Fiona: Forever? Book Review

Once in a while a book comes into my life that will forever stay with me. Whether it’s a character, a gripping plot, some works just tend to stay with you as a reader.

Fiona: Forever?, by Erinn Uher, is a remarkable story about a little girl in foster care who is looking for her forever home.

One of my favorite things about working with self published authors is the freedom they have to create a book that includes everything they want. The structure of this book is a fiction with some nonfiction elements thrown in. There are bolded words throughout the text (vocabulary words) that students can look up in the glossary at the back of the book. The vocabulary words were related to foster care (such as case worker, bonding) to help teach readers important aspects about new information. Personally, I really liked this because I even learned a few new words.

And, as always, I love when a book can be more than a book. This text includes Think About It questions after each chapter to help the reader think, reflect, and interact with the text. These are not just reading comprehension question, but are higher order thinking based. There are also some areas for readers to draw characters, or other aspects of the story, which is also fabulous.

Fiona, our main character, is  an adorable little girl with red curly hair and glasses. She has been to eight foster homes, but dreams of her forever family. Her mole pet, Melvin, is her best friend and the only constant in her life. As with any child in the system, she has issues letting people in and trusting them. She is very independent.

The Oliver’s are a caring and loving family. Lorraine, Pete and their teenage son Clyde, welcome Fiona into their home with open arms. Pete helps Fiona with her homework, and he shows a tremendous amount of patience, Lorraine takes Fiona shopping and respects Fiona’s decisions, and Clyde interacts with Fiona like a big brother by teaching her to play basketball.

We see Fiona blossom into a happy little girl because of the Oliver family. They make her feel special on her birthday, are by her side when she breaks her wrist, and provide her with a strong support system.

However, my absolute favorite character is Miss Alice. Fiona stayed with Miss Alice temporarily. This older woman is truly amazing. When Fiona was with her, Miss Alice had had 48 foster children. Talk about a woman with a huge heart. One night, Miss Alice was telling Fiona about the first little boy she fostered, and how much of a challenge he was.

“He was just so used to bein’ hurt and neglected by the grown-ups in his life. He needed to learn to trust all over again. Needed to know for sure I was gonna be here for him no matter what, even on the most ugly days.”

Personally, I think this is the most powerful quote in the entire text. It sums up beautifully the struggles children in foster care face, and why it is so hard for them to trust others. It also shows us how important foster parents truly are in the lives of children. There are many, many emotions that are involved, and it takes special individuals to help children work through these emotions.

Without giving away the ending, I will tell you that I did cry when reading this book. I actually Facebook messaged the author as soon as I finished. I had a hard time typing because of the tears in my eyes. For those of us with children or who work with children, this book will grab your heart.

While I was reading, I kept visualizing a third or fourth grade class reading this as a class novel, and using the activities inside like a reader’s notebook. It can also be used at home and in a homeschool environment.

To purchase this book click here: https://www.amazon.com/Fiona-Forever-Erinn-Uher-ebook/dp/B07XHN4K8M

Family Dinner Book Review

My favorite emails are from Goodreads when they tell me I’m a giveaway winner. I just so happened to get one of those glorious emails earlier this week. The last book review I did for a Goodreads giveaway win was with The Fever King.

Family Dinner, by Cory Q Tan, is a picture book about a dad who will do whatever it takes to bring home carrots to his family for dinner.

When the book first started, I thought it was realistic fiction. There’s a husband and wife and the wife is nagging the husband to go out and by carrots for dinner. She wants to make potato carrot soup, but they have no carrots. I loved the dialogue in the beginning because it really does capture the realities of being married (with nagging).

As we all know, sometimes things don’t turn out the way we expect/hope. We all have those days when things go from bad to worse, which is exactly what the dad deals with. His go-to grocery store is closed, the next one is out of carrots, then he ventures into the country.

This is where I got surprised as a reader. All of a sudden the story took a fantasy turn. There are big talking worms, a wolf with a toothache, a giant fish and more. At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about this shift, but as the story continued I could see that it was effective.

The dad made it a point to help every animal/insect he came into contact with. Even though the wolf could have eaten him, the dad still helped the wolf pull out his tooth. This shows readers the importance of kindness and helping others.

However, my favorite part was at the end of the story. The dad was gone an awfully long time trying to get the carrots for his family, and it was clear the family was concerned when the dad finally got home. The mom didn’t care about the carrots, but instead told readers all the family needs is the dad.

This was a really cute little story that would work for early elementary students.

PB & J Book Review

Six months ago when I decided to dive back into blogging, I was fortunate to connect with some amazing authors. Not only did I review their books, two of them even did virtual visits with me for my EdOptions Academy kids. We continue to follow and support one another on social media, and have developed a really awesome friendship. Christine Reynebau was one of my first author friends, and she continues to be an absolute inspiration. I reviewed her picture book Celebrate back in June (click here to see my review for Celebrate), and I’m super excited to share another one of her works.

PB& J, by Christine Reynebau, is a sweet story about perseverance and support.

The main character is an adorable little girl who wants to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but she can’t open the jelly jar. She tries a few ways to open the jar on her own, but she is unsuccessful. She decides to do what all girls do when the going gets tough… she asks her parents for help.

