Author Archives: Kam Brook

About Kam Brook

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Grandma’s Kitchen by Tricia Gardella (Book Review)

 

 


I received a complimentary copy of this book from Reedsy Discovery. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.

 

Most grandchildren share a similar memory of working alongside a grandparent in the kitchen. In¬†Grandma’s Kitchen¬†by Tricia Gardella, Grandma’s oldest granddaughter had been quite the helper during past canning seasons, but now it’s time to include her little sister, Monica. The older sister is reluctant to have Monica join them. She believes her baby sister is too little. Oh boy, Monica proved her older sister wrong!

Through beautiful illustrations, we watch the two young girls and their grandmother pick a few buckets of tomatoes from the garden. We watch them separate them into two piles and learn the reasoning behind the step.¬†After the sorting, it’s time to prepare the tomatoes for their new home: glass jars. You can expect to get a little messy whether you are canning tomatoes whole or making jars of tomato sauce. My advice, goggles! I’m sure Monica will ask for a pair before next year’s canning season. While the process is messy and hard work, it can be loads of fun too. For instance, my kids find turning the crank fun and love watching the crushed tomatoes ooze out at the end. The sisters in the educational picture book did as well!¬†

Grandma makes the whole process an exciting event. She is calm and patient with them, allows them to taste the fruit of their labor (tomato juice), and even finds the energy to dance a jig. Wow, their grandmother has more energy than me. 

The fabulous thing about canning is that you don’t need a humungous kitchen. All you need is a garden item(s) to can (purchase or grow your own), cans (glass jars), and a few kitchen staples, such as pots, strainers, and pantry items. Grandma’s are optional, but an adult is necessary due to potential hazards to little hands: hot stove and boiling water.¬†

With grandma’s guidance, children will learn how to can tomatoes: picking, sorting, seasoning, cooking the fruit, washing, and storing the cans. This book will encourage children to try canning fruit and other items.¬†¬†

I recommend this story to 4 years of age and older. 

 

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score:¬†‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧

 
 
 
Meet the Author

Tricia’s books are influenced by ranch, animals and family life. She has tried it all, and almost mastered some: canning, cooking, knitting, fiber arts, rug-making, gardening. She has a BA in Ancient History and lots of grand children, giving her much food for thought. She lives in California.
 
 
 
 

 

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As Red as a Munka Bean by Kristin T. Dethlefsen (Book Review)

Beings from all over the universe have gathered on Kamim for the yearly Interstellar Beauty Contest. Fifteen-year-old Liam and his best (and only) friend Absalom are there to represent Earth, although they never actually agreed to come. Now Absalom must put his reservations aside and convince the judges of something he doesn’t quite believe himself: that his short, fat, brown body is beautiful.

Liam only has to announce Absalom and translate the other beings’ sign language for him, a simple enough task for a deaf boy. But when he meets pretty Sadie right before the announcement, his mind goes blank and his hands can’t find the right words.

And then there is Topher, the boy who bullies Liam and Absalom on Earth and was accidentally brought to Kamim with them. He is sullen and mean, but he knows how to be cool and confident, two traits which would help Absalom immensely in the contest…

This contemporary fantasy for young adults and tweens is an adventure story about the power of friendship and believing in yourself.

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)

Beings from around the universe gather together in an interstellar beauty contest. Liam, Absalom (Sal), and Topher were swept up in a green cloud and transported to Kamim, the host planet, for the extraordinary event. The three boys took everything in stride. They didn’t freak out about the situation. Topher, the class bully, was actually more upset about being mistaken for a girl than being abducted by a little green alien.¬†

Sal, the chosen contestant for Earth, wasn’t comfortable showing off his body. Fairies forcibly removed his shirt. Topher asks him to jiggle his fat. And he was repeatedly in a state of embarrassment. The aliens thought he was beautiful; he did not. I didn’t particularly appreciate how “fat” was constantly used to describe Sal’s physique. Words hurt.¬†

Luckily, as the story progressed, Sal became more confident with his body. However, it was a long road to this moment. I was saddened to see Sal body-shamed. I was upset to see how the cops manhandled him. They grossly abused their power. Unfortunately, that display of injustice happens far too frequently in real life. 

