Never mind first-year classes, his growing independence, or even girls, the struggles within his own family becomes almost too much for him to bear. At a time in his life when he should be stepping out into the world and spreading his wings, the worries of his life pull him back into the safe confines of his residence hall where he can be with his Star Wars collection in peace. However, his charismatic grandmother (a woman who really has lived life to the fullest) has other ideas for her grandson, which leads to a series of adventures where August can finally learn to live out his own epic saga and find his own happy endings outside of the ones he’s seen in the science-fiction stories he loves.

This story compares to the classic coming-of-age tale Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger in its overall themes like loss of innocence and personal growth of a young man. However, I will say that August Barton is a more likable protagonist than Holden Caulfield! August “Augie” Barton’s altruism for his loved ones and his quirky charm make him a lovable character to follow throughout the book. Other interesting characters in Augie’s life enhance the quality of this book, one in particular: his grandmother! Gertie is such a wild and fun lady. I wish I could know her in real life! I honestly would read a whole spin-off novel about her life because seeing the world through her eyes sounds like a treat. The overall humor and grace of this novel as Jennifer LeBlanc’s authentic characters deal with very real  problems that we all can face in life. The Tribulations of August Barton just proves how there can be such wondrous beauty in the everyday and in the hardships we all face. No doubt, Jennifer LeBlanc earns a full five stars, and one new permanent fan of her works.

Pages: 176 | ASIN: B01M7TF1N1

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Really Real

Ellie G. Collins Author Interview

Ellie G. Collins Author Interview

Mylee in the Mirror explores young romance and school drama with an infusion of Greek Mythology. What were some themes you wanted to continue from your first book and what were some new ideas you wanted to explore?

Well, in Daisy, Bold & Beautiful I wanted to create a situation for my main character that would demonstrate the same moral of the story that I find within Persephone’s story – it is important to stand up for yourself. The story in Mylee In The Mirror is very different, but I arrived at it in the same manner – I wanted a story that would demonstrate the moral of the story I find in Aphrodite’s story – you can’t force someone to love someone else. I hope to do that with all the books in this series – decide on a moral of the story for each god/goddess featured in the book and create a story that demonstrates that moral.

I enjoyed Ty and My’s characters and interactions. What was the inspiration for their relationship?

Hmmm… well, I didn’t really have a specific relationship in mind when I was writing it. I developed each character (for instance, Ty is loose combination of my [real life] Trampoline & Tumbling teammate, Ty, my dad, and my brother, Will), then had them interact the way I imagined those characters would interact with each other. I have a friend, Peter, who I joke around with, kinda like Mylee and Ty joked around together, but My & Ty were friends longer than Pete and I have been and they’re closer than Pete and I are.

How has your writing developed and changed from book one in your Greek Mythology Fantasy Series?

I don’t know exactly how my writing developed and changed from Daisy to Mylee, but this book was really different to write because Daisy was all about 6th graders and I was a 6th grader when I was writing it, so I could really relate to what they were doing and how they were acting. Mylee is about ninth graders AND Ty was my first male main character. Obviously, I don’t know anything about being a boy, and certainly not a 9th grade boy, so I had to talk with my brother quite a bit to decide what Ty would do and how he would act. I also talked quite a bit with my mom about the two moms in the story and Grammy Jean. Grammy Jean was based on my real-life great grandmother, who passed away last winter. The character wasn’t exactly like my Grammy Jean, but pretty close. So, I guess I can say I worked more and worked harder this time trying to understand motivations to make the characters feel really real, know what I mean?

What are you currently writing and when will it be published?

