Book Review: Eruptions and Explosions by Judy Dodge Cummings

Eruptions and Explosions cover imageEruptions are a part of nature, while explosions often result from man-made mistakes. Judy Dodge Cummings highlights five outbursts that had major impact on the world in Eruptions and Explosions: Real Tales of Violent Outbursts, a title in the Mystery & Mayhem series.

Each chapter tells an incredible story, giving details that sound more like fiction than real life. Those stories include the eruption of Mt. Tambora in 1815, an event that changed climate for several years and led to famine, a steamboat explosion that took the lives of Civil War prisoners of war headed home, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, and the blowout at the Deep Horizon oil rig.

In each human-caused explosion, Cummings discusses the personal errors and hubris that led to the disaster. It’s a sober reminder of how quickly things can go wrong when elements of mass destruction are involved.

I highly recommend Eruptions and Explosions as well as the whole series for anyone who loves to read true stories about people and events in the distant and recent past.

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

Book Review: This Is Not a Valentine by Carter Higgins

This Is Not a Valentine cover imageA young boy wants his friend to know that he cares about her, so he gives her gifts he knows she will like, all the while saying, “This is not a valentine,” because of course valentines mean love, and love is serious stuff.

But what he does mean is that he likes her enough to notice what makes her happy. And those things include a ring from the grocery store with a stone to match her shoelaces, and daffodil puffs to wish upon, and half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and the perfect hiding spot for playing hide-and-seek.

The sentiments expressed in This Is Not a Valentine, a picture book by Carter Higgins with illustrations by Lucy Ruth Cummins, are sweet and thoughtful, especially at the end, when the girl recognizes the value of having the boy as a friend and so starts to hang out with him at school and on the bus.

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

Book Review: Playing Atari With Saddam Hussein by Jennifer Roy

Playing Atari With Saddam Hussein cover imageAli Fadhil was just an ordinary boy living in Basra, Iraq in 1991. He loved to play soccer with his brothers and his friends, he worried about school bullies, he spent a lot of time playing video games, and he watched American television shows. Then the dictator of his country, Saddam Hussein, invaded a neighboring country, Kuwait. To counter the aggression, an international coalition led by the U.S. bombed Iraq in an effort to get Saddam to withdraw.

Playing Atari With Saddam Hussein by Jennifer Roy is based on the true story of Ali, who was 11 years old at the time, and what he experienced during the forty-three days that would be called Operation Desert Storm. The story talks about how the family bunked together in one room when the bombs fell at night, how they stretched rationed food to feed a family of five, and how Ali’s dad, a physician, got called to the front where he could tend to soldiers’ injuries.

Ali’s story reveals what life was like for average Iraqis during the fighting, and how those critical of Saddam Hussein had to keep quiet or risk retaliation and death. Even though he is young, Ali understands much about the politics of his country and he longs for the U.S. and its allies to get rid of the dictator in charge. He will wait until the second war in Iraq, during the early 2000s, to get his wish.

A last chapter and epilogue talks about how Ali helped the American effort in that second war, and how his life changed because of it. I highly recommend Playing Atari With Saddam Hussein for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 9 to 12 and for anyone interested in recent historical events that still resonate in today’s world.

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

Book Review: Tomb Raiders by Judy Dodge Cummings

Tom Raiders cover imageDid you know that in the 1870s kidnappers planned to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body and hold it for ransom? Or that the people of New York rioted in 1778 to protest the practice of doctors stealing bodies from graves so they could learn anatomy and practice surgery? Or that an Indiana-Jones-like archaeologist held off potential tomb raiders in Peru to save artifacts and establish a museum? These fascinating stories and others appear in Tomb Raiders: Real Tales of Grave Robberies by Judy Dodge Cummings.

Readers who love the Mystery & Mayhem series (I’m one of them) will be familiar with the format that sheds light on little known or forgotten events in history. Each story contains a timeline that gives perspective to other things going on in the world during the same time as well as a map of the area and it’s location in the world. A glossary at the end defines what may be unfamiliar terms to readers, and a page of resources lists website with more information.

I highly recommend Tomb Raiders and other titles in the series for anyone who likes a good story.

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


Book Review: The Forbidden Schoolhouse by Suzanne Jurmain

The Forbidden Schoolhouse cover imageIn 1833 a white woman named Prudence Crandall opened a boarding school for “young Ladies and little Misses of Color” in Canterbury, Connecticut, setting off a firestorm of protest in her hometown that lasted until the school closed 18 months later. But during that time Crandall taught girls who would go on to teach at their own schools, and she stood up for the rights of African Americans to receive an education and be treated as equals. Suzanne Jurmain tells her story in The Forbidden Schoolhouse: The True and Dramatic Story of Prudence Crandall and Her Students.

Abolitionists who advocated for the end of slavery were gaining influence in the 1830s, although they often faced violent pushback from those who wanted to keep race relations as they were. Many people who didn’t believe in slavery nonetheless did not want to see blacks gain more civil rights. The volatile atmosphere turned neighbors against each other.

As a woman, Prudence had limited ability to advocate for what she wanted. Forbidden to speak at town assemblies that decided policy, she sought out men who would speak for her. She taught even as she faced arrest and jail time, and she kept teaching until the students’ lives were endangered by locals throwing rocks through windows at night and setting fire to the house.

The story of Prudence and her students is a fascinating look at what life was like for women and African Americans in Northern states, far from the systemic slavery in the South. It’s also a story of how one person can make a difference, particularly when she finds others willing to fight for the same cause. The Forbidden Schoolhouse highlights not only Prudence’s bravery, but also the bravery of her students, who so wanted to learn that they were willing to face physical harm to get an education. An appendix tells what happened to each of the students after the school closed.

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

Book Review: Be The Parent, Please by Naomi Schaefer Riley

Be The Parent Please cover imageUsing technology on multiple devices has become such a ubiquitous part of our lives that it’s hard for parents to know how to set limits on programs and screen time for their children. They may also wonder if educational programs are okay even when games are not. In her book, Be the Parent, Please; Strategis for Solving the Real Parenting Problems, Naomi Schaefer Riley looks at the latest research and offers advice and support for parents who want to do things differently.

Each chapter tackles a different stage of childhood development and looks at ways babies and kids are using technology. One problem, Riley says, is that parents portray maturity on their children even when they are not ready for increased control over what they see and do with technology.

Riley offers strategies for parents to make a plan for how much and what kinds of devices and technology they allow at what age and then offers  advice on how to stick to their rules. Each chapter has pull-out tips with ideas for taking control and cutting back. Riley says that while the research on the use of technology is still evolving, she encourages parents not to let their children be lab rats in the experiment.

Be The Parent, Please is sure to be welcome by parents who want to take back control of the technology use in their households.

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

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. Please note: the giveaway is closed. Congratulations to Barbara on winning.

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 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.

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