Book Review: The Gift of Dark Hollow by Kieran Larwood

The Gift of Dark Hollow cover imageLongburrow: The Gift of Dark Hollow continues the tale of Podkin One-Ear, a young rabbit determined to save his community from the threat of the Gorm—evil mutations of rabbitkind. Teaming up once again with his older sister Paz and younger brother Pook, Podkin sets off in search of a Gift of the Goddess that may be able to cut through iron and defeat the enemy.

Author Kieran Larwood has created a second book in this fantasy series that’s just as full of adventure as the first. Podkin, along with his family and friends, sets off once again on a quest that will bring him into contact with new allies and old enemies. To find success, he will have to face his fears and draw on the strengths of everyone in his group.

The Gift of Dark Hollow is great fun and should leave fans of the series eagerly anticipating the next title. I recommend it for ages 9 to 12.

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

Book Review: Delilah Dirk and the Pillars of Hercules by Tony Cliff

Delilah Dirk and the Pillars of Hercules cover imageDelilah Dirk and the Pillars of Hercules by Tony Cliff finds the graphic-novel heroine on an adventure to find a rumored sunken city. The tale begins in Turkey, where Dirk outsmarts a despot in control of a coastal fortress to allow a ship safe harbor. In the process, she meets a Dutchman who accompanies her and her friend Selim into the desert where they discover treasure. They also find inscriptions telling of a city built long ago called the Third Pillar of Hercules.

The trio, hounded by one of Dirk’s old enemies, set off to find the city. Their adventure takes them from Turkey to Algiers and back again before leading them to Spain, where they end their quest and discover hidden agendas.

Fans of the Delilah Dirk series will find more of what they love in this installment: swashbuckling action, a mystery to be solved, and Dirk’s defense of the good against nefarious characters. It’s all beautifully drawn and richly colored to lead young readers on their own great adventure. I recommend it for age 12 and up.

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

Book Review: Maze Quest by Travis Nichols

Maze Quest cover imageMaze Quest by Travis Nichols is great for kids who love to solve puzzles tied to a story. The challenge is laid out at the beginning after readers are encouraged to find their way through the maze of a messy bedroom into the secret Quest Office. There, the challenge is presented to find pieces of a sword, gems, coins, keys, and items to help readers navigate mazes throughout the book.

It’s fun to match the storyline to the mazes themselves, which wind their way through a flower garden, a wave-tossed ocean, a pyramid, a beehive, a boneyard and other inventive paths. Some paths are easy to work through, others are more complicated. The back and forth keeps things interesting throughout. Even the inside front cover features a maze, with a place for young puzzle solvers to post a photo saying who the book belongs to. The story and the mazes create an adventure sure to engage kids for hours of fun. I recommend Maze Quest for ages 6 to 10.

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

Book Review: The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy

The Disappearances cover imageEvery seven years something important disappears for the people of Sterling: the sense of smell, the ability to see stars, images in mirrors. The townspeople, along with those of two nearby cities also affected, have learned to cope by inventing potions that can temporarily restore the lost senses, but they all live in dread of what will disappear next.

Sixteen-year-old Aila Quinn and her younger brother Miles move to Sterling when their father is drafted to serve in World War II. Their mother, Juliet, grew up in town, and some believe her birth 35 years before set off the disappearances. Aila must work with friends and unravel a family secret to clear her mother’s name and stop the disappearances for good.

The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy weaves a mysterious tale with a bit of the supernatural. By necessity, people from Sterling are secretive. They closely guard the pain and uncertainty about the disappearances to keep from being labeled freaks by the rest of the country. Aila is suspicious to them because she is Juliet’s daughter and because she was raised elsewhere. A side story follows the exploits of Stefan, a mysterious person Aila’s mother knew and loved, but who harbors a plan to avenge an old slight.

The story unfolds step-by-step, drawing on clues hidden in Shakespeare’s plays, to lead readers to a satisfying conclusion. I found The Disappearances to be totally engrossing, and I recommend it for mother-daughter book clubs and readers aged 13 and up.

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

Interview With Kindness Advocate Marie Unanue

Marie Unanue photoMarie Unanue, author of the upcoming book The Adventures of Phatty and Payaso: Central Park, is on a mission to help kids learn to be more kind. Referring to what she does as being a “kindness advocate,” Unanue has written a book that the Archbishop of New York has described as “a fun and engaging fable which shows the power of friendship, kindness, and self-confidence.”

