The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball

It’s sometimes too easy to forget that the way we live (whether in Canada, the United States, or China) is not the only way. The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball explores just how jarring moving halfway around the world can be—particularly for children.BaseballThe Forbidden Temptation of Baseball follows two brothers, Woo Ka-Leong and Elder Brother Woo Ka-Sun, as they move from their village in Southern China to Suffield, Connecticut in 1875. They are part of a group of 120 boys that the Imperial Government of China is sending to the United States as part of the Chinese Educational Mission. Their task is to learn English, complete college degrees, and return home to help transform China to a strong, modern country.

The boys participating in the Chinese Educational Mission are sent to the United States with almost a year of training in the English language (enough to be polite), descriptions of American culture, and many admonitions: do not act “too American,” do not join a church (although they must attend with their host families), do not cut the long braid that all Chinese men and boys wear as a symbol of loyalty to the emperor, and avoid the American frivolity called “baseball.”

Ka-Leong and Ka-Sun are placed with the Swann family: Reverend Swann, his wife, and their two daughters, Julia and Charlotte. The Swanns immediately begin calling the boys Leon and Carson, deciding their Chinese names are simply too difficult to pronounce. A day later, Carson, who is the more serious and studious of the two brothers, is dismayed to learn that their teacher will be a woman.

This is just the beginning of the clash of the two cultures. As the boys’ time in America continues, they are teased by children and adults for their braids and their clothing. They struggle to learn the English language and to continue their own Chinese studies after their lessons. They are stunned by aspects of American culture that they were unprepared for, in particular, the role and treatment of women.

Author Dori Jones Yang has done a fantastic job identifying many ways in which the cultures of 1870s China and 1870s America differed. But even more impressive is her interpretation of how the Chinese boys might have responded to these disparities. Although Leon and Carson are brothers and come from the same home and upbringing, their reactions to life in America, and their willingness to adapt to this new life, are dissimilar.

I was enamored with this tale of two brothers and could not put it down. Ms. Yang’s exploration of the relationship between Leon and Carson was brilliant. I loved the use of baseball to symbolize one brother’s attraction to American culture, while he pulled away from both his brother and the life in which he was raised.

The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball is based on the true story of the Chinese Educational Mission, in which the emperor of China sent 120 boys ages eleven through sixteen to study in America. They stayed with host families in Connecticut and western Massachusetts. You’ll have to read the book to learn whether the Mission was successful!

I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Dori Jones Yang is the author of a number of books, from non-fiction to YA novels to children’s readers. Her website is www.booksbydori.com.

Have you read any great books lately?

Heartwood Hotel: A True Home

A hotel is often said to be a “home away from home.” This is how the animals of Fernwood Forest see Heartwood Hotel. In A True Home, Kallie George brings this adorable new chapter book series to life and introduces us to Mona the mouse.Heartwood HotelFlooding drives Mona the mouse out of her newest home. With her suitcase in hand, she heads out into the storm. Fate sweeps her to the door of the Heartwood Hotel.

Mona discovers a ballroom full of animals—rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, hedgehogs, birds, a lizard, and even a badger. They are dressed up, dancing, eating, and laughing. These are the guests (and some staff) of the Heartwood Hotel. A bird band is providing entertainment, and there is a table stacked with food.

Gilles the front-desk lizard intercepts Mona and regretfully informs her that the hotel is fully booked due to the Acorn Festival. But Mr. Heartwood, the owner, takes pity on Mona. He offers her a temporary position for the night as a maid and a place to sleep in the staff quarters.

The next day, Mr. Heartwood offers to extend Mona’s single-night job through the fall festivals. Mona is grateful for the hospitality and pledges to “give her all” to the hotel.

Although Mona works hard, she can’t win the friendship of the other maid, Tilly the squirrel. Mona also attracts trouble over and over again—with skunk guests, with Tilly, and even when a bug tries to stay at the hotel!

