November 16, 2012

Author, Mirka M.G. Breen, November 16th Reviews

     Thanksgiving is next week.  I am very grateful to be blogging about two wonderful books from an author who is part of my writing family.   These books are by Mirka M.G. Breen.  One book is a middle grade novel and the other a Thanksgiving holiday, picture story book.  Both books have the qualities that I look for and reflect the personality, skill and creative style of Mirka, who lives by and speaks her mind with authority, in a way that I truly admire.  Her creativity, skill, and style make for strong, clear, consistent voice.  It's the reason I chose to put them together. 

      Author, Mirka M. G. Breen's debut middle grade novel, THE VOICE OF THUNDER is nothing short of outstanding. THE VOICE OF THUNDER is set in 1967 Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, a lesser known, very important, historical event.  The reader is taken on a journey through the heart and soul of ten-year-old Mira Levi.  Mirka's voice breathes life into the innocence, fear, and struggle of Mira juxtaposed with her best friend, Gili Moser.  Using her own personal experience as a fifth grader living in Jerusalem during this war, Mirka has created authentic and memorable characters that leave the reader yearning to know what will happen next. I found this book insightful and entertaining.   

I rate this book, a 5 apple book, outstanding, cream of the crop.  Mirka's uses her writing skills, ability to create real and accurate characters, and her first hand knowledge of Jewish history to create a book that is award winning caliber.

    THE VOICE OF THUNDER is a 114 page, middle grade novel for both genders, ages 9 through 14. It masterfully captures the innocence and struggle of moving from childhood into adolescence. 

    The themes in this book are growing up, family, friendship, war and Judaism. 
     THERE'S A TURKEY AT THE DOOR by author Mirka M.G. Breen is another debut book, in story book format.  Published in 2011 and illustrated by Sonya Hallett, this holiday book takes place at Thanksgiving with a family that is vegetarian.  Tired of writing about Thanksgiving without turkey, third grade Niles gets a surprise visit from Henrietta. This charming book approaches Thanksgiving from a unique angle.  Full of humor, it will delight young and old, vegetarians and carnivores too.  

 I rate this book, a 4 apple book, a very good book. Mirka does a wonderful creating the characters of Niles and Henrietta and developing their relationship.

     THERE'S A TURKEY AT THE DOOR is a 24 page picture story book for both genders, ages 4 -9.    The age portrayal of Niles is carried out well while Henrietta remains an bird without any anthropomorphism.  This is a picture story book which means it has more text than a typical picture book.

     The themes in the book are Thanksgiving, vegetarianism, acceptance, and friendship.

    If you would like to learn more about Mirka and her books, you can check out:  Mirka's Website.  THE VOICE OF THUNDER is available through your local independent book seller, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and the publihser: WiDo.  THERE IS A TURKEY AT THE DOOR can be purchased through Amazon or by contacting Mirka through her website.  The publisher of this book is unfortunately out of business.  There are a limited amount of these wonderful books available.

     There is not a book giveaway with this post.

November 4, 2012

Book Wisdom, 5 Apple Review, November 5, 2012


     Choosing books for children is like walking down the cereal isle in a grocery store.  There are lots of options, some boring, some sugary, some colorful, some healthy.  Knowing what to look for can save you time and money and perhaps an unpleasant scene.  It can also help you to make conscious choices about what you feed your child.  The same is true for choosing what you read to your child.  

     This month is Picture Book Month.   I am honored to share three outstanding picture books, one shared by an author, one an author/illustrator, and one by a Canadian illustrator. This trifecta is an exciting group of books because they are all exceptional examples of writing and illustration.  In addition, they are developmentally appropriate, and fun.  Each book is reviewed below and information on how to buy the book and my giveaway are located below the reviews.

     When I look at writing, I look for strong hooks, a line that pulls me into the book, clear voice, strong and unique characters, a solid story arc, humor, word use, and a climax and conclusion that is quick and ties the story together in the perfect little bundle.  This sounds easy, but in a picture book, it takes a great deal of skill to pull it off.  Picture books are also written for several readers, child and the adult who is purchasing and/or reading to the child.

      Strong illustration also takes clear voice and vision. It must carry through a story in images depicting unique characters and view points that add to the story, and execution of humor and emotion that evoke a similar response in the reader/viewer.  On top of that major task, an illustrator needs to have a strong command of art elements and design principles.  When used well, they create flow, evoke emotion, and draw the viewer further into the story.  This needs to look effortless. Most readers and children do not know that most of the time authors have no say in how the illustration will look unless they are the illustrator themselves.

