Monday, June 30, 2014

Stuck in the Doldrums, The Treasure of Snake Island, The Crew Goes Coconuts

Stuck in the Doldrums
A Lesson in Sharing
ISBN: 9781479182701
The Treasure of Snake Island
ISBN: 9781482390971
The Crew Goes Coconuts!
ISBN: 9781492162698
A Captain No Beard Story
Carole P. Roman
Redfeather Publishing
Bethpage, NY
$ 11.99
36 pages

In Stuck in the Doldrums Captain No Beard, who in real life is a young boy named Alexander is continuing his adventures with Hallie, his cousin and first mate. This adventure maroons them on a desert island with their stuffed animals who miraculously come to life while his bed is transformed into a pirate ship with his bedroom being the ocean.
At first, Captain No Beard has problems sharing the spyglass and then he sees his crew building a sand castle.  Being a captain, he feels that he needs to take over the design and the building.   When others disagree with him, he becomes frustrated returning to his ship alone. 
When the ship is attacked by a giant squid, he realizes that he needs his crew to save the ship.  He cannot perform all the duties to save the ship alone.  Will his crew members help him in time?
"Red sky at morning, sailors take warning, red sky at night, sailors' delight."   This old-time weather saying is the theme for The Treasure of Snake Island.  On this adventure, their pirate ship is in the middle of a dangerous storm while at sea,  rocking and having problems in the storm.  When it finally settles, the crew discovers a treasure map leading them to a buried treasure on Snake Island.   What is the treasure?   Is snake island infested with snakes?
With a goat joining the crew along with Cayla in The Crew Goes Coconuts!,  teasing becomes the focus with a goat  named Matie who is blamed for drinking all the juice.   Captain No Beard investigates their problems by asking each crew member to state one good and one bad thing about themselves.
Carole P. Roman is a mother, grandmother, former social studies teacher, and author and illustrator of the Captain No Beard series where the children turn a bed into a ship and have a multitude of adventures.   There are presently six books in this series.  She also has written and illustrated a series of visits to other countries with If You Were Me and Lived In...  series and a book about yoga, I Want to do Yoga Too.
Captain No Beard-An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life has been awarded the Kirkus Reviews Best of 2012, the Star of Remarkable Merit, and the Pinnacle Award in 2012.
All of these short novels tell a delightful imaginary story involving Alexander and his cousin, Hallie on their pirate ship learning some basic vocabulary for pirates while also having a life lesson surrounding their latest adventure.   The story and the pictures are perfectly parallel with the story so that non-readers can enjoy the tale by the illustrations again after the story is initially read aloud.
Have you ever dreamed of living on a ship in the vast ocean?   Captain No Beard books can be enjoyed by the child in every one of us.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

I Want to Do Yoga Too

I Want to Do Yoga Too
Carole P. Roman
Amazon Digital Services
ISBN: 9781475015584
$ 9.95
24 pages

When Hallie and her mother visit the yoga studio, Hallie is disappointed when her mother leaves her with Robin and other children while she has class.   Hallie insists that she can do yoga too.

As Hallie continues to complain, Robin suggests that Hallie pretend to be a tree which is quiet and peaceful.   Robin continues to instruct Hallie in creating airplane wings, a butterfly, and the cobra which were all quiet activities.

When her mother returns, Hallie is surprised that this make believe time really was yoga.

The drawings perfectly match Hallie's instruction essentially showing children how to begin  basic yoga positions.

I Want to Do Yoga Too is a great way to introduce young children to yoga combining words and pictures into an easy to understand book for all ages.  Ideally, this book is appropriate for children up to eight years old and would be perfect for those who are apprehensive about the mysterious word "yoga".

Carole Roman combines her busy life on Long Island  being a grandmother and businesswoman after spending years as a social studies teacher.

I Want to Do Yoga Too is a perfect Mommy and Me book making yoga a fun, practical family activity for everyone.


Sharon Kay Penman
A Marion Wood Book
G. P. Putnam's Sons
Penguin Group
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-399-15785-1
$ 28.95
594 pages

Legends often distort reality and for King Richard I of England that is certainly true.   A king of England who fought his father, spent less than six months in England once he became king, and fought for Christianity during the Crusades.   What made him a legend?  How could a king who barely visited the country be considered one of the best kings?

Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine had five sons.  Naturally, the eldest was expected to succeed as ruler of Britain.  William died as a child with Henry dead as an adult, Richard, Geoffrey died in battle, John, and three daughters, for any mother of eight children, having an heir would seem like a simple task.   However when the children were fighting with their father, Henry favored John as king while Eleanor expected and assisted with Richard.

Being that Richard was not originally considered to be king, he was granted his mother's inherited land of Aquitaine.   However once Richard became king, he was expected to Aquitaine to John since he now possessed Britain.

Lionheart focuses on Richard's time in the Holy Land on the Third Crusade explaining his reasoning for many of the actions which created the legend.   The details are so engrossing placing the reader back in 1189  on board a ship traveling to Sicily on the journey to Outremer where you feel the seasickness of those on board, even can visualize the horses on each ship and the multitude of challenges along the way.

Sharon Kay Penman is a spellbinding storyteller who has written many historical novels based on the history of Wales, Eleanor of Aquitaine and her second husband, Henry II, along with their children as well as four mysteries in the same time period.  Her extensive research turns the legends of the past into reality.

In Lionheart, Saladin is an unusual character but Sharon Key Penman allows the reader to view him as a person with honor and an in-depth knowledge of people.  This is rare in novels of the time period regarding the infidels.

Being that Richard's story is extensive, Lionheart is the first of a two novel set concluding with A King's Ransom which obviously is about when Richard was captured and held for ransom.

All of Penman's novels are rich with historical facts that are written into an intriguing story of the past.

Higgledy Piggledy

Higgledy Piggledy
A Tale of Four Little Pigs
Author: Dr. B. Seymour Rabinovitch with Rebecca S. Treger
Illustrator: Mari Gayatri Stern
Editor: Ruth A. Rabinovitch
Roxy Ann Press
Christian Book Distributors
Peabody, MA
ISBN: 978-0-9887474-0-1
$ 14.95
42 pages

Have you ever felt that you did not fit in with your family or your friends? Have you ever been teased about being different? That is Higgledy Piggledy’s problem.

In this happy little pig family, Curly, Twirly, Whirly, and Higgledy Piggledy live a content life
baking apple pies, playing with butterflies and taking long naps. The only problem in any of their lives was that sometimes Higgledy Piggledy would be teased by Curly, Twirly, and Whirly. Why?

Higgledy Piggledy’s name did not rhyme with his brothers. Of course Curly, Twirly, and Whirly rhymed with each other and that made Higgledy Piggledy feel left out with his name that rhymed with itself. Three against one was not a good feeling.

That all was about to change when a new neighbor arrived, a big wolf.

Higgledy Piggledy is a classic fairy story based on a combination of tales from Jewish folklore and the classic tale of The Three Little Pigs. As with many children’s fairy tales, these were originally told from generation to generation with slight changes matching the personalities and needs of the teller and the audience.

It was not unusual for a tale after many tellings to be different from one town to the next evolving as it traveled.

The authors of Higgledy Piggledy add another valuable asset to this tale for the benefit for the adult readers of this book with an explanation of the last names used in the “New World of Opportunity”, meaning North America and how the traditional family names were adapted to their new lives as well as their heritage.

Higgledy Piggledy is a delightful family story with illustrations perfectly matching the progression in the story. This version of the story is very family friendly and easy for children of all ages to understand especially with the pictures perfectly parallel to the story.

Dr. B. Seymour Rabinovitch is a retired professor of chemistry at the University of Washington in Seattle, Oregon. His granddaughter, Rebecca Simone Treger is currently studying medical research.

One unusual positive attribute to this book is the quality of the pages. These pages are thicker than an adult book page but thinner than a toddler book making it perfect for little and big hands as well as the glossy finish making it somewhat stain resistant, durable, and long lasting for generations.