Mona is sure to become a much-beloved character in many young readers’ homes. Her hard work on behalf of the hotel, her penchant for mishap when she is trying to help others, and her creative solutions to problems will make her a favorite among little ones. Those young readers will be spellbound by Mona’s tale, as they worry with her about where she will go after the fall festival season is over.

Kallie George is the author of a number of children’s books, including both picture books and chapter books. Her picture books include The Melancholic Mermaid and Duck, Duck, Dinosaur. In addition to the Heartwood Hotel chapter book series, Ms. George is the author of The Magical Animal Adoption Agency series. Her website is www.kalliegeorge.com.

Heartwood Hotel also has its own website, where you can check on the availability of rooms, apply for a job, learn more about the rooms and staff of the Heartwood Hotel, and take quizzes. The Magical Animal Adoption Agency’s website tells about animals available for adoption, assists people in making adoptions, provides “tips and alerts” and “pet care” information (“Owning a unicorn is a big—and wonderful!—responsibility…”), and offers a downloadable “Magical Egg Handbook.” Lots of fun!

I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review and am looking forward to the next books in this series! Book 2, The Greatest Gift, was released July 11, 2017, and Book 3, Better Together, is planned for February 6, 2018.

Have you read any great books lately?

Diary of a Teenage Jewel Thief & GIVEAWAY!

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Most teenagers wish their lives were more exciting, more thrilling, anything but dull and normal. Then, there’s Maribel.

Maribel is a “Teenage Jewel Thief.” We meet her scaling the wall of a museum in the middle of a heist. The job is interrupted by the arrival of goons sent by Petrov Rosinsky, the leader of a crime syndicate. Petrov killed Mari’s father nine years ago, and he seems determined to wipe out the rest of the family.

Mari and her mother flee to New York, where they attempt to live a “regular life.” Mari begins high school as just a typical teenage girl—a life she has been pining for as she moonlighted as a professional thief.

On her first day of school, Mari meets Will Campbell. She instantly falls for his good looks and charm, but tries to distance herself from him in case Petrov finds her.

When Mari starts seeing suspicious people that appear to be following her, she becomes convinced that Petrov has found her. Is her imagination threatening to destroy her new love and regular life, or has her past caught up with her again?

Mari frequently takes a break from the high school drama to write in her diary. We learn about her fears for herself and her mother, her growing attraction toward Will, and her attempts to fit in at school.

The action in Diary of a Teenage Jewel Thief is addicting—by the end of Chapter 1, I couldn’t put the book down. Mari battles typical teenage problems and doubts, while also struggling with her fears from her past. Mari is charming and vulnerable, and I was cheering for her throughout the book as she looked for to ways fit in and make friends.

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The publisher of Diary of a Teenage Jewel Thief has provided this synopsis:

Most sixteen-year-olds shouldn’t know where museums keep their rarest jewels (the basement) and they really shouldn’t know that vans make the worst getaway cars. But for Marisol Flores, a life of jewel thievery is a birthright handed down from generation to generation, even if she didn’t ask for it. So when a rival thief targets Mari and her mother, Mari’s more than happy to flee to the anonymity of bustling New York City.

Blending in is a dream come true for Mari, but keeping her former thieving ways a secret gets way more complicated when handsome Will Campbell sets his sights on her. She can’t help but like his terrible puns and charming grin…but when her past catches up with her, it’s not only her life—and her anonymity—that’s at stake.

Will could be the next target.

This is a great book to pick up if you want a fun, exciting, compelling read, with a little love thrown in. You can find Diary of a Teenage Jewel Thief at Amazon.com and other book retailers. Click here to enter a GIVEAWAY for a $20 Amazon gift card.

About the Author:

Rosie Somers is a beach-going book addict who’s been crafting stories since before she learned her ABCs. When she’s not busy trying to bring the characters in her head to life on paper, she can be found volunteering with local animal rescues, crocheting funky hats for her friends, or eating herself into the poorhouse at Chipotle. Her fondest dream is to one day own a goat.

