Saturday, November 28, 2020

Picture books to ponder: "Bear" and "Winter" and a quirky "Half" book to tickle one's fancy [Review & Giveaway - USA/CANADA]

A Polar Bear in the Snow by Mac Barnett, Shawn Harris

My thoughts: If you've ever been to a zoo that has Polar Bears, you know they love to frolic in the water. But we can't see them in their natural habitat no matter how hard the zoos try to replicate it.

This picture book uses stark white on white, grey on white, and occasional black pen strokes to show a bear's trek across the polar region and he is going somewhere. We're kept guessing until he reaches the water into which he plunges and has a gay old time playing and frocking in the frigid waters. 

The game of "find the bear" on the pages and the sparse text make this a book where one's imagination can take flight.

A good book.

About the book: A majestic polar bear heads out on a mysterious walk in a dazzling, playful collaboration from an exciting pair of picture-book creators.

Follow a magnificent polar bear through a fantastic world of snow and shockingly blue sea. Over the ice, through the water, past Arctic animals and even a human…where is he going? What does he want? Acclaimed author Mac Barnett’s narration deftly balances suspense and emotion, as well as poignant, subtle themes, compelling us to follow the bear with each page turn. Artist Shawn Harris’s striking torn-paper illustrations layer white-on-white hues, with bolts of blue and an interplay of shadow and light, for a gorgeous view of a stark yet beautiful landscape. Simple and thought-provoking, illuminating and intriguing, this engaging picture book will have readers pondering the answer to its final question long after the polar bear has continued on his way.

If Winter Comes, Tell It I'm Not Here by Simona Ciraolo  

My thoughts: This delightful book takes a small boy through the seasons leading from summer's warmth and fun to the cold and sometimes dreary time of winter. His sister tells him winter is coming and he wants nothing to do with it.

The illustrations are fun and capture the essence of childhood fun during the seasons. I love the way winter is pictured at the end and the positive tone of the whole book.

About the book: Despite dire predictions about winter, a child is smitten by the season’s charms in this ode to living in the moment.

Nothing is better than summer, with its joys of swimming every day and eating ice cream. One little boy’s older sister tells him he’d better make the most of it, because summer is going to end soon. When winter comes, she assures him, it will be cold and dark, and the icy rain will turn to snow. They’ll be stuck on the sofa for days and won’t even dream of eating ice cream…. Simona Ciraolo’s expressive illustrations belie the bleak forecast with images of glowing autumn leaves, cozy couch snuggles, wintry play, and sweet desserts. A celebration of the changing of the seasons, this inviting tale shows how much fun can be found around every sunny—or snowy—corner.

In the Half Room by Carson Ellis

My thoughts:
Carson Ellis has a way with presenting the odd or quirky story and illustrations with which we frankly don't know what to do. So essentially when he gives us one of these to ponder, we and the children to whom we read must delve into our imagination to see where Mr. Ellis is leading us.

In the Half Room is not a book about math or fractions. Though one might see this aspect as a possibility. It is a time to see what half an object is. To draw one's mind to the half and not the whole.

He loses me when the "half a person" meets their "other half" to become one individual who then runs out the room. But at least it is a whole person. (Now adults can ponder what being half a person, half a mind, half an individual is like. But that is, of course, too philosophical for children - and some of us adults to ponder.)

While I can see some fun and imagination exercises in this book, it is a bit strange but not in a bad way. 

About the book: From the Caldecott Honor–winning creator of Home and Du Iz Tak? comes a gorgeous and quirky tale of a wholly extraordinary room where everything is a half.

The light of the half moon
Shines down on the half room…

The half room is full of half things. A half chair, a half cat, even half shoes—all just as nice as whole things. When half a knock comes on half a door, who in the world could it be? With inventive flair, Caldecott Honor winner Carson Ellis explores halves and wholes in an ingenious and thought-provoking picture book. Ink and gouache illustrations featuring wry detail and velvety textures conjure a dreamlike mood while leaving space for imagining. A celebration of the surreal and the serendipitous and the beauty of the two together, this brilliant picture book will have readers seeing halves with whole new eyes. 

2 Winners, Each Win 3 Books
Begins November 29
Ends December 20  @ 12:01 a.m. ET
Open to USA & CANADA addresses
(NO P.O. Boxes. Canadian winners must provide phone number)
DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary copies to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Winners' prizes are provided and sent directly to the winner by publisher, Candlewick Press, or publicist.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Joy to the World By Carolyn Miller, Amanda Barratt, and Erica Vetsch

My thoughts: 
I do love a good Christmas story, and books with several novellas that are themed are especially delightful to read. In Joy to the World there are three lovely novellas set in England during the time known as Regency. These three stories take place around 1814.

The charm of the period and the social mores are intact as is the conversations between those of authority, ladies and gentlemen, hired laborers, etc. 

I have read other books by each of these authors and each time have found them to be totally enjoyable. This collection of novellas does not disappoint. 

I especially enjoyed meeting characters from previous novels by the authors. In Heaven and Nature Sing we have Edith's story. She is from the Elusive Miss Ellison (Regency Brides Collection). Love this.

