A Special Book for Us All

You Call This Democracy?

Elizabeth Rusch

The subtitle of this thought-provoking book is “How to Fix Our Government and Deliver Power to the People”. Whatever your political bent this book will make you think carefully about how our system of government works and whether things could or should be changed to make it better. For instance, should we continue to have an Electoral College decide who wins a presidential race? Or should we go with just the popular vote? Would that leave the smaller states without a vote. Hope about the way we hold primaries? Do the states that hold primaries later in the election cycle without a say? Should we lower the voting age to 16 or 17? The book is full of statistics and graphs and other visuals. The various gradations of grey on the maps will be, hopefully, better defined in the final copy of the book. It’s a bit hard to discern the various gradations of gray in this advance reading copy. Take your time reading this book and be prepared to research some of her statements.  It’s the kind of book that the reader will want to tell friends and others about. It’s especially important for young people and people applying for citizenship to read, but everyone else would benefit from reading it.

BIBLIO: March 2020, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers/ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ages 10+, $9.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Non-Fiction

ISBN: 9780358387428

Being Friends and Helping Others

I keep trying to come up with a fool-proof way of making sure I don’t bore you by repeating reviewed books, but I’m not sure I’m there yet. So, forgive me if I repeat. This collection of books all had good messages about love and compassion in them.

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People have a way of deciding that certain things go together and other things don’t. As a child I remember being told that blue and green shouldn’t go together. And I believed those who told me that. After all they were my teachers. Then I realized the sky is blue and trees and plants are green. Look how well they go together!  Anyway, I remember also hearing that dogs and cats don’t get along well. Only if you don’t let them. The first story is about a dog and cat.

Felipe and Claudette

Mark Teague

Illustrated by Mark Teague

Each time a group of animals is lined up for adoption at the adoption center, Felipe and Claudette hope they get adopted, and sadly they are left behind. Felipe is sure it’s Claudette’s fault because she’s always barking. Which, of course, is not true. Sometimes she runs in circles or bounces balls or tears the stuffing from her toys. Enough to make any cat or human cringe, thinks Felipe, especially if the person were to see the dog dig holes or roll in the garbage. Claudette doesn’t see any harm in what she’d doing. After all, she is a dog. And, finally, she is adopted, even with all her faults. Guess what? Felipe misses her and Claudette misses him. She won’t play with her new owner, so he brings her back to the shelter, where the owner adopts the two of them. A sweet tale about love and acceptance. And the illustrations are downright adorable.

BIBLIO: 2019, Orchard Books/Scholastic, Inc., Ages 3 to 8, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-545-91432-1

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We all need a little help in remembering the best way to behave and thrive and here’s the book to help you understand the rules of the road.

Super-Hero Playbook: Lessons in Life from Your Favorite Superheroes

Randall Lotowycz

Illustrated by Tim Palin

A bit on the long winded side, this book does give good examples on how to be a better human being. The illustrations are cute, though on the cartoony side. Children will relate to them. Superman shows how to be a role model by being truthful and helpful. The definitions that are put forth in this book are well done and the examples understandable. In addition to Superman, the author uses Black Panther, Batman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, the Teen Titans, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Swamp Thing and many more. All give examples of good behavior either individually or as a team. Did you know that in addition to Captain Marvel, there is a Ms. Marvel who is not related and highlights flexibility? Some superheroes didn’t start that way, but learned what was good and what was not. The last hero is called Squirrel Girl. She eats nuts and kicks butts! Teachers could use the stories in their classrooms to emphasize behaviors they want to encourage.

BIBLIO: 2019, Duo Press, Ages 6 to 9, $11.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 9781947458765

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Well, there’s nothing wrong with retelling a classic fairy tale and giving it a modern twist. Enjoy this version.

