Friday, June 29, 2012

Review of Quincy Moves to the Desert

Quincy Moves to the Desert is the second book in the series about Quincy the Horse by Camille Matthews. Before you even start to read the story, you are mesmerized by the gorgeous illustrations by Michelle Black.

The story is of a horse named Quincy, who lives in a barn, owned by a man named George, with his best horse friend Beau. His owner is a woman named Cam. One day, Cam tells Beau that he and Quincy will be taking a long trip out to the desert. George bids them farewell as he loads the horses onto the truck.

The truck makes its way across the United States, from New York to New Mexico. Along the way, Beau teaches Quincy about all of the different kinds of horses they see, and their various jobs. Each description is accompanied by a breathtaking painting, depicting each kind of horse. As Quincy learns about each horse's special talents, he begins to dream of all of the things he wants to do when he gets to his new home.

I love the feeling of hope and promise that Quincy shows as he moves to a new home. Moving can be scary, especially for kids. Instead of focusing on his fears, this book shows that all kinds of new things are possible in a new environment. I also appreciate all of the education in the book about different breeds of horses and for what they are commonly used. It is high quality literature that isn't found quite as often these days in newer books.

This is the kind of story that will hold the attention of children ages 4 and up. They are going to enjoy the story, but will be completely entranced by the beautiful illustrations. I have visions of my kids sitting in the rocking chair, going through the pages again and again in the book corner at school.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Meet Camille Matthews, author of Quincy Moves to the Desert

Camille Matthews is a licensed clinical social worker and author of the Quincy the Horse Books for children ages K-4t.h. She notes that most children have empathy for animals and identify with Quincy and his adventures which involve every day challenges that children face such as loss and change, a family move, confronting a bully and sibling rivalry.

Matthews was born in Lexington, KY, an area considered by many the horse capital of the world. She loved to read and treasured her horse books. She was an only child and her favorite activity was visiting her grandfather’s farm where she learned to ride. As an adult she has been an avid equestrian. In 2002, she became certified in the relatively new field of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and established the Pathfinder Program, one of the first equine assisted mental health programs in New Mexico providing EAP to children and teens.

In 2008 she had the idea for a series of children’s horse books inspired by real events in the life of one of her horses. She teamed with Michelle Black, a horse trainer and artist in Farmington, New Mexico, to create the Quincy the Horse Books. Their first book, Quincy Finds A New Home was published in 2009 and awarded a Mom’s Choice Gold in 2010. The sequel, Quincy Moves to the Desert, released in August 2011, is a recipient of Mom’s Choice Gold and Tillywig Toy awards for 2011. The series will include at least two more of Quincy’s adventures. Quincy and Buck will be released later in 2012, Quincy and His Brothers in 2013. Matthews and Black have given great care to the details of horse life in the series and Black’s vibrant, authentic artwork brings Quincy’s world to life for young readers. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Review of The Megasaurus, a Lima Bear book

The Megasaurus is the first book in a series of picture books about a little group of bears who are the same size and shape as beans. It's know as "The Lima Bear Series," based on stories that Thomas Weck used to tell his children. Father and son teamed up to bring these stories to life for all children.

I was a little apprehensive about sharing the books in my classroom. The stories are a little long for my 3 year-olds, but some of the 4's and most of the 5's were able to sit through it without a problem. The books are actually recommended for the 4-8 year-old range. I didn't need to worry, because the kids loved them.

In The Megasaurus, the little kingdom of Beandom is in trouble. A monster, known as a Megasaurus, loved to eat beans and was heading their way! The king wants to know what to do, so he calls upon his trusted advisors. Each one of them comes up with a plan, only to have little L. Joe Bean, a servant's son, tell them that their plan isn't going to work. He has an even better plan, if only the kind would listen to him. The wise owls laugh at little L. Joe Bean, but King Limalot hears what he has to say. After the three owls' plans fail, the king decides to give L. Joe Bean's plan a chance. To everyone's relief, it works and the Megasaurus is gone forever.

