I feel like I’ve finally gotten some time to read (have just passed 103 books read so far this year!), as I’ve trying to research for my son’s birthday. It’s not till July but I know how bad I procrastinate and since it is his first birthday, I want it to be special. So I’m checking stuff out now. I think I’m going to use Rubber Duckies for the theme. Since it is in the middle of July and it’s usually over 110 degrees F here in the summer, I figured it should be indoors. So I’m leaning to having it in a recreation center with a nice playground nearby where the kids can go if it isn’t too hot. Anyways, on to the reviews. As usual, I break down the reviews according to their category: Children, Children & YA, YA, and Adult. I rate them 1-5 stars, 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest.

Children

 Just a Little Critter Collection by Mercer Mayer

As I believe I have said before, I was raised on Little Critter books and absolutely love them. So I knew when I had children, I would read these to them as well. I got this one for my 9 month old son and he likes them too. I especially like the spider and grasshopper that are in all of his books as Little Critter’s companions. This collection includes these 7 books: Just for You, I Was So Mad, When I Get Bigger, Just Go to Bed, All by Myself, Just a Mess and I Just Forgot. My favorites are Just for You, Just Go to Bed and I Just Forgot. Recommended for 9 months – 5 years, 5 stars.

Little Quack’s Hide and Seek by Lauren Thompson

This was a very cute book that teaches counting and basic subtraction via the “Quackulator” to preschoolers, though I’m sure my son would enjoy this book as well. Little Quack and his four brothers and sisters are playing hide-and-seek with their Momma; she is counting while they find a place to hide. Little Quack finds the best one of all. Recommended for ages 9 months – 5 years, 4 stars.

The Giant Surprise: A Narnia Story by Hiawyn Oram

This book was a little random, but had a good story at heart. The theme was friendship but it was told in a very creative way, with the main characters being a Narnia creature called Puddleglum the Marsh-wiggle and his niece a young Wigglet named Lally. They have to save their friends the marsh mice from the evil giants who want to eat them. I thought the illustrations were very engaging and fun, though it seemed more like a Philip Pullman or L.Frank Baum book rather than a C.S. Lewis story. Recommended for ages 4-8, 3 stars.

If Kisses Were Colors by Janet Lawler

Honestly I gave this book five stars because I love the artwork with its crackled aged look. I first discovered Alison Jay while I was taking a Children’s Literature class and needed an ABC book (Her’s is really good). So when I saw this at the book sale today, I decided to give it a try. It’s an ode from a parent to her child and has some really adorable illustrations. It compares kisses to raindrops, pebbles, acorns, comets, flowers and blankets. It is through them she shows her baby how much she/he is loved. Recommended for ages birth – 5 years, 5 stars.

Razzamadaddy by Linda Walvoord

A great story for dads to read to their sons, this rhyming book features a dad taking his young son to the beach and all the fun that they have there. It has bright and colorful illustrations that engage the reader and enliven the story. It would be great for Father’s Day. Recommended for ages 2-7, 4 stars.

A Porcupine Named Fluffy by Helen Lester

A very funny easy reader book about an badly-named porcupine named Fluffy, who hates his name and tries to change to match it (which he fails at). It isn’t until he meets and equally incompatibly named rhino named Hippo. He learns to accept his name and gains a life-long friend in return. My favorite part was his attempts to be fluffy, which included pretending to be a cloud and pillow, and spraying himself with whipped cream and shaving cream with feathers. Recommended for ages 2-7, 4 stars.

Duck by Randy Cecil

I originally picked this up for myself because I thought the story sounded interesting, but my son liked it too. The book is about Duck, a carousel animal at a carnival who dreams of flying and watches the real ducks fly every day. One day, a baby duck named Duckling finds her and she raises it as her own, until the day comes when Duckling needs to learn how to fly. He eventually picks it up and goes to join a flock flying south for the winter. Duck is sad but then Duckling comes to visit her and carries her on his back into the sky with the flock. The illustrations absolutely made this picture book super adorable! Highly recommended for ages 9 months – 7 years, 5 stars.

Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook by Georgeanne Brennan

I liked the fact that the cookbook included so many Seuss quotes, so you could see where the idea for the recipes came from. I also liked all the images from the books. The recipes just weren’t that exciting, seemed like the author kind of half-assed them. With all the imagination in Dr. Seuss books, I just thought they couldn’t been more interesting. There’s only two recipes, Moose Juice/Goose Juice and Sneetch Treats that I would consider making myself. Recommended for ages 5+, 2 stars.

Children & Young Adult

The Burning Bridge (Ranger’s Apprentice, #2) by John Flanagan – audiobook version

This was a much better book than the first one, full of much more adventure and great battles. The ending was rather surprising, but exciting and cliffhanging. In this volume, Will is much more capable in his Ranger abilities and he is sent on a mission with Gil and Horace to Celtica to enlist their king’s aid in the coming war. However, when they get there, they realize that Celtica’s people are missing and the place is crawling with Wargols. Where has everyone gone? Just what is Morgorath up to? Will Horace and Will be able to stop Morgorath’s evil plans? To find out, read this great book! Can’t wait to continue the series. Recommended for ages 10+, 5 stars.

The Icebound Land (Ranger’s Apprentice, #3) by John Flanagan – audiobook version

This was my least favorite of the Ranger’s Apprentice series books so far. There was hardly any action or battles in it, although I suppose it was really more of a setup book for the next one in the series “Battle for Skandia”. You can start to see a bit more about how the author based the setting on Europe with places like Skandia, which are obviously full of Norsemen/Vikings, and Gallicia, which is basically France. I suppose that would mean that Araluen is actually England (with Hibernia being Scotland). Anyways, on to the story.

In this volume, Will and Evanlyn have been captured by the Skandians in the previous book and are being taken back to to Skandia by their captor, Jarl Erik. Will finally learns that Evanlyn is really Princess Cassandra, daughter of the king of Araluen, but has to protect her identity after the king of Skandia, Ragnar, swears vengeance against the king of Araluen and his family. Once they arrive, Erik give sthem to Ragnar’s household, and Will becomes a yard slave and Evanlyn a kitchen slave. They eventually escape to the mountains of Skandia. Meanwhile, Halt and Horace are traveling through Gallicia to get to Skandia from the south, and rescue the two teenagers. Recommended for ages 10+, 3 stars.

The Battle for Skandia (Ranger’s Apprentice, #4) by John Flanagan – audiobook version

First off, I think it is great that the author created this series for his son Michael, to encourage him to read. This book had a much better storyline than the last one, plus a grand battle sequence that was being prepared for/going on for about half of the book. This book is also known as “The Oakleaf Bearers,” an allusion to Horaces and Halt’s previous adventures in Gallica. In this volume, Will finally breaks his addiction to warmweed, the drug that the Skandians got him addicted to when he was a slave in the previous book. Evanlyn is captured by the Temujai, a fierce warrior people from the Eastern Steppes, and Will saves her with the help of Halt and Horace, who have finally arrived in Skandia. The Temujai plan to invade Skandia to conquer the land so they can use their ships to conquer Araluen, however Halt will not let that happen. That means teaming up with Erak and their king, the Oberjarl Ranyak and working together to beat the threat. Who will win the Battle for Skandia? Will Horace, Evanlyn (Princess Cassandra), Halt and Will ever get to go home? To find out, read the exciting and action-packed 4th book of “The Ranger’s Apprentice” series! Highly recommended for ages 10+, 5 stars.

R. Caldecott’s Picture Book – No. 1 by Randolph Caldecott

Having learned about Randolph Caldecott in library school, who completely changed the world of children’s illustration during the Victorian period, I was eager to read some of the stories he illustrated. I picked up this volume from a library sale today and it is an addition of the book from the 1960s or 70s, and features both color plates and black & white illustrations. The volume includes “The Diverting History of John Gilpin,” “An Elegy of the Death of a Mad Dog,” “The House That Jack Built,” and “The Babes in the Woods.” Unlike today’s stories which seem like they are trying to have too many Disney endings, most of these are unhappy (including the last story in which the children die). Recommended for ages 7+, 4 stars.

