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Blossom the Flower Girl Fairy by Daisy Meadows

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 176 pgs.
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Blossom the Flower Girl Fairy by Daisy Meadows is a chapter book for readers who are in grades two through five. My daughter is a pretty advanced reader but she still loves pictures, so this is a little tough for her to stay focused through, which is why we chose it as our nightly bedtime read-together book. Blossom has a very important job in fairy land. She has to keep the royal wedding on track and when things go awry in fairyland, they go wrong in the real world too. Kirsty and Rachel find this out first hand when Rachel’s Aunt Angela asks them for help with the flower girls and the wedding flowers.

We had a fun time reading this book together, and she was so caught up in tricking Jack Frost’s goblins into returning stolen wedding items. We ended up reading more than one chapter per night of this one.  She couldn’t wait to see what happened and if the fairytale endings for both weddings happened.

Blossom the Flower Girl Fairy by Daisy Meadows enables kids to see how to solve problems in real life, though the girls do ask for some fairy dust to help on occasion. These girls are crafty and get the job done, even when it looks like all is lost.

About the Book:

Here comes the bride!

Rachel’s Aunt Angela is a talented wedding planner. She’s organizing the biggest wedding Tippington has ever seen — and she needs Rachel and Kirsty’s help!

Rachel and Kirsty are put in charge of the bride’s flower girls. But when Jack Frost’s goblins show up uninvited, the wedding is in trouble. Luckily for everyone, Blossom the Flower Girl Fairy has a very special kind of magic — and she’s determined to make sure this wedding goes off without a hitch!

Find the magic objects in all three stories inside this Rainbow Magic Special Edition and help save the wedding magic!

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Daisy Meadows is the pseudonym used for the four writers of the Rainbow Magic children’s series: Narinder Dhami, Sue Bentley, Linda Chapman, and Sue Mongredien. Rainbow Magic features differing groups of fairies as main characters, including the Jewel fairies, Weather fairies, Pet fairies, Petal fairies, and Sporty fairies.

Owl Diaries: The Wildwood Bakery (Book 7) by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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Owl Diaries: The Wildwood Bakery by Rebecca Elliott is the seventh book in this series with Eva Wingdale and her elementary school friends. In this book, Eva and her pals are going to help raise money for their friend Mia’s sister, who needs a special chair to help her fly. Not only does this book help children realize that people who are disabled are just like us with the same interests, but it also inspires them to creatively find ways to help their friend.

However, as kids are eagerly crafting ideas to help Mia’s sister, they soon make their plans competitive, eager to see which team will raise the most money and win. Losing sight of the purpose, Eva and her friends must find a way to work together to achieve their goals. Elliott’s characters mirror their human child counterparts — male and female — and they act as elementary kids would.  They are full of ideas and creativity, but they are also eager to show their teacher and others who is the best.

Owl Diaries: The Wildwood Bakery by Rebecca Elliott is another wonderful book in the series that makes learning fun. The questions in the back are an added touch that teachers and parents can use to discuss the reading and get kids to think more broadly about their own school experiences.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A school project from when Rebecca was 6 reads, ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and a writer’. After a brief detour from this career plan involving a degree in philosophy and a dull office job she fulfilled her plan in 2001 when she became a full time children’s book illustrator and has since written and illustrated hundreds of picture books published worldwide including the award-winning Just Because, Zoo Girl, Naked Trevor, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Missing Jack and the very popular Owl Diaries series.

She lives in Suffolk in the United Kingdom with her husband, a history teacher and children, all professional monkeys.

Owl Diaries: Baxter Is Missing (Book 6) by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 72 pgs.
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Owl Diaries: Baxter is Missing (Book 6) by Rebecca Elliott has Eva looking for her missing pet bat, Baxter. Eva is a very busy and social owl, but Baxter is her best friend and when he goes missing, Eva can’t help but blame herself, blame squirrels, and more. Her anxiety about not finding Baxter is fresh and keeps young kids concerned throughout the whole book.

Kids will learn how to deal with anxiety constructively in this book, as Eva gathers her friends and classmates around to search for Baxter. Even though no one has seen Baxter, they’re eager to help.

Owl Diaries: Baxter is Missing (Book 6) by Rebecca Elliott is another delightful installment that helps kids navigate overwhelming feelings and loss without too much drama. Eva is an owl who looks to solve her own problems the best she can, but can accept help when she needs it. This is an important lesson for growing kids.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A school project from when Rebecca was 6 reads, ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and a writer’. After a brief detour from this career plan involving a degree in philosophy and a dull office job she fulfilled her plan in 2001 when she became a full time children’s book illustrator and has since written and illustrated hundreds of picture books published worldwide including the award-winning Just Because, Zoo Girl, Naked Trevor, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Missing Jack and the very popular Owl Diaries series.