Higgledy Piggledy is a thoughtful and insightful version of The Three Little Pigs with lessons of recognizing individuality and belonging.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Hemlock Lake

Hemlock Lake
Catskill Mountains Mysteries
Carolyn J. Rose
Five Star
Waterville, ME
Imprint of Gale
Cengage Learning
ISBN: 978-1-59414-884-2
$ 25.95
314 pages

Change is one things that is difficult for most of us, especially if we do not need or want the change.  For the small community of Hemlock Lake located in the Catskill Mountains, the local residents feel this way. 

A new development near the lake of luxury homes will bring new money into the community but will also make the locals realize that their homes are old and shabby, not to mention their daily lives.
It is obvious that someone is not pleased with this new change and they are constantly writing graffiti and setting fires to delay this progress.

For Sergeant Dan Stone, Hemlock Lake is his family home, or was his family home. Now he has no family.  His father is aged, living in a nursing home, and close to death.   His wife recently died while on the lake and his brother shot himself.  Since he is having problems with this, he has requested that he be the one investigating the events at Hemlock Lake.  This should give him the time to grieve and also assist the law enforcement investigation.

"She'd loved the shadowed mountain, clean air, and bright water.
On her thirtieth birthday, the lake killed her."

Susanna died on the lake while visiting at the family cabin without Dan.  Nat, Dan's brother was driving the boat when she died.  He shot himself in the head.  With his father knocking on death's door, Dan feels alone staying at the cabin.  Is this what he needs to get beyond his grief?

Life in this peaceful community is difficult now that local residents have concluded that Dan is there to assist the developer who views Dan as a local.  This is obvious to Dan when a rattlesnake in placed under a shirt inside his truck.  Added to that, his great grandfather's double-barreled shotgun is missing from the cabin.  Who would take it and why?  Is someone trying to make it look like Dan is the one stopping the development?

Camille is new to the community and walks the line between the locals since she works for an elderly couple and the newcomers.  What is her agenda?  Why is she interested in Dan?

Hemlock Lake is a haunting and realistic tale with a grief-stricken protagonist.  Dan must resolve his past to move onto the future inside a community living in the past refusing to step into the future.  Both are similar and blind to what is most evident directly in front of them.   The characters intermixing with the setting is masterly woven into a tapestry with more commonalities than differences.  Even though dark with a depressing main character, Hemlock Lake reflects change in both the novel and the reader.

Carolyn J. Rose has written numerous novels with settings as varied as her travels.  Also she has collaborated on other novels with her husband, Mike Nettleton.  Hemlock Lake won second place in the Public Safety Writers Association 2011 Competition.

The sequel to Hemlock Lake is Through a Yellow Wood.

Hemlock Lake is a tale the surges through your mind as the reader investigates the crime and the past through the eyes od Sergeant Dan Stone.

When I Grow Up I Want to the U. S. Navy!

When I Grow Up I Want to the U.S. Navy!
Noah Tours an Aircraft Carrier!
Wigu Publishing
Laguna Beach, California
ISBN: 978-1-93973-02-3
$ 12.95
58 pages

How many children see a military uniform and immediately believe that their personal future will be in the military becoming a hero and fighting for our country?  Whether it is a policeman, fireman, doctor, or the uniform of one the military branches, children know that these are honorable people who spend their life in service for the  good of others.

Wicu Publishing captures these daydreams of the young and turns them into reality in this read along non-fiction book about life on a U. S. Navy aircraft carrier demystifying the real, everyday life aboard the USS Gerald Ford.

Noah's grandpa, Ed was in the Navy and tells his grandchildren of his many exploits during his time of service. Ed's wife, Marilyn, who is also the grandmother agrees that there is actual truth in some of the tales.

At a nearby port, a U. S. Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald Ford is docked and Grandpa Ed is taking his grandchildren, Noah and Marina along for a tour of the boat.

This book even briefly explains the history of our Navy and the need for its continual vigilance intermixing drawings with photographs to best assist the reader in visualizing the events. Also included is a brief description of the carrier, the men and women on this ships with their various jobs, as well as explaining the dedication as the crew spends time away from their families.