Both of her parents gently say they will not open the jar because they believe that she can open the jar on her own. At first I was surprised when her dad told her this, because dad’s usually do anything to help their daughters. But the fact that the dad encourages her to keep trying is heartwarming. I love that by not helping his daughter open the jar her dad is teaching her an important life lesson of perseverance. And when her mom also tells her daughter to keep trying it reiterates the life lesson.

The little girl spends the rest of the picture book trying creative ways to open the jar. I love that she ties the jar to the back of her bike and when that doesn’t work pitches the jar to her brother Mike. She really does try anything she can think of to get the lid off.

Spoiler alert: After all of her creative attempts, the little girl is successful by opening the jar with one hand. She is so incredibly proud of herself, as she should be, and celebrates with encouraging words from her parents and a PB & J sandwich.

This adorable picture book would be great with little ones in preschool through second grade.

To purchase the book click here.

The Bones of Who We Are Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

As you know, my weakness in my book life is YA. A few weeks ago I shared my thoughts on Swimming Sideways, and I loved it so much that I DM’d the amazing author and totally bonded. So when C.L. Walters reached out to me to be part of the The Bones of Who We Are I literally jumped at the opportunity.

The Bones of Who We Are, by C.L. Walters, dives into the realities of friendship, family, and personal growth.

The amazing characters pick up right where they left off, but this time we get Gabe’s story. The amount of build up to this will have you skimming pages to get to the good stuff, although the entire novel is quite fabulous. My goal is to not give anything away because I don’t want to ruin that reader moment for anyone.

Walters has a way of creating the most genuine characters I have ever come across. In The Bones of Who We Are, two characters really packed an incredible punch that have such positive impacts on Gabe’s life.

Martha, Gabe’s adoptive mother, has been depicted as the quintessential housewife. The woman makes fresh, homemade chocolate chip cookies every day with an apron. But, we discover that Martha is an incredibly strong woman. We get a glimpse into her past during a heartfelt conversation with Gabe. Underneath the perfect mom, is a ferocious mama bear who has the biggest heart I have ever seen in literature. The love that she has for Gabe and the need to protect him reminds me of Lily Potter. Martha will stop at nothing to get her son what he needs to learn in a healthy environment. As a teacher and parent, I hear this story so many times from mom’s of classified students who have to fight for their children. Martha symbolizes the strength it takes to raise a child who is different in a world that is not understanding.

Dr. Miller, Gabe’s psychologist, is a true team player. We go back in time to the first session, and it’s clear that Doc Miller has way with children. I love how he is able to guide Gabe through the healing process with such kindness and heart. He is the glue in Gabe’s life. Dr. Miller’s insight is powerful and leaves readers to ponder their own lives. He is a pillar of strength in Gabe’s support system.

Along with incredible characters, Walters really dives into the themes of family and friendship. Families today look very different than families from fifty years ago. Families deal with addiction, separation, divorce, and abuse in a very judgmental society. Through Gabe’s story, Walters shows readers that a family does not have to be made up of biological parents and children. Family can be defined by those who love, fight, and protect one another. This is a very powerful message for readers today. It let’s them know it is okay not to have the perfect nuclear family. In fact, there is no such thing as a perfect family.

Friendship is a re-occurring theme in Walters’ novels, and she continues to dig deeper into this concept with each novel. In The Bones of Who We Are, forgiveness is seen between all of the characters. They learn that regardless of what was done in the past, it is possible to move forward with relationships. True friendships have a solid foundation that can withstand anything, as we see with Seth, Abby and Gabe. The quality of friends is more important than the quantity.

Personally, I think that every reader can relate to Gabe. Throughout the novel, he is battling some serious internal conflicts that have plagued him for years. It is as though Seth’s accident and life/death situation has forced Gabe to battle through demons of his past. We see him contemplating suicide while extremely intoxicated in order to deal with Seth’s condition. Gabe’s personal growth is really explained in the second part of the book. We see his physical change in actions (sitting in the cafeteria again) but we also see some symbolism with his wardrobe. He exchanges his black hoody based attire for lighter colored clothing. It’s as though Abby has literally brightened his world. I love that he takes Dr. Miller’s advice of working through situations because it allows Gabe to morph into a stronger individual.

The Bones of Who We Are is an incredible book that I would recommend for readers 15 and up. There is some mature language and content included in this text. I truly can’t say enough about these amazing novels.

 

 

Arial the Chef Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

I love food. I’m a fan of going out to dinner, experimenting with different recipes and watching Hell’s Kitchen. Molly is also a fan of these food things, especially watching Hell’s Kitchen while cooking in her play kitchen.

Arial is definitely becoming one of my favorite characters in a picture book series. I’ve previously reviewed Arial the Youtuber (an Amazon best seller) and I’m so excited to share another Arial story today that involves food!

Arial the Chef, by Mary Nhin, is a fabulous story about the importance of working hard and helping others.

I really like how Arial’s Youtube videos continues into this book. We pick up with her recording a new video for making sushi at home (she makes it look so easy!). Arial wants to purchase a sushi robot to help her cut rolls, but she doesn’t have $400.

