The Star People of Isabella By Karen Heins

The Star People of Isabella eBook : Heins, Karen, True, Begoña: Amazon.in:  Kindle Store

I was given an ARC of the book in exchange of an honest review. My views are unbiased and in no way influenced by the author or publisher.

I will not be talking about the plot because one can already get a preview from the synopsis. And divulging anymore about the plot would make the book lose its shine. This is the first time I am reviewing a children’s book. I was looking for something to review and share with my daughter during this pandemic lockdown.

The Star People of Isabella is a perfect blend of fantasy, folklore and values. Karen Heins has done a fabulous job in her work. The book is written in simple language which a child can read independently, be it at any level of lexile.

The book’s protagonist is King Halonree and Queen Loella of Isabella. They live in the mountains, in what we now know as California. King Halonree is a peace loving and kind king. But his advisor Litham is his complete opposite, he bullies the people to into submission with magical powers. The people are tired of the tyrant Litham and call Halonree out for being a coward. But things change when Litham crosses the line. The king must face him squarely, but not without some help from his wife and subjects. What happens next is for you to find out.

Karen Heins has shared some beautiful, poignant thoughts throughout her book. The character can be seen as metaphors for values and personality traits. Halonree is kind and softhearted and sees only the good around him. He is grateful for all his blessings. Queen Loella is strong and firm. She speaks her mind without fear and helps Halonree find his voice too. Litham represents the innate evil in all of us, he likes to dominate and have his way. The only way to fight Litham is for the light within us to shine like the sun. The light and warmth will destroy the dark cold ‘Litham’ in us. If we let the light within us shine brightly during the darkest of hours, we can fight any battle in our lives. The light in us will guide us and help us see a way out of dark tunnels. The illustrations add to the charm of the narration. They are colorful yet not distracting and just perfect to hold your attention. They add to the easy flow of the story. A perfect read aloud book.

A beautiful read for children and adults alike, since the lessons are not limited to kids only. Don’t miss out on this one.

You can also read this and more reviews on : https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/the-star-people-of-isabella-karen-heins#review

The Orange Dragon Bowl by Betty P Notzon

The Orange Dragon Bowl: A family life suspense novel (Julie Tyler Book 1)  eBook: Notzon, Betty P.: Amazon.in: Kindle Store

Genre: Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult, Contemporary fiction

Rating:5/5

I wasn’t prepared for what this book had in store for me. By the look of the cover, I thought it must be some intriguing fantasy. The book cover is a mighty coverup for the avalanche of emotions this book has packed inside itself.

Even though it is more of a young adult novel, the emotions and feelings are universal. The book manages to keep you hooked till the last page and also teary-eyed.

Plot: Fifteen-year-old Julie Tyler is a regular teenager with usual teen worries until a series of mishaps turns her life upside down. She has good family life with her parents, ensconced between love and warmth. Her life takes and an ugly turn to more downs than ups after an incident of poisoned food at the school function. This is followed by the discovery about a girl, Alexis whom she dislikes (more like repulsive), a gang fight, the unearthing of the skeletons in her dad’s closet, and her mom’s cancer diagnosis. As a teenager, she finds it hard to manage these surges of events one after the other. In the midst of these upheavals, Julie discovers her strengths and frailties. She discovers a voice that never surfaced and is stronger than she thought. She fights the trauma of bullying, exams, falling grades and emerges victorious. At times, her spirits are crushed, but with a family-like Julie’s any battle can be won. She turns to her parents for guidance and understanding, who are the epitome of parental love and ideal couple.

There are several narratives that join the main narrative of Julie giving it a depth that pulls the heart. Each character seems to come to life with each page and you can see the scene unravel before your eyes. Family life, school life, insecurities, fear, angst are not out of this world. They are rather normal, one that each reader would relate to.

Interwoven in Julie’s tale is one of family life, husband-wife relationship, friendship, bullying, courage, personal health, and racism. Each tale leaves an impact on Julie and her family. Some left her breathless while some left her seething in anger. Each character is well-drawn and realistic. They are well-rounded and not linear and grow as much as Julie does.

