Wednesday, August 26, 2015


(I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher)

When my son started Kindergarten two years ago, I was afraid about what knew social pressures he would face. Our Back to School theme for that year was taken from Sting: "Be Yourself No Matter What They Say."  I didn't want him to lose those parts of himself that were so special just to fit in with the other kids. So far so good!  If this book had been around two years ago, it would definitely have been one of his first day of school gifts.

ALLY-SAURUS AND THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL follows the adventures of an imaginative little girl named Ally who loves dinosaurs and likes to pretend that she is one. Ally hopes to meet other dinosaur-loving children at school. Ally quickly discovers that not all kids love dinosaurs as much as she does. Some love space and some love lions and some even like (gasp!) princesses. Ally has a difficult moment with the "princesses" when they tell her that dinosaurs are not allowed to eat at their table. She quickly meets other friends, however, and the children figure out how to play together in all their imaginative forms.

The illustrations in this book are so charming.  I love that Ally and her friends reveal their alternate identities through child-like scribbles.

I also really enjoyed how the book included some conflict and demonstrated how the children worked through this conflict. I think it is important that children understand that they will be facing new ideas and situations at school and that there are ways to figure out how to work out differences in a positive way. The book is very sweet and I loved how it ended with a visit to the school library!

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended!  Very sweet illustrations and a charming message about being yourself while letting others be themselves as well.

Thursday, August 06, 2015


(I received a copy of this book from the publisher.)

THE DRESSMAKER is one of those books that manages to be funny and sad and dark and infinitely readable all at the same time. Tilly Dunnage has finally returned to her small Australian hometown after twenty years ago.  She left in the midst of scandal and spent her years away learning about fashion in Europe. She returns home to take care of her ailing mother and discovers that the past has never really left.

Ham has come with an amazing and interesting cast of characters. The small town of Dungatar is filled with all manner of scandals behind closed doors--illicit affairs, children out of wedlock, cross-dressers, madness, financial ruin. Ham's vision of small-town life is utterly captivating even if it can be difficult to keep track of the large cast of characters. As the bastard child of the town "harlot," Tilly was ruthlessly bullied as a child. The flashback scenes to her childhood are horrific and painful. The scandal behind Tilly's departure is slowly revealed throughout the story.

While the book is often funny and always entertaining, it is also very dark and sad. This is a revenge story and no one really gets a happy ending. I found the book very hard to put down. I was a bit disappointed with the ending. There is a complicated plot line involving a play that I felt caused the story to drag. It was necessary in order for the ending to occur but I felt it was a bit of a letdown after such an entertaining story.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. This book is currently being made into a movie starring Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth. I am interested to see how a story with so many characters and so many plot lines can be developed into a movie. I am hoping the movie will have a little more humor and a little less darkness. While I was disappointed in the ending, I found this book to be a very enjoyable read overall.

See the international trailer for the new movie here.

Monday, August 03, 2015


(I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher)

I have been getting so many quality children's books to review lately.  This one is no exception.  I was immediately charmed by this book because of our recent addition to the family:

(Bacchus the Brave)

MAX THE BRAVE is about a fearless and brave kitten named Max. Max desperately wants to chase mice but he doesn't know what a mouse is. Max visits a variety of animals trying to find a mouse to chase. Through some clever misdirection, he is eventually led to a monster and told that the monster is a mouse. Brave little Max decides to take on the monster. In spite of the monster's big teeth!

This book is absolutely adorable.  This was my very favorite illustration:

I love the simple and graphic illustrations and the story is quite amusing. The little kitten's journey will remind some readers of I WANT MY HAT BACK.  I think this would be wonderful to pair with SKIPPYJON JONES.  Skippyjon is another kitten with delusions of grandeur and I think the two go together quite nicely.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  A charming book about one kitten's quest to be a brave mouse-chaser.  Very sweet story with wonderful illustrations!