‘Spin the Dawn’ by Elizabeth Lim is an engrossing fantasy about a young girl whose ambition proves world-changing

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In a fictional world reminiscent of ancient China, Elizabeth Lim creates “Spin the Dawn,” the story of Maia, daughter of a tailor who is as skilled as any tailor but who is barred from the profession because of her gender. Her father has lost his ambition since the death of Maia’s mother, and two of her brothers were killed in the Emperor’s war. Now, it’s just Maia supporting the family.

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‘The First Mistake’ by Sandie Jones — riveting and suspenseful

 

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“The First Mistake” by Sandie Jones is a truly suspenseful mystery with two female protagonists and a plot that is masterfully planned and executed. Alice finally seems to have her life together. After her first husband, Tom, died, she went to pieces. But for the sake of their daughter, she put her life together, relying on Nathan, whom she met and married less than a year after Tom died.

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Five animal-themed picture books kids will love

 

Animals and kids go together like hot summer days and ice cream or long sunlit days with reading lots and lots of books to kids before bedtime. And there’s nothing most kids like better than books about animals. Whether it’s a silly book or a book filled with adventure, kids love reading about animal antics.

pinky got outKids will LOVE “Pinky Got Out!” by Michael Portis, about a group of school children visiting the zoo when a flamingo gets out of the flamingo enclosure. The kids keep seeing Pinky, the flamingo, everywhere they go. Kids will love trying to spot Pinky on each page, and they’ll love what happens at the end. They will also learn a few facts about animals while searching each page for sightings of the pink escapee. You can tell them that the real-life Pinky is named Flamingo 492 and escaped from a Wichita, Kansas zoo and ended up in Texas on the coast where, fourteen years later, the bird is living happily. (Crown Books for Young Readers)

“Big Cat” by Emma Lazell is another humorous picture book, this one about a mix-up between a big catdomestic cat and a large cat, in this case a tiger. The action begins on the page before the title page, which features newspapers with partial headings like “missing” and “Mystery sightings” and pictures of tigers. Grandma lost her glasses, and she and her granddaughter are looking for them in a yard filled with cats when the young narrator tells Grandma that she’s found a cat. Grandma goes through all the adorable names of their cats. “Is it Ruby? Gertrude? Twinklywhiskers?Hufflystink?” They take the stray cat to the neighbors to see if she belongs to them, but the neighbors all “were not cat people.” Kids will LOVE identifying all the pets the neighbors do have! Although their new cat does eat a lot of cat food, they love him, but when a couple looking for their missing son find Grandma’s glasses and return them, she realizes that the new cat is not a cat at all! Be assured that no humans are harmed in the reading of this book, and there is a delightful twist (of course) at the end. (Pavilion Books)

In “Nelly Takes New York: A Little Girl’s Adventure in the Big Apple,” authors Allison nelly takes nyPataki and Marya Myers feature an adorable duo as they search the New York determined to find the Big Apple. Nelly and her beagle, Bagel, stop for a bagel (of the edible variety) in West Village, then go to the farmers market at Union Square. Each time they mention their quest, they are sent to another place. New Yorkers will enjoy reading about all the sights to visit as will those planning a trip to NYC. For students reading the book, a great activity would be to have a map of New York City handy to have children plot Nelly and Bagel’s journey across the city. This book could be used as a travel brochure praising the different New York City tourist sites and the “friendly New Yorkers.” The illustrations by  Kristi Valiant are worthy of mention. They are bright and colorful, but Valiant manages to make Nelly the center of attention, with her bright red jacket and curly black hair. (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