Certain episodes will suck the air out of your breath and make you gasp in pain, while there are some warm fuzzy moments that tickle your heart. Each emotion is real and relatable. Julie does what any teenager would have done or felt. The husband-wife relationship of her parents is an ideal example of how parents should be to have a strong and mature child. Julie survives each struggle because of her family (parents).

The story does end with a bit of a happy surprise. I just can’t wait for the second book to see how the story unravels further. A must-read and recommended for anyone looking for a book that deals with real human issues and does not skirt away from them or leave them open-ended. A fabulous book by the author.

Grow Your Spiritual Intelligence by Guru Das

Genre: Inspirational, Non fiction

Rating: 2.5/5

I picked this book with a lot of hope that it would offer some insights into how one can grow in spiritual intelligence. I was disappointed, what started off well was really hard to finish later. I read it till the last page since I had a resolution not to put away a book in the middle. I struggled really hard with this book. It took me a month to complete when it’s a small book of 62 pages.

The topics selected are very good and the start to each topic is excellent. The content then strays as the author has tried to break down each topic into sub-topics. The result is that there is no clear connection established and the topic seems disjointed. The inclusion of Ramayana is good but biased towards males. Sita is treated as a side party to exploring the virtues of the ideal man, Rama. The discussion and treatment of the text seem focused on highlighting the virtues of Rama.

The topics are not discussed in a uniform manner and the writing gets confused, lacking clarity in delivering a point. Too much is discussed which makes the whole book a potpourri without any distinctive highlight.

I received an ARC for an honest review. These are my personal views and not biased towards the author or publisher.

Remembering Eric Carle

Sunday came with another sad news amidst the grim and depressing situation of Covid. One of the most acclaimed and beloved children’s author, Eric Carle died in Northampton, Massachusetts. He was 91 years old. He was one of the authors who gave preschool kids colors and wings to imagination. Some of the earliest literary memories of most kids would include his books either read aloud by parents, caretakers or teachers. No library is complete without having his books to kick start school.

His books are popular for their unique style. His art sets him apart from other authors distinctive and instantly recognizable. The illustrations found in his books are his artwork that are created in collage technique, using hand-painted papers, which he cuts and layers to form bright and cheerful images. Many of his books have an added dimension—die-cut pages, twinkling lights as in The Very Lonely Firefly, even the lifelike sound of a cricket’s song as in The Very Quiet Cricket – giving them a playful quality.

His books have created a niche of their own not just because of their simple language, vivid illustrations and bright colours. They instill hope, bravery, self discovery and above all,  the importance of exploring one’s emotions to understand the consequences of our actions. His books are dearly loved by teachers and librarians world over for their easy style, fun around animals and best of all, the collage style illustrations. Children from around the world would send him pictures of their collage inspired by him. His absence has left a void which coming generations of wide eyed preschoolers will miss.

RIP Eric Carle

Read More:

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/books/features/the-very-hungry-caterpillar-author-eric-carle-dies/articleshow/82998247.cms

https://www.firstpost.com/art-and-culture/eric-carle-celebrated-author-of-the-very-hungry-caterpillar-dies-at-91-9660251.html

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-hungry-caterpillar-grouchy-ladybug-eric-carle-7333017/

The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter, Giselle Potter (Illustrator)

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Being in love with books and words, I am instantly drawn towards books that advocate books, the power of words and the importance of libraries. In my search for such books, I happened to lay my hands on ” The Boy Who Loved Words “. I had heard a lot about this book, hence my curiosity was piqued. Unlike the wonderful reviews I found online, I am not exactly floored by the book. The story is beautiful but could have been better. There are certain aspects of the book which I found disturbing and that shattered the joy of reading this book.

