“Sammy and The Headless Horseman” by Rona Arato


Rona Arato
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
ISBN 9781554552696
Reviewed by Jordan Willis (age 16) for Reader Reviews (6/17)

“Sammy and the Headless Horseman” by Rona Arato is a youth book about an eleven-year-old boy from Poland named Sammy, and his adventures at the Pine Grove hotel in the Catskill Mountains of New York. While Sammy is there, he befriends Adam, a fellow employee at the hotel. Sammy learns of the local ghost stories and decides to investigate. After hearing the mysterious hermit’s complaints and seeing the Headless Horseman with his own eyes, he decides to help the hermit by investigating. Together, Sammy and Adam piece together clues and work to solve the mystery.

This entertaining youth detective story really captivated me. Sammy’s task to solve the mystery kept me on my toes. I personally love the Headless Horseman legend, and I believe that the author, Rona Arato, did an excellent job at representing Washington Irving’s classic novel “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

The chilling atmosphere of this book is in keeping with the ghost story genre, and the author’s imagery compelled me to continue reading. I liked the fact that Arato included the Yiddish language and various aspects of the Jewish culture. When the author described Sammy’s background and the things he went through, she did an excellent job at giving me a mental image and sense of what Sammy was feeling at the time. This made it easy to understand and sympathize with Sammy’s thoughts and emotions.

I found the diverse personalities of the characters very intriguing, as well as the characters’ accurate behaviors for the time period, including their perspectives. There were not many things that I didn’t like about this book, however, I felt the comedy scenes were a bit cheesy and there were so many of them that they lost their effectiveness.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading “Sammy and the Headless Horseman.” Rona Arato did an excellent job at writing this book at the appropriate reading level for the target audience. This book is perfect for light readers because the plot isn’t too complicated and it is easy to follow. Although I am sixteen, I do believe that this book would appeal to 12-14 year olds and would highly recommend it to young readers.

Posted in YOUNG READER - AGES 8 TO 12 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“Rogue Wolf” by Robin Mason


Robin Mason
Tricklewood Press (2017)
ISBN 9780994837165
Reviewed by Evan Weldon (age 15) for Reader Views (05/17)

“Rogue Wolf” by Robin Mason is a book about seventh-grader Jackson and his friend Sarah. All is well in the magical glen that grants Jackson and Sarah the ability to speak with animals, until a pack of eleven wolves arrive. Jackson and Sarah know that such a large wolf pack will quickly deplete the glen’s herds of elk and deer. In order to preserve the magic of the glen, they must find a way to make the pack leave. However, Rogue, the leader of the pack, does not seem to care that he might jeopardize the glen and his pack’s own food supply, even when Jackson and Sarah bring these concerns before him. Jackson is now in a difficult position. Jackson is sympathetic to the pack’s need for territory and is loath to bring the news of a wolf pack to the authorities, knowing they will hunt and kill the wolves, but he is also faced with the possibility that the wolf pack will destroy the glen he’s come to love. How will Jackson and Sarah resolve this conundrum? Read and find out!

My favorite character is Jackson. Faced with difficult situations, Jackson always strives to find the best solution. It’s interesting to watch him develop throughout the series, going from staying indoors as much as possible to finding every excuse to visit the glen. Even during Rogue Wolf, one sees Jackson grow and mature. All the characters in Rogue Wolf are interesting and distinct. Robin Mason does a good job of developing each character individually, never overwhelming the reader with an excess of names.

However, Rogue Wolf and the series at large are not only great reads; each book addresses important environmental issues that are faced today. It is refreshing to see an author who can tell an interesting and engaging story while still conveying a vital message about the importance of environmental conservation.

I would suggest this book for all audiences. Although talking animals may seem cliché at first, the author does a fantastic job of making it new and original by tying the ability to a certain area. The animals all have fun personalities that make the book a joy to read. The plot is ever evolving as more and more threats come to light, which keeps the book interesting. Overall, “Rogue Wolf” by Robin Mason is an entrancing and enjoyable book that will draw you in and never let you out.