Young Adult

Emma, Volume 9 by Kaoru Mori

This volume features more side stories from the Emma series, which include the Meredith’s son Erich  and his squirrel Theo, Mr and Mrs Meredith’s relationship and how they met, the Meredith’s maids and how William and Hakim initially met. The last story was my favorite. I will be glad to get back to the actual storyline in the final volume. Recommended for ages 14+, 3 stars.

Adult

Home Made: Good, Honest Food Made Easy by Tana Ramsay

I had the softcover edition of this version of the book. Gordon Ramsay’s wife Tana is a good cook. Her recipes are simple and predominantly easy to prepare, plus they are recipes I think my family would actually eat. 4 stars.

Baking Basics and Beyond: Learn These Simple Techniques and Bake Like a Pro by Pat Sinclair

I loved this basic guide to baking, which included good tips and techniques that really help you out. As much as I hate to use vegetable shortening, I understand that to make a really fluffy biscuit or flaky piecrust, it is better to use it. I’ve always found baking to be very therapeutic and I enjoy making others smile, which baked goods seem to do. I mean who doesn’t love the smell of fresh-baked bread? I really want this book for my collection. 5 stars.

 Betty Crocker Cookbook for Women: The Complete Guide to Women’s Health and Wellness at Every Stage of Life by Betty Crocker

I picked this up at a library book sale this weekend by chance, but it seems to be a pretty good purchase (hey, can’t complain for $1). It outlines how women of every age, from their 20s – 70s, should take care of their health and well-being. There are small sections in between the recipes about how to relieve stress and exercise examples. The recipes are pretty good and explain which are good for things like Folic Acid, Vitamin C/B/A, Iron, etc. 4 stars.

Party Food for Kids by Caroline Marson

I’m trying to plan my child’s first birthday party and was looking for some help. I rarely give books one star, but this book just wasn’t very good. It took common knowledge items like hot dogs and hamburgers and gave you recipes. There was no originality. 1 star.

Tana’s Kitchen Secrets by Tana Ramsay

This book features tips and techniques by Gordon Ramsay’s wife Tana, as well as good and predominantly healthy recipes for a busy mom with kids. As I’ve just become a mom, I find it important to get my hands on easy to prepare recipes that my child will eventually be happy to eat. I would love to try her recipes for Moroccan Fish Tangine, Meringues – which can be used to make Eton Mess, Asparagus Soup, and Cheese Dip, amongst others. 4 stars.

Great Parties for Kids: Fabulous and Creative Ideas For Children Aged 0-10 by Charlotte Packer

This book had some good ideas for kid’s parties, though there were predominantly for older kids, above age 3. There was really only two ideas, Teddy Bears’ Picnic and Farmyard Animals for the under three year old crowd, which is what I’m looking for. It was pretty detailed on activities, items to use for decoration, what games to play and what food to serve. The back section featured recipes mentioned in the previous party sections, but looked like they stole all the food ideas from “Party Food for Kids,” which I read before this book. 3 stars.

Preschool Parties: Easy Ideas for Princesses, Pirates & Other Little People by Colleen Mullaney

This book was a very good guide to children’s parties for ages 1-8, though predominantly for 3-6 years olds. In fact, the only under 3 party was for the Teddy Bear Picnic, Although most of the ideas were for older kids, I could see myself using this book more in the future. I liked that there were a lot of pictures of children enjoying the activities and the food. It was broken down in a way that made sense to and was easy to follow, i.e.an introductory page, sections on invitations, decorations, a To-Do list, Supply lists, party and game times, and a menu with recipes. I like this book way better than the previous book I reviewed. 5 stars.

Lulu Powers Food to Flowers: Simple, Stylish Food for Easy Entertaining

I’ve planned about two parties during my adult life, but I have never done any dinner or kid’s parties, which I figure I should be able to do now that I’m married with a child. Ms Powers’ job is to create and host parties for celebrities, so she knows her stuff. She breaks the book down into general tips and Morning, Afternoon, and Evening parties. Her recipes look amazing and she has some great ideas. I can’t wait to try her Cinnamon Clotted Cream with some scones! 4 stars.

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