Book Review: A Unicorn Named Sparkle

A Unicorn Named Sparkle

I recently read A Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young and it seriously gave me a case of the giggles.

I mean, it’s a story about a little girl who orders a unicorn for 25 cents from an ad in the back of a magazine (whoever tells you that’s not a dream come true is lying), but what shows up is a goat with an ice cream cone stuck to his forehead.

How can you not love this premise?

It’s a delightful picture book that my children found to be fun and silly.  The illustrations are bright and colorful and … sparkly.

Lucy’s wild hair and polka dot shirt are painted with soft watercolors and dance across pages of wide white spreads, and the baby unicorn/goat practically dances right into your heart with his own little heart-shaped cutie mark.

Now, when Lucy imagines what kind of unicorn will be delivered to her, she pictures something perfect and pretty with a flowing mane and impeccable manners.  When the goat arrives, with his scruffy mane and tendency-to-eat-things manners, she decides to return him.

The truck arrives to take him back, but, luckily, Lucy realizes her mistake before it’s too late.

Because although he was not quite what she expected, “she had to admit:  sometimes he made her smile and sometimes he made her laugh.”  And while friends might not always be perfect, they are certainly precious.

So if you or your kids love unicorns (or goats), check out A Unicorn Named Sparkle for a fun and charming story!

Happy Reading!

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Fiona’s Luck: a Book Review

Fiona's Luck

With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, I’ve seen a few book recommendation lists that include Fiona’s Luck, which is written by Teresa Bateman and illustrated by Kelly Murphy.

I love seeing this book recommended at any time of year, however, because it is simply one of my very favorite picture books.

Both of my children love it, but of course it is my eldest, Fiona, who gets especially excited about it.  My girls love to find their names in books or movies, as most children do, and that was what attracted me to Fiona’s Luck in the first place.

And I am so happy I decided to buy it.

Not only does it give me a chance to have fun playing around with my horrible Irish accent (which is possibly more entertaining to me than my kids), but it delivers a wonderful lesson in the form of a fun and engaging story.

Fiona is a young woman in Ireland, living in a time after the Leprechaun King has stolen all the luck that used to be floating freely around the country, and locked it away in a big wooden chest.  He was upset that all of the luck floating around out there was getting attached to the Big Folk, and so he decided to keep it all for himself.

But he took ALL of the luck, every bit of it, and with no luck left floating around Ireland, a famine developed.  The cows wouldn’t let down milk, the hens weren’t laying eggs, and the potatoes rotted in the ground.

Fiona uses her wits to trick everyone into thinking that she is in fact very lucky by pretending to harvest potatoes and be overloaded with baskets of eggs and buckets of milk.

Her ruse works, and the Leprechaun King magically transports her to his throne room to demand that she return the luck.  Since she knows she is not lucky, she uses that to her advantage when he challenges her to tests of luck.  And though she fails all of his tests, she wins something much greater:  a little bit of the luck that he had locked away.  And as it turns out, a little bit is enough.

Fiona's Luck

Illustrations © Kelly Murphy

Amidst this tale of a woman who would rather have her “wits about her” than all the luck in the world, are gorgeously painted illustrations.  While reading the story, there is so much for kids to look at, and so many beautiful details for their eyes to peruse (like tiny sparkles of luck or hidden leprechauns).

The mood of the story comes alive against the soft natural colors, with the gloomier parts reflected by more subdued shades, and the lighter moments highlighted by the playful twinkling of the luck.  The friendly faces set against the sprawling Irish countryside makes for gorgeous viewing for adults and kids alike.

I highly recommend this book.  You won’t regret sharing the brave and spirited Fiona with your own amazing kids!

Happy Reading!

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Marta Big & Small: Book Review

marta-big-and-small

I recently picked up Marta Big & Small, written by Jen Arena and illustrated by Angela Dominguez, and I just had to share it.

This bilingual book is wonderful not only for the understated yet adorable illustrations, but also because of the lyrical flow to the text.

As we follow Marta through the story, she is compared to various animals, so we are practicing opposites.  The comparisons are made in both English and Spanish, but in a way that sounds poetic as opposed to a school lesson.

For example, “To an elephant, Marta is pequeña.  Small, very small.”

This makes it fun to read while also being educational.  And my kids love to ask me how to say things in Spanish, so to have these words presented like this is something I can really appreciate.

There is also a spread where we learn the Spanish words for the animals.  For example, Marta is “fast like el caballo.”

I am also completely enchanted by the female-positive message at the end.  She is called “clever, very clever, like una niña.”  This is a fantastic way to end the tale that includes her outsmarting a snake who though she looked “sabrosa” or “tasty.”

Plus, we get another spread which lists the words in the book with the Spanish and English words side by side, as a glossary.

Fun to read and educational!  Can’t beat that.

Happy Reading!

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I Have Seen Beyond Infinity

From Beyond Lovecraft Quote

As you may have noticed, if you follow my blog, I read a wide variety of genres . . . but there’s a special place in my heart for horror.

I love how there’s so much you can do with horror, how it can encompass everything else, from science fiction to romance.

Anyway, I’ve been reading a little Lovecraft lately, and while he has many quotable phrases, this particular bit stuck with me enough that I felt I should illustrate it.

So I made this graphic.

It reads:

I have seen beyond the bounds of infinity and drawn down daemons from the stars . . . I have harnessed the shadows that stride from world to world to sow death and madness . . .

The imagery conjures something vast, something terrifying, but in words that translate the concept of cosmic horror with a sense of beauty.

Or, it does for me.

This quote can be found in From Beyond, a story from the collection The Dream Cycle of H.P. Lovecraft.

The photo features a small but very active galaxy in the Camelopardalis constellation and can be found on NASA’s website.

And you can find more images like this that I’ve made in my Quotes section.

Enjoy.  :)

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Grobswitchy Cake: a BFG Recipe from Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl's The BFG Grobswitchy Cake

We read The BFG by Roald Dahl recently and my kids LOVED it.

It may have been a bit of a trogglehumper to gobblefunk around with some of those propsposterous words – especially at bedtime when my coffee has long worn off – but it was SO worth it!  It was totally whoopsey-splunkers to see my girls burst into fits of laughter worthy of a big friendly giant.

And then, after reading the novel, we took a look at Roald Dahl’s Even More Revolting Recipes (which is a sequel to Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes), and decided to make the Grobswitchy Cake featured in the book, with just a few small changes.

We wound up using walnuts, because my oldest daughter loves them, and we traded out the amber crystals they suggested to use as grobswitches for Cake Mate’s Gold Sugar Cupcake Gems. 

Roald Dahl's The BFG Grobswitchy Cake 2

Now, I don’t know exactly what we did wrong, since baking with two kids can be … distracting … but somehow we had too much batter for our little pan.  I put it in the oven like that anyway, but with some foil below it to catch the drippings.

(And – just FYI – dripped cake is actually kinda fabulous.)

It’s a pretty typical coffee cake recipe, but with a really beautiful sentiment, since it references how the BFG mixes up dreams:

“It is a little bit like mixing a cake,”the BFG said. “If you is putting the right amounts of all the different things into it, you is making the cake come out any way you want, sugary, splongy curranty, Christmassy or grobswitchy. It is the same with dreams.”

And to explore the story a little more, I suggest stopping by Roald Dahl’s official website.

Happy Baking!

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Usborne Fashion Coloring Books Review

Usborne Fashion Coloring Books

So, we love to color in our house. Happens all the time. We will draw and color on just about anything, but high quality (sorry dollar store) coloring books are my fave way to go. And, just so we’re clear, high quality does NOT mean high prices.

Which is why I wanted to share some books with you, all of which feature nice thick pages and beautiful illustrations for around 6 or 7 bucks.  Can’t beat that.

The other reason these books are so amazing is that people of all ages can enjoy them.  I’ve purchased these books for both kids and adults, and my daughters and I often color them together.

Usborne Vintage Fashion Coloring Book

First, I wanted to introduce the Vintage Fashion Coloring Book:

As you can see from the video, this is a pretty awesome book.  It’s great for kids (and adults) interested in fashion design, but also for anyone looking to just relax and have some fun coloring.

