Review/ The Boundless

Review/ The BoundlessThe Boundless by Kenneth Oppel
Published by HarperTrophy on March 10, 2015
Pages: 336
Goodreads

Will Everett has always wished for an adventure. Little does he know that his adventure starts the moment he boards the Boundless. There is a murder, and now Will must protect a key that can unlock the train's hidden treasures. Villians are fast on his heels and strange creatures are lurking outside the windows as the Boundless hurtles across the country. Together with Maren, a gifted escape artist, and Mr. Dorian, a circus ringmaster with amazing abilities, Will must save the Boundless before someone else winds up dead.
His adventure may have begun without him knowing . . . but how it ends is up to Will.

Ready or not, school has started.  Along with this great adventure for our children comes great amounts of homework.  Homework may include…the dreaded book report.  It is challenging to get most kids to do their homework.  Add a book report and the challenge becomes even more difficult.  However, I have a solution.  “The Boundless” by Kenneth Oppel is a FANTASTIC novel for a book report or presentation.  For students in grades 6, 7, and 8, this is a book that they will enjoy reading AND sharing with classmates.  I absolutely loved reading this book and so did my husband, a train enthusiast and adventure seeker.

Situated during the final stages of construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, “The Boundless” adds a bit of history to a fiction novel.  Not a lot of history to bore you, but just the right amount to include in those reports.  It really helped stage the novel and shared insight into the attitudes of many individuals involved with the railway.  A young reader may not have known this history, and the author did not take this back-ground information for granted.  The setting is in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, majestic and breath-taking, dangerous and foreboding.

On its maiden journey, “The Boundless” is the most magnificently built machine of its time.  The rich, famous, and most important individuals are embarking on a ride of a lifetime.  True to those times, classes amongst the people decided your place along the train cars with the owner of the train in the first car and the travelling circus at the very back.

Young Will accompanies his father on this journey of all journeys where it becomes apparent that people are not who they say they are and more importantly, lives are traded for valuable items.  Will must save his father’s life, but who can he trust? Men in suits or the oddities from the travelling circus.  Can wits, tricks, and magic save the day?  Can Will truly count on his new friends?

A fast-paced mystery aboard a moving train on new tracks in the mountains that may or may not be filled with snow monsters keeps the readers flipping the pages to read on and immerse themselves in this journey.  I could not put this book down!

Ready for the ride of your life? Read, “The Boundless” and get ready to have your breath taken away.

Review/ The Road to Ever After

Review/ The Road to Ever AfterThe Road to Ever After by Moira Young
Published by Puffin Books on October 17, 2017
Pages: 240
Goodreads

Part Benjamin Button, part Harold and Maud, part Brian Selznick and part Neil Gaiman, this is a unique, magical story that will draw readers in and make them fall in love with both characters.
Davy David is a thirteen-year-old orphan, who lives in the bushes in a town ruled by a strict minister, Reverend Fall. A talented artist, Davy loves to draw pictures of angels in the dirt, in the early hours of the morning before the townspeople are awake. He spends his days on his own, except for a small dog, who has attached himself to Davy, often going to the library to find inspiration for his pictures of angels. One day, after chasing after a ball for some of the town's boys, he finds himself in the yard of the old boarded-up museum, now rumoured to be the home of a witch. The witch is Miss Elizabeth Flint, an elderly woman who has a proposition for Davy: drive her to her childhood home, where, it turns out, she has made the decision to die.

Davy loves to sketch.  He is talented and his ways are unique.  He sketches using brooms and twigs.  The dry sand that he walks upon is his canvas.  Davy sketches angels.  His favourites are the archangels.  It is while sketching that Davy’s life changes forever.  This is how the story begins and what a beautiful tale Moira Young has to tell.

Davy befriends an elderly lady named Miss Elizabeth Flint.  She needs a ride to her childhood home and she has decided that Davy would suit her just fine.  Davy is not a willing participant.  However, life has a way of changing the circumstances surrounding you.  Along with a dog named, George, Davy drives this cantankerous old bitty to her destination.

