Book Review: The Biggest Burp Ever: Funny Poems for Kids by Kenn Nesbitt

The Biggest Burp Ever cover imageKenn Nesbitt firmly believes that reading funny poems helps kids learn to read by making them laugh and want to keep turning pages. If that’s the case, then his newest book, The Biggest Burp Ever: Funny Poems for Kids, should create new bookworms by the droves. Every poem delivers a chuckle, a giggle, or a guffaw, and kids (as well as a few parents) are likely to see a little bit of themselves in the poems too.

In a sign of the times, many of the poems are about kids and other family members using technology, like this poem:

im rlly gd @ txting

im rlly gd @ txting.

i do it all day lng.

im spedy on the keybrd

n my thms r supr strng.

Other poems are about kids trying to get out of homework and stay home from school, kids dealing with family members, and kids and pets. Illustrations by Rafael Domingos are simple and playful, like the one of a pirate in a tutu doing a pirouette with a raised sword to go with the poem, “I’m a Pirate Ballerina.”

The whole collection is fun and funny, and you and your kids will be inspired to read them again and again.

The author provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The God of Sno Cone Blue by Marcia Coffey Turnquist

The God of Sno Cone Blue cover imageWhen Grace thinks back on her childhood, she sees it split into two: the time before her mother got sick and died, and the time after, when the letters her mother wrote to her started to arrive. Before, even though she was the child of a preacher and felt the pressure of being considered a “goody two shoes,” Grace felt like she knew what to expect of the world. After, her mother’s letters reveal stories from her own teen years and the events that set her on a path to become a preacher’s wife. The letters reveal things Grace never expected to know about her mother, information that sends her on a journey of discovery that will change the rest of her life.

The God of Sno Cone Blue by Marcia Coffey Turnquist is a story of mothers and daughters and the profound impact they can have—both good and bad—on each other’s lives. Grace’s mother, Sharon, tells stories of her own mother, a woman with no tenderness to show her children. Astrid is a mother to be feared rather than loved, and Sharon vows to be different. Dying young, she wants her daughter to truly know her, so she writes the letters and directs that they be delivered over time, as Grace turns from a pre-teen to a teen.

The God of Sno Cone Blue brings up many issues to discuss in book clubs with teens aged older than 15 or those with adults only. Why does grief often make people question their religious faith? How does knowing someone with physical or mental challenges change peoples’ perspective of others who are challenged? How important is the image we create of ourselves and the person we believe ourselves to be? What defines a family?

I purchased my copy of this book from the author.

Book Review: Bright Coin Moon by Kirsten Lopresti

Bright Coin Moon cover imageLindsey and her mother are barely eking by, telling fortunes in a small Oregon town. But Lindsey is unmoored when their home mysteriously burns down and her mom whisks them off to California so they can get rich telling fortunes for stars.

Lindsey desperately wants to pursue her dream of going to college and becoming an astronomer, but she’s not sure her mother will survive her leaving. Also, she finds herself attracted to the boy next door, but she’s not sure how much she can trust him to keep her secrets. Ultimately, Lindsey must decide how to transition from her current reality to the future she wants.

Bright Coin Moon by Kirsten Lopresti looks at the influence parents can have on helping their children develop a moral compass…or not. Lindsey knows that her mom runs scams to bilk people out of money, yet she feels it’s necessary for their survival. The web of lies they build around themselves is hard to maintain, Even the other people they collaborate with in their deceptions can’t be trusted.

While I would have liked to see Lindsey struggle more deeply with the ethical and moral issues raised in the book, Bright Coin Moon provides an interesting story for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 14 and up to have their own discussions about getting by regardless of who you hurt with your actions.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Interview with Liz Prince, Author of Tomboy

Yesterday, I featured a book review along with a giveaway of Liz Prince’s Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir. Today, Prince is stopping by Mother Daughter Book Club. com to answer a few questions.

Here’s a little bit of information you may want to know about her before reading the interview:

Liz Prince is an autobiographical cartoonist who currently lives outside of Boston, Massachusetts, with her two cats, Wolfman and Dracula. Her first book, Will You Still Love Me If I Wet the Bed?, won the Ignatz Award for Outstanding Debut in 2005. She has since published the comic strip collections Delayed Replays and Alone Forever. She has drawn comics for the wildly popular Adventure Time comic series, is a regular contributor to Razorcake magazine, and self-publishes her own comics and zines. She is still a tomboy, and can frequently be found shopping in the boys’ section at thrift stores.

Now, on to the interview.