Realistically, When I Grow Up I Want to Be the U. S. Navy perfectly shows the numerous jobs aboard the ship which in actuality is a city with its own zip code. Also incorporated into the book are the common vocabulary terms unique to ship life such as brig, deck, swabbing, sailor's quarters, mess deck, nuclear reactors, hangar deck, flight deck, and boost.

The possibility of danger aboard ships are also discussed especially regarding the precautions on the flight deck and around the nuclear reactor.

What is special about this book was its realism. Even these normal everyday non-combat duties can be dangerous such as the pilots taking off and landing on a ship as well as cautions around the nuclear reaction.  Also discussed is the immense amount of specialized training and education to become skilled enough to be able to protect and save the citizens of our country.

In conclusion this short book is a picture and a drawing of the vessels belonging to a Carrier Strike Group (CSG) visually describing the functions and purpose of the many parts.

The author of this book is the staff of Wigu Publishing who have written many books in the When I Grow Up I Want to Be... series including their recent publications of the U. S. Army!, a Teacher!, and a Firefighter!.   Upcoming books in this series include a Good Person!, a Nurse!, a Veterinarian!, a Race Car Driver!, and Green!.

When I Grow Up I Want to the U. S. Navy is an educational and fun tool for learning about an aircraft carrier.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

If You Were Me and Lived In...India, Kenya, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Turkey

If You Were Me and Lived In...
India  ISBN: 9781494030861 
Kenya ISBN: 9781481979917
Norway ISBN: 9781481979948
Portugal ISBN: 9781495379932
Russia ISBN: 978149378980
Turkey ISBN: 9781481979849
A Child's Introduction to Culture Around the World
Carole P. Roman Author/Illustrator
Amazon Digital Services
Charleston, South Carolina
$ 9.99
30 pages

"If You Were Me and Lived In..." is a wonderful journey experiencing life in other countries with different languages, foods, and customs.   How can anyone be completely prepared to visit any country?   Reading a book by Carole P. Roman is the perfect introduction into other ways of life in other parts of the world.

Each short fact-based book is beautifully illustrated with pictures that perfectly match the words on the page giving the reader more than the information but utilizing the words into a realistic setting that is common for each country.

The basic format is similar for each book beginning with the geography and showing each country's place in regards to the world describing the country, the usual weather, the continent, bodies of water, and usually facts specific to the individual country.  This is followed by a quick description and picturesque setting of the capital city.

With the focus being "If You Were Me and Lived In...", the you and me are very important with the next page including common names for children and how they address their parents while the illustrations are grounded in the home and family life.

Shopping is also included with a brief explanation of the money system and shopping in a local market while also showing how people are commonly dressed.

The most famous vacation spots are the next focus with the Taj Mahal in India, the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, the Hagia Sophia in Turkey, the Azores in Portugal, the Kirkenes Snowhotel in Norway, and Red Square in Moscow.

The food pages explain the common dishes, what is in them, how to eat them, and how to pronounce them as well as illustrating the usual method of cooking and eating these foods whether seated at a table or on the floor.

The sporting activities such as skiing in Norway, soccer in Portugal and Turkey, cricket in Kenya and India, as well as ice hockey, chess, and hide-and-go-seek in Russia continue to demonstrate the common aspects throughout the world.

Celebrations including the pronunciations along with a brief description of the reasons behind the event conclude the books with a compiled list of the foreign words on the last page.

Carole P. Roman is a retired social studies teacher who continues to educate the public through this series of books.  She has won both the Kirkus Reviews' Best of 2012 and the Pinnacle Award- Best Children's Book in 2013 with her pirate series, Captain No Beard- An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life as well as the Clarion Five-Star Review for both the India and Kenya books.

For children of all ages, Carole P. Roman's books are a wonderful way to travel.

The Wonder Bread Years

Do you remember watching television late at night and the broadcast ending with the American flag and The Star-Spangled Banner?

Do you remember while watching your television seeing a black and white peacock magically turning into colors?