You can follow Ms. Somers on her blog (rosiesomers.blogspot.com), on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ProsyRosie/) or on Twitter (@prosyrosie).

DON’T FORGET TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!!!

Have you read any great books lately?

Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver

There comes a time when a child no longer believes that his parent knows everything. The child may even be embarrassed by how his parent behaves in public. Enter Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver. He finds ways to help children change their parents’ unattractive behavior.

Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver by Lorri Horn is an entertaining read for middle grade kids. It tells of young entrepreneur Dewey Fairchild and his ingenious profession.Dewey Fairchild.jpgDewey got the idea for his business when his friend Seraphina shared a problem she had with her mom. Nine-and-a-half-year-old Seraphina’s mother was being overprotective: holding her hand to cross the street, walking her into school, and protecting her from using butter knives. She even cut Seraphina’s meat for her at dinner!

Dewey spent time observing Seraphina and her mother. He then came up with a plan to change Seraphina’s mom’s behavior. It worked so well that word spread that Dewey was a “parent problem solver.” Soon, every kid needed his help.

One year later, Dewey’s business is so busy that he has an office (in his attic), an assistant (his old babysitter), and letterhead stationery. Kids who want to request his services crawl through the air ducts and fly down a slide into the attic, munching on homemade cookies that have been strategically placed in the air vent entrance.

Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver follows Dewey as he tackles his cases. He searches for solutions to the parent-created problems of kids in his town, including, with the help of three good friends—Seraphina, Colin, and assistant Clara—a problem that is close to home. When he overhears his parents talking about moving the family to Alaska, he decides something has to be done. Surely Dewey Fairchild, PPS, can solve this parent-problem!

Readers will laugh out loud at Dewey’s investigative strategies, at the various problems he faces (including a public nose-picking dad!), and the solutions he dreams up! Parents: watch your behavior around your kids once they’ve read this one, or you might find yourself crying on YouTube!

Lorri Horn thought she wanted to study vervet monkeys and become a famous biological anthropologist. But she says: “it turns out you have to rough it and camp to do that kind of job and Lorri’s more of a pillow-top mattress and no bug-repellant kind of gal.” Plus, the monkeys never showed up for story time. So she became a teacher instead! You can read more about her on Dewey Fairchild’s website: www.deweyfairchild.com. This is Ms. Horn’s first middle grade fiction book.

Dewey Fairchild, Parent Problem Solver goes on sale next week. I highly recommend picking up a copy for your middle grade readers! I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. We can’t wait for the next book of Dewey Fairchild’s cases!

Have you read any great books lately?

My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Beauty and the Beast

The Beast kidnapped Belle and held her in the castle against her will. She fell in love with him because she had Stockholm Syndrome.

This is how Maddie’s Rotten Stepbrother Holden “Ruined Beauty and the Beast.”Rotten StepbrotherEleven-year-old Maddie loves fairy tale princesses. For Halloween, she decides to dress up as Belle. Her new stepmother suggests that Holden should dress up as the Beast. After creating a truly horrifying costume, Holden presents his Stockholm Syndrome alternative to Maddie’s true love fairy tale.

Holden is forced to change out of his costume before they go to the school Halloween party. Maddie’s dad suggests that he wear a suit and tell people he’s a lawyer.

After the party, Holden notices that his tablet (what lawyer goes anywhere without one?) is still turned on. He looks at it and calls Maddie over. They see pictures from the story of Beauty and the Beast, but the tale doesn’t end the way they remember. They realize that Holden has somehow changed the story. Before they know what’s happening, they are transported into the story so that they can fix it.

Maddie is transformed into Belle. Holden is. . . the lawyer.

Maddie and Holden enter Beauty and the Beast just as Belle is marrying the Beast. But the Beast hasn’t changed back into a human. Before they can be married, he is arrested for kidnapping.

Holden is the Beast’s lawyer. He has to overcome his feelings about the fairy tale and work with the Beast to find a strategy to fight the kidnapping charge.