She lives in Suffolk in the United Kingdom with her husband, a history teacher and children, all professional monkeys.

Owl Diaries: Warm Hearts Day (Book 5) by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 72 pgs.
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Owl Diaries: Warm Hearts Day (Book 5) by Rebecca Elliott is a delightful addition to the series in which the owls celebrate a holiday like Valentine’s Day. But the owl’s holiday is more about getting along with everyone and learning to help one another out. Elliott helps younger readers learn empathy and how to prioritize things that happen in their lives.  While making presents for family is a nice way to celebrate, it is better to share gifts with those in need and to help those less fortunate.

This series is going fast, with my daughter asking for more than one chapter to be read per night. We’re sometimes reading two chapters at a time, and the other day, she wanted to buy owl pjs so she could be like Eva Wingdale. Ms. Elliott is missing out on merchandising here.

As always, the book is told in diary format with colorful illustrations. This format makes it easy for younger readers to follow along, and my daughter is getting to know the days of the week better than ever by sight.

Owl Diaries: Warm Hearts Day (book 5) by Rebecca Elliott is just one in a series of books to share with your children at bedtime. Eva is a delightful, caring little owl who is still learning how to see beyond her own concerns.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A school project from when Rebecca was 6 reads, ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and a writer’. After a brief detour from this career plan involving a degree in philosophy and a dull office job she fulfilled her plan in 2001 when she became a full time children’s book illustrator and has since written and illustrated hundreds of picture books published worldwide including the award-winning Just Because, Zoo Girl, Naked Trevor, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Missing Jack and the very popular Owl Diaries series.

She lives in Suffolk in the United Kingdom with her husband, a history teacher and children, all professional monkeys.

Owl Diaries: Eva and the New Owl (Book 4) by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 80 pgs
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Owl Diaries: Eva and the New Owl by Rebecca Elliott is the fourth book in this illustrated series of chapter books for younger readers. My daughter is so eager to read these, it is tough to say no even when it is a school night and it’s past her bedtime.

Eva’s class learns that a new owl will be joining the class, and the whole place is aflutter with anticipation. Eva is determined to make friends with the new owl, and to make sure that the new owl is not friends with Meany McMeanerson, aka Sue.  Lucy, Eva’s best friend, also wants to be friends with the new owl, but Eva is so enthusiastic that she loses her focus and starts to neglect her best friend.

Without preaching too much, Eva’s mother offers her daughter some sound advice about friendships.  Elliott certainly understands what keeps younger kids interested in stories — colorful pictures and stories they can relate to — and this fourth book is definitely engaging.

Owl Diaries: Eva and the New Owl by Rebecca Elliott will teach kids about what it means to be a true friend and how new owls shouldn’t take the place of the old. I love that this series has comprehension questions in the back that are fun for kids, allowing them to revisit the story after they’ve finished reading it.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A school project from when Rebecca was 6 reads, ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and a writer’. After a brief detour from this career plan involving a degree in philosophy and a dull office job she fulfilled her plan in 2001 when she became a full time children’s book illustrator and has since written and illustrated hundreds of picture books published worldwide including the award-winning Just Because, Zoo Girl, Naked Trevor, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Missing Jack and the very popular Owl Diaries series.

She lives in Suffolk in the United Kingdom with her husband, a history teacher and children, all professional monkeys.

Owl Diaries: A Woodland Wedding (Book 3) by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 72 pgs.
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Owl Diaries: A Woodland Wedding by Rebecca Elliott is the third book in this series, which does not necessarily need to be read in order. I’m so glad we took a chance on this series of books. My daughter is so excited to hear about Eva and her escapades with her classmates every night. I don’t have to make reading a long, chapter book a chore. It’s a breeze with Elliott’s colorful pictures and fun adventures.

Imagine yourself as a little girl and your teacher is getting married, then take that a step further with Eva who creates an entire wedding planning club for herself and her classmates. Of course, Sue appears to be mean again in this one, but there are reasons behind her behavior. It’s a good teaching moment for kids. It enables them to see that because someone is in a bag mood doesn’t necessarily mean they are not a nice person. They might have other concerns. Kids need to learn how to empathize, and this book can provide that.

Owl Diaries: A Woodland Wedding by Rebecca Elliott is delightful, and my daughter is eager to start the next book. I’m wondering if the author plans to write a series based on Eva’s brother, Humphrey!

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A school project from when Rebecca was 6 reads, ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and a writer’. After a brief detour from this career plan involving a degree in philosophy and a dull office job she fulfilled her plan in 2001 when she became a full time children’s book illustrator and has since written and illustrated hundreds of picture books published worldwide including the award-winning Just Because, Zoo Girl, Naked Trevor, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Missing Jack and the very popular Owl Diaries series.