Through chance encounters, the story develops with one adventure leading to another.  Perhaps, chance has nothing to do with it.  Maybe this journey was written in the stars a long time ago and a few angels were needed to complete the quest.

Touching and heart-felt, readers ages 12 and up will relate to Davy and cheer him on.  Davy’s courage to face the unknown in order to fulfill the wish of a friend is exemplary.  A wonderful story to share with anyone.  Dreams do come true and, sometimes, with a little help from and angel or two.

Review/ The Kidnappers

Review/ The KidnappersThe Kidnappers by Willo Davis Roberts
Published by Aladdin on January 26, 2016
Pages: 208
Goodreads

This bestselling classic novel about bullying gone awry from three time Edgar Award–winning author Willo Davis Roberts is a “fast-paced mystery [that] unfolds with suspense and excitement” (School Library Journal).
I didn’t like Willie Groves, but I didn’t hate him enough to want someone to kidnap him.
Famous last words. Joey Bishop soon finds himself face-to-face with the kidnappers—and his archenemy—in this fast-paced story that will leave you glued to the edge of your seat.

Sometimes I find a real bargain book.  Not the 50% off kind of bargain but the “I’m going for $2.00” bargain. With prices like these, it is also a risk as to what kind of book it really is.  Will it be any good?  Why is it so inexpensive?  Well, “The Kidnappers” by Willo Davis Roberts was one such book on the bargain table for a mere $2.00, and…I lucked out!  It’s a great read!

Perfect for any late elementary school reader, this fast-paced kidnapping drama will keep you on your toes and your fingers doing the page flipping.

When Willie Grooves, a.k.a., the bully, is kidnapped, it is up to Joey to save the life of a kid who basically wants to pulverize him.  What should he do?  Joey doesn’t think twice and tries to get everybody and anybody to listen to him.  The problem, Joey likes to tell tales and this time he cried wolf one too many times.

Will Joey be able to get the help he needs in time to rescue his nemesis?   Will Joey have a change of heart?  Will Joey be able to untangle himself and his enemy from the grasp of the kidnappers?  Don’t miss out reading this exciting adventure!

Books for the Season of Autumn

Since Jennifer’s last blog post of recommendations of books for babysitting did so well Jennifer has decided to do one for the fall season. So here is her suggestions for some fall books. We hope you enjoy this and get some ideas to read this fall.

Summer has finally decided to bow out and autumn has blown in with its chilly winds.  The leaves are showing off their multicolour coats and cinnamon and pumpkin spices linger in the air.

Living in Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving during the month of October.  Therefore, many of our autumn traditions are combined with those of Thanksgiving.   For example, every year, the whole family meets up at our favourite apple orchard.  We hitch a hay ride through the orchard and then pick and eat apples to our hearts’ content.  Apple donuts and apple fritters are consumed on our way to the car.  A quick stop at the farmer’s house where we choose pumpkins that will soon become jack o’ lanterns.  Seasoned veggies are purchased at great prices and with cars full, and bellies content, we all head over to my parent’s home where Thanksgiving dinner will be devoured in the hours to come.  I wouldn’t change this for the world.

Despite the ages of my children, 14 and 11, this time of the year gathers us together to reminisce in childhood picture books and stories of thanks.  I would like to take this opportunity to share with you a few of the books we read year after year and has become a part of our autumn tradition.

 

 “The Falling Leaves” by Steve Metzger and illustrated by Jill Dubin is an all-time favourite.  My kids still cheer for Yellow Hickory.  Your kids will too.  Thanks to the wind, nothing is as the other leaves had anticipated.

Leaves

“Leaves” by David Ezra Stein beautifully illustrates the changing seasons through the perspective of a little bear.

