From Flying Frogs to Beach Houses and Beyond - where will reading take your kids?

I've taken down the Christmas decorations, tidied away (most of) the cards, used up (most of) the leftovers, and hidden the extra chocolate on a top shelf. Now all that's left is to find my way back into real life--reading, writing and book reviews--catch up on cleaning and shopping (I've almost done that), and struggle to remember it's 2018.

I read a lot of children's books over Christmas--even got quite a few as presents--so I thought I'd start my reviewing year by posting reviews of them. Some, of course, should really have been reviewed before Christmas. But flying frogs won't mind... so perhaps I'll start with them. Find a suitable mug of coffee, wait a moment while I pour my own, then make your reading choice.

The Flying Frog and the Alzheimer Patient by David Yair is fifth in a series but stands alone well, and would be a perfect gift for a child whose grandparent is learning to forget. It's a sweet fun chapter book, simply illustrated, blending fantasy, adventure, and real life concerns. Enjoy this one with some well-balanced three-star coffee.

The Beach House Mystery by Tara Ellis is an exciting adventure involving brothers and sisters at the beach. Samantha and Ally are the main protagonists, making this a fun and encouraging story for girls. Thoroughly up-to-date with failing cellphone reception, but retaining the wholesome feel of old-fashioned mysteries, it's a relatively slow read with interesting facts, well-described locations (on the Olympic Peninsula), and a scary adventure. Enjoy with some lively easy-drinking two-star coffee.

I came across The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer in a bookstore and was accosted by a small boy who told me "You have to read that." So I had to read it! The boy's mother assured me her daughter loved the series too, and now I know why. Not great literature. Not classic fairytale fodder. But fascinating, fun, with relatable misfit protagonists, honest emotions, and good timing with intriguing revelations. Yes, I definitely want to read more, and I'll enjoy them with some rich, complex four-star coffee.

Two story-and-poem collections for kids from the Writers' Mill are Zeus and Bo and Fred and Joe and Co, and Carl and June: Tales of Two. I have entries in both collections, so I'm not entirely sure I'm allowed to review, but I like the way the books collect together stories from different writers with different styles, ordering them to work together, and including poetry and illustrations with the stories. Enjoy these light quick reads with some light crisp one-star coffee.

Laughing Eyes by Haya Magner is a children's collection of poetry, containing just a few poems, each beautifully illustration in color-pencil style and with great expression. The poems read a little awkwardly to my ears, unfamiliar with the cadence of the accent I guess. But I really enjoyed the sense of real children's experiences, from long hair getting into your mouth (how well I remember that one) to the place where tears come and go. One to read over a mug of lively easy-drinking two-star coffee.

My Bedtime – bedtime routines for toddlers by Amanda Hembrow is a picture book about a little boy who'd rather not go to bed. I wasn't sure about the author's advice that readers change the boy's name to fit their child, but then, I'm kind of geared toward wanting children to read along with me. I learned a few new excuses for not sleeping from this book, but I enjoyed the gradual working toward closing eyes, and I imagine it would be a good bedtime read with small children. Enjoy this lively tale with some lively two-star coffee.

Edward Dron's The Pillow Parade takes a different approach to bedtime. A gorgeously illustrated picture-book, full of humor and delight, this is one I can imagine small children asking to look at night after night. Frowny sheep are waiting to be counted. A big-eared rabbit wants to try. And it's just lyrical, beautiful fun. Enjoy the well-balanced words with some well-balanced three-star coffee.

And finally, after counting sheep and rabbits, there's a book about a penguin. PI Penguin and the case of the Christmas Lights by Bec J Smith is one I really should have read and reviewed before Christmas. It has a cool message at the end, as a lonely penguin meets his neighbors and ponder why their Christmas lights seem so much more enticing than his own. Enjoy with some bright lively two-star coffee, and keep it in mind for next Christmas.


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