Monday, August 27, 2012

A Star Bright Surprise in the Mail

Several months ago (right before the major crazy hit with the move and the baby) I received a box in the mail from Star Bright Books.

That box made my day.  
My week.  
My month.

It contained free unsolicited books.  Well, mostly.  One of them was solicited.  The rest were an amazing surprise!

Here's a peek at what was inside...

The Bremen Town Musicians  (Book given free for an honest review, per our review policy)
(retold and illustrated by Brian Wildsmith)

A retelling of the Brothers Grimm story about a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster who are turned out by their masters and set out for Bremen, where they will join a band and have a new start.  With a 'bray,' a 'bark,' a 'meow,' and a 'cock-a-doodle-doo,' they become fast friends as they travel together.  Getting to Bremen leads to a great adventure with unexpected surprises along the way!  (Summary from book - Image from www.starbrightbooks.com)

Mini Review:  The Bremen Town Musicians is the fanciful tale of four unwanted animals -- a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster -- who decide to abandon their masters and sing with the local band.  And so, with their lives given new purpose they set off on the road to Bremen Town, with no idea the trouble that lies in their path.  While I appreciate the retelling of this classic fairy tale, this book wouldn't have been half as wonderful without the gorgeous illustrations.  Each turn of the page reveals richly textured watercolors* of the passing scenery, flora, and fauna that serve to ensnare the eyes and enhance the story.  Although the animals run into a few bandit-shaped bumps along the way, they soon find by working together nothing can stop their happily ever after. (4.5 STARS)

*At least, I think it is watercolor.

Valentino Finds a Home
by Andy Whiteside, Illustrated by Catherine Hnatov

Valentino, a guinea pig, runs away from his native home, Bolivia, where he is considered a delicious meal.  He stows away and after many adventures lands in a pet store.  From where he finally meets Maddie -- a little girl with lots of love to share -- who is longing for the perfect pet.  Who says there is no such thing as a happy ending?  Just ask Valentino and Maddie!  (Summary from book - Image from www.starbrightbooks.com)

Mini Review:  Valentino Finds a Home is a charming story for little ones or emerging readers.  Valentino the guinea pig must escape from Bolivia or risk becoming a tasty treat.  After a few work out sessions to get fit, he sneaks into someone's luggage, is mistaken for a rat, and then quickly deposited at the closest pet store.  Eventually, he's adopted by just the right owner who knows what Valentino is and loves him just the same.  This book's rhyming verse makes it a great bedtime story, as well! (3.75 STARS)

Zachary's Dinnertime
by Lara Levinson, Illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright

When it's dinnertime at home, Zachary wishes he didn't have to help set the table, prepare the meal, or clean up after dinner.  But when he visits his friends and is not allowed to help since he is a guest, he discovers the many delectable delights and traditions of their cultures and returns home eager to share his traditions with them...and to help with all the chores. (Summary from book - Image from www.starbrightbooks.org)

Mini Review: Zachary's Dinnertime teaches the importance of cooperation while honoring the traditions of many American families.  Zachary is annoyed with having to help the family at dinnertime, so he decides to eat at his friends' houses for a week and gets a taste of how other cultures live and eat.  As a guest, Zachary devours a Japanese-American meal of fish and rice without having to set the table.  He gobbles up a Mexican-American meal of rice, beans, and enchiladas, but does't get to help stuff the enchiladas.   He scarfs hummus, falafel, and pita in an Israeli-American home, but doesn't get to help clean up.  Zachary visits a few other houses, as well, and at each he gets to experience traditional ethnic meals, but feels bad that he isn't allowed to help.  Finally, when Zachary invites all of his friends to dinner at his home, he is more than happy to help with the meal.  The lovely illustrations and delicious dinners will fascinate young readers and help foster an interest in other cultures. (4 STARS)

The Aminal
by Lorna & Lecia Balian

When Patrick finds an "aminal" in a field, he decides to take it home and feed it.  Along the way, he meets Molly and describes what he is carrying in his lunchbag -- but what he thinks is cute, Molly thinks is scary.  She tells all their friends about the giant, hungry "aminal" Patrick is bringing home with him, and pretty soon everyone thinks they must save Patrick from the terrible monster that wants to eat him up. (Summary from book - Image from www.starbrightbooks.org)

