Book Review: Don’t Forget Dexter by Lindsay Ward

Dont Forget Dexter cover imageDexter is a T-Rex who’s a lovable softie, the playmate of a child who accidentally forgets him in the pediatrician’s waiting room. When Dexter realizes he’s alone he sets out to find his friend Jack, drawing a picture of him, trying to get the attention of the receptionist, and singing their special song in the hope that Jack will hear it and come back. Dexter’s efforts grow increasingly frantic as he fears that Jack has left him on purpose, in favor of a better toy, and he becomes determined to find his way back home.

In Don’t Forget Dexter, author Lindsay Ward captures the way children often see their playthings as being able to think and feel. While telling the story from the toy’s point of view she is able to portray a variety of emotions in this sweet picture book: happiness, fear of abandonment, joy, sadness and more. And parents will likely have a lot of fun reading the story aloud, as Dexter scratches and roars and chomps and sings and splashes and cries in despair.

A word of warning: Dexter, with his cute little nose bumps, oversized head and swishy tale is likely to inspire cries of, “I want a dinosaur!” from children who fall in love with him on the page. After reading Don’t Forget Dexter (probably over and over), what parent could resist?

Read an interview with author Lindsay Ward and enter to win a copy of Don’t Forget Dexter (U.S. addresses only, please.)

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

Interview and Book Giveaway: Lindsay Ward, Author of Don’t Forget Dexter

Don’t Forget Dexter is an adorable picture book that celebrates the bonds between a child and his special toy. Tomorrow, I’m reviewing the book, which I loved, and today I am taking part in a blog tour with a feature interview of the book’s author, Lindsay Ward, who says she was inspired to write this book after her husband texted her a photo of a toy dinosaur abandoned at a doctor’s office. The caption read: “Well, they left me here.” Lindsay thought it was so funny that she sat down to write Dexter’s story immediately.

I have one copy of Don’t Forget Dexter to giveaway to a reader with a U.S. address. To enter, simply leave a comment here about your own special stuffed animal or toy from childhood. Comment before midnight (PST), Tuesday, January 30, 2018.

Ward is also the author and illustrator of Brobarians, Henry Finds His Word, and When Blue Met Egg. Her book Please Bring Balloons was also made into a play.

Most days you can find Lindsay writing and sketching at her home in Peninsula, Ohio, where she lives with her family. Learn more about her online at www.LindsayMWard.com or on Twitter: @lindsaymward.

Lindsay Ward photoHow did you decide to become a writer and illustrator?

LW: When I was 15 I got my first job working at a children’s bookstore. I was lucky enough to meet many authors and illustrators who came to visit and sign books. I was fascinated by what they did. I fell in love with picture books. I always knew I wanted to be an artist, but I wasn’t sure what field of art I wanted to go into. Had I not worked at Hicklebee’s, I don’t know if I would have ended up becoming a children’s book author and illustrator.

What do you especially like about creating children’s books?

LW: It really is the best job ever. To be honest it’s never really felt like a job at all, but a privilege. Besides the creative part, which is always new and exciting for each book I do, meeting my readers is my favorite thing about being an author/illustrator. I feel honored to be a part of the reading experience parents share with their kids.

What is the hardest thing about it?

LW: Probably the creative process, which also happens to be one of the things I love the most. It can be frustrating and debilitating at times. But that moment where everything clicks into place is totally worth it.

Even though readers don’t see Jack for most of the book it’s clear that he loves Dexter. Do you remember a toy from your own childhood that you loved that way?

LW: I had a Raggedy Ann doll that I took with me everywhere. I distinctly remember putting band-aids on her to “decorate” her arms with. I never took the band-aids off, so they basically permanently welded themselves to the fabric for the rest of eternity. My mom still has the doll to this day.

Dexter shows a lot of personality and he tends to get emotional. What inspired you to create him as a character?

LW: When I was pregnant with my first child, my husband was required to go get a T-Dap booster shot prior to our son’s birth. While waiting to get the shot, my husband texted me a photo of a toy dinosaur that had been left underneath a chair in the waiting room. Following the photo, my husband texted “well, they left me here.” The image and line were so funny to me that after reading the text I immediately sat down to write Dexter’s story. I knew I wanted Dexter to speak directly to the reader right from the start of the story. Breaking the fourth wall allowed me to develop a voice for Dexter that was funny and neurotic. I don’t think I would have been able to achieve that if he wasn’t addressing the reader. I love all of Dexter’s insecurities; it makes him more child-like and relatable. We all have insecurities that we worry about. Dexter is 100 percent honest about how he feels all of the time. I think that’s what makes him so endearing.