Liz Prince photos

Liz Prince…then and now.

What do you like most about telling a story with words and illustrations?

LP: I’m a very visual person, so the drawings tell as much for me as the words do.  I believe that the strength of the artwork in my comics is in the acting and emotion that I’m able to convey in my characters.  It’s very fulfilling to be able to use two narrative devices at once.

What do you find most challenging about it?

LP: I know that my art isn’t the most technically precise: I still have trouble with realistic perspective and rendering textures and backgrounds.  I’m still developing those skills, but I’ve hopefully created a style of drawing that fits really well with my narrative, and ultimately makes the stories so much more me.

When you were growing up, you were bullied for not fitting into expectations for how they felt girls should dress and act. Do you think things have changed at all for kids who don’t conform? What helped you get through those times?

LP: I think that there are a lot more resources for parents who have gender non-conforming children, and a lot more understanding that gender binaries shouldn’t be so strict.  I would hope that things have changed, but I can’t say for sure!

My parents, being as supportive as they were, really made me feel comfortable just being me.  My story would probably be a lot different if my mom was forcing me into party dresses and making me take ballet classes.

 How did you eventually find the right path for you?

LP: Honestly, it was probably half luck and half being stubborn.

What is the most important thing you would like readers to remember after reading your memoir?

LP: I would like the readers to remember the importance of being yourself; anything else is disingenuous.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to readers at Mother Daughter Book Club. com?

LP: I hope that folks will keep up with me and my comics at www.lizprincepower.com!  Thanks for the questions, Cindy!

Book Review & Giveaway: Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for Liz Prince and Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir. I highly recommend the book for two reasons: it’s an interesting story with great graphics to help tell it, and it can generate a discussion about the expectations others put on us to behave in certain ways. I have one copy to give away to a reader with a U.S. address. To be entered into the drawing, leave a comment below about why Liz’s story appeals to you. Just be sure to comment by midnight (PST), Tuesday, November 4.

Check back in tomorrow when author Liz Prince stops by for an interview. And if you’d like to see other stops on the tour, visit the blog tour page at Zest Books.

Here’s my review:

Tomboy cover imageGrowing up, Liz Prince was considered a tomboy. She liked to wear boys’ clothes, keep her hair short, and she was the only girl in her local Little League. Liz was just behaving in a way that felt right for her, but other kids didn’t like the fact that she didn’t fit into her expected gender role, which meant she was bullied. While she avoided doing “girly things,” she was also attracted to boys, a combination that didn’t often work out for her. With the support of a core group of friends, and her discovery of comics and zines that speak to her creativity, she forges a path of acceptance for herself.

Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir is Prince’s story about her experiences growing up. It shows that even with supportive parents and close friends, life can be difficult when you don’t conform to people’s expectations. Prince reveals her struggle with candor, and I expect that many readers who feel like they don’t “fit in” in some way will relate to her experiences. Her illustrations create scenes from playgrounds and in classrooms that do a great job of capturing how she thought and acted through the year.

Tomboy should be a great way to start a conversation about gender expectations, both for boys and girls (Prince’s younger brother was bullied for growing his hair long like a girl’s). I highly recommend it for book clubs with members aged 14 and up.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Close by Erika Raskin

Close cover imageThe Marcheson family is slowly coming undone. The parents are divorced, and Kik, the mom, is afraid she’s about to lose her teaching job. The oldest daughter is skipping school, doing drugs, and angry most of the time. The middle daughter is cracking under the family stress, and the youngest is precocious. Grasping at straws, they turn to a TV psychologist for help. Just as they are beginning to see improvements, one of the girls goes missing. The crisis will either tear the family apart forever or help them bind together.

Close by Erika Raskin, looks at the fragile link that holds families together. The unraveling of one thread can rapidly lead to the disassembling of the whole unit. Parents and children may have the best intentions, but they don’t always let their true selves be known. Instead, they may hide sadness and insecurity behind a mask of anger, sarcasm, disorganization, and overwork. Finding a way out is difficult, because someone has to know how to take the first step. But if they can find a way to express love and trust with each other, they may be able to carve a path to a brighter future.

Close switches back and forth between the Mom’s point of view and that of each of the two oldest daughters. This lends a little perspective that helps readers understand each of their stories and makes it readable by a wide range of ages from 15 up.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Interview with Colleen Gleason, Author of the Stoker & Holmes Novels

Yesterday I featured a book review and giveaway of the newest book in Colleen Gleason’s Stoker & Holmes series. Today, the author drops by to answer a few questions for readers at Mother Daughter Book Club. com.