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Picture Books, Read aloud book, Realistic fiction, Inspirational

Rating: 3.5/5

Plot: Selig is a boy who loves words. He collects words and finds ways to use them. His parents are distraught about this habit of his, and worry about his future. His classmates find him eccentric since he does not play with them, and sits in a corner with his words. He is labelled an oddball which hurts him deeply. He questions his love for words and himself. One night he dreams of a genie who helps him realize his love for words and his passion. He runs away from his home on the “trail of his purpose“. Does he continue his love or does he abandon it???

The plot is a great idea for a book but the execution falls flat on my expectation. It seems hurried and not really a culmination of the climax. It might seem to some readers that the author keeping in mind that this is children’s literature ran short of ideas to conclude her book and hence chose the safest happy ending.

The things that disturbed me about the book are that the author chose children’s fascination for words and vocabulary but did not fulfill the thirst. Selig only writes down words he heard and liked. He didn’t find out what it meant. In real life, children will pause to search for meaning of the word, rather than meaninglessly collect words. The very purpose or aim of collection is defeated if Selig doe not know the meaning. It seems a little over reaching for young kids that Selig felt the words and understood the meaning instantly. Students will need an explanation on what the word means and they are going to have no idea by just hearing a funny word and then writing it down. This in a way hinders growth of vocabulary when it seems to propagate feeling the word for meaning rather than search the meaning.

The illustrations though colourful and expressive displays faces as inert/lifeless and one dimensionally old. Even the face of child Selig seems older than either his father or mother. The children also didn’t seem young. the only illustrations I loved where when Selig stuck the words on a tree. Th tree looked beautiful. Other than that all characters seem to blend together without major distinctions. The stereotyping of the accent of the genie sounded racist and disparaging.

Setting aside these jarring notes, the book is a fun read for kids. The book can be used in multiple ways with kids to introduce a fascination for words, increase vocabulary, and teach about glossary. There is a glossary of words found inside the book. These can be used to engage kids in word power games.

There are some important underlying themes which run through the book and could have been dealt with better. There is the theme of bullying by other kids, the unacceptance of society of people who are different, self awareness, family bonding, dreams, self expression and discovery,etc.

A one time read for me, not sure if it will hold the interest of kids long. This book has a good message, the problem was that it lacked any spark for kids to be engaged. For Elementary school, the words used are too difficult. The book is best suitable for grade 5 and above to be really enjoyed. The kids I feel would otherwise be confused and bored. There is something lacking when you end the book. What is lacking?? Depends upon each reader.

Ban This Book: Alan Gratz

Ban This Book: A Novel eBook: Gratz, Alan: Amazon.in: Kindle Store
Buy Ban This Book: A Novel Book Online at Low Prices in India | Ban This  Book: A Novel Reviews & Ratings - Amazon.in

During this lockdown I had planned to read as many books as I could lay my hands on. But things did not go as planned and I didn’t get to read as much as I wanted to. In search of a book to kickstart my reading I found this gem of a book. Released in 2017, this book is highly recommended for any book lover, librarian or book advocate.

Genre: Young adult, Children’s fiction, Realistic Fiction, Contemporary fiction

Rating: 4.5/5

Readers, librarians, and all those books that have drawn a challenge have a brand new hero…. Stand up and cheer, book lovers. This one’s for you.- –Kathi Appelt, author of the Newbery Honor winning The Underneath.

These words were a boost for me and had me curious about the book. I couldn’t wait to flip the pages to read. I was captivated from the first word. This might be because of my bias towards books being a librarian. The content and the title already had me itching to know more. Are books banned in this story? Which books? Why? Who bans them? What made them ban the books? These questions kept circling my mind and I had a tough time to quieten the screams to peacefully read the books. When I started reading I couldn’t put it down. I was reading it whenever I could.

Plot: It all started the day Amy Anne Ollinger tried to check out her favorite book in the whole world, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, from the school library. That’s when Mrs. Jones, the librarian, told her the bad news: her favorite book was banned! All because a classmate’s mom thought the book wasn’t appropriate for kids to read. Amy Anne decides to fight back by starting a secret banned books library out of her locker. Soon, she finds herself on the front line of an unexpected battle over book banning, censorship, and who has the right to decide what she and her fellow students can read.(Courtesy: Goodreads)

On the simple premise of a student standing up to advocate for books, the book has many underlying themes. It not only speaks up against banning of books and the freedom to read. There are also family themes, friendship, education, relationships, etc.

Amy lives with her parents and two younger sisters. Being the eldest she has to make compromises each day against her wishes. There is an atmosphere of chaos at home and the only time Amy finds solitude is when she is reading. That too is not possible in her room, and she has to hide away in her own home for some ‘me’ time. Many a times parents tend to take for granted the compromises elder children make for the family. These children lose their voice in the process just like Amy, who feels that she will never be heard. Hence, her conversations take place in her mind. Words she intends to say are never spoken out aloud. She always has these conversations in her own mind, silencing her voice for her family. This percolates into her being so much that she becomes timid and quiet. Relationships and family form the core of the book on which other themes balance.

Education is another underlying theme in the book. Education is meant to enlighten the mind and bring forth learners who can question. Yet we ban books and decide they are inappropriate for children. Thereby undermining their right to read as well to question and grow. What is the purpose of education then? If children are kept safe from ideas and topics would they grow as critical thinkers?

Amy’s school decides to remove the books without following the procedure for removing the books or trusting Mrs. Jones, the librarian, the voice the school should have looked upon. Book banning and censorship are topics that ride all the pages of the book. Most of you will agree with that no one has the right to restrict what we read, but Mrs. Spencer(The lady who bans books from the library)makes a valid point when she says not all books should be allowed in a school library, especially an elementary school library.

Would a responsible school library mix vulgar and obscene adult books with children’s novels? No; adult books should not be kept in a school library or else should be appropriately marked and shelved in their own area of the library. What would you do if inappropriate adult content is found in children’s books? Would you simply remove the book because the publishers failed to delineate between material that is and is not kid appropriate? Shouldn’t the decision about the book be upon parents and librarians to filter what kids read? It’s a legitimate question, but Mrs. Jones’s response holds firm: that’s why a procedure is in place to reexamine books that may cross the line of propriety. If a challenge is made and the librarian agrees the book is patently inappropriate, it will be removed. Overruling this process on the other hand just gives too much power in the hands of authorities, who for sure are eroding the right to free speech and freedom to read.. If kids don’t learn to value natural human rights in school, when will they?

The only thing that I found disturbing was that the main character was a fourth grader. It would have been better if the book was based on 6th or 7th graders because of the higher level of the text and the locker premise is more apt for middle school children rather elementary school. The story would be more appreciated and also have wider reach. In addition, some of the racial references like braids, blond hair were jarring and disrupting.

The books also has great Common Core-aligned discussion and activity guide included at the end which can be of great use for librarians for book discussions and for English/language teachers.

Highly recommended for school libraries and classrooms. A definite read aloud for 4th and 5th grades. No middle school grader should skip this just because the protagonist is a fourth grader.

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Role of School Librarian in Post Covid times: A reality

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According to the CBSE manual which highlights the factors involved for accreditation of any school, the library is an essential factor. Or rather a mandatory feature for a school. Yet very little has been done to improve the status of school libraries and school librarians over the years. There is no particular governing body or school association where school librarians can put forward their grievances or share their desire for improvement via training and special instruction. The professional course for librarianship does not prepare for a career in school librarianship. It does cover academic libraries but the starting point of any child’s education which is school and the school library is given a passing mention. Besides training in classification and cataloging not much is there concerning a school library.

School Libraries are the heart of any institution. A school with a well-stocked library and a proactive trained librarian will always be an edge above the others. Schools with well-functioning libraries show better performance in language, communication skills, research and helps in creating 21st-century learners. The role of a school librarian has undergone an immense transition in the past few years. From being a mere bookkeeper, he/she is now known as an information specialist, library program coordinator, research coordinator, library, and media specialist. The list is long. The worrying side of this story is that there is no parity in this among the school librarians. Not all are given the same respect or have the same magnitude in their professional lives.

In many schools, there is still the need for an awakening that a librarian can do much more beyond books if he/she is given an opportunity and essential training. This was best revealed under the circumstances post-Covid, where innovative school librarians stepped up and showed the world that we are education warriors. But do we get due credit?? The answer is sadly no. Post-Covid, librarians across the world had to take on a heavy yoke which most often carried no relief or reward.

My counterparts across the world lost their jobs as it is easy for a school that is functioning online mostly, to do away with a librarian since it works in a physical set-up. Little do these realize the negative impact of this action. Schools fail to see the significance of engaging a librarian in online teaching. When the world suddenly moved to digital mode, they needed to take the librarian and use the skills to help the school community. Cost cutting and strict budgets made librarians lose their jobs than other professionals in a school set-up.

In the Pre- Covid times, schools, where the librarian did nothing more than the mundane lending and borrowing of books, saw the maximum backlash of cost-cutting. The job was not required Post-Covid and hence removed without any guilt.

If I talk about India the situation only gets worse. In government schools, there is no librarian in most cases. In schools where there is a librarian, he/she has been asked to go on indefinite leave putting it under a slightly soft umbrella of a sabbatical. In private/ public schools, the scene is better though not completely. In some schools where the Heads understand and appreciate the value of a librarian, the staff has been engaged in online library lessons where the librarian connects with the students remotely with storytelling lessons, read-aloud sessions, etc. These librarians have surfaced as education warriors in India wherein they took the mantle of connecting students with books through the digital medium. Library crossed the physical borders and reached the homes of each child. Librarians made resources available to support teaching and learning through blogs, virtual libraries, E libraries, and so on.  Some librarians have been assigned co-teaching duties, teaching other subjects like language skills & GK, after school activities for reading clubs, or engaging in debates, competitions, and school events. During this pandemic, librarians have taken on different roles which are distinct from their usual role. But it must not be mistaken in believing that the position of a librarian is anything less or something that can be relegated. It is rather a time to recognize the librarians as highly adaptive, flexible, and versatile.

On the ground level, the key issues remain the same. Lack of training in digital tools, the undervalued role of the librarian, lack of understanding from Heads, increasing use of librarian as an activity teacher, all contribute to the position of a Librarian being undermined and not given the due worth we deserve.

Liam & Maverick Fight Germs and Viruses: A Masked Superhero and his Loyal Assistant Uncover the Secrets to Fight the Pandemic by Molly Peterson

Liam & Maverick Fight Germs and Viruses: A Masked Superhero and his Loyal  Assistant Uncover the Secrets to Fight the Pandemic eBook: Peterson, Molly:  Amazon.in: Kindle Store

Liam & Maverick Fight Germs and Viruses: A Masked Superhero and his Loyal Assistant Uncover the Secrets to Fight the Pandemic is a lovely book for kids – especially during a pandemic when children are spending time indoors, cooped inside their respective homes. This book helps explain what a pandemic is and what a virus is. It offers help and imparts knowledge which is easy to understand and comprehend for small children. The author, Molly Peterson, has beautifully explained the need to wear masks and the need of hand washing.

The plot is simple and endearing. Liam is a young boy who steps out with his pet dog Maverick to play with his friends. Even though he doesn’t fully understand the gravity of the situation, neither does he understand the virus fully. Yet Liam complies with the instructions and follows them dutifully for the safety of his loved ones. When he reaches the park where his friends are playing he is shocked to see them flouting all rules. None of them has a mask and they aren’t maintaining social distancing either. He goes up to them and asks about it. They reply that one does not need to wear mask outside. When Liam tells them otherwise they laugh at him and ignore him. Liam then takes it into his own hands, along with his faithful dog Maverick, to teach his friends about the virus and how to be safe for the sake of our loved ones.

A delightful and engaging book from the start. The author has made sure that all details are well met for the prerequisite of a children’s book. The font size is just correct for reading and it’s written in capitals, making it easy for children of any age to read. The language is very simple and easy to understand. The illustrations in the book just add more charm to the text and make the book self-explanatory.