In Far As the Curse Is Found we see the effects of war of long ago and how it affected the soldiers. I love how the female protagonist leads the man who is suffering back to the Bible and to acceptance of who and what he is post-war. Beautiful story.

In  The Wonders of His Love we venture forth with characters from Erica Vetsch's series Serendipity Series which I have loved. Overpowering in authority, the Dowager Duchess tries to manipulate Cilla into a marriage with an aristocrat whilst she is developing feelings for the itinerate artist engaged to paint the new Duke's and Duchess' portraits. A sweet story of love and breaking free of bounds of societies' restrictions. And this, too, was a sweet meet-again with previous story characters.

About the book: Inspirational Regency romance with a Christmas twist from three best-selling authors

In Joy to the World, three popular authors come together to offer a heartwarming collection of holiday Regency romance. Based on lines from a beloved Christmas carol, these three novellas in one book have depth, faith, and satisfying stories all packed into the perfect length for readers to curl up and take a brief break from their holiday busyness.

"Heaven and Nature Sing" by Carolyn Miller

Two music lovers, deeply devoted to each other, were on the brink of engagement when family circumstances drove them apart. How can they ever overcome their obligations and fears to find their way back into each other's arms?

"Far as the Curse is Found" by Amanda Barratt

One winter night, a woman struggling to provide for her illegitimate child encounters a scarred veteran of the Napoleonic Wars on the streets of London. Can love conquer the darkness of two broken pasts?

"Wonders of His Love" by Erica Vetsch

A Scots portrait painter with a hidden identity finds work at a noble manor house over the holidays. He never imagined he'd fall in love with the emotionally frozen widow there. Now he wants nothing more than to thaw her heart.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy from Kregel Publishing to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given.

Andrea Bocelli - You'll Never Walk Alone (Believe Studio Session)

This magnificent song is one I remember from my youth. It is gaining momentum in these days of uncertainty. As Andrea Bocelli (remember, he has been blind all his life) sings it so beautifully, let the depth of its meaning and the majestic impact of the words AND music fill your being. 

Love it! Pass it on to someone you love. 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Lovely picture books dealing with loss and change: "The Boy and the Gorilla" & "Rain Before Rainbows" [Review & Giveaway USA/CANADA]

The Boy and the Gorilla by Jackie Azua Kramer & illustrated by Cindy Derby (Hardcover ISBN: 9780763698324, Ages 4-8)

My thoughts:
Death can bring sorrow, grief, and lonliness at anytime and to anyone. It is hard to experience when one is an adult and even harder to experience the death of a loved one when you're a child and then to have the ability and opportunity to process that loved one's death.

The Boy and the Gorilla starts with the darkness and despondency of the death of a young boy's mother. They are leaving the gravesite and then are at home with people who are paying their respects. The colors and artwork are grey, black, blue and bespeak a heaviness of heart in the coloration and expressions.

As the story progresses this darkness expressed in the illustrations begins to brighten and give way to the promise of a brighter day ahead - slowly and surely.

As with children everywhere, this boy-child has an imaginary companion - "Gorilla." He is unobtrusive even with his massive size. He quietly responds to the statements and questions of "boy" with clearly stated truths. "Boy" seems to grasp the idea and comprehends.

This is a moving picture book that will help grieving adults reading to grieving children come to understand the reality of death, its inevitability for all living things, and how one can still have the lost loved one still with oneself in our activities, our thoughts, our memories.

A truly lovely book.

About the book: On the day of his mother’s funeral, a young boy conjures the very visitor he needs to see: a gorilla. Wise and gentle, the gorilla stays on to answer the heart-heavy questions the boy hesitates to ask his father: Where did his mother go? Will she come back home? Will we all die? Yet with the gorilla’s friendship, the boy slowly begins to discover moments of comfort in tending flowers, playing catch, and climbing trees. Most of all, the gorilla knows that it helps to simply talk about the loss—especially with those who share your grief and who may feel alone, too. Author Jackie AzĂșa Kramer’s quietly thoughtful text and illustrator Cindy Derby’s beautiful impressionistic artwork depict how this tender relationship leads the boy to open up to his father and find a path forward. Told entirely in dialogue, this direct and deeply affecting picture book will inspire conversations about grief, empathy, and healing beyond the final hope-filled scene.


Rain Before Rainbows by Smriti Prasadam-Halls & illustrated by David Litchfield (Hardcover ISBN: 9781536212839, Ages 4-8)

My thoughts:
The year 2020 has been frought with uncertainties, sadness, changes, troublesome issues, sadness, etc. Some have experienced great loss or unexpected trouble in a variety of ways. Children have lost the joy of childhood playing with others, school activities and associations. Just a hard year. You might say that, "2020 'rained on our parade'."

While Rain Before Rainbows was not written to help children deal with the issues of 2020, it certainly can help them realize that often there is the grey of a rainy day before the beauty of a bright, colorful rainbow.

The illustrations are stunning and beautifully present the evolution of beginning to ending of start to finish of night before bright day and so on.