     A story that is developmentally appropriate fits closely with the readers developmental stage.  Picture books can be written for a variety of developmental stages and may cross over several.  The most common picture book age range starts around age 3 and goes through age 8.  The cognitive, social, emotional, and physical changes that children go through during this time span are significant and should determine what is written and illustrated.   I will talk more about this a bit later.

    Children learn through play.  Play is children's work.  Healthy play is engaging and fun.  Reading picture books can be playful or full of play and fun.  It engages the child and is often their first introduction to reading.
The Thankful Book by Todd Parr
     Perfect timing allowed me to share TODD PARR'S 24 page picture book, THE THANKFUL BOOK with anchor Meaghan Wallace on Grand Junction's CBS affiliate, KREX, NewsChannel 5, This Morning.
     I chose Todd's book because the days until Thanksgiving are ticking down and thankfulness or gratitude is something that we can never have enough of.  I am very grateful for Todd writing and illustrating this book.  Thankfuls are an evening ritual in my home before we eat modeled by our nephew some years ago.  It stuck.  It allows us to stop amidst the chaos and reflect on what is important. 
     A new release, THE THANKFUL BOOK simply shares this point of view from the perspective of a small child.  It hooks the reader.  You want to know what is next,  Todd pulls it together with the simple truth there are lots of things to be thankful for.  His illustrations are friendly and full of bold colors, perfect for a young child learning about who they are.  
     It's fun and engaging.  I am thankful for underwear because I like to wear it on my head.  This is a priceless line.

    THE THANKFUL BOOK  is for children of both genders, ages three and up. 

    The themes in this book are cultivating gratitude and sharing gratitude.

    You can learn more about Todd,this children's book and his other award winning books at: Todd's Website or through his publisher Little, Brown & Company. 

I'M BORED by Michael Ina Black, Illustrated by Debbie Ohi
     I'M BORED is funny new picture book that takes a simple, common line, children love to repeat to adults and each other, and fully engages the reader. Michael Ian Black 's words are elevated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi's illustrations.  Try convincing a potato that there is nothing boring about a child.  Black and Ohi do exactly that with the spot on match of words and illustration.  I'M BORED is clever and fun.  Debbie's energetic illustration style captivates the reader through how it paces the book. Scale and dynamic use of line set the story in constant motion and emotion.  I read the story with only looking at the pictures and knew exactly what happening.  I'M BORED fits the pure definition of picture book.  

    I'M BORED  is for children of both genders, early school age and up. It's developmentally appropriate by the use of the challenge of looking at the world from a matter of fact viewpoint and having to deal with a potato. 

    The themes in this book are boredom, humor, and self assurance.

    Thank you Debbie for sending the book to me! You can learn more about Debbie,and this children's book at: Debbie's Website or through her publisher Simon & Schuster  Books For Young Readers.  
     Award winning author, Tammi Sauer takes the training a princess to a new, royal level, in her hot off-the-press, picture book, PRINCESS IN TRAINING illustrated by Joe Berger.  Everyone knows a princess or two, a want-to-be princess, a princess in hiding. You might even live with one.  The glittery dynamic cover with Princess Viola Louise Hassenfeffer skate boarding across the front fuels the "must read this list" even for non-princess adults.  Tammi captures what it is like to not be an ordinary princess in a world of that wants ordinary princesses. Tammi's clear writing voice and strong, unique character in Viola sets the lively pace captured in the fun, intense, action packed illustrations. It's picture book perfect. This book is sure to help redefine and redirect the stereotype of princess in a positive way.

PRINCESS IN TRAINING will be high interest for girls and boys will also relate.  It is appropriate for early school age and up. Viola's strong desire to fit in and do right by what her parents and royal society wants while becoming more independent make it a very relatable theme for children. 

    The themes in this book are being ones self, fitting in, family obligations and stereotypes.

    You can learn more about Tammi,and this children's book at: Tammi's Website or through her publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group. 

You can find these five apple picture books from all the major book sellers.  Also, they can be ordered from your local independent book store.  In Grand Junction that bookstore is Grand Valley Books.

     Thanks for tuning in this morning or visiting this blog.  Leave a comment on this blog and/or like the Book Wisdom page on Facebook and be entered to win one of these great books.  If you sign up for the once or twice monthly post, you will automatically be entered monthly!  Just me know by email as your privacy is always respected.  I do not know who subscribes.