She lives in Suffolk in the UK with her husband, a history teacher and children, all professional monkeys.

Owl Diaries: Eva Sees a Ghost (Book 2) by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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Owl Diaries: Eva Sees a Ghost by Rebecca Elliott is book two in the series and Eva’s class is told a spooky story, which sets imaginations afire.  Eva sees a ghost, but there’s a problem: no one in the class believes her.  Even her friend Lucy eventually loses faith in Eva’s ability to discern reality from imagination. Again, Elliott strives to tackle every day issues that young kids come across in school — peer pressure, being liked, being believed, and more.

Eventually, Eva and Lucy gear up for a ghost hunt, staying up until sun up to see the ghost. Will they catch the ghost on film, or will more drastic measures be needed?

Every night we read a chapter together before bed, and it was a struggle to get her to stop at just one chapter.  She loves Eva and her imagination and each book is chock full of colorful illustrations.

Owl Diaries: Eva Sees a Ghost by Rebecca Elliott is delightful as Eva is a brave young owl full of conviction, and she’s a strong role model for young kids.  This series is shaping up to be very engaging and full of wonderful advice (without being advice) for younger kids.

“I love that owl book because it is funny and the best in the whole wide world,” says my daughter.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A school project from when Rebecca was 6 reads, ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and a writer’. After a brief detour from this career plan involving a degree in philosophy and a dull office job she fulfilled her plan in 2001 when she became a full time children’s book illustrator and has since written and illustrated hundreds of picture books published worldwide including the award-winning Just Because, Zoo Girl, Naked Trevor, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Missing Jack and the very popular Owl Diaries series.

She lives in Suffolk in the UK with her husband, a history teacher and children, all professional monkeys.

Owl Diaries: Eva’s Treetop Festival by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 72 pgs.
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Owl Diaries: Eva’s Treetop Festival by Rebecca Elliott is a series of books for first and second graders that my daughter was not initially sure she wanted to read.  I bought her a couple books in the series at her book fair after she picked out two books she really wanted.  First, I picked these books because teachers had been talking about how engaging they were, and second, I picked this because it is written in diary form — something my daughter has started doing in her own notebook. It’s a format that she can easily recognize and connect with.

We read a chapter an evening before bed, and sometimes she would read along, and at other times, she sat back and let me read to her.  It was a good experience to see how Eva’s big idea for a festival came into being — not as a solo project but as a team effort from the entire class. Eva is like any kid my daughter’s age, she has best friends and sometimes friends, and there is the one kid that she thinks is mean.

Elliott has a vivid and childlike imagination that kids will immediately connect with, and there are even reading comprehension questions in the back to help young, developing readers think about what they’ve been reading in terms of plot and characterization. Owl Diaries: Eva’s Treetop Festival by Rebecca Elliott is a wonderful series of books that will foster imagination, teamwork, and more. My daughter was eager to read each chapter and she cannot wait to start book 2.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

A school project from when Rebecca was 6 reads, ‘when I grow up I want to be an artist and a writer’. After a brief detour from this career plan involving a degree in philosophy and a dull office job she fulfilled her plan in 2001 when she became a full time children’s book illustrator and has since written and illustrated hundreds of picture books published worldwide including the award-winning Just Because, Zoo Girl, Naked Trevor, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Missing Jack and the very popular Owl Diaries series.

She lives in Suffolk in the UK with her husband, a history teacher and children, all professional monkeys.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 10 CDs
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The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater, narrated by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham, is an atmospheric novel based on a tale of water horses. Puck Connolly (Kate) is a young orphan girl who lives on Thisby, loves it with all of her heart, and barely has enough food for herself and her brothers. Her other main love is her horse, Dove. Her oldest brother, Gabe, earns the bulk of the money in the family, but he’s also plotting a life of his own away from the family home.

On the other side, there is the wildly successful horse trainer at the Malvern Farm, Sean Kendrick. This farm breeds horses and Kendrick is the premier rider in the Scorpio Races along the beach in November every year, and his capaill uisce (a type of water horse) Cor. While he has won the race four out of six times, he cannot escape the small room near the stable beneath the thumb of his employer, Malvern. He and Cor have a special bond, and it is clear that Sean’s love is for his horse.

Unlike Stiefvater’s other novels, which tend to be heavy on teen romance, the setting and the horses are the true stars of the Scorpio Races, especially on a less-than-forgiving island that is far enough away from American that a horseman can be considered a foreigner and the mainland can be seen as a way to improve one’s financial situation and see picture shows and musical numbers. The water horses are mysterious beasts that must be captured and dragged from the oceans they love, and while they eat flesh and can be difficult to control, they are the fastest and most magnificent animals to behold. The mystique of the island and the horses will draw readers in, but the story is not about the myth, so much as the love between man and beast and woman and beast.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater, narrated by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham, is about wishes and reality, love and despair, hardship and compassion. It’s a story that comes from the sea mists and rises to the cliff tops to sing like a water horse thriving in its natural environment despite the November cold.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader. All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia.