Thanks for Thanksgiving

“Thanks for Thanksgiving” by Heather Patterson and Mary Jane Gerber is a beautifully illustrated book about a family’s Thanksgiving traditions.  It is similar to that of our own which is most likely why it is a favourite.

Thanksgiving Day in Canada

As my children got older and understood more, I added “Thanksgiving Day in Canada” by Krys Val Lewicki and illustrated by Ana Auml to our autumn selection of books.  Narrated by grandparents, this book is informative and historical surrounding the customs of Thanksgiving. I would read this one to children in grades three and up.

In a couple of weeks, these books will be read, if they haven’t already.  I am grateful that my children still appease me in this tradition, for I know, as they grow, traditions will need to change and grow, too.  Happy Thanksgiving. –

What are some of your favorite fall books?

Books For Babysitting Recommendations

Good Morning. Today Jennifer has a different kind of post for you today and that is Books For Babysitting.

My fourteen-year-old son, Nathan, babysits.  As a former babysitter, I suggested bringing the kids a surprise upon his arrival.

  1. a) kids love surprises
  2. b) it is a great ice-breaker
  3. c) something to look forward to

Being book advocates, Nathan and I scour shelves for great bargain books to offer as gifts.  This doesn’t break his bank and it is a great way to put the kids to bed at night.  Here are the most recent picks and each one priced at $3.00 or less:

The Ants Go Marching One By One: Read With Me“The Ants Go Marching One by One” by Frankie O’Connor & illustrated by Nicole Groot Illustrated by a teenager, this picture takes a classic rhyming song and adds fun and colourful pictures on every page.  Join the ants and sing-a-long! For preschool children and older.

Sea Rex“Sea Rex” by Molly Idle. This picture book puts a hilarious spin on the important rules to follow at the beach through the illustrations of a Sea Rex.  The book has reinforced binding therefore it can be enjoyed by all kid ages three and up.

GILBERT THE GREAT“Gilbert the Great” by Jane Clarke & Charles Fuge. Through the use of a board book and beautifully illustrated pictures of under the sea, a shark named Gilbert comes to terms with loss and sadness.  While dealing with these emotions, his mom gently guides him until his heart begins to heal and become happy once more.  For children ages five and up.

Down At The Dino Wash Deluxe“Down at the Dinowash Deluxe” by Tim Myers & illustrated by Macky Pamintuan. A wonderfully illustrated book with quirky bath-time tips for dinosaurs.  Bonus, two pages of dino facts.  A fun read for any kids who doesn’t like to take a bath.

Mad Scientist Academy: The Dinosaur Disaster“Mad Scientist Academy – The Dinosaur Disaster” by Matthew McElligott. Written in a comic book format, this picture book is filled with mystery and riddles for any early grade school student to solve.  Engaging and fun, picture books are for everyone.

Scholastic Reader Level 2: Tales of the Time Dragon #1: Days of the Knights“Days of Knights – Tales of the Time Dragon” by Robert Neubecker. A great picture book for early to middle elementary grades.  Red, the Dragon, takes you on a quest to the past, where things are not what you are used to.  Filled with time lines, maps, and glossaries, this picture book is both fun and informative.

Hope you enjoyed our few picks of bargain picture books for kids.  They make great gifts any time of the year.

Review/ The Key to Extraordinary

Review/ The Key to ExtraordinaryThe Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd
Published by Scholastic Press on April 25, 2017
Pages: 240
Goodreads

Everyone in Emma's family is special. Her ancestors include Revolutionary War spies, brilliant scientists, and famous musicians--every single one of which learned of their extraordinary destiny through a dream.
For Emma, her own dream can't come soon enough. Right before her mother died, Emma promised that she'd do whatever it took to fulfill her destiny, and she doesn't want to let her mother down.
But when Emma's dream finally arrives, it points her toward an impossible task--finding a legendary treasure hidden in her town's cemetery. If Emma fails, she'll let down generations of extraordinary ancestors . . . including her own mother. But how can she find something that's been missing for centuries and might be protected by a mysterious singing ghost?
With her signature blend of lyrical writing, quirky humor, and unforgettable characters, Natalie Lloyd's The Key to Extraordinary cements her status as one of the most original voices writing for children today.

