Archive for the ‘Children’s’ Category







Author:  Jeffrey Hickey

Paperback, 39 pages

Re-published in 201 by Big-n-Boo Productions

Genres:  Middle School Ghost Stories

Synopsis: Bats and Bones is IPPY award winning author Jeffrey Hickey’s second work for children. This collection of spooky tales for middle school aged children and above is a subtle masterpiece of fright and emotion. Hickey wrote all the stories, the lush music, and does all the voices for the audio book. His wife, Karen Kiser, contributes the cover art, along with some penny whistle and a little piano. The inside illustrations, layout and design are by Rachel Betz, who also designed Hickey’s first work for children, Wages Creek.

This was originally released as a CD only. This is the first edition in print.

My Review: This is a fun book even though it is full of spooky stories.  I say that because the audio is so well done, that I couldn’t help but smile all the way through! If you can use headphones to listen, it makes it even better. My favorite story is Eye on Five, mostly because of the fast pace and excitement that is caused by the accompanying sound effects.

I am a huge Hickey fan and am delighted that he published this in print so that my children can look through it and read it at their leisure for years to come.

The writing is without fail as I would expect from Mr. Hickey.  This would be a fun book to listen to while camping, or during a children’s sleepover.  Well done!

Did I say I love the cover?  I do!

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.


wagesAuthor:  Jeffrey Hickey

Paperback, 40 pages

2nd Edition Published in 2014 by Big-n-Boo Productions

Genres:  Children (All ages really)

Synopsis:  Dercum Audio is pleased to invite you on a camping trip with the Hickey Family, where everything is going great until Dad catches a cold. That’s when the real fun begins. The story takes place at Wages Creek, a magical place where the grasses are tall, the creek bubbles lullabies, and the local ducks are not like any ducks you’ve met before.

My Review:  It is no secret that Jeffrey Hickey is a great storyteller.  It should also come as no surprise that his talents are not limited to books geared toward adults.  This very charming and often laugh-out-loud book is where Hickey shines.  I say this because it comes with an audio version read by Hickey accompanied by music that he scored.  To fully enjoy the experience of this book, you must listen to the audio while reading.  Not to say that the book alone isn’t worth the read because it is, but the audio vaults it to another level. 

As Hickey’s family leaves him behind in the campground with a bad cold, hilarity ensues with the arrival of three ducks.  Able to understand and talk to the ducks, Hickey offends Gilbert, the patriarch of the group and an intense game of horseshoes begins.  With a wager that he must win, this tale is both funny and heartwarming rolled into one.

Kudos must also be given to Hickey’s wife Karen Kiser for her lovely illustrations.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the author free of charge in exchange for an honest review.


Author:  Susan Hughes

Paperback, 74 pages

Published in 2013 by Red Deer Press

Reader Category:  Children’s

Synopsis:  It’s the start of winter, and Patrick is beginning to feel crowded out of his own family. His father’s friend, Linda, and her seven-year-old daughter, Claire, are coming for dinner again. By the time spring arrives, not only is Patrick’s father planning to marry Linda, but she and Claire will be coming to live with them at the summer’s end. That just won’t do. So Patrick comes up with a big idea. He’ll build a tree house where he can stretch out his arms and breathe. But wait. Will his father allow it? Where will he find the perfect tree? Who will give him a hand with the construction? And, most importantly, will his own tree house really be the hideaway he hopes for, especially from the irritating Claire?

As the autumn season arrives, Patrick discovers some surprising answers to these questions – and learns a little about the meaning of family.

My Review:  Using the seasons to mark the transformation of one young boys feelings toward his father’s impending re-marriage works well here.  Things are going well for Patrick during the winter where he shares some of his favorite “firsts” of the season with his best friend Harry.  As the year passes and he learns of his father’s decision to remarry, he starts to feel his world change and his once cozy home becomes too cramped even before Linda and Claire move in.  In order to satisfy his desire for space, Patrick with Harry’s help builds a tree house.  Little does he know that the tree house not only offers the space he craves, but the healing that he needs.

This was a well-written book geared toward young children who are going through similar life changes.  It is easy enough for a child to read to themselves, but would also be good read aloud in a family setting.