You can head over to my website to see the Vintage Fashion Coloring Book.  It has 32 pages of gorgeous illustrations to color, and is suggested for ages 6 and up.

Another similar book we own is the Clothes and Fashion to Color book that I got for my daughter, seen here:

Clothes and Fashion to Color

It also has 32 thick pages and tons of historical fashion to color.  It’s rated for ages 6+ but is, of course, great for any age.  It features different decades on different pages.  Here’s one I was recently working on:

fashion coloring book victorian 1850

Plus, there’s the mini sized Pocket Fashion Drawing Book that we usually keep in the car.  ‘Cause, like I mentioned, my daughter is pretty much always drawing.

Pocket Fashion Drawing Book

Isn’t that just too cute?  We love it.

The pocket book is a smaller size – easier to store in a purse or something, but it has many more pages.  At 128 pages, it’ll keep you entertained for a long time.

Plus, it features mostly modern styles, if that’s your thing.

If you’d prefer something different, here are some examples of different coloring books available on my site:

Patterns to Color Usborne Coloring Books

And they are seriously awesome.  There are more in the series too, which means tons of PATTERNS TO COLOR!  I’ll make some videos for them too, (and some newer fashion coloring books as well!) but if you have any questions about them, please comment or message me anytime!

Happy Coloring!

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The Story of Diva and Flea (Book Review)

The Story of Diva and Flea

I am so happy I picked up The Story of Diva and Flea.  I may even love the book more than my kids do, and they really like it.

First of all, Mo Willems is currently my kid’s favorite author.  Seriously.  Elephant & Piggie are HUGE in our house right now.

But whereas Elephant & Piggie are more of an Easy Reader book for K-2 kids, this book is aimed at a slightly different crowd.  Not too different – if you look on Amazon, they’re both listed for ages 6-8, but this is a book that is more likely to be read TO them than BY them.

And I certainly don’t mind.

(Actually I adore reading the E&P books with all my funny voices, too, but that’s beside the point.)

Diva and Flea has a great rhythm and an excellent structure.  They meet, they both try something new, and they discover how wonderful it is to try new things – even if they seem scary at first.

There are three acts.  In the first they meet, in the second Diva expands her borders, and in the third Flea expands his.  They both face their fears head on  – with the support of each other – and come out the better for it.

What a wonderful, wonderful lesson for children.

The writing itself is peppered with so many fun details.  For example, Flea is a stray cat who considers himself a “Flâneur,” which is “someone (or somecat) who wanders the streets and bridges and alleys of the city just to see what there is to see.”  The part I like best?  “A great flâneur has seen everything, but still looks for more, because there is always more to discover.”

Little Diva has a tremendous fear of FEET because she is aware of just how “squishable” her small stature makes her.  But she loves Fleas stories, like the ones about “The Underground Rooms on Wheels” and “The People Who Drink Cough-Fee All Day.”  And those stories are part of what inspire her to explore they city.

Flea introduces Diva to the world outside of her courtyard and the “tower that could cut a cloud in half,” and helps Diva discover the bravery inside of her.  Then Diva helps Flea conquer his fears, which also grants him the gift of the thing he doesn’t have:  a home.

The illustrations by Tony DiTerlizzi are beyond charming.  I love the perspectives of the tiny dog Diva, I love the facial expressions of Flea, and I love the colors and the dazzling backdrops of the Parisian setting.

Diva and Flea by Mo Willems

And that setting!

Ah, Paris, my Paris.

Many years ago, when I was writing my Travelblog, I said that upon leaving Paris I had left part of my heart there.  And how very true that was.

Paris took me in.  There is life in the very bones of the city, deep in the foundation, in the stones, and the hum of the Seine and the glow of the Tower against a gently falling night.  It calls to me still.

But even if you don’t feel about Paris the way I do, it certainly never hurts to explore different cities and different cultures with your kids.  The Story of Diva and Flea brings many things to your children, and, at the very least, is a wonderful read-aloud to snuggle with.

Happy Reading!

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