Colleen Gleason photo

Colleen Gleason photo by Kate Co. Photography

The Spiritglass Charade is the second in your Stoker & Bram series, following The Clockwork Scarab. What did you find most challenging about writing a sequel?

CG: I would say that the most difficult—but yet most important part—of writing the sequel was to make sure both main characters showed some sort of character growth. They have to change somehow between the beginning and the end of the novel, and they will have to continue to change throughout the rest of the series (a planned five books). So not only am I working on significant character development for one character, as in most books, I really have to focus on two of them. So it’s twice the fun!

What did you like the most about writing the sequel?

CG:  I loved revisiting the girls and the other supporting characters (Dylan, Pix, Grayling). With each book (I just finished writing the third), they become more familiar, and I learn more about each of them—and about their world. It’s like a discovery and I just love it.

And then there is the whole aspect of creating a steampunk amusement park, which I do in the book. While we don’t spend a lot of time there, the concept is introduced and I can tell it’s going to be a lot of fun to revisit it in future books.

Spiritual mediums and séances to contact the dead play an important role in the book. Was there a particular reason you chose to make them part of the story?

CG: Séances and spirit-talking were such a fad in Victorian times that I thought it would be fun to incorporate such a popular topic in the story. As well, it fit with my two characters and their backgrounds: Mina, who of course doesn’t believe there is such a thing as a ghostly presence, and Evaline, who—being a vampire-hunter—is very open-minded. So not only was it relevant to the time period, it also worked really well for their characters and their interaction.

How do you see Evaline and Mina evolving in their partnership?

CG: They are evolving in what I hope is a natural fashion—from competitiveness and mistrust of the other along with the desire to do things “her” way, to grudging admiration and the beginning of a respectful connection. Maybe they will someday consider themselves friends, and not merely partners. I do think each of them has learned to accept and respect the other’s skills—and maybe to even begin relying on that by the end of this second book. There is also an important moment at the end of the book that will really change the way they think about the other.

You mentioned there are five books planned for the series. Can you tell us anything about what to expect next?

CG: In the third book, tentatively titled The Chess Queen Enigma (Oct 2015) our heroines will find themselves looking after a princess from the country of Betrovia and on the hunt for a lost chess queen. The Ankh will return in this story, and, I’m sorry to say, there will be two deaths. But at least we will see more of Angus, and the girls will attend a ball.

Book Review and Giveaway: The Spiritglass Charade: A Stoker & Holmes Novel by Colleen Gleason

Don’t miss this delightful second books in the Stoker & Holmes series. As part of the blog tour, I have one copy to give away to a reader in the U.S. To enter, leave a comment below letting me know what you love about steampunk; get your comment in by midnight (PST) on Saturday, October 25. Visit again tomorrow for an interview with author Colleen Gleason.

Other stops on the blog tour:

Here’s my review:

The Spiritglass Charade cover imageEvaline Stoker and Mina Holmes are back on a case. The vampire-fighting sister of Bram Stoker (author of Dracula) and the niece of Sherlock Holmes team up in the second novel of the Stoker & Holmes series for young adults, The Spiritglass Charade. This time they are tasked with investigating the case of a young woman obsessed with spiritual mediums and séances. Willa Ashton’s mother has recently died and her younger brother, Robby, has disappeared. Willa is convinced her mother speaks to her and that Robby is alive. Evaline and Mina quickly discover that someone seems to want Willa, herself, out of the way, and the culprit is willing to make Willa seem mad in the process.

As in the first book of the series, The Clockwork Scarab, all the delightful details of an alternative, steampunk London of long ago are here. Electricity is outlawed and most things run on steam, with cogs falling into place to turn wheels. The atmosphere is dark, and gritty, with levels of sidewalks built upon one another. The lower levels, of course, are where the riff-raff and the action are, and the two crime fighters have plenty of reason to find both.

While Evaline and Mina are a mismatched pair, they have learned to expect each other’s strengths, and they are settling into an easy partnership. Things are also heating up with the romantic interests from the first book: Dylan, a time-traveler who seeks to get back to his own time, Ambrose Grayling, a young Scotland Yard inspector, and Pix, a master of disguise who seems to know everything that goes on in the underworld.

The Spiritglass Charade successfully uses an obsession from the real historical timeframe—the popularity of spiritual mediums and talking with the dead—to create an imaginative, action-filled story that never stops delivering. I recommend it for readers aged 12 and up.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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