I’m just starting work on book 3. This will feature my first god (instead of a goddess), and the main character will be a boy this time. I hope to be done with it sometime this spring, so hopefully it’ll be published sometime in the summer. I’ve been busy, though, because this is competition season for both my gymnastics team and my tramp & tumble team. Last weekend we traveled down to Oregon for a meet and this weekend we fly to Reno, Nevada for another one. Between all that and school there isn’t a ton of time for writing, but I’m really anxious to share this next story, so I’ll find the time! 😊

Author Links: GoodReads | Instagram | Facebook | Website

Mylee in the Mirror (Greek Mythology Fantasy Series Book 2) by [Collins, Ellie]

Freshman year is just starting, and already Mylee fears her family is falling apart. She’s not interested in dating or any of the high-school drama it brings, but that’s just what she gets when Sam, the most popular guy at school, invites her to the Homecoming dance. Mylee needs advice, so she summons Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty, her secret confidant.

Tyler is worried about Mylee, his best friend and teammate. Already sad about her family woes, he’s livid that Slimeball Sam is trying to ooze his way into her life. And she seems to be falling for Sam’s act! Worse, Ty is worried all this attention from such a popular guy will place Mylee officially out of his league.

What does an ancient Greek goddess know about modern teenage romance? Can My and Ty save their friendship and discover what matters most?

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Mylee in the Mirror

Mylee in the Mirror (Greek Mythology Fantasy Series Book 2) by [Collins, Ellie]

Mylee is experiencing one of the most trying times in her young life. Not only is she watching solemnly as her parents’ marriage hits its rockiest stretch to date, she is unable to convince her mother that she is happier and more productive not being a cheerleader. To top it off, Mylee should be having the time of her life as she seems to have caught the eye of the school’s most desired boy–real homecoming king material. Mylee just can’t seem to catch a break. When her beloved Grammy, her confidante, moves into a new apartment farther from Mylee’s home, the struggle becomes even more real.

Ellie Collins’s second book in her Greek mythology series, Mylee in the Mirror, is a fantastic follow up to her first, Daisy Bold and Beautiful. This young adult fiction series is shaping up to be an artfully designed set of books with well-developed characters and engrossing plot lines. Collins is a master at incorporating current teen culture and dialogue. Her writing flows smoothly, and her characters seems to jump off the page–especially her main characters. Mylee and Ty are an adorable pair and their friendship leaves the reader rooting for them from their very first interaction. Collins seems to have a knack for drawing a thoroughly detestable antagonist. Sam is clearly sketched as the villain, and the dialogue she has given him keeps readers focused on exactly how wonderful Ty is for Mylee–writing perfection.

Collins manages to tap into complex relationships quite easily whether it be the parent-child relationship or the ever-evolving relationships between teen friends. She pinpoints the drama that so easily arises between girls over potential love interests while at the same time highlighting how easily true friends are able to see the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

I am, again, intrigued by Collin’s use of Greek mythology in her plots. She pulls the story of her grandmother’s mirror and the tale of Aphrodite almost effortlessly into what, otherwise, reads as young adult fiction. The fact that Mylee is able to keep her experiences to herself and use what she learns from her encounters with the mirror is a truly unique approach in this genre.

Collins is an author to be watched in the coming years. The ease with which the words flow from her mind to the paper is to be envied indeed. Her writing is phenomenally engaging, and I look forward to seeing more from her series in the future. I highly recommend her writing to any parent of young teens looking to engage their children in well-written and timely books.

Pages: 180 | ASIN: B07JZKV317

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Cascarones

Cascarones by Sylvia Sánchez Garza is a book that feels more like a conversation between friends. Garza follows the life of a Mexican American girl living in Texas and straddling the world of her culturally rich family and a whitewashed school she winds up going to in Houston. This isn’t the only aspect of her life that Garza delves into. She also explores the girl’s relationship with family members, her church, family traditions, and general everyday life. The book is a nice collection of individual stories about the same family with the same cast of characters.

This was a nice, easy read. It is simple without being boring. The individual stories make nice bite-size sections. This made it a fun, leisurely read. The book feels light. It doesn’t have that heavy, daunting feeling that some books do.