In “The Peculiar Pig” by Joy Steuerwald, a dachshund puppy somehow ends up in the pig peculiar pigpen one morning. Mama Pig, like most mothers, loves all her piglets the same, even the new, strange-looking, brown one. But when the other piglets push the little brown “piglet” away, she patiently waits her turn. The babies get bigger and bigger, only Penny, the dachshund, gets longer and longer. Mama Pig just tells her, “It doesn’t matter, Penny. I love all my little piglets the same.” More differences emerge when Penny barks instead of oinking. And while proper pigs dig with their snouts, Penny uses her paws. In spite of her diminutive size, Penny can outrun her piggy brothers and sisters. When danger threatens, though, Penny saves the day, proving that peculiar might just be perfect. Kids will love the idea that while someone might be very different from those around them, they might just be able to save the day sometime. (Nancy Paulsen Books)

one shoe two shoesIn a lovely take-off of Dr. Seuss, “One Shoe Two Shoes” by Caryl Hart is a simple but humorous book that kids will quickly memorize. They will love reciting the rhyming text along with the reader as the dog and the mice and the colorful shoes are enumerated and counted. While there are no cats (remember Thing One and Thing Two?), there is little mouse one and little mouse two. Like any self-respecting mouse, these also multiply. Between the shoes and the mice and the adorable dog, all illustrated by Edward Underwood in bright blocks of mostly primary colors, this one is definitely a treat for both the eye and the ear. (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover books provided by the publishers for review purposes.

‘The Summer Country’ by Lauren Willig is an ambitious tale of prejudice and plantations in Barbados during Victorian times

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“The Summer Country” by Lauren Willig refers to the island of Barbados, where it is summer all year long. The story is about three women, and from the beginning it alternates between 1812 and 1854. The story begins in 1854, when Emily Dawson and her cousin Adam travel to Barbados for different reasons. Adam is representing the family business now that his grandfather, Jonathan Fenty, has died, while Emily is traveling to visit Peverills, the sugar cane plantation that her grandfather left her in his will.

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‘Mrs. Everything’ by Jennifer Weiner is a fascinating study of sisters

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“Mrs. Everything” might be Jennifer Weiner’s most ambitious novel yet. She takes readers into the lives of two sisters, Jo and Bethie, who grow up during the 50s. Readers watch Jo and Bethie as the Kaufman family buys their first house in a suburb of Detroit. Readers with at least one sister will nod as the story shows girls who are very different in terms of personality and temperament, but who love each other — much of the time.

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‘The Yankee Widow’ by Linda Lael Miller is a fabulous historical fiction novel filled with ordinary people who do extraordinary things

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“The Yankee Widow” by Linda Lael Miller takes place during the Civil War and takes readers right through the Battle of Gettysburg in all its horror and death. Caroline Hammond, the main character, becomes a widow at the start of the story when her husband, young Jacob, dies after becoming grievously injured at the Battle of Chancellorsville. She travels to Washington City, as it was known then, and finds him at the point of death.

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‘Mr. Lemoncello’s All-Star Breakout Game’ by Chris Grabenstein is another wacky, wild contest filled with unpredictable action

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“Mr. Lemoncello’s All-Star Breakout Game” by Chris Grabenstein is the newest entry into the series that kids love to read. Kyle Keeley, the main character, is up against his arch enemy, Charles Chiltington, whose motto is: Chiltingtons never lose. Yet until this book, Charles has lost at all of Lemoncello’s games. When this new “All-Star Breakout” game is announced, he makes sure he won’t lose.

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‘Welcome to Wonderland: Beach Battle Blowout’ by Chris Grabenstein is much beloved in this student review

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“Welcome to Wonderland:  Beach Battle Blowout,” by Chris Grabenstein, will excite readers from the first page to the last. This funny and action-packed book is sure to make people laugh and gasp in suspense at the same time. Adding on to the series, New York Times bestselling author of “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” spins a story that, of course, has a beginning, a middle — and a twist.

P.T. Wilkie and his business-wiz friend Gloria Ortega make a really good team. As P.T. likes to say, Gloria is the “sizzle to his steak.” P.T.’s grandpa, who is the owner of the Wonderland Motel, finds out that all of the bigger attractions like Disney World are not going to be in this year’s Florida Fun in the Sun competition, so the smaller attractions have a chance to win the title of the hottest family attraction. The Wonderland Motel will have to get ready! Continue reading