Children can sometimes be afraid that their parents may forget them. Were you hoping to address that issue in Don’t Forget Dexter?

LW: This actually never crossed my mind in the early stages of writing Dexter. I was more concerned with writing a funny story about a neurotic but lovable dinosaur who gets left behind. It wasn’t until my agent pointed this out to me that I realized it connected with a child’s fear of being forgotten. For me the story is more about the love between two friends. It was important to me that the reader sees Jack just as distraught as Dexter is over being separated from each other.

Do you believe the book could inspire conversations between parents and their children about that fear?

LW: Yes. As I mentioned above, it wasn’t my initial thought, but if this book can start that conversation and subside that fear for a child, that’s a wonderful thing.

I understand this is the first book in a series. Can you share with readers anything about adventures to come?

LW: Yes! I’m thrilled to share the next book in the Dexter T. Rexter Series which will be released July 17th, 2018. In the sequel, Dexter is headed to school with Jack for show-and-tell. Dexter is so excited, but soon he starts to get nervous about his big day. What will he wear? How will he impress the other kids? What if they don’t like him? Find out what happens to Dexter in It’s Show-and-Tell, Dexter!

Is there anything else you’d like to add to readers at MotherDaughterBookClub. com?

LW: Just that I really appreciate this site! My mom and I read together every night when I was a kid. She always made time for it even though she was a single parent, and that couldn’t have been easy. It’s something that I will always cherish and that definitely shaped me into the reader and person I am today. My husband and I continue that tradition with our boys every night. Thank you for sharing your reviews with readers everywhere.

Book Review: March Forward, Girl by Melba Pattillo Beals

March Forward Girl cover imageFrom an early age, Melba Pattillo Beals chafed against the rules African Americans had to follow in the Jim Crow South. Born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, she only felt safe when at home with her mother and grandmother, surrounded by friendly neighbors and friends. Beals tells her story in a gripping memoir for young readers, March Forward, Girl: From Young Warrior to Little Rock Nine.

When she had to venture out she faced discrimination and prejudice everywhere. Drinking fountains, bathrooms, lunch counters were marked “Whites Only.” Blacks were not allowed to touch merchandise in grocery or department stores; instead they had to point to what they wanted or hand a list to a clerk.

At night, her family drew the blinds and kept quiet, afraid that members of the Ku Klux Klan would seek them out for some infraction. Beals saw the injustice of it all, but her mother and grandmother cautioned her to keep quiet. The time would come, they told her, when she could push for equality.

That time came during the integration of Little Rock schools, when she and eight other students from her community attended the all-white school despite threats on their lives.

At times Beals’s story is hard to read — she witnessed a lynching and narrowly escaped from the Klan — but she tells it with such candor that I found it hard to turn away from the truth of her experience. Her descriptions of the good times in her youth, events with the church community, time spent at her grandmother’s side, and accounts of daily activities, paint a vivid picture of what life what like in the 1940s.

I thoroughly enjoyed March Forward, Girl and only wish it would have covered more information about Beals’s experience as one of the Little Rock Nine. Even so, I highly recommend it for mother-daughter book clubs and young readers aged 10 to 13.

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

Book Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Mysterious Benedict Society cover imageFour children with no parents around to care for them are brought together under unusual circumstances and given a mission. They are to stop the plans of a man who intends to take over the world. The four, Reynie, Sticky, Kate and Constance, discover that only children can succeed in the task, and only by combining their talents will they prevail.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart is a great adventure for readers who love to solve puzzles and mysteries. The four heroes get into pickles over and over again, each one leading them closer to figuring out how to stop the evil Mr. Curtain. Each time they think they can’t go further, they find ways to carry on. As they discover more about each other and their sometimes hidden strengths, their friendship grows in unexpected ways. It’s a great testament to the way different personalities can develop separate skills and ways of approaching problems. In the end, teamwork wins the day.

I recommend The Mysterious Benedict Society for mother-daughter book clubs and readers aged 9 to 13.

My daughter owns a copy of this book and I read it for review.