As previously stated, the book feels like a conversation. It feels like sitting and listening to someone reminisce about their childhood. I prefer first-person writing as a rule, and this book delivers. It makes it feel so much more personal and relatable. Readers will identify with pieces of Suzy’s stories and may see themselves in her experiences. Reading this book felt like getting to know a new friend.

I feel like I got to know the characters better through each story. Each story gave a better feel for the family. Even with short stories that could stand alone, the characters were well developed. It also gave a lot of insight into the culture of Mexican American families. It showed their strength and pride in their clinging to their traditions. There were quite a bit of Spanish words and dialogue in the book. I know very little Spanish and looked up a few words, but the vast majority of the meaning comes out in the context.

My only complaint is that I might have liked the stories better in a different order. I think I would have liked them to be in chronological order rather than jumping back and forth in time. It threw me the first time I realized Suzy was speaking as an adult. It took me a second to understand what was happening since it jumped from her being a kid to having kids, and back to a kid again. I lost my bearings a little but recovered quickly.

Cascarones by Sylvia Sánchez Garza is very well-written. There are very few errors, if any. It had a nice pace and flow. I liked following Suzy navigate between two worlds as she is pulled between her large Mexican family and living in America. It taught me a lot about the Mexican American culture that I didn’t know. I’d like to read more by Garza.

Pages: 162 | ISBN: 1724622889

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Lillee Can Be

Lillee Can Be by [Joseph, Adam Zebediah]
Adam Zebediah Joseph’s Lillee Can Be delivers a sugary sweet children’s book with a punchy, poetic pace and solid sense of cohesion overall. The book focuses on the school and extracurricular lives of two young twins in an unspecified setting, making it an allegory of sorts. Specifically, the twins provide a totally relatable dynamic for any reader with a sibling, as the book directly confronts feelings of inferiority, unequal recognition, and other relevant issues that many children experience.

Likewise, the author is perfectly on trend with the wave of subtle social justice and advocacy messages within children’s and young adult literature currently. For example, Joseph boldly tackles sexism, gender identity, equal pay, and other concepts beyond merely familial themes, yet he does it with humility, honesty, and ease, without any preachy or condescending tones. Although the male character is unnamed, the female character (or mini SHE-RO!) offers an affirmative, fun, feisty, and feminist protagonist for readers to emulate. Lillee, the main character, demonstrates resilience and displays fearless fortitude as she faces gender boundaries and revolutions about our world, social norms, and cultural mores in this vibrant but also bold, bubbly book.

As far as the pros and cons, I love that the book perceptively resonates with girl power. I also applaud how his writing cleverly employs a rhythmical quality that makes you want to sing or rap each page aloud-of course with a fist pump, too! I further appreciate the teachable lessons in this book beyond character education and tolerance, since Adam Zebediah Joseph also cites many careers for young children to pursue. Occupational terms in this book and illustrations make it suitable for a teacher, counselor, parent, or family member and embed superb context clues for the definitions. However, I was a bit dismayed that the male twin character remained nameless throughout the entire piece. This anonymity seemed to counter the equity themes that this book so adamantly advocated. While I also liked the pictures, I wanted a bit more multicultural depictions to truly illuminate the themes that book defends: equality, respect, inclusion, etc.

In sum, this book provides a mirror for young readers to assess not only themselves and their personal relationships around them, but also a path for sociopolitical awareness. Read it yourself to see if a fairy godmother emerges or if other lessons enlighten these characters as they grow and mature. The author shows empathy and wisdom to tackle themes with such poise and poetic power!

Pages: 50 | ASIN: B07F7XCTLV

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Lamellia: The Wicked Queen – Trailer

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 wife’s 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 fulfill its purpose before its 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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Merle the Traveling Girl – Trailer

What would you do if you found a magic wand?

Thats what Merle asks herself when she finds a magic wand after falling from her bike. But while some kids might ask for gifts, Merle decides to use it to help others. This is a story of a little girl who turns into a superhero, zooming around the world to help children stay clean and healthy.