The Three Little Superpigs: Once upon a Time

Claire Evans

Illustrated by Claire Evans

We all know the basic story of the Three Little Pigs, right? How they had to deal with the mean old wolf who wanted them for a snack. This version adds the idea of the pigs wanting to be superheroes. When Mother Pig has had enough of their mess and sends them out on their own, they end up in Fairyland where they meet none other than Little Red Riding Hood. She warns them of the mean old wolf who steals Mary’s lamb, and sheep’s and various grandmothers’ clothing. Each of the pigs builds his own little house and, as we all know, two of the pigs don’t think it out well, plus they just want to play. So, they make easily destroyed houses of straw and wood. Of course, the prudent pig builds his house out of bricks and ends up saving everyone’s bacon. We all know how the story ends, in this case with the Fairyland people all proclaiming the pigs to be Superpigs. The drawings are cute and the story is as endearing as ever.

BIBLIO: 2017, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc., Ages 4 to 8, $14.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-338-24548-6

Hope you all have been enjoying your summer, but are looking forward to a brand-new season. For those heading back into the learning realm, what fun to be ready to learn or teach new things. Enjoy. Sarah

A Little Non-Fiction

Hello again, my friends. Do you know how to equate heights of natural critters to buildings? I sure don’t, but these books might help you see the bigger picture. The series is called “Animals Measure Up,” and each book discusses a different ecosystem.

How High in the Sky: Flying Animals

Monika Davies

Illustrated by Romina Marti

This book focuses on flying creatures. First up is the enchanting ladybug whose gossamer wings come out from under the ladybug’s shell on her back. Next up is the Monarch butterfly which “rides” the wind and flies even higher than the ladybug. Like a scale, the creatures in this book each fly higher than the last. Next is the funny looking Frigate with its red sac hanging down from its throat. But the Andean condor has it beat, until the common place Mallard flies above it. And the bar-head goose can fly over the Himalayas. These critters all have something in common. They all take to the skies with the greatest of ease. Though stylized, the illustrations are a charming addition to the words. It would have been nice to have the Frigate bird’s red sac explained. And some of the comparison might have been made a bit clearer. Would a child be able to visualize how high a building is or high a helicopter can fly?

BIBLIO: 2018, Amicus Illustrated/Amicus, Ages 5 to 8, $20.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-68151-388-1

How High in the Rainforest? Rainforest Animal Habitat

Monika Davies

Illustrated by Romina Marti

This book focuses on rainforest creatures. Starting below ground level, in the dark, fertile soil, you can find all kinds of critters. Centipedes, slugs, beetles, and termites “recycle” dead leaves and fertilize the soil with their waste. The bugs provide food for the forest floor animals. Armadillos dig up the below ground critters for a tasty meal, as do wild pigs and small rodents. In the understory, where smaller trees grow in what sunlight they can find by spreading their broad leaves. Squirrels, red-eyed tree frogs, birds, snakes, and jaguars makes their homes here. Way up above these creatures, is the “roof” of the forest, made up of tree branches woven together to make the canopy. Bigger animals, such as sloths and monkeys and birds, call this area home. But above them, where plenty of sun beams down, live the biggest inhabitants of all. The harpy eagle makes its home up here, as does the spider monkey. And the tree leaves here are small and waxy to capture moisture. Look closely at the illustrations in this book to see all the differences in surroundings and creatures that live there. Teachers should use more images to help their students understand the various concepts of height.

BIBLIO: 2018, Amicus Illustrated/Amicus, Ages 5 to 8, $20.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-68151-387-4

 

How High up the Mountain? Mountain Animal Habitat

Monika Davies

Illustrated by Romina Marti

The mountains are the backdrop in this book. The story starts at the lowest level, called the “grasslands” and mentions creatures such as coyotes, jackrabbits and burrowing owls that roam around the bunchgrasses and cactuses. In the foothills, a visitor will run across scrub jays which live in smaller trees capable of living in more gravelly soil. Next is the “montane” zone where rain and snow fall copiously. Shy “Albert’s” squirrels build their nests in the Ponderosa pines. Aspen trees provide food and shelter for the Rocky Mountain elk, which are especially fond of aspen bark. In the subalpine zone, you can build a snowman most of the year, but it is wet and cold so only plants like spruce and fir trees grow here. Other plants grow close to the ground and the animals are hardy. Look for snowshoe hares and boreal owls here, along with well hidden mice. At the highest level, believe it or not, some plants grow even with all the snow and cold. Here the explorer will find tiny pikas and bighorn sheep. As with the other books in this series, a bit more reference to relatable sizes would be a help. Not all children are spatially adept at imagining height differences. Still, a talented teacher can help her students understand the concepts. The illustrations, though stylized, are charming.