Book Review: Evolution by Carla Mooney

Evolution cover imageThroughout the long history of the Earth, plants and animals have evolved as conditions around them have changed. Evolution: How Life Adapts to a Changing Environment by Carla Mooney takes on the task of explaining what evolution is and how it happens. Chapters talk about topics like how evolution works, identifying species, evidence for evolution and why it matters, as well as other topics. Each chapter contains pullouts with words to know and sidebars highlighting other interesting information. 25 projects are designed to give hands-on learning experiences about many of the concepts.

Evolution can be used by teachers in the classroom to enhance lessons, or by parents who homeschool their children. While the book says it’s recommended for ages 9 to 12, I found some basic concepts mixed with advanced concepts that may be more difficult for that age group to follow. For instance, one list of “words to know” included the words habitat and migration, which seems appropriate for 9 year-olds, but it also included the terms reproductive isolation and allopatric speciation, which would definitely be more challenging. Evolution can be a great tool for the right reader. I recommend parents and teachers consider where it can fit in with other learning.

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

Book Giveaway: Beneath the Haunting Sea by Joanna Ruth Meyer

Today I’m happy to take part in a book tour for Joanna Ruth Meyer’s debut young adult fantasy novel. It’s called Beneath the Haunting Sea, and it sounds like an intriguing tale set in a mysterious land. Below you can find more information about the book and author as well as an excerpt from Chapter Four.

The book is set to release in early January, and I have one copy to give away to a reader who leaves a comment below. In your comment tell us why you like to read YA fantasy. Enter by midnight (PST), Tuesday, January 2, 2018 for a chance to win. Please note: the giveaway is closed. Congratulations to Hannah on winning.

About the book:

Beneath the Haunting Sea cover imageCan’t you hear it, Talia?
Can’t you hear the waves singing?

Sixteen-year-old Talia was born to a life of certainty and luxury, destined to become Empress of half the world. But when an ambitious rival seizes power, she and her mother are banished to a nowhere province on the far edge of the Northern Sea.It is here, in the drafty halls of the Ruen-Dahr, that Talia discovers family secrets, a melancholy boy with a troubling vision of her future, and a relic that holds the power of an ancient Star. On these shores, the eerie melody of the sea is stronger than ever, revealing long-forgotten tales of the Goddess Rahn. The more dark truths that Talia unravels about the gods’ history–and her own–the more the waves call to her, and it may be her destiny to answer.

About the Author:
Joanna Ruth Meyer photoJoanna Ruth Meyer is a writer of Young Adult fantasy. She lives with her dear husband and son in Arizona, where it never rains (or at least not often enough for her!). When she’s not writing, she can be found teaching piano lessons, drinking copious amounts of tea, reading thick books, and dreaming of winter.

Visit the upcoming stops on the Tour!

Chapter Four

It was night when they reached the sea. She could smell it through the rough sacking a guard had shoved over her head as he yanked her from the carriage. She could hear it, crashing against creaking wood, feel its sudden cold spray against her bare legs.

She’d spent five days rattling onward in that awful carriage, with little food and nothing but her own dark imaginings to keep her company. Worry for her mother ate her up, dwarfing even her dread for her own uncertain future.

And now she’d come to the sea.

The long days of immobility made her unsteady on her feet. She tripped as her guard hauled her along, his grip too rough just under her armpit. She tried to shake him off, but his fingers dug deeper. Salt-drenched wind whispered underneath the sack, and a chill ran down her spine.

The harsh cries of birds and shouting men tangled with clanging bells and snapping ropes. Wooden planks swayed back and forth beneath her, scraping her feet through the holes in her ruined calfskin sandals. The wind stank of salt and fish and tar. Her free hand scrabbled to pull the sack off her head, and she had a brief glimpse of stars and dark water, stretching out to meet the moon, before the guard jerked her across a deck and shoved her through a low door.

She nearly collided with a brown-skinned man in a naval uniform and blue cap, who caught her by the shoulders and steadied her. He looked about forty, and had a captain’s sigil pinned to his collar—she recognized both uniform and sigil from the envoys who reported regularly to Eddenahr with shipping reports for the emperor, though she didn’t remember seeing this particular captain before.

“Hey, now!” he said, peering behind Talia to frown at her guard. “There’s no cause to be discourteous to a lady.”