An absolutely positive book with stunning illustrations and text that provides a hopeful and uplifting outlook on life. I heartily recommend. 

About the book: In this heartfelt story about courage, change, and moving on, a girl and her companion fox travel together away from a sorrowful past, through challenging and stormy times, toward color and light and life. Along the way they find friends to guide and support them, and when the new day dawns, it is full of promise. With gorgeous, richly realized illustrations and immense hope at its heart, Rain Before Rainbows holds out a ray of sunshine for anyone looking for light.

2 Winners, Each Win Both Books
Begins November 16
Ends December 12 @ 12:01 a.m. ET
Open to USA & CANADA addresses
(NO P.O. Boxes. Canadian winners must provide phone number)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary copies to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Winners' prizes are provided and sent directly to the winner by publisher, Candlewick Press, or publicist.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Nothing Short of Wondrous (American Wonders Collection #2) by Regina Scott

My thoughts: 
I found it interesting to read a story in the Yellowstone National Park in the early days of America's settlement of the area. The strife to keep the park pristine and free of man's disruptive behavior was also interesting. I am glad for the early days when people realized the importance of caring for the natural wonders, geysers, bubbling steam and Sulphur pots, amazing forest, and the Buffalo or Bison who had already been so depleted. 

I found the story slow paced. The characters simply didn't grasp my attention but neither was there a true fault in the author's development of them. Simply, didn't engage me a lot.

The boy, Danny, was the exception. Who couldn't love this boy? 

I finished the book and can recommend it as a good, gentle read and it is especially one that would interest anyone who has visited the park area or who has an interest in nature preservation.

About the book: When a sassy widowed hotel owner partners with a world-weary cavalry officer to defend the country's first national park and save the last wild buffalo herd in Yellowstone from poachers, they discover that two wounded hearts can lead to one powerful love.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate a review from the publisher. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Her Secret Song (Brides of Hope Mountain #3) by Mary Connealy

My thoughts:  Book 2 in the Brides of Hope Mountain ended with the oldest sister of the Nordegren girls, Ursula, remaining in an isolated, snowed-in cabin atop the mountain. Her fears of the world and of people overwhelming her.

As book 3 opens Ursula has lasted the winter in her self-imposed isolation and has a song in her heart. Music fills her being. But she senses a need to go down the mountain to where her sisters and a world of people abide.

Meeting an injured man, she reaches out to help him seek safety and cares for his many injuries. The story then brings Ursula and her sisters back together and their journey down the mountain begins.

Packed with welcome and awesomely witty storytelling, Her Secret Song brings a conclusion to this highly enjoyable, relaxing, and fun read. Author Mary Connealy coaxes out the funny and the impossible, the exciting and the mundane to bring a reader moments of totally enjoyable reading.

About the book: After a rough winter spent alone, Ursula Nordegren realizes she must overcome her fears of the outside world and begins a trek down Hope Mountain. Along the way she finds a badly wounded stranger and realizes God may have used her decision to leave as a way of saving the man.

Wax Mosby was climbing Hope Mountain in part to atone for his terrible choices. He was hired to drive out the Warden family and now knows he was duped. But when he's wounded during the climb, the last person he expects to rescue him is a beautiful blond woman with the voice of an angel.

As both Ursula and Wax weigh the costs of living new lives, the two find an unlikely bond. And they're joined by Ursula's sisters and the Warden family as the final showdown over the family ranch looms with the coming of spring.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given.

Monday, November 2, 2020

WILL YOU BE MY FRIEND? by Sam McBratney & illustrated by Anita Jeram [Review & Giveaway]

The first new Guess How Much I Love You picture-book story for 24 years!

My thoughts: 
The enchantment of story and picture from the joint work of Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram leap from the pages of this newest in the Nutbrown Hare stories.

Little Nutbrownbrown Hare is growning and venturing forth in search of a friend. He goes hither and yonder in his sweet search questioning "Will you be my friend?". Such a sweet and gentle story for your little ones to have read to them and for treasuring the joy of friendship as Little Nutbrown Hare does.

Parents and grandparents will love to present this sweet picturebook to their little ones. Those who grew up loving Big Nutbrown Hare and Guess How Much I Love You story will want a copy for their own keepsake. Such is the joy these stories bring the heart and mind.


About the book: One day Big Nutbrown Hare is busy, but Little Nutbrown Hare wants to play so he goes off exploring on his own. He discovers another hare in a puddle - then realizes it's his reflection. He spots his shadow and wants to race it - only to find it's just as fast as him. Then up on Cloudy Mountain he finally finds someone to play with: a little snow white hare called Tipps. And she's real! This lovely new story is a wonderful companion to the classic picture-book Guess How Much I Love You ; a charming tale about friendship with a delightful and original twist.

Begins November 3
Ends November 27 @ 12:01 a.m. ET
Open to USA & Canada addresses . No P.O.Boxes
Canadian winners must provide phone number. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary copy to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Winners' copy is provided and shipped directly to the winner by publisher or publicist.