Book Review: The Brown Paper Bear by Neil Reed

brown-paper-bearThere are some things in life that instantly create moments of nostalgia.  The Brown Paper Bear wonderfully creates one of those moments where readers are transported back through time, perhaps to a playful and joyous childhood.

In this beautifully illustrated story, a young girl named Jessica is awakened out of her sleep by an illuminating light.  Drawn by the light’s glare, she stumbles into a closet where a trunk full of toys awaits.  At first glance, the toys appear dusty, old, and unfamiliar.  She then finds a teddy bear wrapped in a brown paper bag.   Once unwrapped, she learns that the teddy bear is magical and its magic seems ignited by her warm embrace.  The toy bear gently grabs her by the hand and beckons her to meet his friends.  He takes young Jessica on a journey to meet other retro toys from a time long ago.  The young girl plays with the toys and is later returned home only to wake up and wonder if it was all a dream – but her grandfather knows better.

Although this book is simplistically told, both the illustrations and words work in tandem to create an endearing feeling of warmth and compassion. This is definitely a book that I would recommend for parents as a night time read aloud.


Book Review: The Longest Con by Michaelbrent Collings

Imagine living in a world where some of the most feral and bloodcurdling creatures dwell, in secrecy, among the human race. In The Longest Con, author Michaelbrent Collingsconjures up a cryptic tale of fantasy, mystery, and humor that will leave you spellbound.  Acting in a dual role as both the author and protagonist, Collings gives his readers a sagacious view into his life as an unassuming author to most but warden to the demonic creatures of the ‘other world’. Hired by a magical council, Collings’ job as a warden is to keep the supernatural bad guys in line. There’s just one problem.  Everybody wants him dead, perhaps even the ones that hired him.
Set amid the International Comic-Con, the story’s suspenseful and multidimensional plot follows Michaelbrent’s character as he spends what turns out to be the longest weekend of his life at Comic-Con trying to solve the mystery behind the death of a monster princess. The princess’s death leads him into the royal courts of two dangerous factions of evil creatures.  These two clans (vampires and werewolves) are on the verge of a peace treaty but the mysterious death threatens to bring about an all-out war among demons.  As warden, Michaelbrent has to keep these two clans at bay long enough to unravel the mystery but things become more complicated as he uncovers a  sadistic and twisted underworld that involves the humans he is supposed to protect.
If you are a fan of the supernatural, you will love this title.  A cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight, The Longest Con can best be described as fantasy fiction on steroids.  Granted you will have to be prepared for the main character’s off-witted humor, that at times will leave you exhausted, but it is well worth the mental investment. Due to some of its contents, I would recommend this as an adult read.

Book Review: Finding Amelia by Lynsey Howell

If you’ve ever wondered what happened to Amelia Earhart, then climb aboard the “1927 Travel Air 4000” and take flight with this fun and wildly imaginative book. Written by Lynsey Howell, Finding Amelia gives readers a bird’s eye view into the life of the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and the mystery surrounding her disappearance.  Not only will readers be captivated the beautiful mosaic of vibrant illustrations found throughout this book, but readers will  appreciate how the author’s personal experience as a pilot influences the vocabulary found within the text.
The book begins by following a young girl by the name of Sara and her side kick, Zulu, as they take their first ever open cockpit, bi-plane ride.  Their plane takes off uneventfully; however, something peculiar happens.  What began as a tour across the ocean later becomes a magical journey through time, where they meet Amelia Earhart and learn that her legacy is a gift that she left behind.
Although fictitious, this story has a lot of educational value and is appropriate for young readers.  Teachers can implement this story as an anticipatory text to generate a discussion about the famous aviator and as an informal assessment to gauge students’ prior knowledge.  As well, a comparative analysis can be done between fiction and nonfiction genres.  Here, teachers can use the text along with a biography to explore author’s purpose, helping students distinguish between the factual evidence surrounding Amelia’s disappearance versus the assumptions.

Review: Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins


Finally, here’s a children’s book that makes sense!  Mother Bruce is an amazingly clever book that brings a modern day spin to a very popular moniker:   Mother Goose. Traditionally, we have come to know Mother Goose as a lovable motherly figure who has graciously bestowed upon us the wondrous world of fairy-tales and nursery rhymes.   Had she in fact been a real goose, there’s no doubt she would have been a doting mother. Mother Bruce, on the other hand, bears no resemblance (excuse the pun). To begin, Mother Bruce is not quite a mother, at least not in a biological sort of way.   She, I mean he, is a grumpy old bear who becomes the victim of mistaken identity.