Meanwhile, Maddie has her own challenges. Holden’s statements have her questioning whether Belle’s love for the Beast is true love or the result of brainwashing. She sets out to find out the truth for herself and for Belle!

Jerry Mahoney has created a hilarious new spin on the classic fairy tale. His story combines a wonderful step-sibling dynamic and adds in the natural language barriers inherent in transporting two 21st-century kids to a secluded French village “once upon a time.”

Jerry Mahoney is the author of Mommy Man: How I Went from Mild-Mannered Geek to Gay Superdad, his memoir. After reading just a few posts on his blog, I bought a copy of the book—it looks like it will be just as entertaining as his children’s books! His website is http://www.jerry-mahoney.com.

My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Beauty and the Beast will be released on August 1, 2017. I received an advance reader copy of the book in exchange for my unbiased review. Three other titles in the My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Fairy Tales series are being released on August 1 as well. I can’t wait to read My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella (the first book in the series), My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Aladdin, and My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Snow White!

Have you read any great books lately?

I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool – GIVEAWAY!

Yep, it’s true. I have one copy of the brand-new book by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella to give away this week! I’ll be running the GIVEAWAY for one week.LifeguardNew York Times Bestselling Author Lisa Scottoline is well-known for her legal series (which is how I first found her) and her emotional thrillers. She writes one of each of these a year. She also writes a third book every year – she and her daughter Francesca team up to write a collection of entertaining tales from their lives. I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool is their seventh collection of non-fiction stories (Ms. Scottoline also wrote an eighth on her own).

Ms. Scottoline has been one of my favorite authors since I read one of her Rosato & DiNunzio books a few years ago and promptly returned to the library to check out everything Ms. Scottoline had written. So I couldn’t wait to jump into this collection of essays by Ms. Scottoline and Ms. Serritella. The two authors had me in stitches as I read stories about turning thirty, trips to the dermatologist, holidays with friends and family, and disputes with apartment neighbors.

I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool is a great choice for anyone who enjoys funny short essays. Laugh out loud as Ms. Scottoline shares her love of school supplies and Ms. Serritella discusses the most recent primary and general elections. The book is written in a down-to-earth way that makes you feel like you are just chatting with your friends Lisa and Francesca! A great read!

I received an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review, and now am excited to share a copy of the finished product with one lucky winner!

CLICK HERE to enter the giveaway to win a copy of I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool!

Have you read any great books lately?

Binny Bewitched

This was my introduction to Binny and her family, and I was bewitched from the start. This is the third Binny book by Hilary McKay, and I hope Ms. McKay has many more tales to tell about this enchanting character!BinnyTwelve-year-old Binny (Belinda) Cornwallis lives with her mother, her seventeen-year-old sister Clem (Clemency), and her six-year-old brother James. They live in a small house, where they had to move after Binny’s father died four years ago. Money is tight, but fortunately they have some help fixing up the house from a handyman named Pete.

Binny is walking home from school one day, wishing she had money to buy her mother a birthday present. As she passes the bank, she spies a pile of money left in the ATM. It appears her wish has been granted! Magic or miracle, Binny is glad to accept the gift.

She soon decides that the witch who lives next door, Miss Piper, knows about the money. Guilt begins to gnaw at her, and Binny realizes that she has to return it to the bank. But when she looks for the money, she discovers she’s lost it.

Binny asks Gareth, her best enemy and most loyal friend, to help find the missing money. They create a list of suspects and then begin an investigation so that they can cross names off the list. Against her better judgment, Binny allows herself to be convinced to include friends and family as suspects.

Through her investigation, Binny begins to mistrust even people closest to her. She finds out how easy it can be to hurt those she cares about, and learns how wrong she can be about people. She has to work to repair her relationships, and even starts to like Miss Piper. She concludes that money can’t solve all of her family’s problems.