Posted in TEEN/YOUNG ADULT - AGES 12 AND UP, YOUNG READER - AGES 8 TO 12 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“Zeke Will Not Eat!” by Delin Colon


Delin Colon
CreateSpace (2016)
ISBN 9781534960848
Reviewed by Russ Cramer (age 5) for Reader Views Kids (5/17)

“Zeke Will Not Eat!” by Delin Colon is about a little boy named Zeke and he didn’t want to eat. His mom said that dinner was ready and spoiled all his fun. He wanted to play. His dad told him that he was a giant and that he could eat up every bit of his dinner plate, and that’s what it was about.

I liked the book because it was about Zeke who didn’t want to eat. Actually, I don’t like to eat either, except when my mom makes chicken. I also liked at the end that he ate because I like to eat pizza. I think being a giant would be cool.

I didn’t like that he didn’t eat at first because it is good for you to eat, but he didn’t eat.

I liked the way the art was done because I like blue and white.

I think girls would not like “Zeke Will Not Eat!” by Delin Colon because it’s all about a boy. I think other boys would like the book because it’s all about a boy like them.

Posted in PRESCHOOL - UP TO AGE 5 | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

“Stories of the Aurora” by Joan Marie Galat


Joan Marie Galat
Whitecap Books Ltd. (2016)
ISBN 9781770502109
Reviewed by Willow Cramer (age 7) for Reader Views Kids (5/17)

“Stories of the Aurora” by Joan Marie Galat explains what an aurora is, the science of the aurora, and then lots of stories about legends from around the world about auroras.

I did like the legends in the book, especially the legend about Eos, and how she fell in love with the handsomest young man, and asked Zeus to give him eternal life so that they could be together always. The problem was she didn’t ask him for eternal youth and eventually he grew so old that he turned into a cricket.

I did learn that an Aurora is some glowing lights in the sky. I remember my daddy read to me what caused an aurora but I don’t remember it now.

I have to admit, when I got this book, I expected a book about Princess Aurora from Disney. I thought it would be about Sleeping Beauty.

I would recommend this book to little boys who would enjoy it. I don’t think little girls would like it. I do think little girls would like the story about Eos, though. That was a cool story.

 A Note from Dad:

I think that “Stories of the Aurora” by Joan Marie Galat has a lot of great features—I really enjoyed the sections that explored what an aurora is and how different cultures each understood the aurora. While I was reading this to my daughter, she seemed to enjoy each of the myths, though she got antsy with some of the science sections. I recommend breaking these sections down more and perhaps adding some activities that will further demonstrate the science of the aurora in a real way (especially since we live in a place where an aurora is not likely to appear.)

Posted in YOUNG READER - AGES 8 TO 12 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“Whack, Whack, Whack, Goes the Tail!” by Mark Rouillard


Mark Rouillard
Fire Monkey Publishing, LLC (2017)
ISBN 9780997673005
Reviewed by Willow Cramer (age 7) for Reader Views Kids (5/17)

“Whack, Whack, Whack, Goes the Tail!” by Mark Rouillard is about a dog named Jack who really loves his family. He decides that there are lots of things to do with his family. One of the things he decides to do is to protect his mom by whacking a stranger who is putting stuff in their house on the butt.

I really liked that the family loved their dog Jack, and that he really loved him them. He showed his love by waking Johnny up, standing still for a portrait, and trying to protect his mom.

I also liked the art because it’s so funny. The family is taking a nice picture on the front cover, but on the back, you see the kids go flying because Jack accidently whacked them with his tail. I really liked throughout the book that Jack would whack someone and things would go flying (like when he whacked Johnny and the dog food went flying on his head).

I did not like that whenever Jack messed things up the family had to clean up his mess (the entire house)! This makes me think of when we have friends over and they mess up my brother’s room and he has to clean up his room (while whining the whole time). So, I understand if people get frustrated.

What I learned from this book is do not get a dog because it will mess everything up and I’ll have to clean up after it. It might get fur balls all over my bed and my brother’s bed! I’d rather have a fish who won’t mess everything up.