Here, Unanue talks about writing for children, her kindness campaign, and her children’s book.

How did you decide to become a writer?

MU: Writing always came easy to me, I loved the freedom and excitement that came along with creating a story. After many years as an event planner, I enjoyed sharing my events through writing about them so other people could learn and experience the planning process. It wasn’t long before I started writing about destination weddings and how to plan, orchestrate and run them. Before long, my blog had a large following and the transition to writing for not only work, but enjoyment quickly ensued. Once I made the choice to write a story for kids, the process took on a pair of legs and just started running.

What do you like best about writing for children?

MU: One of the best things about writing for children is coming up with stories and situations that will not only engage and challenge children but also coming up with situations to make them laugh. The second-best part about writing for children is how young it makes me feel, while I am writing I love that I can feel like a kid myself.  When I am writing anything is possible, animals can talk, unicorns are real and if it worked in my story, I could even make a flower sing. Coming up with fun and outrageous plots to keep the kids turning the page and excited about reading excites me.

What do you find the most challenging?

MU: While writing for children is exciting, there are moments when I worry that maybe I have taken a situation too far or perhaps I have crossed a line.  I’m always cautious when writing any scene that could come across as violent or too dangerous with fears that a child may attempt to do this on his or her own. Clearly, when you see the movies that come out for kids today they don’t have any issues pushing the envelope as far as possible, but for me, I want to play it safe and be careful not to offend any parents or scare any kids.

You refer to yourself as a Kindness Advocate. Can you tell us a little about what that means?

MU: My goal is to spread kindness and do whatever I can to encourage adults and kids to do the same.  A kindness advocate goes out of their way to do kind things for other people and works hard to be as kind as possible at all times. We are inviting kids to visit the website and print out their own “Be A Kindness Advocate” sign with hopes that they will not only do something kind for another person, but also share it by taking a photo of themselves with the sign. By sharing the photo and their act of kindness, they will be encouraging other kids to do the same.  We are hoping to start a movement.

Adults and kids can be a kindness advocate too by:

  • Be kind to the elderly
  • Be patient with others
  • Be kind to animals
  • Be supportive of your classmates
  • Be inclusive by being sure to include everyone in your games or plans
  • Be kind to those kids that struggle to fit it
  • Be aware of what makes someone a bully and be sure to never bully or manipulate your friends
  • Be willing to volunteer
  • Be courteous and be sure to say please and thank you
  • Be conscious of others and their feelings
  • Be watchful how you talk about others, be sure not to spread gossip or meanness
  • Be the best you that you can be
  • Be willing to make a positive difference in someone else’s day
  • Be willing to help out family & friends in need
  • Be sure to have a positive attitude
  • Be understanding, compassionate, sympathetic & empathetic

Your book “The Adventures of Phatty & Payaso: Central Park,” includes characters who are bullied. Why do you think it’s important for children to read stories that contain bullying situations?

MU: This is such a wonderful question because so many kids are bullied today.  Allowing kids to read about others being bullied not only helps these kids understand they are not alone, it also shows them examples on how to deal with the bullying as it occurs. My book The Adventures of Phatty & Payaso is a wonderful example on not only how to handle a bully, but also how to forgive one.  I urge kids to show the bully kindness, to understand that the person bullying is likely insecure and bullies to make themselves feel better. After the kids let a parent know it is happening, I still urge the child to remain calm. To always be the bigger and kinder person.

I understand you talked to children about some of the issues you bring up in Phatty & Payaso. How did that influence the direction you took with the book?

MU: I not only spoke with children regarding bullying, I let them read one of the manuscripts and then tell me if there was anything I missed or could add that would help other children or readers identify more with the situation. I asked the children to tell me what they thought so I could add to help others kids feel better and help their situation. While I was bullied as a child, so much as changed.  Social media now takes the bullying out of the school yard and onto a more social platform. It is even harder today for kids thane ever when it comes to bullying, I am hopeful that this kindness campaign helps kids understand that kindness is the answer.

I know you hope to bring a message of inclusivity to children reading the book, but do you expect they will have fun reading it too?