Author: Joshua Kraushar

Published in 2013 by Outskirts Press

Reader Category:  Children’s/Young Adult

Synopsis:  There Once Was A Man From the U.S.A. is a book of limericks about each of the fifty states in alphabetical order.   The book contains several illustrations from the talented Victoria Rose Weiss.  Many of the limericks have very little connection with the states mentioned but some are directly related to several of the others.  Although it may seem simplistic to use the same rhyme scheme, it turned out to be much harder than one would think.  Try rhyming words with Massachusetts, (not that’s something that you would normally do) and you might find it more difficult than you would imagine.  If you are a child, a teen or a geographically challenged adult who needs an easy way to remember the fifty states, this may be the book for you.

My Review:  From the very first limerick I was hooked.  Some of them are laugh out loud funny while not always appropriate for the younger reader.  The others are simply entertaining.  As most of them don’t have direct connections to their state, I was a little concerned about them sticking with me.  But the fact that they are funny and entertaining, led me to read them over and over again.

So, did this book help teach me about geography?  Not sure.  However I do think that the entertainment value of this book will help encourage young readers to take an interest in learning the 50 states.


Author: Tim Johnson

Published in 2013 by The Language Bear

Reader Category:  Children’s

From Goodreads:  Designed to teach your child new words and phrases in a new language while enjoying a beautifully illustrated, wholesome bedtime story.

Bosley Bear gathers his toys and goes to the beach to make lots of new friends and learn lots of new words. Discovering that other animals at the beach have interesting capabilities like flying or swimming, Bosley realizes that he has something that makes him special in his own way.

My Review:  This book came to me as a review request by the author.  As I was reading, I put on my “As a mother would I…” cap and am pleased to say that, yes I would use this book series to encourage my child to learn another language.   Initially I was a little worried when I saw the complete translation on each page, but being that only a few select words are highlighted to the reader, my worries went away.  This book is not attempting to teach sentences or entire phrases to children, it is merely trying to teach a few words at a time.  I must admit that I learned a few new words myself!

A great story accompanied by great artwork, Bosley helps children learn that everyone has unique skills and we can all appreciate each other for what we bring to the world.

I would definitely recommend this book to friends with small children who are looking for exposure to different languages.




Author: Gregory Maguire

Hardback, 295 pages

Published in 2007 by Candlewick Press

Reader Category:  Younger

AR Book Level: 5.0

From the Publisher: On the darkest night, amidst a terrifying storm, Dinah’s parents go missing.  While anxious Dinah and her brother and sister worry and huddle for warmth, their cousin Gage tells them an unlikely story – about tooth fairies, known as skibbereen, who are living in warring colonies right in the neighborhood.  According to Gage, the skibbereen put those teeth to good use.  And Gage has met them.  Dinah is skeptical, but as the story unfolds and the storm rages on, she begins to believe.

My Review:  This is the first book that I have read from Gregory Maguire and I have to say that I was not disappointed. The story goes back-and-forth between the What-the-Dickens and Dinah, but is easy to follow.

Dinah and her brother and sister are home-schooled and sheltered and the very thought of using your imagination to tell stories is foreign to them.  When Gage begins weaving his fantastical tale of the skibbereen, Dinah is completely hooked.  She hangs on his every word and values the story more than sleep.

I have to admit that the story really came alive when What-the Dickens met Pepper, an experienced tooth fairy who makes him realize that he has no idea how someone of his kind should behave.  Pepper is leery of What-the-Dickens at first and thinks that he must be a spy from a rival colony, but eventually accepts him as a simple, not-so-bright skibbereen that needs help navigating his new world.

This book is full of humor and heart.  It is a great read for the entire family and would be a fantastic book read aloud.  I highly recommend it to all ages.


Posted: July 23, 2013 in Children's, Reviews
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Author:  Brandon Mull

Paperback, 351 pages

Published in 2006 by Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Reader Category:  Younger

AR Book Level: 4.8

From the Publisher: For centuries mystical creatures were gathered into a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction.  The sanctuary is one of the last strongholds of true magic.  Enchanting?  Absolutely.  Exciting?  You bet.  Safe?  Well, actually, quite the opposite…

Kendra and her brother, Seth, have no idea that their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven.  Inside the gated woods, ancient laws keep order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies.  However, when the rules get broken, powerful forces of evil are unleashed, and Kendra and her brother must face the greatest challenge of their lives to save their family, Fablehaven, and perhaps even the world.