Do you remember the commercial where someone yelled, "Give it to Mikey.  He'll eat anything?"
If you can answer "yes" to the above questions then you'll want to  see "The Wonder Bread Years" at the Omaha Community Playhouse.  
"The Wonder Bread Years" is a show combining some old television remembrances of the 1950s and 1960s with Pat Hazell showing how much we have changed since those days combining the aspects of a comedian and the theater into this one-man show.   As he interacts with the audience, he brings to life what we thought of as important in those days bringing in the humor and memories of a time of wonder.   

The strength of this light-hearted show is the realization of the common things rather than the differences between us and showing each member of the audience how to regain their sense of "wonder" which frequently lessens as our adult responsibilities increase.  With memories of sugar-coated cereals, Hershey's baking chocolate, SPAM, Kool-Aid, milk money, Toughskin jeans, and more... with laughter of past years and the real-life fear of actually becoming your parents, this show delights the audiences of Baby Boomers.

"The Wonder Bread Years" continues at the Omaha Community Playhouse at the Howard Drew Theatre through Sunday, June 29th with performances at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and on Sunday at 2 p.m.   Ticket prices are $ 35 and can be obtained  at the OCP box office located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, by calling (402) 553-0800,  or online at  or

For a true blast from the past, go see Pat Hazell's "The Wonder Bread Years".

Thursday, June 12, 2014

In the Hall of the Mountain King

In the Hall of the Mountain King
Adapted from Henrik Ibsen
Author: Allison Flannery
Illustrator:Vesper Stamper
Music by Edvard Grieg
Samizdat Publishing Group
Golden, Colorado
ISBN 978-1-938633-13-3
$ 22.00
32 pages

The Peer Gynt Suite by Edvard Grieg is frequently one of the first recognizable favorite of many children.   Grieg perfectly wrote the music to a tale written by Henrik Ibsen featuring a beautiful woman, a handsome and brave man, and terribly horrible monstrous creatures who captured the woman.   As the brave hero approaches the prison within the mountain, the listener can easily imagine the battle especially with the tune "In the Hall of the Mountain King".
Like many fairy tales including the original tales by the Brothers' Grimm, the story was not written for small children or for those who do not enjoy graphically violent episodes.  Surprisingly though, Grieg's The Peer Gynt Suite does not only contain the few selections that are well-known, but twenty-six separate musical pieces for the entire Suite.
 In Allison Flannery's version In the Hall of the Mountain King. the main character Peer is an adventurous boy who just explores further and further each day until he discovers a castle.  Curiosity makes him completely unaware of the possible dangers and consequences.  
This particular version of the fairy tale is safe and enjoyable for young children while also recognizing the perils of exploring too far while still perfectly matching the action with the illustrations and the music.   The vocabulary is appropriate for children in the 3-9 year old range.   The illustrations are colorful, recognizable, and perfectly matching the story.   Even the words are moved to coincide with the action.
Also noticeable is the attention to the setting.   The illustrations wonderfully envision Norway of many years ago featuring a house with flowers growing on the roof as well as the mountains and waterways so common in this country.
The recording of Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite  is excellent.  However, no credit is given to the orchestra who recorded this arrangement. 
When examining the illustrations, there is a character spying on Peer as he plays and climbs trees.   Who or what is this creature? What is their place in the story?
The author, Allison Flannery teaches primary students music in Colorado Springs, Colorado.    Vesper Stemper is a graduate of Parsons School of Design.  She now designs for a variety of clients as well as playing in a band.
In the Hall of the Mountain King is a wonderfully descriptive story that can be enjoyed by children of all ages uniquely including the music as an integral part of the story.

The Traitor's Wife

The Traitor's Wife
Allison Pataki
Howard Books
Simon & Schuster
New York, New York
February 11, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4767-3860-4
$ 14.99
497 pages

Benedict Arnold is a name that is synonymous with the term traitor for almost giving West Point to the British.  The American general definitely had some legitimate gripes with the leadership of the time.   What about his wife?   Did she have knowledge of the changing of loyalties?  Was she the cause of the change?

The Traitor's Wife by Allison Pataki focuses on Peggy Shippen, the much younger second wife of Benedict Arnold through the objective eyes of her fictional lady's maid, Clara.  