MU: The book is set like an adventure to ensure the kids feel the sense of urgency and excitement to keep them turning the page.  I also wanted to make the kids laugh while at the same time helping them understand all aspects of bullying. It was important for me as a writer to show the kids the perspective of the bully.  So they could understand that a bully is most likely an insecure person that is lashing out to make themselves feel more important or popular. It was equally important to myself as a writer that the children not only enjoyed reading the book as much as they took many important lessons away from it.

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

MU: If there is anything I would love mothers and daughters to take away from this story is something that my mom always taught me. My mother always taught me, in life you must always treat other people the way you want to be treated.  If every kid had this motto, the world would be an even better place.

Book Review: The Confidence Code For Girls by Katty Kay & Claire Shipman

The Confidence Code for Girls cover imageKatty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of the New York Times bestseller The Confidence Code, have created a new book on confidence especially for girls aged 8 to 12. Aimed at reaching girls at a stage in life when they may need confidence boosters, the book is chock full of good advice, helpful exercises, and real-life examples of girls moving beyond their comfort zone to build self-assurance.

Called The Confidence Code For Girls: Taking Risks, Messing Up, & Becoming Your Amazingly Imperfect, Totally Powerful Self, the book is divided into three sections: The Keys to Confidence, Confidence Inside & Out, and The Confident Self. Each chapter presents a challenge that many girls face, like fear of failure, perfectionism, troubled friendships, and more. Girls can answer questions about how they may respond to challenges and get answers for ways to effectively handle all sorts of situations.

The advice is practical and inspiring, and the tips and tools are easy to follow. Exercises are available throughout the book, and girls can download a shield to create their own confidence code at

I highly recommend The Confidence Code For Girls as a tool that girls can turn to again and again as they face changing situations in their lives.

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

Book Review: Sylvia Long’s Big Book for Small Children

Sylvia Longs Big Book for Small Children cover imageSylvia Long’s Big Book for Small Children is a mash up of classic tales, family recipes, lullabies, and more. It’s pages should provide endless fun for moms and dads to read with their little ones.

They will find familiar stories like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and The Three Little Pigs, but there are also pages with items from everyday life. For instance, the “In the Kitchen” page shows things like measuring cups, a mixing bowl, a skillet, a saucepan and more. There’s an alphabet page and a colors page, but also a recipe for The Little Red Hen’s Cornbread that comes after the story about The Little Red Hen. Kids will certainly want to make the cornbread, Grandma’s Cornmeal Pancakes, and Mama Bear’s Porridge.

Illustrations are cute, with animals like cats, bunnies, pigs, foxes, chipmunks and others acting as the main characters. Long also modernizes a few tales, showing the three little pigs as sisters, Papa raccoon baking an apple pie, and Dr. Foster in a classic rhyme as a woman.

The variety of rhymes, tales, and life lessons make for an interesting mix that will surely keep young readers and their parents interested as they turn pages.

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

Book Review: Survivor Diaries: Lost! by Terry Lynn Johnson

Survivor Diaries Lost cover imageWhat would you do if you were lost in a rainforest and needed to find your way back to safety? That’s the scenario presented in Lost!, a title in the Survivor Diaries series. Drawing on true stories of people who wandered off the path and lost their way, author Terry Lynn Johnson creates a tale that’s both a page-turner and how-to survival guide.

Carter and Anna are two pre-teens vacationing with their parents in Costa Rica. After they follow a well-known path away from their resort to find a legendary statue, they get spooked by howler monkeys and run off into the jungle. Once they stop they find they have lost the path, and the density of plant growth keeps them from seeing which way they came from.

Carter knows a lot about the rainforest, and he even has a survival kit, a precaution that helps tamp down his anxiety. But monkeys steal the kit, and the two find they are on their own. By pooling their knowledge and working together, they eventually find their way out of danger and back to their parents.

Survivor Diaries: Lost! is a great book to help young readers consider what they would do if they ever needed to survive on their own. There’s even a game they can play online at to help them figure out how prepared they already are, and what kinds of knowledge and supplies are useful to have. Just visit the website and click on “Play the Game” for any title in the series already published.

The author is a survival expert who researched true stories from multiple sources, including books, videos, articles, and journals to bring Carter and Anna’s story to life. It’s a gripping tale sure to spark the interest of readers aged 9 to 12.

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

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