I was a little worried that the prospect of a monster coming to eat the little bears would scare some of the children. Instead, they were impressed by the dinosaur-like creature. If they were scared at all, it didn't last long. The Montessorian in me had a hard time with tactics like shooting the monster with arrows, but I quickly got over that.

The story has a good message to it - don't discount the little guy, because he may have something valuable to say. Kids can feel empowered by the little bean characters. The goal of the Lima Bear Press is to bring positive messages to children through their stories. I think the Wecks are able to accomplish this.

The back of the book has activities for parents and teachers to do with children after reading the story. There are discussion questions, as well as art projects, a math lesson and a phonics activity. This provides a good springboard for even more learning from the story. It's worth a read. My students requested it over and over again.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Excerpt from The Megasaurus, a Lima Bear book

The Lima Bean series of picture books for kids was extremely popular in my classroom when I introduced them. Over the next four weeks, I will feature one book a week through an excerpt and review. I will also share other wise words and tidbits about the series and its creators.

This week I am featuring The Megasaurus, the first book in the series.


Who will save Beandom from the Megasaurus? What’s the King of Beandom to do? The tiny, multicolored beanshaped bears of Beandom are under attack by a monster. Who will save Beandom?

Can the king’s wisest advisors find a solution? Howl the Owl thinks they can tempt the monster with pancakes. Towel the Owl thinks they can drive the monster away with bows and arrows. Vowel the Owl thinks a good strong rock wall will keep their kingdom safe from the Megasaurus. But L. Joe Bean, an
ordinary tiny bear, has another idea — one that is a little “outside the box”. Which approach will work?

Excerpt from The Megasaurus

King Limalot was in trouble. His tiny once-happy Beandom was in trouble. In fact, all of the tiny bean-shaped bears in his Beandom were in trouble, too. Whether they were green like lima beans, or red like pinto beans, they were all in terrible trouble.

There was a monster in Beandom. Tall as the tallest trees, it was so big that it made the earth tremble with each pounding step, and the trees sway when it roared. Its teeth were longer than a man's hand. It was a Megasaurus and its favorite food was BEANS!... 

About Lima Bear® Press
Lima Bear® Press has a very straightforward mission: to publish children’s stories that are engaging, imaginative, and humorous while each carries an important life message such as tolerance, honesty, courage, etc.

For children who are not yet readers, these stories are an easy read by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and family friends. Lima Bear® Press strives to make the stories entertaining and meaningful both to those who listen as well as to those who read them aloud.

For children who are readers, the authors crafted the stories, through both text and illustration, so that they are fun to read, while, at the same time, striving to introduce young minds to new expressions and new vocabulary in a way that is readily understood. 

Lima Bear Press feels they will have achieved their mission when they help children who listen to and/or read their books become eager readers throughout their lives. 

In the Lima Bear stories, the basic characters appear and reappear. Each character has a distinct
personality that shines through in every story.

Learn more at Their books are distributed to bookstores and libraries nationwide
by Small Press United (from IPG). Or call 800-888-4741 for more information. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Guest Post by Camille Matthews, Author of Quincy Moves to the Desert

Today I am honored to share with you some words of wisdom from author Camille Matthews, author of Quincy Moves to the Desert. I asked her why she chose to use an animal to tackle the topics of moving and more in her book, instead of using a child as a character. This is what she had to say.


Why Choose a Horse to Reach Out to Children?

An interesting question I was asked recently was why I chose to use an animal to broach the topics in the Quincy the Horse books that follow the adventures of a red horse named Quincy. The theme of the series is that when you are facing something new and different that can even be scary and confusing, it is helpful to make a friend who will support you and then try new things that will help you master the challenge. I think the interviewer was wondering why I would choose an animal instead of a human child as the lead character in my series of children’s books.

The short answer to this question is that it was actually a case of the characters choosing me more than my choosing the characters. I am an animal person and longtime equestrian. At the time I had six horses, two dogs and a cat. It was probably inevitable that I would write about animals. While my particular situation influenced my choice, I see two important issues here I would like to address.