“You have your orders, Captain, and I have mine. She’s your responsibility now.” And then her guard was gone, his boots creaking back across the deck the way they’d come.

She was on a ship, Talia realized belatedly, staring through the doorway at huge white sails that billowed full in the light of the moon. Men clambered on the rigging, hauling ropes and shouting to each other. The sea shimmered black beyond the rail.

It was only then that she understood the true scope of Eda’s words. I’m banishing you from Enduena, little sister.

“Welcome aboard, Miss Dahl-Saida.”

She turned back to the captain, who gave her a polite bow. “I’m Captain Oblaine Al-Tesh, at your service. I believe you know my other passenger.”

He stepped aside so she had a clear view of what had to be the ship’s great cabin. The low chamber, lit by a green glass lamp swaying from the ceiling, had a wooden table ringed with chairs and square-paned windows, tall as grown men, winking out into the night.

A woman crouched on one of the windowsills, the dirty red silk of her dress pooling in tatters to the floor, black hair hanging in knots on her shoulders. She lifted her head, remnants of kohl and gold powder smeared across her cheeks.

“Mama!” Talia cried out, lunging across the tilting cabin and into her mother’s arms. “I thought I’d lost you—I thought you were dead!”

Her mother kissed her hair and hugged her fiercely. “My dear, dear girl. I thought I’d lost you too.” She sounded more tired than Talia had ever heard her, and dark circles sagged under her eyes. But her smile was bright. “It seems the gods are watching out for us.”

Talia flinched. She wished her mother wouldn’t bring the gods into this—sometimes she was as bad as Ayah. “How can you say that, when everything went so wrong?”

Her mother’s smile vanished; she seemed suddenly listless and ill. “The gods saved us, Talia. Don’t blame them for what Eda did. I think she’s been planning this for a very, very long time, no doubt bribing supporters with her parents’ fortune. And I suspect the timing of the emperor’s death was no accident.”

“Before I hear any other treasonous remarks,” said Captain Oblaine behind them, “Her Imperial Majesty commanded me to give you this.” He held out a letter, sealed in red wax. “For you, Miss Dahl-Saida.”

She took it, breaking the seal with her thumb and squinting at the elegantly penned words in the dim light. Beneath her the ship creaked and swayed, and water slapped up against the hull.

Aria Dahl-Saida, formerly the Countess of Irsa, and her daughter, Talia Dahl-Saida, are hereby stripped of land and titles, and banished to the imperial province of Ryn for the duration of their lifetimes, under pain of death if they should ever attempt to return to Enduena, by order of Her Imperial Majesty Eda Mairin-Draive, gods-blessed Empress of Enduena, Queen of Ryn, and Ruler of Od.

Talia felt numb, seeing her fate inscribed before her eyes in stark ink. She passed the letter to her mother without a word.

Ryn was the most remote part of the empire that Eda could possibly send them to. Besides Od, it was the only other non-mainland province, located thousands of miles northeast across the sea, and was little more than a large island. The emperor had conquered Ryn on one of his first campaigns, shortly after ascending the throne some forty years ago. Ryn’s only export was fish, and by all reports its people were uneducated and boorish.

They might as well be going to the ends of the earth.

There was a knock on the door, and a sailor stepped in with a laden tray, which he balanced expertly against the roll of the ship.

“I expect you’re hungry,” said Captain Oblaine with a kind smile as the sailor set three places at the table and then left again.

Oblaine sat at the head of the table and poured tea, while Talia took a seat next to her mother. The two of them piled their plates high with biscuits and salted fish. A week ago, Talia would have sneered at such fare—now it seemed a feast fit for the emperor himself. She’d had nothing but dust-dry bread and stale water since her party, and she found it horrendously difficult to not devour everything in sight like a starving hound.

“Where are we?” she asked between mouthfuls.

The captain took a swig from his mug, which Talia suspected contained something stronger than tea. “Just leaving the main port in Evalla. If we catch a steady wind we should reach Ryn before autumn.”

Talia nearly choked on a biscuit. “That’s half a year from now!”

“It’s a long way. But I’ve made the journey many times, and perhaps the wind gods will favor us.”

“And the sea goddess too,” said Talia’s mother unexpectedly.

Oblaine laughed. “The sea goddess favors no one but herself, if the stories are to be believed.”

“They’re just stories,” Talia snapped.