I was not disappointed with reading a second novel by Natalie Lloyd called “The Key to Extraordinary.”  Her writing is consistent, engaging, and meaningful.   Her characters are entertaining, and the descriptions of the surroundings are so vivid, I could picture myself there.  In fact, I keep reading Natalie’s books because of how I can imagine myself in these places and befriending these characters.

Dreams tell a lot.  For Emma and her family, a special dream determines your extraordinary destiny.  For most of Emma’s ancestor’s, their destiny is more or else clear.  However, for Emma, this in not the case.  Emma must untangle the clues of her dream, find a hidden treasure, and confront a ghost that is possibly protecting the mystery underlying Emma’s dream.

I felt an immediate connection to the main character, Emma.  She would offer tours of the graveyard to locals and visitors.  My Dad sold monuments for a living, so walking in a graveyard and reading tombstone inscriptions was a natural part of my childhood.  I smile to myself to think that Natalie captured something like this in a book.

The beloved journal with all the dreams safely recorded leaves a soft spot upon my heart.  Emma has a deep connection with her ancestors.  She can read about their dreams and learn what their extraordinary destiny was in life.  Written on journal pages of their own, the reader can share in the journal entries.  This opens questions about her own mother and herself.  The treasure hunt that will follow will not only fulfill her own destiny…

The names of each character are as extraordinary as this novel.  I will not divulge any in order not to ruin the fun.  They are flowery and musical in perfect harmony.  The secondary characters help Emma emotionally and physically which makes them family.

The mystery and intrigue surrounding the treasure hunt is what makes this novel a page tuner.  Readers ages eleven and up will be running alongside Emma and her friends as they run away from ghosts and treasure robbers.

A novel just as wonderful as her first one entitled, “A Snicker of Magic”.  (click on book title to read that review) I’m also pleased to announce that Natalie Lloyd has started a new series called, “The Problim Children” which I can’t wait to get my hands on. (I did not make a spelling error 😊

The Problim Children

Review/ Baker’s Magic

Review/ Baker’s MagicBaker's Magic by Diane Zahler
Published by Capstone Young Readers on February 1, 2017
Goodreads

Bee is an orphan, alone in a poor, crumbling kingdom. In desperation, she steals a bun from a bakery. To Bee's surprise, the baker offers her a place at his shop. As she learns to bake, Bee discovers that she has a magical power. When a new friend desperately needs her help against an evil mage, Bee wonders what a small orphan girl with only a small bit of magic can do. Bee's journey to help her friend becomes a journey to save the kingdom, and a discovery of the meaning of family.

I love when books happen to find their way into my hands and into my heart.  “Baker’s Magic” by Diane Zahler in one such book.  I do not remember how I came upon this novel, but I am glad that it found a home amongst my bookshelves.

The novel situates the reader in a kingdom run by a disgruntle and powerful wizard who has control over all the land.  Add an orphan, a princess, a boy, pirates, wizards, a baker, a hedgehog, and you have the makings of a great story.

Absolutely starving, Bee finds herself in a bakery, stealing a sticky bun before she even knows what she is doing.  From this beginning, Bee is offered a place to call home, learns to trust in others, and discovers that she has a wee bit of magic in her.  Just enough that her baking absorbs this magic and it can then be shared with others.  Very useful when you are trying to save a princess, rescue her father, the king, while negotiating with pirates, and battling with wizards.

Throughout this incredible journey, Bee discovers what family is all about and learns the true meaning of the word, home.  A wonderful novel for both boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 13.  A yummy recipe is included at the end of the story, to help you create a little baker’s magic of your own.  A must read for those who love one adventure after another.