It all starts with a batch of eggs that he collects from Mrs. Goose.  He intends to use the eggs as ingredients for a recipe.  However, while out fetching fire wood for his stove, Bruce returns home to find that the eggs for his “would be” dinner has hatched.  Instead of satisfying his appetite for a gourmet meal, Bruce has to contend with a flock of goslings- and they think he is their mother.   As the story unfolds, Bruce does everything within his power to get rid of the annoying birds but to no avail. In the end, he finds a way to really take care of his unwanted guests once and for all. Will they finally leave?  Or, will they continue to hang around?

The beauty behind this story lies in its humor and educational value. Both teachers and parents alike will find that this book is an excellent teaching tool.  It is perfect for read-alouds.  The book provides its readers with a robust selection of vocabulary words and real world connections.  Teachers can definitely take advantage of the story’s literary elements, including the use of personification and its unintended plot. Although Mother Bruce is not your typical mother, I’m sure Mother Goose would be proud!

Book Review: Delilah Dusticle by A.J. York

aj-yorkDon’t let the name fool you!  Delilah Dusticle is more than just a story about a girl eradicating dust.  Rather, it is a heart-warming tale about love and friendship that will literally sweep you off your feet.

 The story centers around the life of a young maid whose ability to clean is far superior to that of her peers.  She carries a magical feather duster, and with it- she is able to zap dust away. Impressed by her uncanny ability, she is soon promoted to chief eradicator by Mrs. Fenchurch-Whittington (her employer). In the beginning of the story, Delilah’s knack for eradicating dust makes her very popular and highly sought after by some of the wealthiest and/or snobbiest families in London. However,  Delilah’s popularity soon begins to diminish after a seemingly unfortunate encounter leaves her disappointed and distraught.  She then dooms herself  to a life of isolation- where she can only collect dust and no longer eradicated it.  

 There are many reasons to fall in love with this well-crafted story.  Yet it is the social-emotional aspect of it that makes it a true gem. Deeply woven into its subtext is a message about the resilience of the human spirit.  Although fictitious in nature, children and young adults alike will definitely appreciate a more relatable theme.  Whereas, the author doesn’t just hit you with the predictable ‘happily ever after’.  Instead, Delilah has to find happiness after heartbreak and readers journey with her through emotional undertones. In the end, Delilah discovers a world of untapped potential, and readers discover that happiness comes in some of the most unexpected ways. 

Menyone’s Journey to the Red Carpet by Menyone Deveaux

Hero’s come in all shapes and sizes.  The story of Menyone Deveaux is definitely a hero’s tale. The Hollywood actress provides a very intimate look at her life’s struggles and journey from a seemingly bitter beginning to a very sweet ending.   Written as an autobiographical narrative, this pint-sized book tells the full story of how Menyone’s escaped Hollywood’s sordid underworld of sex, drugs, a little voodoo, and rock n roll.  The story begins in Menyone’s hometown of Chicago where she experiences her first true heartbreak: the death of her father.  Not only did she have to accept his untimely demise, but she had to deal with the emotional backlash of his infidelity and subsequent battle with AIDS. From there, Menyone ventures off to college where she meets and marries the love of her life.  Yet, that love would soon prove that all fairy-tales aren’t ‘happily ever after’.  It would later be a daring move to Los Angeles, in pursuit of her dreams, that would lead her into the arms of a sinister lover who tries to end it all.
Although this book is not as polished as a New York Times’ bestseller, it definitely tells an ‘a-list’ story. If you love a good underdog story, you will love this book.  Minus its mechanical hiccups, I managed to root for this young starlet with every turn of the page.  In the end, she manages to not only realize her dream of acting but she becomes a super hero by saving herself.

Meet Tierra Clark!

5938423815649373970Have you ever experienced setbacks and heartaches?  Well, Tierra Clark has experienced more than just a few personal heartaches.  She endured many personal tragedies;  but through Faith and determination she managed to conquered them ALL.   In her book Purposely Broken, she gives a valiant account of how life’s challenges can reshape your life.  This book is a beautiful journey of  poetic musings that reveal how she was purposely broken in order to fulfill a purposeful destiny. You are guaranteed to cry, smile, and be inspired.

How long have you been writing?
I have been writing since I was 12 years old. It will make 12 years this year.

What is your most recent literary/artistic project?
My most recent project is my book Purposely Broken. It’s a book full of testimony.

What inspires you to write?
Everything inspire me to write but one thing in specific are the youth. They need someone to be their voice and inspiration. When I write, I write for them because they need to know they can make it too despite their circumstances. With my poetry, I want to show them they can live in purpose.

Who’s your favorite author and why?

I can’t say I have a favorite author because I get inspired by many because everyone has a different perspective and voice.

What advice can you give to other authors or writers?

Just be who you are and write what’s in your heart because you can change many lives. Don’t ever feel like what you write isn’t good enough because you don’t know who needs your writing.

Where can readers go to find out more information about you or your work?

Purposely Broken: Pain Can Thrust You Into Purpose