The first issue is the importance of animals in children’s lives. While many children have a pet in their life such as a dog or cat, horses are a special case. Only a very few families have the resources and facilities to have horses in their lives day to day; and many equine activities for children require a commitment of time and money. Animals teach unconditional love and the importance of responsible caretaking. Horses bring joy, humor and wisdom to life and I wanted to share that with young readers who might not have contact with horses.

The second issue has to do with feelings and empathy. Children and horses share many characteristics. Horses are deeply emotional and transparent in their feelings. I thought a description of Quincy’s feelings, especially some of his difficult feelings like being mad and jealous would give readers a way to understand some of their own emotions as well as permission to feel them. Most children feel empathy and love for animals. I felt that this pathway would help me reach out to children who would identify with Quincy’s experiences and learn from the way he faces challenges like loss and change. He trusts a new friend, relies on his loving owner and ultimately learns new things. Through this process he grows stronger and more able to cope. Horses really experience these things through their herd and owners so the process, even with horses, is an authentic portrayal.

Camille Matthews

Contact Info for Camille Matthews, Author Quincy the Horse Books

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Camille Matthews or Laura Sjosten at 877-550-5010, 610-488-1282 or Also please visit and

Monday, June 4, 2012

Review of Titanic: Disaster at Sea

I was a kid when the Titanic was found lying at the bottom of the sea. I was absolutely mesmerized by the story and all of those photographs published in the National Geographic magazine. The book Titanic: Disaster at Sea is the kind of book I would have read to shreds when I was a kid.

It is one of those nonfiction books for kids that is chock full of details on just about every aspect of the topic. It shares the history of shipbuilding at the time, to put Titanic into perspective. A giant pull-out poster demonstrates the sheer size of the vessel, with a detailed diagram explaining all of her bells and whistles. Illustrations adorn each page to demonstrate the action of the moment. Each illustration is accompanied by fact boxes that detail each person or item, including a real photograph. I think the real photographs are key to really teaching about the history of Titanic. When the part comes about the sinking, a timeline is included in each corner, based on the bridge time and records kept.

A brief section following the details of the sinking highlights some of the more famous survivor stories, almost like a newspaper from the times. The book then touches on the discovery of the ship, the traveling exhibit and famous movies about Titanic before discussing modern steamliners and the lessons learned.

While I was reading through this book, I didn't particularly notice any new information that I had not yet already encountered somewhere else. However, this is one of the most complete and up-to-date books for kids that I have seen about the tragedy. It isn't a book that is going to be easily shared in a group of children. It is a book that is going to engage children either individually or with one other person as they devour all of the tidbits of information. For me, it would have inspired a desire to learn even more about the ship. I would recommend it for elementary and older.

I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Review of My Dog, My Cat

People always talk about the differences between cats and dogs. In the book My Dog, My Cat by Ashlee Fletcher, the narrator tells the difference between her cat and dog - physical characteristics, favorite activities, typical dog and cat behaviors. Cats and dogs can also be quite similar, though. At the end of the book, the child says that both her cat and dog like pepperoni pizza and her!

Any child who has a dog and a cat can relate to this story. Readers may wish to create their own version and to discuss how their cats and dogs are the same as or different than those in the book. This book can also be a launchpad for other discussions about "same" and "different."

Illustrations are very cartoonish, with bright colors that will attract the child's eye. They are also all framed in thick squiggly lines to emphasize similarities and differences. Print is in bold, which makes it easy for children to see and to read. It's short and sweet.

You can also download it for your Kindle.

I received an eARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Review of Play Baby Play

Play Baby Play by Marilyn Janovitz grabs your attention right from the start with its adorable cover of a bent over baby looking at your between its legs. This familiar playful stance is absolutely endearing. Through the book, we follow the young boy as he frolics at his playgroup. Rhythmic rhyming text details favorite baby activities, such as riding a rocking horse, reading books and kicking a ball.