My Review:  This is an adventure not unlike the Spiderwick Chronicles that involves many exciting magical creatures and the children that must keep them safe.  When Kendra and her brother reluctantly stay for a visit with their grandparents, they have no idea the fantastical world they will encounter.  After a few hiccups, the children are entrusted with the basic secrets of Fablehaven.  When Midsummer Eve arrives, all of Fablehaven is threatened.  The children must now transform their grandmother back to her human state and race to save the preserve they love from the Society of the Evening Star.

My son and I spent many late nights reading this book out loud.  He often would refuse to turn out the lights until we read just one last page!  I would recommend this to all fantasy lovers.


Author: Suzanne Collins

Paperback, 412 pages

Published in 2007 by Scholastic Inc.

Reader Category: Targeted to the younger reader, use judgement

AR Book Level 5.0

From the Publisher: Everyone has been trying to keep Gregor from seeing the Prophecy of Time.  That is because the final prophecy calls for the warrior’s death.  With an army of rats quickly approaching and time running out, Gregor must defend Regalia and get his family back home safely.  There is a code that must be cracked or all will be lost.  It is a war designed to end all wars.

The fates of the Underland and the great warrior, Gregor the Overlander, masterfully unfold in this thrilling and suspenseful final installment in Suzanne Collins’ Underland Chronicles.

My Review:  I can truly say that I was sad to see this series end (maybe that is why I read the series twice!).  In this final book, a cast of unlikely characters must work together to save their world.  Gregor must also say goodbye to people and creatures that he has come to love.


Author: Suzanne Collins

Paperback, 343 pages

Published in 2006 by Scholastic Inc.

Reader Category: Targeted to the younger reader, use judgement

AR Book Level 5.0

From the Publisher: Now with the third prophecy fulfilled, Gregor is drawn into a crisis.  For generations, rats have run the mice – or “nibblers” – out of whatever lands they’ve claimed, keeping them on the move.  But now the mice are disappearing, and the young queen Luxa is determined to find out why.

When Gregor joins her on a fact-finding mission, the true fate of the mice is revealed.  It is something far more sinister than Gregor or Luxa had imagined – and it points the way to the final prophecy he has yet to fulfill.  Will Gregor’s role as warrior and his abilities as a rager be put to the test?

My Review:  This book of the series brought the most tears to my eyes so far.  Each book to this point was equally moving, but something about small defenseless mice and the fate that they suffered here just got to me.  Gregor and Luxa show extraordinary courage in their quest for the justice.


Author: Suzanne Collins

Paperback, 358 pages

Published in 2005 by Scholastic Inc.

Reader Category: Targeted to the younger reader, use judgement

AR Book Level: 4.8

From the Publisher: With two prophecies fulfilled, Gregor is now focused on the Prophecy of Blood, which calls for Gregor and “the princess,” Boots, to return to the Underland to help ward off a plague.  His mom agrees to let them go – on the condition that she travel with them.

When they arrive in the subterranean city, the plague is spreading – and one of Gregor’s family is stricken.  Only then does he understand his role in the prophecy.  he must summon all his power to end the biological warfare, or the warmblood creatures of the Underland will die.

My Review:  Continuing the series, Gregor is off on yet another quest.  This particular journey is much more personal for Gregor and as he uncovers more secrets of the Underland, he also exposes a treachery too deep to imagine.  Suzanne Collins has managed to keep readers enthralled in this series and leave them rushing to the next installment.


Author: Suzanne Collins

Paperback, 309 pages

Published in 2004 by Scholastic Inc.

Reader Category: Targeted to the younger reader, use judgement

AR Book Level 4.7

From the Publisher: Months have passed since Gregor first fell into the strange Underland beneath New York City, and he swears he will never go back.  But he is destined to be a very key player in another prophecy, this one about an ominous white rat called the Bane.  The Underlanders know there is only one way to lure Gregor back to their world: by kidnapping his little sister, Boots.

Gregor’s quest reunites him with his bat, Ares, and the rebellious princess, Luxa.  They descend into the dangerous Waterway in search of the Bane.  If Gregor does not fulfill the prophecy, his life, and the Underland, will never be the same.

My Review:  Diving right into the second book of this series was a no brainer for me.  I was so eager to continue the adventure and see what the prophecies of Bartholomew Sandwich had in store for Gregor!  The reader will not be disappointed as Gregor is once again thrown into participating in another hair raising prophecy.


Author: Suzanne Collins

Paperback, 308 pages

Published in 2003 by Scholastic Inc.