They were comedic moments in the story and had spectacular galactical beings with unique and fascinating skills. The aliens came in all shapes and sizes; some nice and some not so much. 

Whether you are on Earth, Kamim, Windshippers, or another planet, we are all different, and those differences shouldn’t divide us; however, they often do.¬†

Being comfortable in your own skin is hard for many people. 

Standing up to bullies is a challenging feat too. 

Both issues are addressed in As Red as a Munka Bean.

While I am thrilled Sal gained confidence, I would like another outcome for Topher. (Staying vague to avoid spoilers.) In a nutshell, I wanted him to do the right thing. 

This story did have a marvelous blend of hearing and deaf characters. It taught Sal to embrace his size and not let other people’s opinions weigh him down. For that, I recommend this story to teens.¬†

 

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score:¬†‚̧‚̧‚̧1/2

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Meet the Author

Kristin has always been an avid reader of many kinds of books: young adult, adventure, fantasy, travel, the classics. As with her reading tastes, her novels don’t adhere to just one genre. You’ll find elements of fantasy and contemporary, books for young adults and those for middle grade readers. Travel often figures into her stories as well.

Kristin grew up in a small town in Connecticut and began writing after her daughter was born. She lives in Germany with her family, where she teaches English as a foreign language to adults. To find out more about Kristin and her current projects, take a look at her website: www.dethlefsenbooks.com or follow her on Twitter @dethlefsenbooks

 

 

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LIAM: The Boy Who Saw the World Upside Down by R. Janet Walraven (Book Review)

What does a teacher do with a teenage student who can’t seem to read, write, speak, or want to mix in with others? What does a parent do when their child is continually bullied throughout elementary school without teachers or administrators seeming to care? Where is a safe place for students with challenges that no one seems to understand?

This is a true story. When Liam came to my classroom,¬†I knew something was¬†off.¬†What was I supposed to do with this student who was extremely withdrawn? I didn‚Äôt know, but I knew I had to find out Ő∂ a challenge that I could not ignore. This book isn‚Äôt only about bullying, though there was plenty of that. It‚Äôs about a boy who needed help to allow his potential to surface. If you are a teacher, a parent, or anyone who has witnessed, or have themselves experienced this, you need this book.¬†LIAM will give you hope.

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I received a complimentary copy of this book from Reedsy Discovery. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.

 

There was a time when anyone who didn’t¬†catch on¬†at the same pace as others were labeled “retarded.” R. Janet Walraven notes thanks to former President Obama passing Rosa’s Law, “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded‚ÄĚ were replaced with “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability.” Unfortunately, this change in federal law did not replace the use of these terms in state law. The author also states in chapter eight, “In 1975, President Gerald Ford signed a law guaranteeing that every child with a disability would get Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). This is supposed to be included in the Individualized Education Programs, IEP’s, that special education teachers write. From there, they have options of working with the child onsite, sending them away for therapy, …or waiting for litigation.” R. Janet Walraven states that many teachers look the other way at a child’s apparent struggles because they lack support in costs and help from the administration.¬†LIAM: The Boy Who Saw the World Upside Down¬†is a prime example of when the administrator fails a teacher, fails to support the students and makes doing a teacher’s job harder than necessary.¬†

Thirteen-year-old Liam has made a move from public to private school. His parents made a choice, not out of a need for better education. No, they are transferring him because they feel he’s unsafe in public school. Ms. J, the 8th-grade teacher at the private school, has a full class, but the principal, Mr. Chadwick, doesn’t care. That’s a recurring theme with him. He doesn’t care about the students’ safety, best interests, or helping the faculty. He abuses his power on several occasions.¬†