The characters in this book were very carefully chosen to represent both boys and girls, as well as the basic different ethnic groups. The pictures are absolutely adorable, which will make it an appealing read for parents as well as for young children. Text is also easy to read. It reminds me a lot of the Toddler Time series by Elizabeth Verdick. Those books have always been popular with the young children with whom I work. I can see snuggling with a young baby or toddler while reading this book over and over again.

I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Review of Hippo Says "Excuse Me"

Author Michael Dahl is a prolific author for children. In his book Hippo Says, "Excuse Me," he attempts to teach children a lesson in using good manners. Little Hippo and his mother are making their way around town. They are very large animals and take up a lot of room. Hippo remembers to say, "Excuse me," as he bounds past everyone. However, he does not stop to wait for the other animals to make room for him and his mother. Illustrations show the hippos taking up so much space that they are squishing the other animals against the walls of the bus stop shelter and against the windows on the bus. As they walk down the street, animals are being knocked out of their way and flying through the air. When they get to an elevator, Hippo says, "Excuse me," but they still shove their way into a space that is not large enough to accommodate them all. A little chick approaches the elevator and properly pauses after saying, "Excuse me, may I get on the elevator?" All of the other animals shout no, that there is no room. Hippo makes a space for the chick on top of his head, because "There is always room for one more."

I appreciate the repetitive aspect of the book, as Hippo keeps uttering the words, "Excuse me." This is a very important phrase for children to use. But Hippo's use of the phrase is more rude than polite, because he doesn't wait for animals to move out of his way. He just shoves his way into small spaces and knocks people out of his way. Saying the words, "Excuse me," does not negate this kind of behavior. Only the little chick at the end of the book does the right thing by waiting for an answer from the other animals before shoving his way onto the elevator. I do agree with Hippo making room for the chick, because oftentimes you can make space for one more person.

Hippo's character is an accurate representation of how young children interpret the use of this phrase, though. The young ones in my classroom are often barreling past each other, uttering, "Excuse me," as they knock into someone. Our lesson then turns into stopping and waiting for the other person to move before continuing on. It bothers me that the mother is just as pushy as her son and never says a word during the entire book. She simply allows him to push his way through life. Again, this is an accurate representation of some parents I have seen. I would be more comfortable using this book as an introduction to using the phrase and coupled with a discussion about how to use it appropriately.

The large font used in the text and repetitive nature of the words will make the story appealing to young readers. Bright colors will attract their attention. The characters in the story are cute and funny in the illustrations. Their cartoonish expressions will bring smiles to kids' faces. I can see this book being pulled off a bookshelf time and time again.

I received an eARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Review of Gabby's Stick-to-It Day

Author Shelia Walsh has a plan in mind. She wants to teach children that there are angels looking out for them, provided by God because he loves them. Gabby, God's Little Angel, is her special character who serves to teach children this very idea.

Gabby is in charge of a little girl named Sophie. Sophie is not a naughty girl, but she does have a problem. She has a tendency to give up when the going gets rough. She gives up when it takes too long to help Daddy paint the fence, when the dog makes a big wet mess during his bath, or when her baby brother throws his food at her while she is reading to him. Gabby flies down and whispers a lesson from the Bible about not giving up into Sophie's ear. God's words change Sophie and help her to keep persevering, even when she gets frustrated.

Realistically, it will take a lot of reminders and assistance to help children persevere when going through troubled times. This book serves as a good lesson to children. It can be used time and time again as inspiration to try again. I like its message and think it could speak to many children. I do think that girls are going to be more attracted to it than boys, though, as it has mainly girl characters. It would be best used either in the home or in a Sunday School class.

I love the illustrations in this book. They are quite peaceful and very sweet. I immediately had flashbacks of my Holly Hobby doll when I saw the picture of the angel Gabby. The other children also somewhat remind me of Precious Moments figurines and characters. I would love to see the other books in this series.

I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.