Clara was orphaned finding herself in need of a home and work when the Shippen family renewed an acquaintance which provided her both.   Clara was to assist both of the Shippen daughters but being that the older sister was less demanding and soon to be wed,  Peggy demanded the constant assistance of what would quickly become her own lady's maid.  

Peggy Shippen is known for her legendary charm and beauty.   During the start of this country, she was born to a family of wealth who had difficulty once the restrictions of British over the colonies.  She spent much of her time and talents developing friendships with the charming Redcoats, most notably Major John Andre.

In this historical fictional novel, Clara becomes a spy for the Loyalist while Peggy continues her friendships with the British while encouraging her husband to assist their cause with the hopes of a large reward from the Crown.  

The strength of The Traitor's Wife is outstanding regarding the setting.  Allison Pataki completely understands the time period and daily life through Clara.  From the realization of the constant cleaning of dresses that had been dragged on the ground, to the mending, along with the corsets and hair styles that were judged by their height along with the extra duties in the kitchen and to assist wherever there is a need with chores that were never finished, all perfectly capture the time period.

The codes and methods of communication on both sides of the conflict is enthralling.   Between the eavesdropping, the coded messages, and difficulty traveling distances and intercepted messages, Allison Pataki wonderfully escorts the reader through Clara.

The Traitor's Wife is the debut novel for Allison Pataki, daughter of former New York State Governor George E. Pataki.  Allison is a Yale graduate and resides in Chicago.

The Traitor's Wife brings to life these controversial figures into realistic history based on fact.

Friday, June 6, 2014

A Multitude of Sins

A Multitude of Sins
A Conan Flagg Mystery Book Two
M. K. Wren
Original Publication in 1975
Publication by Martha K. Renfroe
Untreed Reads Publishing
$ 5.99
192 pages

Conan Flagg lives a quiet life a the sole proprietor of Holliday Beach Book Shop and Rental Library in a peaceful seaside village in Oregon.  He enjoys reading about adventures rather than actually immersing his life into danger.   He values his books and his office which has been sound proofed so that he can truly enjoy his music.   Occasionally he does not mind using his previously learned skills which were useful while he was in the military and agrees to be a private investigator for the select cases were he questions the local law enforcement.

A mysterious letter appears at the bookstore requesting a private meeting with Conan at his house.  Curious, Conan contacts his housekeeper asking that she leave the back unlocked.  As he arrives home, imagine his surprise to hear the harmonic tones of his Steinway grand being played by a gifted  pianist.

Isodora Canfield has lived an elite life as the daughter of a recently deceased Senator.   Her talent and musical abilities have been well-respected within the community.   For some reason, Isodora feels that she is being followed.  Being that she has been diagnosed as being mentally ill, she realizes that this could be her imagination, but really believes that it is not.   Added to that, as Conan entered his home earlier, he had noticed a parked car watching his house.   Why would someone be following her?

A Multitude of Sins is a well-written, fast-paced mystery with a strong understanding of the world of the professional musician and artist.   These few gifted people who reach to heights of respect are frequently a mystery to the rest of the normal people.  Their lives are centered around their gifts which can also be a burden.

The strength of this novel is the characterization of creating believable people who come to life off the page.   M. K. Wren possesses this gift especially with the descriptions of the pianist and the painter with the insightfulness of someone with this background.   The imagery is phenomenal in that you can almost hear the pianist and visualize the paintings.

Also adding to the realism is the author's descriptions of the extremely wealthy lifestyle while carefully removing each layer of money which covers the imperfect world of greed within their personal relationships.

A Multitude of Sins is the second novel featuring Conan Flagg following Curiosity Did Not Kill the Cat.   This novel can be read as part of the series or as a standalone since the author explains the introductory characters and relationships briefly at the beginning.  

What I found interesting though was the setting of the novel taking place in the 1970s through the use of home telephones and phone booths which did not date the book, but added to the authenticity of the life style of the time.

M. K. Wren in the pen-name of Oregon writer Martha K. Renfroe who has written many mysteries and science fiction novels.

A Multitude of Sins is an insightful novel into mental illness, artistry, and the lives of the wealthy taking its readers back into life in the 1970s.