Ms. J. could’ve been like Liam’s other teachers and accepted Liam as “mentally retarded” and let him float by. Liam’s parents, even Liam, accepted the label. Since Ms. J didn’t have proper special education training, the parents and Liam wouldn’t have faulted her. However, Ms. J was different from the other teachers. She thought Liam was mislabeled. She saw his intelligence, his potential. Ms. J stood up to the principal. She put her foot down when the bullies chants shredded Liam’s confidence. She sought outside help for Liam and even drove him to his sessions at Hope Clinic.¬†

Hope Clinic properly diagnosed Liam, and he was not “retarded.” Liam has visual perception dysfunction. The book explains it in length, but (basically) Liam’s brain wasn’t computing what his eyes saw. He needed special glasses and exercises to retrain the brain. Thanks to Ms. J and her cousins, Liam never missed an appointment. Liam could afford specialized care thanks to his parents selling their home and moving into a trailer. I was angry to see the colossal sacrifice his parents had to make but also touched by their display of love.¬†

LIAM: The Boy Who Saw the World Upside Down was FULL of emotions. I wanted to cry when the boys tore him down with their chants. I wanted to cry again at his graduation. My heart nearly burst when Willow asked Liam to join her in Jump Rope for Heart and the school newspaper. I cheered Liam when he repeatedly showed the world they were wrong about him. 

I’ve worked in mainstream and special education classrooms. I’ve seen how people treat students that need extra help. Basically, I’ve run into my share of Mr. Chadwick’s. However, I also had the great pleasure of working with teachers who resemble Ms. J. They go the extra mile and then a thousand more.¬†

Ms. J didn’t know to teach Liam (at first), but she didn’t give up on him. Students like Liam are highly intelligent. They only need to discover a way to show it. It could be reading glasses. It could be having questions read to them. I know teachers are overwhelmed, overworked, and underpaid, but this story is a prime example of what can happen when teachers, administrators, and parents work together.¬†

I encourage educators and parents of children with intellectual disabilities to read this book. It’s inspirational. It’s heart-warming. It’s worthy of five stars!¬†

Be sure and look at the bonus material at the back of the book. Meet “Liam” and his best friend “Willow.” See where they are now. View writing samples from Liam. Also, check out appendix C: Characteristics of Dyslexia.

 

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score:¬†‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧

Amazon Purchase Link

 

 

Meet the Author

 

R. Janet Walraven, Silver Award Winner (Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards) has written historical romance, a teacher-mentor book, children’s book, & historical fiction. She lives in New Mexico with her companion, Mal, her best critic & support. She loves to read, write, garden and travel.

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Piki Goes Flying by Joan M Hellquist (Book Review)

Piki Goes Flying is a beautifully illustrated, entertaining, educational and fun story for children about Piki’s first flights on an airplane. It is the second in a series of three adventure books about Piki (rhymes with sneaky), a Service Dog. Our mischievous and independent friend, Piki, again tells her own story and just because she is a well-trained Service Dog and is flying with her person, Joan, doesn’t mean she isn’t full of questions and opinions about all of the rules they must follow. Children will love Piki’s quirky antics before, during the flight and getting off the plane. She is very proud to be the only one on the plane to receive a gift from a special person, but Piki adds that she was the only one on the plane who didn’t get one of those tiny bags of treats!

In Piki’s first book, Piki Goes to College, the story of her training to be a Service Dog, there was information about Service Dogs making it educational for both adults and children. In Piki Goes Flying, Joan includes up to date information including rules and regulations from the U. S. Department of Transportation and airlines about traveling on a plane with a Service Dog.

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I received a complimentary copy of this book from Reedsy Discovery.  I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.

 

Piki Goes Flying is the second in a series of three adventure books about Piki (rhymes with sneaky), a Service Dog, by author and illustrator Joan M Hellquist. In this under-50-page tale, we follow Piki as she takes her first airplane flight. We see the adventure through the eyes of the canine. 

