Sunday, October 30, 2016

Wee Alphas: 26 A to Z Postcards, from Angelfish to Zebra

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Wee Alphas: 26 A to Z Postcards, from Angelfish to Zebra are a set of postcards that fold out of a book accordion style. Each card features an adorable, simple animal on a white background. The animal is in the shape of the letter its name begins with (F for fox, P for Panda, T for turtle, etc).

On the reverse side, there's a simple activity to fill out that features the letter. There are some that use six check-boxes to describe the person the post card is addressed to (You are: Incredible, Imaginative, Inventive, Intelligent, Interesting, Itchy). Some prompt you to draw a picture of your favorite thing that starts with a letter. Each has a PS that asks if you can find the hidden letter in each elephant. The third type of card is a few lines for a fun fact or a statement (Did you know? Just wanted to say...).

First of all, I absolutely love the idea of sharing this with a child. I've been sending the postcards to my three-year-old niece. I think she may be a little young to fully appreciate them, but she'll understand most of it. The illustrations are creative with the letter worked into the animal design, and the colors are simple and colorful but not overdone.  I do wish there was more variety in the activities outside of the three templates.

I received a free copy of this book, but was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Review: "A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue" by J.A. Myhre

When a reluctant Kiisa goes off to boarding school, her father surprises her with an unlikely gift - a talking bird, a fabled "messenger" that is able to talk to humans. Kiisa and her bird Njili are destined to save lives in a dangerous rescue mission brought about by African rebels. Along the way Kiisa learns about forgiveness, bravery, and evil's role in this world. Girls overcoming cultural barriers and prejudices is also a commonly addressed theme.

A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue is a 130-page juvenile fiction, magical realism book with a Christian underlay.
The Christian elements of the book are subtle, mostly represented through the animal messengers sharing knowledge about what evil is, and how it take many forms.

It is set in Africa, representing a fictionalized version of real events and real places. Author J.A. Myhre uses her experience living in Africa to provide an accurate representation of a culture many young readers will encounter for the first time, including using words in the Luwendigo dialect such as kodi and milembre in greetings. These words and other words that may cause confusion for young American readers (football meaning american soccer, etc.) are all defined in a short glossary at the end. Key scenes were illustrated in full-page black and white sketches, which I thought added quite a bit of value, especially for young readers tying to imagine a different part of the world.

The plot was engaging and moved at a good pace. There were odd moments in the story where time seemed to be of the essence, but the protagonist was spending time bathing, cooking chicken, and sleeping, with no sense of immediacy. The rebel antagonist story line was quite dark, but not unrealistic or necessarily inappropriate. There were subtleties that younger audiences might not pick up on, such as the protagonist wondering why the rebels would kidnap a young girl - perhaps for a cook, perhaps something "more sinister" - and thinking that if it were her in that situation, "she would be dreading nightfall" (97-98).

A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue is the second book in the Rwendingo Tales series. The first followed Kiisa's brother and his messenger animal in A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest. I haven't read the first book yet, and I did not see any reason that you would need to read it first in order to appreciate this book, since though the family and setting are the same, the stories seem to be completely independent.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.