Reader Category: Targeted to the younger reader, use judgement

AR Book Level: 4.8

From the Publisher:  When eleven-year old Gregor follows his little sister through a grate in the laundry room of their New York apartment building, he hurtles into the dark Underland beneath the city.  There, humans live uneasily beside giant spiders, bats, cockroaches, and rats – but the fragile peace is about to fall apart.

Gregor wants no part of a conflict between these creepy creatures.  He just wants to find his way home.  But when he discovers that a strange prophecy foretells a role for him in the Underland’s uncertain future, he realized it might be the only way to solve the biggest myster of his life.  Little does he know his quest will change him and the Underland forever.

My Review:  The Underland Chronicles is a phenomenal series that can be enjoyed by all ages.  I instantly fell in love with Boots, Gregor’s delightfully funny two-year old sister.  She adds much needed levity to a series of dangerous and often deadly prophecies that Gregor is compelled to fulfill.  This first book is a treasure that I have read more than once.  In fact I have read the whole series more than once!


Author: Kevin Bolger

Paperback, 215 pages

Published in 2008 by Penguin Books

Reader Category: Younger

AR Book Level: 5.2

From the Publisher:  The Kingdom of Armpit is in trouble!  A frightful Booger is on the loose, and it’s sliming everyone who gets in its way!  The looks like a job for Sir Fartsalot – the bravest, boldest, fartiest knight in all the land!  He and his friends Prince Harry and Sir Knotaclew must set out on a hilarious quest to come face-to-phlegm with the snotty scoundrel…but can they defeat him once and for all?  Or are they about to meet their ooey, gooey, boogery end?

My Review:  This is a funny story about an aging knight who is hunting a monster with a terrible stench.  What he doesn’t realize is that while the monster is real, the stench he is looking for is actually his own!  Kevin Bolger has created an entertaining story that kids of all ages will enjoy.


Author: Christopher Healy

Hardback, 438 pages

Published in 2012 by HarperCollins Publishers

Reader Category: Younger

AR Book Level: 5.0

From the Publisher:  Prince Liam, Prince Frederic, Prince Duncan, Prince Gustav.  You’ve never heard of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as Prince Charming.  But all of this is about to change.  Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Gustav stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger reach of their kingdoms.  now it’s up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other assorted terrors and become the heroes no one ever thought they could be.

My Review:  This is easily one of my favorite young reader books.  It offers laugh-out-loud action and characters that left me hoping that this would soon become a movie.  Each of the “Prince Charmings” has their own cross to bear, and as mismatched as this band is, they come to together in a funny, heartwarming tale of love and friendship.

zac and the dream stealers

Author: Ross MacKenzie

Paperback, 297 pages

Published in 2012 by Chicken House

Reader Category: Younger

AR Book Level:  4.7

From the Publisher:  Zac can’t sleep.  And neither can anyone else.  A bunch of bad dreams keeps robbing the whole wide-awake world of rest, and one night when the clock strikes twelve, Zac is torn from his own not-so-sweet slumber to be tossed-and-turned into a strange, surreal realm.  Nocturne, this land is called, and its frightening nightmares are a sign that a nasty band of dream stealers is seizing control.  Zac won’t rest – he can’t rest – until he finds a way to stop these silver-masked “insomniacs” and take back the night!  If he doesn’t, you might never sleep again.

My Review:  This is a fun, engaging book perfect for the primary grade reader.  Packed with fun characters and plenty of adventure to hold a young reader’s attention.  Zac is a boy with a grandmother who is definitely on the super-secret cool side of insomniac fighters! Read along while he, Granny, Tom and Tilly race to help the Knights of Nod banish evil for good!


Author: Polly Shulman

Paperback, 325 pages

Published in 2010 by Scholastic Inc.

Reader Category: Younger

AR Book level: 4.0

From the Publisher: Elizabeth has just started working as a page at the New York Circulating Material Repository, a lending library of objects – contemporary and historical, common and obscure.  And secret, too – for in the repository’s basement lies the Grimm Collection, a room of magical items straight from the Grimm Brothers fairy tales.  But the magic mirrors and seven-league boots and other items are starting to disappear.  And before she knows it, she and her fellow pages – handsome Marc, perfect Anjali, and brooding Aaron – are suddenly caught up in an exciting but dangerous adventure!

My Review:  This is a great book for all ages.  If you like fairy tales mixed with a little intrigue, you will enjoy this book.  Elizabeth is an ordinary but endearing character who encounters adventure, magic and even a little bit of romance.  Join her as she searches for clues in the quest of the missing articles.