Mini Review: With it's bright yellow cover and creative cover art, The Aminal is an instantly attractive and totally adorable story about a young boy named Patrick who finds an "Aminal" while having a picnic.  He decides to catch it and soon tells his friend Molly of the aminal hidden in his lunchbag, and his plans to take it home.  As Molly shares Patrick's discovery with another friend, a hilarious  version of the telephone game ensues, where each child tells another child and the Aminal grows bigger and scarier in their imaginations.  Thankfully, even in their imaginations, the Aminal stays a bit soft and friendly, and never crosses over into the truly terrifying.  Worried about Patrick, his friends run to his house only to find that the Aminal has gone missing and Patrick is heartbroken.  The children search high and low until they find the Aminal -- and discover that the Aminal isn't really an Aminal at all! (4 STARS)

Brothers and Sisters
by Laura Dwight

At least one sibling in each of the families in this book has a disability. But just like all siblings, they work together to solve their problems, whatever they may be. (Summary and Image from www.starbrightbooks.org)

Mini Review:  Brothers and Sisters introduces readers to sets of sibling where one or more of the siblings are living with a disability.  Through photograph and anecdotes, this book shows that children with different abilities can do lots of things; they like to have fun, they take walks, read, play games, and even fight with their siblings.  While the book is a bit wordy for its 28 pages, it is  something that an independent reader might enjoy and the resource list and glossary in the back could help them learn more about specific disabilities.  From vision or hearing impairment, to cerebral palsy, down syndrome, Asperger's syndrome, and congential amputation, each child's story introduces readers to tools, like wheelchairs, close captioning, braille, TTY, prosthesis, canes, and even special computers programs that help those with disabilities perform everyday tasks.  Above all, Brothers and Sisters teaches children that someone who is different can still be a friend!  (3.5 STARS)

When Someone Is Afraid
by Valeri Gorbachev, Illustrated by Kostya Gorbachev

When an ostrich is afraid, it sticks its head in the sand.  When a turtle is afraid, it shrinks into its shell.  Rabbits run away and cats hide under the bed.  But when a little boy has a bad dream in the middle of the night, his parents are there to comfort him.  (Summary from book - Image from www.starbrightbooks.org)

Mini Review:  When Someone Is Afraid, shows what eleven different animals and one young boy do when they are afraid.  The animals react by instinct, while the young boy calls for his mother who hugs him, kisses him, and makes him feel better. Each page is colorfully illustrated and contains only a few words, making it a great choice for bed time reading (not too long) or for early readers who are looking to try it on their own.  (3.75 STARS)  

Cradle Me
by Debby Slier

The rich Native American tradition of carrying babies safely, comfortably and close to their mothers in cradle boards endures to this day.  As shown in this book, each cradle board is personalized and they differ from tribe to tribe, not only in style but also in the material used. (Summary from book - Image from www.starbrightbooks.org)

Mini Review:  Who doesn't love a smiling baby?!  In Cradle Me, you'll see adorable Native American babies sleeping in beautifully decorated cradle boards.  Each page of this board book contains a picture of a baby smiling, yawning, peeking, sleeping, etc. and the corresponding word that describes that child's emotion or action.  There is also a line where the owner can write the word in whatever Native American dialect they choose and a final page that shows to which tribe made each cradle board.  Cradle Me is a great book for someone who wants to promote diversity or celebrate their own Native American heritage.  (3.75 STARS)

Babies, Babies!
by Debby Slier

Babies show just how adorable they are in this photo-filled book featuring all the lovely smiles, frowns, and giggles they make as they discover and react to their day-to-day world. (Summary from book - Image from www.starbrightbooks.org)

Mini Review:  Babies, Babies! is an adorably simple board book. Each page features a beautiful a African-American child and a word describing their behavior or emotion.  Whether these babies are looking, smiling, wondering, thinking, crying, laughing, pouting, peeking, yawning, or sleeping, they are straight up cutie patooties!  (3.75 STARS)

Head on over to Star Bright Books if you'd like to see more great titles!

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