I would recommend “Whack, Whack, Whack Goes the Tail!” by Mark Rouillard to other little girls my age because it is a really great story and I think other kids would like it too because it is so funny.

Posted in EARLY READER - AGES 6 TO 8 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Interview with Pat Frayne, Author of “Topaz and the Green Fairies”


Pat Frayne
CreateSpace (2015)
ISBN 9781518621154
Reviewed by Faryal Jabbar (age 15) for Reader Views (2/17)

Article first published as Interview: Pat Frayne, Author of ‘Topaz and the Green Fairies’ on Blogcritics.

Award-winning children’s author Pat Frayne is the creator of Topaz the Conjure Cat books. These fast-paced adventure fantasies about Topaz, a large cat descended from a breed endowed with unique magical abilities, will thrill children of all ages. Topaz lives in a magical kingdom, a world filled with wonder and peril, inhabited by fairies, elves, and other mystical beings.

Frayne’s grandchildren have been her biggest creative inspiration. PatFrayneHer books are enjoyed by parents, grandparents, and children alike. Retired from a long career in nursing, Frayne devotes herself to her passion for writing and creating new adventures for Topaz and his companions.

Her love of nature and the many hours spent hiking the Grand Canyon have had a powerful influence on her writing. A native of Pennsylvania, Frayne now lives in a small town in Arizona with her husband, Ron. Besides writing, her favorite pastimes are long walks, and spying on the local wildlife.

Sheri:  Welcome, Pat! Thank you for being with us today. Why don’t you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

Pat:  Hi, Sheri. You are welcome, and thank you for giving me this opportunity to share. I grew up in Philadelphia, and after graduating from Overbrook High School, I entered Woman’s Hospital of Philadelphia School of Nursing. From the age of nine I always knew I wanted to be a registered nurse, so for me this was a dream come true. Shortly after graduation I married a young man I’d been engaged to for two years. He had been discharged from the Marine Corps a few weeks before. Naturally, nursing and family became my focus. This left little time for anything else. It wasn’t until the end of my nursing career that I began to write. Had it not been for my grandchildren, Sam and Cait I may not have begun to write at all. They could make up a story on the spur of the moment. That was the spark that set off my imagination. Now that I’ve retired from nursing, writing has become my full-time passion.

Sheri:  What is Topaz and The Green Fairies about?

Pat:  Topaz and The Green Fairies is an uplifting tale about the courage and survival of a young Green Fairy who’s searching for help to save his folk from their eroding, storm-ravaged island in the great Slewnecky River. After a heroic journey of unimaginable, life-threatening challenges, he finally reaches his destination, the Land of Knownotten. But it’s not what he expected.

When Topaz, a Yellow Conjure Cat, and the new King of Knownotten encounter this Green Fairy in the forest, their relationship is off to a rough start. However, they soon become friends.

The king and some of his pals are more than willing to help rescue the Green Fairies. But for the plan to work, the Green Fairy is asked to agree to do something he fears more than anything else in the world. Accompanied by Topaz and his ward, Daisy, a young fawn, the Green Fairy finds the overland road back to his home on Cottersdamp Island even more treacherous than his journey up river to Knownotten Kingdom.

Meantime, conditions on the island worsen as major mudslides begin to take their toll.

Sheri:  What exactly is a Yellow Conjure Cat?

Pat:  I was hoping you’d ask. A Yellow Conjure Cat is a large, lean, muscular cat about the size of a cougar. They’re usually a buttery yellow with pale orange stripes and intense luminous eyes. These cats are born with a unique power that allows them to do extraordinary things. However, the use of that power must be taught, and teaching these skills must start at an early age. Young conjure cats begin training when their Elder decides they are ready. Before this training can begin, a conjure cat must pledge to abide by The Laws Of The Code. The first law states that under no circumstances must a conjure cat use his power for evil.

Sheri:  How many other books are there in the Topaz the Conjure Cat series?