Although I haven’t read the other two Binny books, I suspect that this is not the only time that Binny’s wild imagination and impetuous nature has gotten her into hilarious situations. Binny is the kind of kid who makes you smile—or laugh out loud—as you root for her. And yet, you know that if you were her parent, you would simply shake your head and sigh, “Oh Binny!” before pulling her into your arms.

Hilary McKay is the author of a number of children’s books, including the Binny books, the Casson Family series, the Lulu chapter book series and the Meet Charlie—He’s Trouble chapter book series. Ms. McKay explains on her website (www.hilarymckay.co.uk) that she left a job as a biochemist so that she could devote more time to her writing (and her children). Thank-you Ms. McKay!

Ms. McKay describes the first stage of writing a book as “a bit like cooking.” I love her analogy, and am adding the whole recipe to my “Ingredients for Cooking a Book” page!

I received an advance reader copy of Binny Bewitched in exchange for my unbiased review of the book. But I’m on the lookout for other Hilary McKay books now—starting with the first two Binny books! I’m so glad to have been introduced to this fantastic author!

Have you read any great books lately?

Magic in the City

A mother and her two kids are walking past a magician when he offers them some of his magic items for free. With a stopwatch, they’ll be able to stop time. With a camera, they’ll be able to put themselves into a picture. And with his carpet, they’ll be able to fly.

Why doesn’t stuff like this ever happen to me?

Unfortunately, the mother I describe is not this hopeful blogger. She is the mother of two of the three main characters in Magic in the City, by Heather Dyer. Rachel Grubb and her sons, Jake and Simon, are traveling from their home in Canada to live with her sister in England when they meet the magician.Magic in the CityThe night they arrive at their Aunt Helen’s house, Jake and Simon discover that the magician was telling the truth about the magic carpet. They fly off over London, seeing the sights they had read about in their tourist guidebook.

Their cousin Hannah joins them the next day as they test the stopwatch. Younger brother Simon wants to see the Queen, but Hannah soon suspects that Jake has something else in mind. Their day is filled with adventure, fun, and surprises!

Magic in the City is an enjoyable and quick read. The action moves swiftly and draws young readers in, as they wait to see what will happen next to Jake, Hannah, and Simon.

If I had one wish with this book, it would be that Jake, Hannah, and Simon had spent just a little more time in each of their adventures. The picture Ms. Dyer drew of each place was so vivid, and the predicament that the kids were in was so entertaining, that I would have loved to experience each place for just a bit longer. But, I suppose this is like many a book that I’ve read and loved—Ms. Dyer successfully left me wanting more!

Heather Dyer is the author of five children’s novels and a picture book. She explains on her website that, like Magic in the City, “all of [her] books feature ordinary children to whom something magical happens.” These include a story about a girl whose bedroom can fly her to magical adventures, a story about twins who meet a girl with feathery wings, and a story about a boy who finds a mermaid with stringy hair and a chipped front tooth!

Ms. Dyer’s website is www.heatherdyer.co.uk. She also joins 30 other authors in providing content for the Awfully Big Blog Adventure.

Although I received an electronic advance reader copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review, Alex read the first chapter and loved it so much that he wanted to do a book report on it for school. We pre-ordered the book so that it would arrive the day it was released and then Alex could work from a paper copy over the next two months as he prepared his report. If you follow this blog (or even check it out once in a while), you know that we read a lot of books in our house, so Alex’s reaction was high praise, indeed!

Have you read any great books lately?

Thoughts on Traveling to Japan?

We have a trip to Japan scheduled later this year. Folks who know us wonder what we are going to eat – rice, I say!

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Japan National Tourism Organization: https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/

Anyway, I’ve found a few amazing ideas for kids to do in Japan: traveling on the bullet train is a MUST (click here for an article about the Shinkansen), and I think we need to take a trip up to see the Jigokudani Monkey Park (check out this article!).

Anyone have other thoughts of what we absolutely HAVE to do while we are in Japan? I would hate to come home and learn about other great opportunities.

Please send your suggestions in the comments or by email! Keep in mind I will have two small kids with me.