“Right you are.” He took another drink. “Seafaring men tend more toward religion than most, but I only care about a safe journey and a ship in one piece at the end of it. My men can sort out which of the gods to thank. Ryn, now there’s a place filled with superstitious people. They’re always going on about the Tree—supposedly that’s where it fell, when the gods tore it out of the ground.”

Her mother was eating at a much slower pace, trembling as she lifted her fork. “All stories have at least a grain of truth in them. One ought to think carefully before dismissing them out of hand.”

Talia frowned. Her mother hadn’t gone on about the old myths in years—what was wrong with her? “Do you know where Eda’s sending us once we get to Ryn?” she asked the captain.

“You’re to be wards of Baron Graimed Dacien-Tuer. Used to be a prince before Ryn became part of the Empire.”

So Eda was shutting them away with other forgotten royalty. Talia would have no life to speak of, no future. She stared at her plate, her appetite gone.

“I’ll endeavor to make your journey as comfortable as possible. You’ll have to stay belowdecks during storms and keep out of my men’s way, but other than that you’re free to go where you please.”

Her mother drooped in her chair, and Talia laid a hand on her arm.

“We need to rest now,” she said to the Captain.

Oblaine nodded. “I’ll have one of my men show you to your quarters at once.” He scraped back his chair and stood, eying them with a distant sort of pity as he left the cabin.

Her mother’s shoulders shook, and tears leaked from her eyes. She seemed like a wholly different person from the impenetrable woman Talia had known all her life, and it scared her. “What’s wrong, Mama? We’re together now. Everything is going to be all right.”

“Can’t you hear it?” her mother whispered.

The only sound was the water, slapping the sides of the ship. “Hear what?”

“The waves. They’re singing.”

Excerpted from BENEATH THE HAUNTING SEA © Copyright 2018 by Joanna Ruth Meyer. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Book Review: Wanda’s Better Way by Laura Pedersen

Wandas Better WayWanda’s Better Way by Laura Pedersen is about a young girl who lets her frustration over problems in her life inspire her to find innovative solutions. A disorganized dance-class dressing area makes Wanda grumpy. But then she has an idea to get everything organized. Wanda wants to help her mom in the garden, but she doesn’t like bugs. She does notice the squirrels eating birdseed and comes up with a plan to keep them off the feeder. Wanda wants to help her dad in the kitchen, but she doesn’t want to get messy cracking eggs and separating yolks from whites. Her idea to stay clean ends up being a science project at school.

Each time Wanda uses the scientific method to address a problem. Penny Weber’s illustrations show Wanda’s thought process as she brainstorms solutions. A note at the back explains the scientific method, which starts with observation and goes through several steps to a conclusion, which may include trying again.

The examples along with the methods should provide great inspiration for young readers to try solving their own problems.

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

Book Review: The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle

The Love Letters of Abelard nd LilyLily’s mother has promised her that if she does well in school during her junior year she’ll be able to visit her dad for the summer. It’s been five years since he left the family and the life he leads on a goat farm seems like a dream to Lily. She imagines being homeschooled there, away from the difficulties of turning in appropriate paperwork and completing assignments, difficult tasks given Lily’s dyslexia and ADHD.

Then she starts texting with Abelard, a boy her age with Asperger’s. Abelard is brilliant at school, but he doesn’t have friends. The two have an easier time expressing their emotions over text, and finding quotes from the medieval Letters of Abelard and Heloise. Soon they are dating and trying to find a way to work around both their traits that make relationships difficult. Finding a way forward will mean accepting themselves for who they are, being honest with each other, and accepting help from others who care about them.

The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle is both heartbreaking and hopeful in it’s frank treatment of life for teens living with disabilities. Lily has a tendency to leave when things get difficult, so she skips school a lot. Abelard doesn’t like to be touched, which makes it hard for him to forge relationships. They both long for someone who understands what it’s like to be them. But overcoming their tendencies is hard work, and sometimes giving up seems like an easier option.

The book also shows what it’s like to be the parent of a teen like Lily or Abelard. Parents often try to balance their desire to fix what’s wrong for their children while granting them freedom to make life-changing decisions on their own. And Lily’s younger sister Iris, who goes to a school for gifted children, also struggles with how to be herself without making things more difficult for Lily. Creedle treats all of her characters with care while making them human and relatable.

I highly recommend The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily for mother-daughter book clubs with girl aged 13 and up.

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

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