Pat:  There are two other books before Topaz and the Green Fairies, and each tale is a complete book. This allows readers to begin with any book in the series. The first book is Topaz and the Evil Wizard; the second book is called Topaz and the Plum-Gista Stone. Both of these books have been recently revised as our hero Topaz has evolved. He’s grown in size from his original forty pounds.

Sheri: What was your inspiration for writing the series?

Pat:  As I mentioned earlier, my grandchildren lit the spark for my imagination. Once that happened, Topaz and the Kingdom of Knownotten took on a life of their own. This world and the characters that inhabit it became an alternate reality. After the first story, I knew these characters – what they thought, what they felt, and how they’d react in any given situation. The original story came easily. It was finished within a matter of days. This story was written for Sam and Cait for Christmas. I wrote the second story for my granddaughter’s birthday. The beginning of this tale was a bit of a struggle. Cait unwittingly helped me overcome the block by sending me a two-page letter. The first page had been typed on her mom’s computer.

It read:

Title: Topaz and the wizard 2 (typed in large dark letters)

“Wake up Topaz wake up yelled daisy. Daisy was a young white fawn. When Topaz awoke he silently ate his breakfast, for his owner King Kittle had passed away. Then Bumper came in and broke the silence Topaz he yelled Ollie has been stuck in a tree and cant get down you have to help him. So Topaz followed Bumper when Topaz got their he soon saw ollie he yelled up to Ollie are you okay Ollie replied: I need help I cant get down.” (sic)

The second page was written with a fine point, purple marker:

“Dear Nannies, I’m not sure what to say next so I want you to finish it for me.” (big hand-drawn heart) “Caitlin”

I have copied her letter just as it was written. Cait was eight and a half at the time, and she knew I was going to write a story just for her. Bumper and Ollie were characters from the first story. Bumper is a raccoon and Ollie is a great horned Owl. Their names changed to Dooly and Otis when the stories were revised two years later. Daisy, however, was a completely new character. Ollie’s dilemma was a bit of a stumbling block for me. I now had to come up with a credible reason why a great horned owl would be stuck in a tree. A day later I had the answer.

After that, the writing seemed to flow.

However, at this point I didn’t know I was going to publish. My sole purpose for writing the stories was to entertain my grandchildren. My daughter had other ideas. She began to encourage me to publish. When I didn’t, she called a subsidiary publisher and gave them my phone number. I did publish the first book through them. However, once I decided to create a series, I made contact with a good formatter and began to publish through CreateSpace. Once I’d published the first two books, it was only natural that I should write a third.

Sheri:  What was your biggest challenge in writing the series?

Pat: In the third book Topaz began to evolve. He needed to be about the size of a cougar if I intended him to accomplish what the story demanded. I struggled with what to do about this until I finally decided to start from the beginning again and revise the first two books.

Sheri:  What is the best part about being an author of children’s books?

Pat:  I enjoy writing the kind of children’s books I liked to listen to my mom read to me when I was a youngster. Reviews from readers are another bonus I did not expect. While reading through my reviews on Goodreads back in March, I came across one that made my heart glow. Here are the first two sentences: “I thoroughly enjoyed reading Topaz & The Green Fairies with my young niece. She has a cat and insisted on renaming him Topaz!” (sic)

Sheri:  Is there a lesson in each of your books?

Pat:  If there is a lesson, it was never intentional. These books were written for the enjoyment of the reader. However, as with all of the Topaz the Conjure Cat Books, there is a strong emphasis on the value of friendship, loyalty, and courage.

Sheri:  What is it you hope young readers take away from your stories?

Pat:  I hope readers will enjoy reading my books as much as I enjoyed writing them. And I hope it will encourage them to read other books for the simple pleasure of reading.

Sheri: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, about writing, or about life in general?

Pat:  The best advice I’ve ever received about writing or life, in general, is this: “You have to work at it every day.” The other thing I learned is “You must have heart.” Heart equals passion. An author must feel passionate about writing in order to succeed.