Service dogs are vital to many individuals’ mental and physical well-being. They come in different sizes and breeds, requiring exceptional training to complement their owner’s wants and needs. They are introduced to various scenarios and locations, acclimating themselves to whatever situations might arise.¬†

Piki was preparing for their first flight, which entailed Joan (trainer and owner) prepping them before stepping onto a plane. The process was enlightening. Joan set up rows of chairs, simulating aisles on an aircraft. After Piki grew comfortable navigating the rows and listening to commands on the flight simulator, they headed inside a local airport. There, I learned how escalators are hazardous to a dog’s nails. I never saw them as a threat to animals; I do now.¬†

Airports are busy, loud, and crowded, and animals must be prepared for the hustle and bustle they will encounter. Being a service dog means they must be hyper-vigilant to an owner’s every need. I found it cute how Joan and Piki conversed with each other, as we all do with our furbabies. We watched as Piki went through a metal detection screening and received wings from the Captain. Joan M Hellquist did a lovely job explaining to Piki and readers at home the role of a captain, what TSA means, and what the three-letter code on our baggage ticket means.¬†

Piki was quiet as a church mouse throughout the entire flight. They became a bit vocal when they touched down, but that only made them more endearing. 

After the charming story, the author included questions and answers to help young readers gain insight into a few areas featured in the story. For example, Tiki explains why participating in the “Lawn Chair Squeeze” was essential to elevating fears of flight. You really¬†do not¬†want an animal panicking thousands of feet in the air.¬†

Piki Goes Flying¬†serves dual purposes.¬†It entertains and educates listeners. Joan includes up-to-date information about traveling on a plane with a Service Dog, including rules and regulations from the U. S. Department of Transportation and airlines (found in the book’s final pages).¬†

I loved the story and the cute pictures of all the furry animals: Teddy, Piki, and their doggie cousins (Boomer and Ender). It’s perfect for ages four and older.¬†

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score:¬†‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧

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Meet the Author

Joan grew up in Summit, NJ and has lived in New Mexico since 1988. She is retired from healthcare, but continues to pursue her artwork and writing. Joan’s loves include children, animals, the wilderness, traditional music, travel and singing loudly while listening to music while alone in her car.

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TAG YOU’RE IT! by Jonathan Barnett (Book Review)

Tag for this father and daughter is definitely more than just a game. An exciting story for children and adults alike, Tag, You’re It explores life’s ups and downs through a simple game that’s been enjoyed through the ages. As father and daughter enjoy their nightly routine of playing tag, the conflict caused by ending the game each night, and the insight that can be gained, is celebrated in something as simple as a game of tag.

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I received a complimentary copy of this book from Reedsy Discovery.  I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.

 

When I was younger, I recall playing two variations of tag every day on the playground: original and freeze. I had all the energy in the world and never wanted recess to end. Fast forward to adulthood, and I’m playing the game with my children, like the father in the story¬†Tag You’re It!¬†by Jonathan Tyler Barnett.¬†

Children grow up too fast; before you know it, they’ll want to hang out with their friends instead of their parents. Or, they’ll be off to work or college. Or they are starting a family of their own.¬†Tag You’re It!¬†shows how a father makes the most of his child’s younger years. It also shows how exhausting it is to keep up with a child who seems to have a tank full of gas 24-7. Kids are always on the move indoors and outdoors once they take their first step. I can empathize with the dad’s need to sit down and request a change in games. I was tired just watching them run around their home.

I adored the illustrations by Penny Weber. They truly brought the story to life. I could practically hear Sadie’s infectious giggle as her father chased after her. The father and daughter love each other very much, which shows in the adorable drawings. It’s also apparent in the images that the mom loves watching these two play together. As a mom, I also love watching my children play with their dad.¬†

Tag You’re It!¬†was a true delight to read. The story’s core was only twenty-two pages short, making it the perfect size read for toddlers through four years of age. This story would also be an ideal choice for beginning readers.¬†

Your child will love the story and acting it out, too. In other words, get ready to read and run! 

 

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score:¬†‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧

Amazon Purchase Link

 

 

Meet the Author

Jonathan Tyler Barnett, self-published author of IngramSparks currently sells rank #1 in JUVENILE NONFICTION / Family / Multigenerational children/picture book titled “Tag You’re It!” Emergency RN, Father, Author, and Player of Tag!

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