I would recommend this book to all parents and librarians since it helps understand not just the pandemic, the virus and safety. It also imparts other important lessons and values like friendship, discipline, obedience, courage and love for our elders.

It is a fetching and endearing book that all elders would enjoy with young children.

I received an ARC of the book in exchange of honest review of the book. My views are my own and are not biased or influenced by the author or publisher.

Pigeon Mothers by Marty Correia

Pigeon Mothers by Marty Correia | Reedsy Discovery

Pigeon Mothers caught my attention due to its unique title and the book cover. The cover shows a pigeon mother keeping a watchful eye on her young children. The story of the book also runs parallel to this idea.

The novel is about a young girl named Cole. She is a white girl who is left to collect the pieces of her life when her father dies. Cole and her mother Helen are left behind in a relationship that never existed in the first place. The young girl feels anchorless and lost after her father’s death. Helen, her mother does nothing to salve the pain. The pieces of her life seem to fall apart when after the neighborhood bully beats her up she discovers that she’s an adopted child. The truth sinks in her and she realizes why the relationship with Helen was barren at best. Cole comes to know that her real/birth mother, Janet wants her back. She runs away to Coney Island where destiny plays a cruel trick and brings her in contact with Janet only to be snatched away due to Janet’s criminal schemes which ultimately lead to her arrest. The young girl, Cole is broken-hearted and left distraught at this change of events and feels more orphaned than ever. In the midst of this chaos, her adoptive mother Helen begins to feel the rising emotions of motherhood and tries to convince Cole to give her another chance. Does Cole reunite with Helen? Or does Janet come back and revive what was lost? It needs to be read

Pigeon Mothers could have been better if not for the lengthy descriptions of the scene which really do not add to the story instead worked against the flow of the narrative. There is too much background before the actual action takes place which makes it a dull read. I really had to stick to it till the end to know what happened. This could have been avoided by leaving out the descriptions. Too many character names too are dropped from time to time which can confuse the reader and draw away from the actual story.

This could have been literary brilliance if the author could have paid attention to the flow of events rather than giving background information for readers. Set in 1986 in Bridgeport, CT and Coney Island, NY, the story is realistic as it is based on first-hand knowledge of how working-class and desperate people survive.

For me this book fails to deliver what it really could.

I received an ARC of the book in exchange for an honest review. The views expressed are personal and are not biased or partial towards the author or publisher.

Lost in You by Kally Khan

Lost in You by Kally Khan

This is the first time I am disappointed in a book. The book started off with an excellent plot and really makes you want to read further. The beginning is really hard-hitting and the characters are all life-like with human flaws and mistakes. None of the characters seem fictional or drawn out. The best part about the book is the characters who seem like the people we meet in our daily lives. Interaction and camaraderie are very well written and add that extra flair to reading.

The plot begins with Kaia, a beautiful and confident girl speaking her mind. She speaks about her love, Adam, who loves her fiercely despite all odds. Yet things are not as they seem. Beneath the calm surface, there is a storm raging within her. The epicentre of the storm is her past, and the pain and betrayal she experiences from her mother. Kally Khan does a marvellous job in leading up to the part where Kaia speaks about her past in her parents’ home.

The story then takes a downslide or rather it seems that the author couldn’t understand which way to go. Kaia goes to live with Adam. Soon the routine kills the spark between them and she is attracted to another man leading to an affair. This set up seems rushed and not well dealt with.

The ending is hurried and does not meet the run-up of the story. Kaia is the only character who is well sketched out, others are just like caricatures that could have been well fleshed out if given more time.

Some poignant points are dealt with beautifully in the book, like parenting and how often we place parents on a pedestal and forget that they are humans too and can err. Then there is the topic of betrayal and child abuse.

A good book that had the potential to be an excellent read had the author not rushed to end the book and give the ending a little more time.

I received an ARC of the book in exchange for an honest review. The views expressed are my own and are not biased towards the author or publisher.