The family makes and delivers dinner to their neighbor, who is sick. Britany, the daughter, reveals that her dad may lose his job because he needs a surgery to get better, but the family can’t afford it. This bit of information may seem random and out of place, but it’s an important component to the overall plot and message.

To make money, Arial opens a sushi bar. Her grand opening is busy, but soon she realizes the struggles of starting a new business. Even though she feels defeated, Arial looks to her parents for advice, and they give her some great ideas. I love how Arial’s family works as a team to support one another. Her parents’ ideas allow Arial to gain some momentum with her sushi bar, and at the end of the month she is able to walk away with a profit.

But, wait, there’s more! With her $400 profits, Arial doesn’t buy the sushi robot, but instead goes to Britany’s and gives her the money! This act of kindness makes my heart so full and speaks volumes to young readers. The overall theme of the text can be summed up by this quote from the book. “She proved to herself she could do hard things and help others.” I am absolutely head over heels for this quote and want to put it in my office. I love, love, love the lessons of grit and kindness that this book offers. I feel like I fall more in love with Arial with each story she’s in.

And, just like Arial the Youtuber, Nhin provides some great extras at the end of the book. First, there is a step-by-step guide for making sushi at home and how to open a sushi bar. Super cool fun fact, the author has experience with opening a sushi restaurant! There is also a vocabulary activity, discussion topics, a writing exercise and drawing space for readers to interact with the story.

I think this book would be fabulous when discussing theme, characterization, or character education in a classroom or homeschool environment for students in grades 1-3.

To purchase this book click here.

 

Cutie Sue Wins the Race Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

I do have moments when I compare my childhood in the 90s to Molly’s today. While I did watch TV, I was also riding my bike, going on play dates, and playing sports. I was quite an active kid. I feel that kids these days are more inclined to stay inside and socialize on social media, play video games, or watch TV.

Cutie Sue Wins the Race, by Kate Melton, is a realistic story about a little girl who is motivated and supported to change her lifestyle and win a race.

When we first meet Cutie Sue, she is a couch potato. She is inspired to get in shape when she decides she wants to win first place in a race at school. Her dad takes her for a run and Cutie Sue realizes that she is going to need to work hard to get in shape.

Personally, I love Cutie Sue’s dad. He helps his daughter practice, but also teaches her lifestyle changes (drinking water, eating right, having fun) that truly help her prepare for the race. Dad is supportive in his guidance. He doesn’t sugar coat the situation by saying how amazing Cutie Sue is, instead, he is out there with his daughter keeping track of her times.

I was also a huge fan of how Melton teaches readers that exercise and eating healthy can change your life in a positive way. Not only does Cutie Sue get faster at running, her body felt stronger, her energy was higher and she had more confidence. In one of the pictures, it shows Cutie Sue turning down candy as she’s eating veggies. I liked this visual reenforcement because typically kids will pick sweets over healthy foods.

I could see this picture book working really well with kids in preschool through 2nd grade. I also think it could work very well in an early elementary health curriculum about exercising and eating right.

To purchase the book click here

Timothy’s Lesson in Good Values Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

I took a survey for a fellow woman entrepreneur about how I choose which books to read/purchase. Some of the options included: cover art, cute characters, genres, etc., but none focused on quality content. When I choose books to read with Molly, I like to focus on ones that have good morals and values because there are so many life lessons Molly needs exposure to.

Timothy’s Lesson in Good Values, by Christopher Gordon, is a picture book that reinforces good values and sparks conversation.

In simply flipping through the book, readers get a sense of the organization. It is broken up into three different components, each focusing on a different value (obedience, responsibility, kindness). There is a quick story about the value then a page of questions for young readers to answer. How do readers learn about the value? Timothy transforms into the Warrior of Good Values and jumps in to save the day!

I liked that each value is given it’s own short story. It’s not overwhelming and the message is quite clear. The three stories are all totally different with their settings and conflict.

My personal favorite is the story of obedience. In my opinion, this is a value we don’t really talk about much on a daily basis. The setting is at a school after winter break, and a blue monster convinces Timothy’s friend, Emily, to skip school. Timothy explains to readers that Emily promised her parents she would go right to school and right home. I think this simplifies the value of obedience and makes it easier for young readers to grasp. I really liked the concept of skipping school because it’s not over used, but it’s also a lesson I could see kids applying to their real lives. I should also admit I never skipped school or even a class growing up.

I was also a fan of a super hero being used in the story. Young readers, especially boys I’ve noticed, gravitate towards superheroes, so utilizing one in the story hooks and speaks to readers. It has a little bit of a Superman feel to it, but in a more realistic way.

Each story ends with a page of questions. There are lines included so kids can either write directly in the book or copies can be made. Kids can answer the questions on their own for reading comprehension questions, or parents/teachers can use the questions to springboard discussions.

I could see this working in an elementary classroom for character education. The teacher reads the story and uses the questions to spark whole class discussions. The book also includes coloring and drawing pages, which can easily be used in the classroom.

For more information about the author click here

To purchase the book from Amazon click here