BIBLIO: 2018, Amicus Illustrated/Amicus, Ages 5 to 8, $20.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-68151-389-8

 

Murder and Mayhem!

Oh boy, I’ve discovered a new writer of children’s books, and not only that, I’m now a member of her critique group!

Her name is Sheila Turnage and she a delightful person as well as being an outstanding writer. She lives in Farmville, NC, and has historical ties to Washington, NC, which is affectionally known as “Little Washington,” so as not to confuse it with the capital of our country.

In Little Washington, there is a grand theater which is used for all manner of events and it is named after Sheila’s grandfather who was a big-time mover and shaker there. If you get a chance, do check it out. The town, itself, is worth the trip.

Anyway, Sheila writes mysteries that take place in “Tupelo Landing” starring Miss Moses LoBeau, with her sidekick, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III.

Moses LoBeau is known far and wide as Mo, because her foster father and savior, The Colonel, thought she was a boy when he rescued her as new born from the local river during a hurricane. So, he’d given her an apt name for a boy found in the water.

Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, was so named because his father is a big fan of Dale Earnhardt, Sr., who had just won his third racing title.

The first mystery and murder are about the death of the local curmudgeon, and Ms. Turnage neatly keeps us guessing as to who the real killers are.

Dale’s father is the prime suspect because he’s so often the culprit of bad things happening in the town.

But the books aren’t just about mysteries, they also introduce us to life in Tupelo Landing and most all 143 members of the town. And boy are there a lot of characters, including Mo’s arch enemy, Anna Celeste Simpson, a.k.a. Attila. Dale’s dog, Queen Elizabeth has a significant role in the stories.

In the hopes that one day she’ll meet her birth mother, Mo sends notes in bottles to her, calling her “Upstream Mother.” All the towns people help her in the endeavor, by dropping the bottles anytime they go upstream. Sometimes Mo gets answers but never one from her mother.

The books are Three Times Lucky (2012, ISBN: 97800-8037-3670-2) The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, (2014,) The Odds of Getting Even (2015, ISBN 978-0-8037-3961-1) The Law of Finders Keepers (2018.)

 

Borrow from your local library or order them from Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin Group/Penguin Random House or Amazon.

Also check Ms. Turnage out on her website: http://www.sheilaturnage.com

Hot Diggety Dog

I sure am glad somebody knows how to do computer stuff easily, because I sure don’t.

My new best buddies, Liz Bemis and April Reed, have developed a website for me. Please check it out. And let me know what needs tweaking.

And soon I plan to put out my first newsletter, but you’ll have to sign up to receive it. Which means you won’t be innundated with messages from me.

Please let me know what you think. Thanks, Sarah.

ttp://sarahmauryswanlovesbooks.com/

Here I am again

Hello everyone, I do hope you’re having a good summer and looking for new adventures, not to mention nicer weather, in the fall.

For me, most of the summer has been trying not to melt or grow moss between my toes. Here in New Bern, NC, it’s been entirely too hot for my redhead’s body to thrive, so I’ve stayed inside a great deal, reading copious numbers of books. Let me tell you, bears hibernating in the winter have no edge on me hibernating in the summer.

I haven’t stuck to reading just children’s books, and, instead I’ve read a number of “grown-up” books. One that comes to mind is The Maze at Windermere, by Gregory Blake Smith. What makes it most intriguing is the author’s ability to intertwine stories taking place in Newport, RI, but in different centuries. He writes so well, that each set of characters is written in the idiom of the era. Definitely worth reading, with lots of plot intrigue within each story.

I’ve also read a number of murder mysteries including the Tracy Crosswhite series by Robert Dugoni. Though you can read them as standalones, it would probably be best to start with the first in the series, My Sister’s Grave.