Cecil’s Pride: The True Story of a Lion King by Craig Hatkoff, Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, photographs by Brent Stapelkamp

Source: Diary of an Eccentric
Hardcover, 40 pgs.
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Cecil’s Pride: The True Story of a Lion King by Craig Hatkoff, Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, and photographs by Brent Stapelkamp, due to be published in April, is not about the great lion’s death but about his life as a pride leader and as an unconventional one at that.  The photographs in this book are stunning, and as a reader, a hardcover edition of this one would be worth buying for the photographs alone.

The death of Cecil renewed calls for conservation and the protection of endangered species, and this book seeks to keep that momentum going, as Cecil left behind cubs and a pride that had no leader.  In the lion world, when cubs are left behind after the death of the leader, they are usually killed off by the incoming leader.  Luckily Cecil’s cubs did not meet this fate, but it will surprise readers to learn how that happened.

Brent Stapelkamp had been studying Cecil and his family since 2008, and what he learned was extraordinary.  Rather than just learning how far these animals roam in search of food and in terms of territory, he learned other things about their behavior that are astonishing.  These kinds of research projects can help us learn more about the interconnected world we live and see that animals have more than base instincts.

Cecil’s Pride: The True Story of a Lion King by Craig Hatkoff, Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, and photographs by Brent Stapelkamp may have pictures not suitable for really young audiences, but my young reader and I watch nature shows so she knows that some animals are predators and eat other animals.  The pictures of the lions eating an elephant are definitely tamer than they could be, though, which was appreciated.

RATING: Quatrain

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 357 pgs.
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Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater is the culmination of everything readers will love about the Shiver series; these characters, flawed as they are, have come a long geographic distance to outrun their problems but instead are faced with the reality that they cannot be run from.  Cole St. Clair, a former famous rocker, has come to Los Angeles to get away from the empty quiet of Minnesota, and as the new star on a reality TV series, he hopes that he’ll find a way to win Isabel Culpeper’s heart and keep her forever by his side.  However, he has forgotten one thing, Isabel is not interested in being an accessory for anyone’s life; she’s a star of her own show, even if it is inside a cold winter not-so-wonderland.

Baby, the producer of the reality TV series, is well aware that Cole is a reformed addict — though she doesn’t know about his baser nature — and she’s ready to make some great TV, even if she has to throw naked women at the fallen rock star. Isabel, however, is made of tougher stuff, or so she thinks. She’s an ice queen, but like ice under pressure, she’s bound to crack.

Stiefvater’s characters may have supernatural problems, but those only really magnify what’s broken inside them emotionally. Feeling abandoned, out of place, unloved — all are deep problems that cannot be ignored, lest they destroy the victim.  Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater is a wonderful addition to the Shiver trilogy, and it will have readers cheering for that reality TV happy ending. But will they get it?

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader. All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater (audio)

Source: Digital Library
Digital audio, 9+ hrs
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Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Will Patton, is the third book in this series, and it is such a strong series of books.  Listening to these back to back on audio with the fabulous Will Patton as the narrator has been an immersive experience.  Where a hot room can feel like a jacket closing you in, readers will fall into the world Steifvater has created, wanting to uncover the magic and secrets within the pages quickly, but at the same time struggle not to linger over her images and poetic prose.  Adam and Blue are sent on a journey into the caves with the other Raven Boys, but as they are less sure of their own abilities, they are edging closer to a precipice they may not come back from.

What do you so when your psychic mother disappears, the Greenmantle comes to down to unearth darkness, and the Raven Boys are ever closer to discovering the resting place of a former Welsh king, Glendower?  While things have seen more certain, they are less certain than ever because the ley lines are in disorder, dream thieves are rifling with things they do not fully understand, and others are scrying in the search for guidance.  Time is fluid in this book, and so is what is real and what is not.  Stiefvater has woven a believable world in which readers will be trapped with Blue and the Raven Boys, searching for the unknown and hoping for answers.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Will Patton, reveals answers and poses more questions, but readers will never tire of this world and its fantastical elements.  Her characters are nuanced, engaging, twisted and damaged, but they all cling to some form of hope, a hope that things will improve, things will go their way, and that all will be re-aligned as it should be.  However, what they believe it to be, might not be how it ends up when all is said and done.  Stiefvater is a rare talent in the young adult fiction genre.

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader. All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia.