Decisions, Decisions

Reuben’s Choice: A Make Your Own Decisions Book

Written by Natalie Vellacott

As the title implies, this is an interactive storybook for children. Reuben is excited and proud because this is the first day he is being permitted to walk to school on his own. He hurriedly makes his way past the scary alley along the way and is nearly at school when he hears a howling distress sound from a ditch near the road. Reuben faces his first decision. Should he stop, disobey his mother’s instructions, be late for school, ignore a plea for help? Readers are given four choices. When they make their choice, they are directed to a page which gives them additional questions and outcomes because of their choices. Eventually, readers will reach the last choice and be directed back to the beginning of the book until they reach the end of the story.

Children will learn that honesty is the best policy and that all our actions have unforeseen consequences. The book provides lots of important discussion topics for parents and teachers. Interactive reading encourages children to keep reading and gives them the power to control the story outcome. Recommended especially for children in the eight to twelve age range.

Volcano Adventure

The Exploding Twins: A Volcano Adventure

Written by Y. and M. Leshem

Illustrated by Lucia Benito

This is a charming, hands-on book for curious, young scientists. Daniel and Allison are twins who are listening to their Aunt Melissa, who has just returned from a trip to South America. She is showing them pictures of her climb to the top of a volcano. Their interest immediately peeks when their parents ask if they would like to create a volcano of their own in the backyard. The twins eagerly jump at the opportunity.

The second part of the book explains in easy to understand text and vivid illustrations how a volcano looks and what happens when it explodes. Then the authors present the materials necessary to create an exploding volcano from ordinary household materials. Each step leads to the climax of the explosion.

This book is an effective combination of endearing characters and a recipe for a science experiment that any family can share together. I have seen this experiment done in the classroom many times and it never fails to amaze budding, young scientists. Highly recommended for elementary and middle-grade students as a good choice in the STEM category to encourage a greater awareness of science all around us for both girls and boys.

Clear the Clutter Now!

Need to get rid of the clutter in your life?

Do The Opposite Of Nothing: The Ridiculously Simple Strategy for Serious Procrastinators…

Written by Nealey Stapleton

The author spends a lot of time in her introduction explaining procrastination and how it leads to clutter. When one procrastinates, none of a person’s goals can be achieved. Stapleton then spends a chapter on each of ten methods that might be employed to enable a person to succeed at decluttering and ending procrastination. I found a few to be especially valuable for myself. To avoid a sense of overwhelming frustration, I need to set aside a small, realistic amount of time and select one task to achieve before moving on to more ambitious plans. I am also guilty of the “homeless” mistake. A successful organizer needs to establish a spot for every object and make sure that it stays there. Many of my friends and I are guilty of buying more than we need, resulting in a storage problem. Do you keep stuff for too long and procrastinate about going through those things that really have no useful purpose in your life?

There are a lot of simple things one can do to feel a sense of accomplishment and organization that will allow a more productive use of time and many of one’s important goals to be achieved. Stapleton provides a plethora of links and resources in each chapter. I must admit they do become repetitive and can slow down the flow of the book. However, I enjoyed the straightforward presentation and practical advice, which I plan to implement daily. Recommended for anyone who has too much stuff and too little time on their hands.

Barbara Ann Mojica

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Amazing Sharks

Sharks: Amazing Facts & Pictures for Children, Issue No. 2

Written by Hathai Ross

The author has written a simple reference book that will provide young readers with the essential facts on these fascinating sea creatures. Hathai begins with a history of sharks, pointing out to young readers that they existed before the dinosaurs. She includes a few simple photos to illustrate fossil remains. In the next chapter, Ross discusses anatomy and function. Ross provides a quick glimpse of different types of sharks and their special qualities like electrical sensors, and an exceptional sense of vision, smell, and hearing. Before concluding, Ross tries to convince her readers that despite movie depictions, there are reasons not to be afraid of sharks. She delves into their unique characteristics, and the organizations working to protect them.

Much of the book is written in the form of question and answer. That enables young readers to follow easily, but it does break up the flow of the narrative. This book is laid out more in the form of a reference book or research tool. I don’t think that will deter readers who are fascinated by these creatures and would like a quick, comprehensive overview. The illustrations and diagrams vary in effectiveness because some are difficult to see. Recommended for animal enthusiasts and children seeking information for a research project.

Sibling Sisters

Miss Perfect and Tiny Tail

Written by Rachel Schlessinger

Illustrated by Sigalet Carmely

This book is a fairly well-written chapter book that features a ten-year-old named Lily who faces numerous challenges one summer. Lily is the middle child. Her older sister, Miss Perfect, and a younger sister, Tiny Tail are both dearly loved and constant annoyances. A large part of the book focuses on sibling and peer relationships as well as Lily’s conflicts with her mother.

Lily’s mother informs the three sisters that they will be moving from their small village to the big city because their father has found work there. This is the second conflict that Lily, as well as her sisters, must face and resolve. Lily has developed a crush on Tommy. At first, he seems to ignore and make fun of her.

The summer setting provides the backdrop for these three challenges. As time advances, each member of the family must face the issues revealed in the first person narrative told by Lily. Many middle-grade readers will see themselves mirrored in the characters and their conflicts. Because this book consists of short chapters consisting of less than seventy pages, reluctant readers will not be deterred. A few illustrations enhance its appeal. Recommended for middle-grade readers, teachers and parents who wish to explore the challenges faced by the middle child, parent and sibling relationships, and families who are planning a move.

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Barbara Ann Mojica

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Chess Adventures and Girl Power!

An Evening with Grandpa: Adventures in Chess Land

Written by Diana Matlin

This chapter book contains a story that achieves two objectives: it teaches a child how to play chess and presents an engaging fairy tale promoting strong female role models.

Annie is sick in bed with a sore throat. To make matters worse, her family is attending The Nutcracker Ballet and she is stuck home with grandpa. Grandpa sticks his nose in his newspaper. He won’t consider playing one of Annie’ s favorite child games. But once he begins telling her a story about a young girl named Pawnie who is enlisted by the Queen to fight for her kingdom, Annie wants to hear more. Grandpa cleverly reveals how to play chess in the tale about two queens and kings who are battling for control of the kingdom. Grandpa includes all the chess players and carefully details their moves and strategies for winning the battle. The white queen promises that if Pawnie successfully gets to the other side, she will become a princess. Annie is enthralled with the tale and eagerly sets out to learn how to play the game of chess with grandpa.

Matlin keeps the plot moving with clever dialogue and a detailed description of how the chess characters can succeed in winning the game by learning the right chess moves. It is a unique way to introduce children to a challenging game of skill. The chapters are kept short and the print font is large, making it a good choice for beginning and reluctant readers. The strong female role model focus combined with the traditional princess protagonist is a powerful magnet for young girls. Highly recommended for budding chess players and readers in the six to ten age group but a fun read for all.

Barbara Ann Mojica

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Natural Autism Therapies

Autism: Simple and Inexpensive Natural Autism Therapies to Help Your Autistic Child Live a Calm and Healthy Life

Written by Nancy Perez

The author is a proponent of natural therapies to relieve stress and anxiety. She has used them to treat her own diabetes for years and has written how to employ them to assist in the treatment of autism. In this book, Perez provides an overview of the autism spectrum. While there is a myriad of symptoms and behaviors, all autistic children suffer from communication and socialization issues. Autism appears to have connections with both genetics and the environment.

The heart of the book deals with treatments. While many patients diagnosed with autism require some sort of medication, Perez focuses on more natural treatments. A definite diagnosis is often not made until after age five, but early intervention is important to address a child’s needs. Speech, physical and occupational therapy may be needed as well as special education to address cognition. Depending on the issues the individual faces, music therapy, art therapy, animal therapy, nature therapy, and swing therapy, might be effective interventions. I found the discussion of using horses (hippotherapy) to help a child process sensory movements enlightening. Simpler steps that can be implemented easily in the home include removing chemical products, massaging the child, experimenting with dietary needs, and introducing yoga. Learning each child’s preferences and needs is the most difficult aspect of living and working with a child on the autistic spectrum.

As an educator who has worked as a member of an interdisciplinary team treating autistic children, I would definitely recommend this book to parents and educators who are new to the field of autism as an easy to read introduction to the subject.


Barbara Ann Mojica

A Colorful Case of Mystery

Leon Chameleon PI and the case of the missing canary eggs

Written by Janet-Hurst Nicholson

Illustrated by Barbara McGuire

What a charming chapter book! Nicholson succeeds in creating a clever detective mystery for middle-grade readers. At the same time, the soft illustrations encourage reluctant readers and beginning readers transitioning to chapter books to handle the ten chapters. The text is large and easy to read. Using the technique of personification, Nicholson endows animal creatures like Leon, the chameleon, and Egg Eater the snake with human personalities and a sense of humor. Readers will enjoy practicing their sleuthing skills as they attempt to unravel the mystery of the missing canary eggs. I especially enjoyed the trial process and the very clever dialogue.

This book is part of a series. Although this is my first read, I would explore reading the others. I heartily recommend this book for middle-grade readers, reluctant readers, and mystery lovers. Clever characters and crisp dialogue keep the story interesting. Enjoyable for readers of all ages.

You can get the book along with a quick preview here.

Barbara Ann Mojica