I also read a delightful fantasy about a boy who moves to a new town with his mother, and with help of a fox, learns to navigate his new world. The book is the first in a series, but I didn’t like the second one as well. My Fox Ate my Homework is the name of the story and David Blaze is the author.

Also in the children section is  The Secret Zoo, by Bryan Chick, which tells the story of children trying to rescue a club member  who has gone missing in a special zoo run by people intent on saving animals from going extinct. Lots of adventure in this one and amazing characters.

The final book is the first novel by Laura Bradford, who is well known for her cozy mysteries set in Amish country. Portrait of a Sister is about Amish twin sister who chose separate paths. One sister choses to be “English” and the other choses to stay Amish. Ms. Bradford knows her subject well, though her connection to Amish folk is through research for her mystries.

All these books, with exception of The Maze at Windermere, I read on my Kindle. The Maze I read on a copy my handsome devil had borrowed from our library.  It is also available via Kindle.

So, if you get caught by a hurricane or some other untoward occurrence, try reading some of these books.

Hope to see you next week at my blog.  And, soon, I hope you will be able to visit me on my in-the-works website. Sarah

This and That

Our Story Begins

Edited by Elissa Brent Weissman

Have you ever wondered when your favorite authors and/or illustrators started writing or doodling? Well, here’s your chance to find out about a number of them, because “they share fun, inspiring, and occasionally ridiculous things they wrote and drew as kids.” Twenty-six artists and writers submitted early works of writing and drawing, some from the age of five. A number of the people in this book were inspired by a teacher or an author or a well-known illustrator. Many of the earliest works were stories or pictures about mythical creatures and events, but others wrote things happening to them. The group included in this book is an eclectic mixed of authors and illustrators known for their more polished stories, but the reader will see the nuggets of talent shining through at early ages. The common threads are the prodigious imaginations and drive these artists possess. This is an interesting read and should be very useful for inspiring children to follow their dreams. Dan Santat, R. J. Palacio, Maria Frazee, Jarret J. Krosochzka, Thanhha Lại, Eric Rohmann, Linda Sue Park, Phyllis Reynold Naylor, Gordon Korman, Elissa Brent Weissman, Kathi Appelt, Gail Carson Levine, Chris Gall, Rita Williams-Garcia, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Peter Lerangis, Candace Fleming, Brian Selznick, Tom Angleberger, Alex Gino, Tim Federle, Kwame Alexander, Grace Lin, Chris Grabenstein, Yuyi Morales, and Ashely Bryan are the contributors.

BIBLIO: 2017, Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division/Simon & Schuster, Ages 8+, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Reader

ISBN: 9781481472081

ISBN: 9781481472104

And for those of you who’ve not already read Sheri S. Levy’s latest book, here’s my take on it.

Starting Over: A Trina Ryan Novel

Sheri S. Levy

Trina Ryan still misses Sydney, her service dog in training, but she soon finds herself bonding with new puppy, Colton. The black lab is younger than Sydney was when he came, so Trina is having to house break him. Fortunately, Colton is a smart dog and a eager to learn. Trina also misses her boyfriend, Chase, whom she’d met at the beach. But it’s hard to keep a long distance relationship going.

In the meantime, Trina does have her best friend Sarah to talk to and do things with. And Trina also has her time at the neighborhood stables where she helps look after the horses and take lessons on her favorite horse, Chancy.

A new girl, Morgan, moves her horse, Knight, to the stable, but she is rude and surly, and mean to her horse. Trina tries to get through Morgan’s bitter shell, but it’s a hard row to hoe.

Trina is gentle and caring soul, who cares about people and animals. She has loving,  caring parents and makes friends easily. The reader roots for her and is glad when she solves a problem. This is a nice story, and since it has dogs and horses in it, I, of course, find it special.

I look forward to Sheri’s next book.

BIBLIO: 2017, Barking Rain Press, Ages 12 +, $??.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 1-935460-77-3

ISBN: 1-9411295-80-0

ISBN: 1-935460-78-1