Sheri: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Pat:  My advice to aspiring authors is this: First, write every day; keep your passion alive. Second, learn how to market. That begins with branding yourself on social media and making useful connections with others. Third, build a website. Write articles that pertain to your genre and your writing. Do this on a regular basis. Most importantly, remember to brand yourself; get your name in the public eye. One way to do this is to include your name in the link to your website.

Sheri: What do you like to do in your free time?

Pat:  I enjoy long walks. And I love to observe the local wildlife. It’s not uncommon to see a herd of javelina or a coyote walking down the road in front of my house or through parts of my yard. We see lots of roadrunners; deer sometimes come to visit. They like my neighbor’s rose buds. Once in a while tarantulas, snakes, and scorpions show up. I don’t mind as long as they don’t hang out in the garage too long. I like to read, too, mostly fantasy and mystery. At the moment I’m reading a series by Peter Tremayne. He writes historical mysteries about a fictional female lawyer, and her partner Brother Eadulf. They lived in Ireland during the seventh century.

Sheri:  So, what’s next? Will Topaz continue to take young readers on his exciting adventures?

Pat: Yes! I’m thinking about a new story. Nothing is on the computer yet. But, I plan to start soon.

Sheri:  Do you have a website or blog where readers can learn more about you and your works?

Pat:  I sure do. The address is www.patfrayne.com. There’s a page for each of the Topaz books and there’s a blog as well. You can also reach my Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads pages from my website or send me an email if you prefer. You can do this by clicking on the icon on my website. I’d love to hear from you.

Sheri:  Where can readers purchase Topaz and The Green Fairies and your other books?

Pat:  All of my books are on Amazon, and there’s a buy button for each book on my website that will take readers directly to the Amazon page.

Sheri:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers today?

Pat:  Yes. It’s an honor to be here and to have this opportunity to tell all of you a little about myself and about Topaz and the magical kingdom he lives in. I hope you and your children will enjoy these tales for years to come. Before signing off, I’d like to mention how much I enjoy reading reviews from children. If there’s a new Topaz adventure you’d like me to write about, please take the time to email. I’m never too busy to answer.

Sheri:  Pat, thank you so much for spending some time with me today! I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know more about you and your books and look forward to see you have in store for readers next!

Read Review of Topaz and the Green Fairies
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Posted in Author Interviews, YOUNG READER - AGES 8 TO 12 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“The Railroad Adventures of Chen Sing” by George Chiang


George Chiang
FriesenPress (2017)
ISBN 9781460299401
Reviewed by Paola Belloso (age 9) for Reader Views (04/17)

“The Railroad Adventures of Chen Sing” by George Chiang, is a story of a boy named Chen Sing who lived in a farming village in China. He had lost both parents and now lived with his older brother and a younger sister. The family was very poor and had to work hard to survive. One day a big storm went through and flooded the village, and everything that they had was gone. Chen Sing’s older cousin, Bo, was leaving the village to find a job to help his family. Chen Sing wanted to go with Bo, so he left his siblings and promised to send money and help them. It was a long way, but when they left, the adventure had just started for both.

Meet Chen Sing and his cousin Bo and experience these exciting adventures with them as they go through much trouble to get the right job, encounter fear, bad weather, and finally, hard work as they helped build the transcontinental railway through the Rocky Mountains.

I enjoyed “The Railroad Adventures of Chen Sing” by George Chiang very much. It has a great message of how a young boy had to be brave with such a great loss at such a young age and had the strength to work so hard to survive and help his older brother and younger sister. I loved the pictures, and the writing and how in a short story you will find so much entertainment. I think this adventure will be both enjoyed by younger and older readers.

A Note From Mom:

What I found in “The Railroad Adventures of Chen Sing” by George Chiang is the message of truth of how many kids go through so much and must become adults quickly in order to survive. Chen Sing was very brave and had the strength to fight for what he wanted; all while encountering great obstacles and never giving up. This is a great lesson to reinforce to my daughter the value of being perseverant and appreciative of all that she has.

Posted in YOUNG READER - AGES 8 TO 12 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment