Book Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani:  a book review by Roaming Rosie

The School for Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani, is a fast-paced fairy tale {somewhat fractured} about two girls searching for their Happily Ever Afters.

But their Happily Ever Afters and their journeys to find themselves are not at all what either girl could ever have imagined.

And it’s fun to read.

It’s a middle-grade novel, written for ages 8 to 12, with the paperback at 544 pages long.

The story begins with two very different girls:  Sophie, a gorgeous wannabe princess who spends her days preening and dreaming of princes, and Agatha, a quiet loner who lives in a graveyard and has a cat named Reaper who leaves beheaded birds in her pockets.

Sophie and Agatha only entered a relationship because Sophie was trying to demonstrate how “Good” and charitable she was by befriending the homely outcast dubbed a witch by the townspeople.  This relationship, however, grew into a real {albeit somewhat unbalanced} friendship before the story even starts.

Their story starts for us as they are kidnapped by the elusive School Master and dropped into the School for Good and Evil.  Unexpectedly, however, Agatha is dropped into the School for Good and Sophie into the School for Evil. Both girls are certain a mistake has been made.

As the book progresses, we see Agatha continually and fiercely trying to protect and help her friend, as Sophie grows more and more selfish and angry.  And even though the characters keep showing us their true natures and showing the audience that maybe, just maybe, they’re in the correct schools after all, the book isn’t that cut and dry.

In between colorful school lessons of witches learning the correct way to cook children and princesses learning how to speak to squirrels, and in between competitions where princes try to discern which magical pumpkin is actually a princess, the children face some very dangerous and quite scary situations.  Which is – actually – very in keeping with the style of fairy tales.

But the point to all of these lessons and competitions and circuses and balls is that we learn that even the baddest of the Bad students have their good points, and even the Good students are perfectly capable of evil.

I rather enjoyed the book, and I was very happy with the way it ended.  Now, when I started reading it, I didn’t even know it was part of a series, but I was relieved to find that out, because when the book ended, I did want to know more of their story, even though it still would have functioned as a stand alone novel.

And it’s all done in a very entertaining way through a story that moves along at a good pace:  fast enough to keep kids and young adults entertained, but not so quickly that things get overwhelming or confused.  The language is intelligent, the imagery is vivid, and the story was creative.  I laughed … I cried … and I totally think everyone who is even remotely and mildly interested in fantasy and fairy tales should read it.  There isn’t anything in there that’s inappropriate for young kids, but I feel that adults will rather enjoy the tongue-in-cheek fairy tale references.  I absolutely plan to read the sequels.

You can see a preview of The School for Good and Evil on Amazon.

Happy Reading!

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Book Review: Flippy Floppy Lift a Flap Jungle Animals

Flippy Floppy Jungle Animal Board Book

This Flippy Floppy Jungle Book is one of my kid’s newest fascinations.  They’ve been having a lot of fun with it.

It’s a great lift-the-flap board book from Usborne/Kane Miller that offers a lot of interaction for kids.

The purpose of the book is to lift four flaps in order to slowly reveal a hidden animal.  As you go, the animal you’re looking for appears as bits and pieces of other animals.  For example, the tail of the tiger is also the beak of a toucan and the body of a snake.

There are cut-outs to look through and a little bird to find on all of the pages.  The last page challenges kids to find all the animals again, and it’s sturdy enough for little hands to get excited about with thick pages and rounded corners.

I go into some more detail in my video review, where you can also see how it works:

And, yes… I’m aware that I have a strange expression on my face in the video thumbnail.  TRUST me – it was the best one!

I’m also aware that I keep calling it “Flippity Floppity Jungle Animals” on the video.  I don’t know why, but “Flippy Floppy” seems to be difficult for me to say…

Anyway, to see the book, or add it to your online wishlist, click:

Flippy Floppy Lift-the-Flap Jungle Animal Book

And if you like this book, you’ll also love:

Flippy Floppy Lift-the-Flap Farm Animals

Flippy Floppy Lift-the-Flap Farm Animals

Flippy Floppy Lift-the-Flap Ocean Animals

Flippy Floppy Lift-the-Flap Ocean Animals

Happy Reading!

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Book Review: My First Keyboard Book

My First Keyboard Book Review by Roaming Rosie

Usborne’s My First Keyboard Book is a lot of fun to play with … and not just for the kiddos.

I enjoy it, too, and so do a lot of adults that come in contact with it.

Part of the reason for this, I think, is the wonderful feel of smooth keys and the beautiful tone of the notes, which isn’t overly electronic.  It sounds like you’re playing a piano or a high-quality keyboard.

The book itself teaches you recognizable songs {like Twinkle, Twinkle and Row, Row, Row your Boat} with color coordinated keys.  There are dots of color on each key that correspond with patterns of dots that produce the song if you play them in that order.

It’s easier to show you than to tell you, so here’s my video review:

It is an internet linked book, so you can see a video of someone playing one of the songs, read some more reviews, and see pictures of the inside of the book on the Usborne site.

Other things I like about this book are that all of the keys work – even the black flat/sharp keys, and I especially like that there’s an on/off switch on the back.  It’s nice to know I can shut it off when we’re not using it and it’s stored on the bookshelf.

It’s easy to play, too.  My girls are 2 1/2 and 4 1/2 years old, and while the 2yo isn’t really interested in following the colored patterns, she does enjoy making her own music.  The 4yo is able to play the songs by following the patterns, although her rhythm needs some work.

My point is, this book is great for younger kids as well as older ones.  Little Ones might need much more practice before getting the hang of it, but older kids will pick it up right away and, like I mentioned above when I pointed out that adults seems to love it, it’s somewhat addicting.

Plus, there are actually a bunch of interactive books that get kids involved with and learning about music, many of which are illustrated in this graphic:

 

Children Love Music with Usborne Books

Happy Reading!

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Peppermint Polar Bear Paw Treats and The Books That Inspired Them

Peppermint Polar Bear Paw Treats and the Books That Inspired Them

These yummy treats were one of our recent projects.

I’d been wanting to do something that incorporated polar bears, since it’s winter, and when I realized I could shape little minty patties to look like bear paw prints, I got pretty excited.

It’s kind of like a teddy bear paw… but a polar bear instead.

My girls and I had been rotating through a couple of books that featured polar bears, which is one of the main reasons they were on my mind.  The books include East of the Sun, West of the Moon and Hush Little Polar Bear, both of which I’ve reviewed below.

Peppermint Polar Bear Paw Treats and the Books That Inspired Them

The bear paws are easy to make.  The patty is just sugar, cream cheese, and peppermint extract.

Then, for decoration, I added Junior Mints and milk chocolate chips.

You could use semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips instead, but I liked the milk chocolate flavor with these.

Peppermint Polar Bear Paw Treats and the Books That Inspired Them

Here are the necessary ingredients.  I didn’t actually count out the candies ahead of time:  I just poured a bunch in a bowl for my girls to pick from.

My 4yo did a pretty good job, and my 2yo had a lot of fun shaping the dough… when she wasn’t busy eating the candy.

Peppermint Polar Bear Paw Treats and the Books That Inspired Them

To make the mint patties look like bear paws, add one Junior Mint and top with three chocolate chips.

You have to press them in right away, since the heat of your hand is what helps form the shape.  Once you’ve formed the disc and placed it on the counter, it will begin to harden.  So you’ll want to *gently* push in your candy right away.

Then store them in the fridge.

They look really cute on Christmas cookie platters, and would also be fun at winter birthday parties.  Or just, you know, to eat yourself.  :)

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

I love this book.  East of the Sun, West of the Moon is a retelling of a 19th century Norwegian fairytale.  It’s retold by Susanna Davidson and illustrated by Petra Brown.

It’s part of the Usborne Young Readers:  Series Two books.  It’s meant to be read by children who are 8+ years and are gaining confidence in reading on their own.  I bought it to read to my 2 1/2 and 4 1/2 year old girls.  It’s certainly much more appealing to the older child, who get’s very excited about it, but my youngest still enjoys the pictures and does listen to the story.  And older kids will definitely enjoy reading it for themselves.

I think it’s wonderful, especially because it’s a fairy tale written for a younger audience that isn’t one of the same old, worn stories that are told over and over and over in other books.  It’s a fresh tale.  There’s adventure and excitement, and it’s even a little scary – as all fairy tales are – but not too much.

It’s terribly romantic, too, but not in a mushy, flowery way.  This is a story about a brave girl who goes to the ends of the earth to save the man she loves.  She enlists the help of the Four Winds and outsmarts an evil Troll to break the spell that turns her beloved prince into a polar bear.

There’s even a little message hidden in the ending promoting the importance of love and family over money and riches.

The retelling is written to be easily understood by kids.  There are a limited number of words on every page, so as not to be overwhelming, and it’s 64 pages are separated into six chapters.  The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and many are displayed across a double page spread.

The physical book itself is also great.  It’s small, about 5.5 by 8 inches, with thick pages, and its sturdy hardcover is a silky, soft texture.  It feels nice to hold.

I completely and ardently recommend this book.  It is unfortunately no longer available from my Usborne site, but you can sometimes find used copies on Amazon.  You can also check out the other Young Readers:  Series Two books.

Hush Little Polar Bear by Jeff Mack

Hush Little Polar Bear, by Jeff Mack, is a charming picture book.  It’s available as a hardcover or a board book, and we have the hardcover version, since ours was a decommissioned purchase from our local library.

And I’m so glad I came across this gem while hunting for new books to read.  It’s colorful and adventurous, and a wonderful bedtime read.

It’s written in verse as a little girl talking to her stuffed toy polar bear and about what exciting dreams he may be having.  The bear sails the high seas on the back of a whale, swims through a waterfall, swings through the trees, forges through a desert, and floats through the sky … all the way home to her, where they curl up together to sleep.

The text has a good rhythm and the illustrations are a lot of fun.  The little girl appears somewhere on every page, watching the polar bear’s adventures from up close or afar, and my kids enjoy pointing her out.

Plus, I love reading stories at bedtime that end with the characters drifting off to sleep.  It helps set the mood.   :)

If you have Little Ones, you should really consider adding it to your collection.  It’s such a fun read!

Peppermint Polar Bear Paw Treats and the Books That Inspired Them

And now, back to the recipe that was inspired by these fantastic books:

Peppermint Polar Bear Paws

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups confectionery sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
20 Junior Mints candies
60 milk chocolate chips

In a large bowl, use a mixer to combine the softened cream cheese and confectionery sugar until smooth.

Add the peppermint extract and mix until fully blended.

Scoop large spoonfuls of peppermint mixture out and use your hands to shape it into a disc. It won’t “roll” in your hands very well, so you’ll need to form them mostly by pressing them into shape.

Immediately add a Junior Mint and 3 chocolate chips to the peppermint disc in a pattern that represents a bear paw while still malleable. The disc will begin to harden once you stop moving it around in your hands, so make one at a time.

Store covered in the refrigerator. Makes 20.

[Notes: place the chocolate chips in upside down, so that the flat sides are facing up. And when placing the Junior Mints on the disc, press very gently on the edges, instead of in the middle, to avoid cracking them.]

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Click here for the free printable PDF version:

Peppermint Polar Bear Paws

Enjoy!  And Happy Reading!

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Book Review: Wind Up Pirate Ship

Usborne Wind Up Pirate Ship Book Review by Roaming Rosie

The Wind Up Pirate Ship book is SO much fun!

There is so much interaction with this book that it’s nearly impossible not to entice kids to want to read it.  It’s a fun story about pirates looking for – you guessed it – treasure, but in between the pages of the story are 3 tracks that allow a wind-up toy shaped like the pirate ship in the book to zoom around the locations discussed in the story.

I mean, we love pirates in my home, so getting this book was a pretty much a given.  But I was still surprised by how much my girls enjoyed reading it and playing with it.  In fact, on Christmas day, my 4yo announced that this was the “greatest gift ever.”

Then the very next day, she announced {even tho she’d never seen it until the day before} that it was “the BEST gift that she’s ALWAYS wanted!”

Now, four-year-olds can be a little dramatic, but you gotta love that kind of enthusiasm about books.

