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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.

Imagine That! How Dr. Seuss Wrote The Cat in the Hat by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Source: Random House
Hardcover, 40 pgs.
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Imagine That! How Dr. Seuss Wrote The Cat in the Hat by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, is a whimsical biography of Dr. Seuss and his creation of The Cat in the Hat, which happens to be one of my favorite books from childhood.  The book, which came unbound that promptly became disordered when my daughter pulled it out of the envelope and took a bit for me to get in the right order, has very colorful illustrations of Seuss and his creations.

Young readers will learn that Dr. Seuss had already written a number of books before the Cat, and that the Cat was what came of a list of words his friend challenged him to use when creating a first-grade reader book.  It’s fun how the mind of Seuss is said to have worked to come up with the Cat and his adventures.

My daughter was happy to see the pictures and read some of the words in this one with me.  She would prefer a real bound book, she says.  Something we’ll have to look into.  Until then, we’ll enjoy revisiting the author in Imagine That! How Dr. Seuss Wrote The Cat in the Hat by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes.

RATING: Quatrain

2017 New Authors Reading Challenge

From the Author:

I was born in Washington DC and grew up a few miles away in Falls Church, Virginia. My father was a photographer. When I was little, he took hundreds of photographs of me.

​My mother was a school librarian. She and my father read to me every day, and I learned the words in books by heart long before I could read them myself. Later, they encouraged me to learn longer poems from Alice in Wonderland, Alice Through the Looking Glass, and Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

I began writing and illustrating my own books when I was seven. Sometimes I wrote my school reports in rhyme. I also wrote plays and performed them with my friends. Our favorites were tales of Robin Hood, and the Greek myths.

Weird But True Know-It-All: U.S. Presidents by Brianna DuMont

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Paperback, 192 pgs.
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Weird But True Know-It-All: U.S. Presidents by Brianna DuMont from National Geographic Kids is probably best suited to ages 8-12 and contains numerous weird facts about our nation’s presidents.  In addition to facts about the presidents, there are some fun facts about the White House, including information about what renovations were made by several presidents — one of the first being an indoor bathroom.  The White House also has a chocolate shop, a florist shop, and a dentist within its walls, and the fact that the White House was built on a swamp is actually a myth.  There’s a list of powers for each branch of government, but lest you think this book is boring, you just have to keep reading on.

Thomas Jefferson, for example, organized a contest to design the White House, and historians secretly think he entered and lost the competition.  James Monroe, our 5th president, once defended himself in an argument with his treasury secretary with a pair of fire tongs — talk about a heated argument.  Another interesting tidbit is that Andrew Jackson, our 7th president, fought more than 100 duels in his lifetime.  That’s a lot of disagreements.  And you can thank William Howard Taft, the 27th president, for that tradition of the president throwing out the first pitch in baseball.  One of my favorites, John F. Kennedy, apparently penned his own spy thriller and talked about how to deal with Cuba with Ian Fleming — yes, that Fleming.

Weird But True Know-It-All: U.S. Presidents by Brianna DuMont is really enjoyable for younger readers and adults.  I think it would be a great book to take on a trip and quiz each other about presidential facts.  Pick up a copy and start having fun on your next road trip.

RATING: Cinquain

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

Stick It to ‘Em: Playful Stickers to Color & Create: 275+ Stickers with Sass for Family, Friends, and Frenemies by Bailey Fleming

Source: Quarto Books
Paperback, 104 pgs.
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Stick It to ‘Em: Playful Stickers to Color & Create: 275+ Stickers with Sass for Family, Friends, and Frenemies by Bailey Fleming is a unique collection of stickers and tools for doodling and creating your own stickers.  My daughter hasn’t created her own yet, but she’s had a great time coloring the pre-made stickers and sharing them with her parents — putting them on our phone cases and laptops.  I’m just happy they are not all over the house.  What’s great about this collection is that it is for young and old alike, as some of these stickers are for adults to deal with their own stresses through coloring and creating their own snarky comments and pictures.  Some recommended tools for creating colorful stickers include felt-tip pens, colored pencils, water color paints, and brush pens, among others.

There are techniques for adults and kids to use to create visually enticing lettering for logos and sayings on their stickers, as well as ways to enhance those statements with accompanying doodles.  There are even pages that break down images into simple steps to make them easier for kids to replicate in the blank sticker spaces.

Stick It to ‘Em: Playful Stickers to Color & Create: 275+ Stickers with Sass for Family, Friends, and Frenemies by Bailey Fleming is an excellent creative outlet for young and old.  Let your imagination soar with these stickers.

RATING: Quatrain

2017 New Authors Reading Challenge

Seasons of Joy: Every Day Is for Outdoor Play by Claudia Marie Lenart

I had the pleasure of working with Claudia Marie Lenart to edit her children’s poetry book, Seasons of Joy: Every Day is for Outdoor Play, which was published by Loving Healing Press in April 2017.

Her needle-felted wool paintings are incredibly detailed and depict children at play in all kinds of weather.  Multi-cultural and joyous, these children become life-like characters that children will want to see and touch.  Each poem calls to mind the carefree days of childhood.  The games played and the imaginations running wild as the children romp and play with bunnies, birds, and in trees.

These pages are full of bright colors and fun games that kids can take with them into their own communities and neighborhoods.  Not only do the poems show children enjoying the company of others who look different from themselves, but it also shows how much fun sharing can be.

Pick up a copy and share with your kids, grandkids, and others in the community.  Get out there and play.

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
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Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts, is a delightful story of a young girl bubbling over with so many questions and problems to solve. She reminds me so much of my daughter and her endless questions about why things are and how they became. Many kids inquire, but like Ada, they need to be encouraged to explore, to experiment, to create, and to discover. Ada is a strong girl who is not afraid of failure, with each mishap she begins again, returning to her same questions and moving forward with each new piece of information she learns.

Her parents and teachers have no idea what to do with her inquiring mind, and even when they put her in the “thinking” chair, it’s hard for Ada to stop her exploring and wondering. My daughter and I are just beginning her exploring from rock discovery kits to scientific explosions and creating slime. It’s wonderful to share with her the knowledge I learned and to see how she uncovers the connections and has fun doing so.

The poetry in Beaty’s book is fantastic, if a little awkward in some places. But overall, children will get the bug — the discovery bug — and want to find out for themselves how the world operates and what is going on around them. Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts, is delightful, and my daughter and I cannot wait to check out the other kids books she has about kids dreaming big, doing great things, and having fun too.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Andrea Beaty was raised in southern Illinois in a town so small she knew everybody and their pets. And they all knew her. She was one of six kids and spent our summer days traipsing through the fields and forests hunting for adventure. She was a big reader as a kid and LOVED Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon Mysteries. Then Andrea moved on to Agatha Christie books and then the classics. She attended Southern Illinois University and studied Biology and Computer Science. After that, she worked for a computer software company. Now, she lives in Chicago with her family. Visit her website. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

Also, check out David Roberts’ illustrations online.

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 56 pgs.
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Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan is a Newbery Honor Book, Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book, and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book, and the author notes that he was inspired to write about the 11 slaves listed as property for the Fairchilds estate in 1828. The slave-related document only listed the slaves as “woman” and “boy”, etc., and no ages were given.  Bryan ascribed ages and names to these slaves and gave them jobs on the estate, and the stories he tells in a free-verse poetry format are telling.  My daughter and I read this together in February for Black History Month, but it is a book that has lessons that should be taught to kids everyday.

Bryan’s illustrations aim to breathe life into the dreams of these slaves, those who are bound to an estate with little hope of freedom, except in their minds.  They have skills praised by their owners, and any money they earn from the neighboring plantations enriches their owners.  It’s hard to see how this life could not make the slaves feel hopeless, but Bryan’s free verse poems recall the inner freedom their skills and accomplishments can bring — they have dreams of something more, if not for themselves, for others who they teach and mentor along the way.  From musicians to architects and doctors, these slaves had dreams that out shined their current situations.

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan demonstrates the harsh realities of slavery, while still providing children with a glimmer of hope and joy.  It speaks to the resiliency of the human spirit, as well as the darker drive to control others and deem them less worthy for arbitrary reasons.  The illustrations are bright and dreamlike, and kids will be drawn in.  My only complaint is that the free-verse is very narrative, and less rhythmic than expected.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Ashley Bryan grew up to the sound of his mother singing from morning to night, and he has shared the joy of song with children ever since. A beloved illustrator, he has been the recipient of the Coretta Scott King—Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award; he has also been a May Hill Arbuthnot lecturer, a Coretta Scott King Award winner, and the recipient of countless other awards and recognitions. His books include Sail Away; Beautiful Blackbird; Beat the Story-Drum, Pum Pum; Let It Shine; Ashley Bryan’s Book of Puppets; and What a Wonderful World. He lives in Islesford, one of the Cranberry Isles off the coast of Maine.

A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Roberton

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
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A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Roberton is a colorfully illustrated story told from two perspectives — an exuberant young girl and a beast from the woods.  The young girl comes upon the beast in the woods and she decides to take him home and make him a pet.  Once home, the beast is dressed up, not allowed to leave, and shown off to all her friends, among other things.  Looking at the illustrations, kids should be able to tell that the beast is not very happy with the situation.  When the story is told from the perspective of the beast, we learn that the girl coming upon him and kidnapping him was a traumatic experience.  He doesn’t like being man-handled, etc., but later, both characters learn to set reasonable boundaries and a new friendship is born.

Parents can use this book to demonstrate empathy to their children, showing them that each story has two sides and that finding common ground is not as difficult as it may seem.  A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Roberton is a good story with lots of action and words that kids in Kindergarten could read on their own.

RATING: Quatrain

DC Super Friends: Girl Power!

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 16 pgs.
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DC Super Friends: Girl Power! is a board book that introduces young readers to not only Super Girl and Wonder Woman, but also Catwoman and Poision Ivy. Catwoman has stolen jewelry in this one and the superheroes come together to find and bring her to justice. There are flaps to lift in every scene, and while my daughter enjoyed that part of it, it seemed a little young for her.

Each of the characters have a young fresh face, which makes them easy to relate to for young children.  The flaps will keep preschool and younger children engaged as their parents read the text to them.  But lest you think the male counterparts are not to be seen, the book also includes Superman, Green Lantern, Two-Face, and more.  They all work together to fight against injustice and crime, and at the end they celebrate together.  Meanwhile, Catwoman is foiled by a fellow villain, Cheetah — which further demonstrates that crime not only doesn’t pay but that there seems to be no loyalty and friendship in it.

DC Super Friends: Girl Power! is a good board book introduction for younger kids, but for those in Kindergarten, the story is a little all over the place and more about introducing characters than a fight against crime.

RATING: Tercet