Tag: Children’s

Middle Grades Book Review: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring by Enigma Alberti

Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring
Series
: Spy on History #2
Author:
Enigma Alberti
Illustrator:
Tony Cliff

Published: April 2, 2019
96 Pages

Reviewed By: Cristina

Book Description:

Your Mission: Find Mary’s secret diary using spycraft stools to uncover hidden codes!

It’s a true story of bravery: Mary Bowser was an African American spy for the Union who worked as a maid in the mansion of Confederate Jefferson Davis. From hair-raising close calls when she almost gets caught to how she uses her photographic memory to “steal” top secret documents. Mary’s story reads like a gripping novel.

It’s a mystery to solve: There are clues embedded in the story’s text and illustrations, and Spycraft materials—including a replica Civil War cipher wheel—come in an envelope at the beginning of the book. Use both to discover what happened to Mary Bowser’s secret diary.

Cristina’s Review:

What would you do if you had the opportunity to be a spy where it would really matter? Your skills: a photographic memory, ability to read, and blending into the background. If you succeed, your people have a chance at freedom. If you fail, you’ll be hung. Are you in?

This book is a historical fiction with a fun interactive spy riddle to solve as well. A reader can just enjoy the story, or they can try to solve the case that’s embedded in the real story. Mary Bowser was a real person. She was a free African-American, but went undercover as a maid in Jefferson Davis’s mansion to spy for the Union. Because no person of color was expected to be able to read at that time in the South, Mary was able to read many valuable documents in Davis’s office while she dusted or polished lamps. She had to pretend to be illiterate and a little slow to avoid suspicion. It was a job filled with danger, but Mary proved to be invaluable to the Union. She was able to get critical information to the Union army and it helped save lives and win battles.

This book is written in a very engaging style. Lots of action, a few narrow misses that have you holding your breath, and insights into what the Civil War was like for the non-soldiers who still wanted to help fight for freedom and the Union. The interactive riddle–a search for Mary’s secret diary–is engaging as well. There is help at the back of the book if the reader gets too frustrated, but it’s fun to try and find the diary without any assistance. Spy on History is a series, so if historical fiction sounds appealing, come to the library to choose your spy adventure!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Book Review: Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Where the Sidewalk Ends
Author: Shel Silverstein

Published: 1974
187 Pages

Reviewed By: Cristina

Book Description:

Come in… for where the sidewalk ends, Shel Silverstein’s world begins.

Shel Silverstein, the New York Times bestselling author of The Giving Tree, A Light in the Attic, Falling Up, and Every Thing On It, has created a poetry collection that is outrageously funny and deeply profound.

You’ll meet a boy who turns into a TV set, and a girl who eats a whale. The Unicorn and the Bloath live there, and so does Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who will not take the garbage out. It is a place where you wash your shadow and plant diamond gardens, a place where shoes fly, sisters are auctioned off, and crocodiles go to the dentist.

Shel Silverstein’s masterful collection of poems and drawings stretches the bounds of imagination and will be cherished by readers of all ages.

Cristina’s Review:

Poetry often gets overlooked for young readers, but it can be a great stepping stone from picture books to chapter books, or comprehension practice for older readers. And, you know, poetry can just be fun to read!

Shel Silverstein is a very popular poet for children. This happens to be my favorite collection of his works. With poems about ice cream, pirates, doing chores, going to school, Silverstein’s poems are something children can relate to in their own lives. Some of them are just plain silly, some are very thoughtful, and some have a little lesson in them. He also draws illustrations to go with them. (The crocodile in the dentist chair is one of my favorites!) If your reader is thinking they are getting “too old” for bedtime stories, or you don’t have time for a whole book or chapter of something, try reading a poem together instead. This is a great collection to get them hooked on poetry!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

[Top]

Book Birthday Blitz: A Review of Jana’s Brightly Coloured Socks by Sally Fetouh

Today I am taking part in the Book Birthday Blitz for Jana’s Brightly Coloured Socks by Sally Fetouh and illustrated by Alexis Schnitger.  This children’s picture book was released last year and I am sharing my review. Happy First Book Birthday!

Author Sally Fetouh was inspired to write this touching story by her own daughter who has Down syndrome, feeling it was important for her and other children like her to be able to see themselves in literature. Two years ago, after reading a different story about a girl with Down syndrome to her daughter’s preschool class, Sally says, “The children were so engaged in the story and asked questions. They were very accepting and loving of their friend—my daughter. I left with a heart overflowing with emotion and that inspired me to write my story.”

Book Description:

When young Jana receives heaps of beautiful socks from her parents after learning how to put on socks all by herself, she can’t wait to show her friends at school. They are always kind and patient with Jana when they play together. Jana decides to share a pair of her new socks with each and every friend. This calls for a school sock parade! All of the children had so much fun showing off their colourful socks together that they gave a very special and huge gift for their kind and generous friend, Jana, a box of more socks!

There is cheerful text and whimsical illustrations that bring alive this heart-warming story of kindness and inclusion featuring a character with Down Syndrome.

Jana’s Brightly Coloured Socks
Author: Sally Fetouh
Illustrator: Alexis Schnitger
Published: May 21, 2022

40 Pages

Reviewed By: Jessica
Date Read: May 18, 2023
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars

Jessica’s Review:

Jana’s Brightly Coloured Socks is a colorful picture book aimed at children ages 4 and up and focuses on friendship, kindness, and inclusion!  Jana has Down Syndrome and she was able to get her socks on herself! Her parents celebrate this accomplishment and Jana takes socks to all the kids at school.  This is a simple yet fun book with the illustrations that enhance the story 1000%!  The illustrations are watercolor like for me and could tell the story themselves!

We have lots of inclusion and diversity in the pictures presented.  The story along with the pictures really show how that even though we are all different in our own way, but that’s ok!  The world would be very boring if we were all the same!

This short children’s book can also teach: The focus in the story is socks and how they are all different. Socks reference the extra chromosome that people with Down Syndrome have.  Did you know that Chromosomes look like socks? There is also a hashtag: #lotsofsocks which has a campaign:  Lots of Socks.

We need more books like this that both children and adults can enjoy and learn something from!

Purchase Links:
Through the author here.
Amazon US
Amazon UK

About the Author:

Writing is very much a part of who author Sally Fetouh is as a human being. As a child, writing was a way for her to express herself and all of the stories and ideas she had in her head. Now, as an adult, she has been inspired to write a beautiful story of kindness and friendship, Jana’s Brightly Coloured Socks, a heart-warming picture book loosely based on her daughter who has Down syndrome.

It was important to Sally that her daughter and other children like her were able to see themselves represented in literature. The idea came to Sally when she visited her daughter’s preschool to read a story about a girl with Down syndrome. The loving, accepting, and inquisitive responses from her daughter’s classmates inspired her to write a story reflecting these caring friendships.

Sally believes a great book is one that has impactful characters and a story that provides a new experience or perspective to the reader that stays with them long after the book is closed. She hopes that her young readers with disabilities or those who are different in some way will be able to relate to the main character and see a little bit of themselves, while also aiming for other readers to gain insight into the world of Down syndrome and the importance and impact of kindness and friendship.

When she isn’t writing thought-provoking children’s books, Sally works as a lawyer and a photographer. She enjoys being in nature, hiking, and horse riding. She lives with her family in Sydney, Australia. Jana’s Brightly Coloured Socks is her debut picture book.

Contact Sally:
Instagram
@sallyfetouh
Goodreads

[Top]