I was pretty excited about it, too.  Which I hope shows in the video review I did for the book:

And like I mentioned in the video, there are a ton of wind-up and pull-back books in the same series as the Wind-Up Pirate Ship.  They include:

Wind-Up Tractor
Wind-Up Train
Wind-Up Plane
Wind-Up Race Cars
Wind-Up Bus (London)
Pull-Back Busy Bug
Pull-Back Busy Car
Pull-Back Busy Train
Pull-Back Busy Helicopter
Pull-Back Busy Santa

But did you arrive here because you were excited about the pirates?

Don’t worry:  we’ve got a ton of pirate books, too!

Usborne Pirate Books at BooksWithRosie.com

To get updates on new books and when books go on sale, please follow my Usborne page on Facebook!

Happy Reading!

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Hello Sun {eBook}

Hello Sun Picture Book by Rosemary Lynn

Hello Sun is my newest picture book, and I’m so excited to share it with you!

This is a simple text with words that flow and rhyme as you journey from the morning to the night.  With your Little Ones on your lap, you can greet the morning sun, the flowers and bugs and birds, and the stars and moon together.

It’s a great book for bedtime because of the soothing rhythmic text and the bold, striking illustrations.  It’s something I enjoy sharing with my toddler and preschooler, and it’s fun for them, too.  They can interact with the text {like by waving goodnight to the sun} but it’s meant to be read slowly, to help induce a calm before bedtime.  It’s also great to read to babies, who will especially appreciate the bold colors.

I had some fun with paper textures while making the artwork, and the words themselves were inspired by my kids.  My 4yo and 2yo always greet the moon and sun {“Hello, Moon!!!”}, and so this was a story that mimics our own daily paths through life.

You can get the ebook on Amazon and you can see all of my picture books there, too.

I’ve also posted about my picture books Alice’s African Alphabet Adventure and I Tell My Secrets to the Moon.

Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook for updates on my books, but also to see our latest glitter-covered crafts and sprinkle-covered food!  :)

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The Outlander Attraction: Part Deux

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

A little while ago, I wrote about my reactions to viewing the first episode of Starz’s new series Outlander.

The show is based upon the books by Diana Gabaldon, which were already on my wish list, but as of yet, still unread.

After watching the show, I immediately ordered the first book in the series.

And once I opened it, I was absorbed.

At first, all I could see in my head were the characters and scenery from the show, which actually wasn’t a bad thing as I feel the show did a good job in representing the novel, but, eventually, my mind took over and the novel transformed from a television show into a fully layered world.

I walked around, in between reading binges, seeing castles and forests and thinking in a Scottish accent.

I dreamt of Jaime and wondered what I would do in Claire’s position.

I often thought that I was so completely taken with the story because, even for Claire’s tendency to make hasty decisions and lose her temper, I felt that I would have made all of the same decisions had I been in her place.

Well – most of them, anyway.  But that’s part of what makes a story amazing:  its ability to surprise the reader.

And shock was certainly in ready supply.

The book was often violent, and the words often tore at me.  I sobbed into the pages more than once.

But for all of the violence, there was also a palpable tenderness.  In both the characters and the environment.  I longed not only to find myself nestled along the shore of a loch, with the breeze in my hair and the song of the birds in the air, but also firmly within Jamie Fraser’s arms.

I became so taken with the book, in fact, that as I found myself nearing the end, I made up an excuse to rush to the bookstore and purchased the second novel in the series.  I nearly shook with fear at being abandoned by the book when I finished reading it.  I needed to have the second one sitting next to me as I finished the first, for comfort.

It wasn’t all that necessary, though.  After I finished the book, and sat there with it clung tightly in my fingers, I felt no desire to pick up the second book.  I wanted to open up the first novel and read it all over again.

I loved it that much.

The witty words, the beautiful setting, the fierce adventure, and the burning passion…

It didn’t really end when the book ended.  It’s still playing in my mind.

But I’m still going to read the next book.

Tonight.  :)

If you’re at all interested in experiencing romance and adventure in the 18th century Scottish Highlands, I strongly suggest you read Outlander.  You won’t regret it.

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