In an entertaining way, Merle teaches kids how important it is to wash your hands. Kids dont always listen when parents tell them to wash their hands before eating, after using the bathroom, or when they come inside from playing.

Its a message worth repeatinghand washing is the best way to prevent germs from spreading and to keep kids from getting sick.

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103 Simple Poems From One Simple Person

With a collection of singular point of view narratives the author, Mayne Leitzer, offers his first complete book of poetry; 103 Simple Poems From One Simple Person. The book is sectioned into chapters outlining the types of poems that follow, what those writings mean to the author, and how they came to be. The title is indicative of the style of writing, not the writer, as the poetry is fairly simple; using straight forward thoughts and uncomplicated prose to reflect on life’s complications. The story arc is more of a summation of personal perspective and reflection than a journey forward or illustration of action.

In penning “103 Simple Poems” Mayne Leitzer offers up self reflection, self deprecation, a heavy dollop of fundamentalist religious dogma, and more than a little bit of sadness and remorse, with a glimmer of joy and hope.

Many of his poems are jargon one could find on a motivational poster or greeting card, but that is not at all bad. Life can get messy and sometimes people need soft, plushy words to find comfort and solace. The reader will find many situations that they can relate to; lost love, death, pursuing success, loneliness, finding your destiny, conflict of conviction, etc.

However, there are many poems that can be divisive. Sex before marriage, gun control, abortion, prayer in school, Heaven and Hell, those types of things. The thoughts Leitzer lays out are organic in nature and not derived of a need to be quoted for inspirational prose or to start a deep conversation, but rather, just as he states; a need to express his soul at different stages in life.

Some poems showcase the more complex layers of his humanity that struggle to shine under the dominance of a narrow vision.  The Promised Land poem is thoughtful and embraceable. Not a Bad Day and One Moonlit Night lets out his optimistic side which he admits is not in his nature. Leitzer is honest about his mistakes and his struggle with alcoholism. His love poems are truly good; especially Seasons, A Smile and Rock A-bye.

There are a few grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors, which are distracting as is his zealous religious fervor, but his writings let the reader feel his authenticity and the last few poems wrap up nicely to summarize his goal and wishes for success.

This book uses simple and fluid style to expand peoples emotional depths but seemed content to keep its voice generalized. The individual writings have value no matter your religious leanings. At the end the reader will come away with some reflections of their own and maybe, quote a few lines for their own stages of life.

Pages: 124 | ISBN: 1425979149

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Tilly and Torg – New Kids At School

Tilly and Torg - New Kids At School by [Crawley, Connie Goyette]

Tilly and Torg New Kids at School is a wonderful children story about two monsters that are intrigued by a yellow school bus out their window and decide to find out where it’s taking all the children. They soon find out that the bus is going to a place called school. Tilly and Torg meet many nice people at school learn all about the things that go on there.

This is a wonderful children’s story to read to any child that is starting school and worried, or interested in, what happens there. As Tilly and Torg go through a full day of school they, like many kindergarteners, find themselves surprised and confused at some of the things that go on, but all the while they are open minded and ask questions. The art in this book is cute and filled with hidden gems, like the book Tilly and Torg carry around “Monster Rule Book For Living With Humans”, that beg for a second read through. The books is suitable for new readers or for parents to read to children as the art will keep the kids plenty busy as parents read them the story.

Although the art was cute and fitting, I thought the text could have been bigger or bold, which would have helped it stand out more when the text was on top of the images. This story offers so many opportunities for parents to discuss the different aspects of school with their kids. I didn’t realize that going to school comes with its own lingo; like ‘lost and found’ or ‘time for the bell’, and this book helps explain what these terms mean. At the end of the book is a little quiz that helps with reading comprehension and there is also a vocabulary list that is helpful for kids to review.

With beautiful art, cute monsters, and an easy to understand story, I think this book is a must read for any child that is about to start school.

Pages: 24 | ASIN: B07H52WP2V

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