Molly Bell and the Wishing Well [Bridget Geraghty]

Molly Bell is an eleven-year old girl who used to be a whimsical, sporty type of a child with a zest for living. All that has been turned upside down by the untimely death of her cherished mother two years ago. To make matters worse, her father is getting remarried to a high-maintenance beauty that Molly seemingly has nothing in common with, and she comes with an annoying six-year old son, Henry, who finds a way to wreck everything in his path.

Molly can’t find anything about her new circumstances to be excited about, until her Aunt Joan tells her about the wishing well at Molly’s grandparents’ farm. According to Aunt Joan, every wish she ever made there came true. And it just so happens that Molly and Henry will be staying at the farm for a week while their parents are on their honeymoon. Molly is convinced if she could just find that wishing well, she could wish for her mom to come back to life and everything will be okay again.

But Molly is in for a few surprises, and more that a few hard lessons about being careful what you wish for when the consequences of Molly’s selfish desires wreak havoc on her entire family. Can Molly make things right again through the wishing well? Or will she need to find it within herself to bring back the joy in her life that has been missing all this time?

My thoughts on the book: When I read the summary of this children’s book on NetGalley, I was very keen on delving into it. And I wasn’t disappointed. Although the book is very short (about 100 pages), it is filled with emotions and conveys a beautiful, profound message.

Through young Molly’s perspective, the author deals with the following themes — losing a parent at a young age, struggling with grief and anger, finding it hard to accept new family members (especially a new mother and a new young sibling).

The writing style is easily accessible for a young audience. I thought it was fast-paced and well written. It is both very descriptive and dynamic. You can easily follow Molly’s stream of thought, her frustration and her pain. I thought her difficult relationship with fidgety Henry was very interesting and evolving in a credible way.

The wishing well is a relevant symbol about hope. Can Molly finally find some closure and come to terms with her pain? Will she let people find their way to her grieving heart? I was afraid that given how short the book is, it would leave me wanting for more. But, the author managed to include all the necessary ingredients. It never feels rushed and there are no overlong passages. So, sometimes, shorter is better!

Molly Bell and the Wishing Well is a touching, moving tale about loss, family love and support, as well as new beginnings.

My Score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (= A must-read)

The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate [Eric Bower]

Our story begins, as many stories do, with a talking squirrel dream . . .

The year is 1891, and Waldo “W.B.” Baron has just woken up to find his house flying—no, wait, floating?—floating a thousand feet above the ground. His inventor parents have transformed their house into a flying machine, which they’ve entered into a race around the country. Unfortunately for W.B. (who knows less about science than the average tapeworm), that means missing a show staring the hero of his favorite adventure novels, Sheriff Graham.

The incomparably klutzy W.B. gets his own taste of the Wild West when his family’s flying house is hijacked by Rose Blackwood, the sister of Sheriff Graham’s greatest nemesis, the vilest villain, the cruelest criminal, Benedict Blackwood. Rose forces the Barons to continue the race, so that she can steal the prize money and break her brother out of jail.

With the help of an unusually tiny friend and aided by a baffling interpretation of simple scientific concepts, W.B. is finally given the chance to be the hero, instead of the kid who reads about the hero while eating too much pie.

My thoughts on the book: The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate is a fantastic, quirky adventure with flamboyant characters. Not only is it funny, but it is an immersion into a wacky universe where a house can fly (not float!), a father repeatedly gets hit by lightning but somehow miraculously recovers without  a scratch (except for a mad scientist-style hairdo), and a wannabe criminal kidnaps a whole family but still really cares about politeness, among other amusing incongruities.

It is a fast-paced book that kids (and young-ish adults) will surely enjoy. It made me think of the nonsensical crazy world of Alice in Wonderland. Going from one oddity to another, you eventually get suck in this wonderfully nutty intrigue.

It’s imaginative, funny, quirky and entertaining. I literally couldn’t put it down and read it within a few hours. I very much enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

The Pullman Porter [Vanita Oelschlager]

Children and adults under the age of 40 have forgotten about the Pullman Porter.

This book will teach children and adults, who the porters were and why they were so important in our history. Porters worked in early train cars and because they traveled the country and learned much, many Pullman porters became leaders back in their home communities. They would read newspapers, listen to conversations, talk among each other and see the transitions rapidly changing the country in the decades after the Civil War. He eventually landed at the forefront of the civil rights movement.

My thoughts on the book: The Pullman Porter – An American Journey is a very instructive children’s book about the unexpected role of Pullman Porters in the American history. Not only did they help millions of American explore the vast continent, but they also contributed to kickstart the Civil Rights Movements later led by Martin Luther King Jr.

This beautifully illustrated children’s book describes how ex-slaves managed to grow and offer a better future to their families thanks to this job that took them to many parts of the country and that also allowed them to be in contact with the upper class. They learned a lot from what they saw and heard, which led them to value education for their own children. That’s why the book teaches us that many former Pullman Porters have descendants who became doctors, lawyers or even actors!

It was a great idea to put together this children’s book and focus on these men who had a tough job despite their sleek appearance. It’s a great way to inform children and adults about this specific part of American history that deserves to be in the spotlight.

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (=I loved it)

Ivy in Bloom [Vanita Oelschlager]

Ivy In Bloom captures the weariness of a young girl tired of a long winter. “I stare out the window,” she says on the first spread of brown and gray, “looking for birds or flowers/or even warm showers/but I don’t see any such thing.” But then Spring comes when “March is out of breath…snow melting to flowery waters and watery flowers…spring rose from its wintry rest.” And Ivy’s “heart dances with daffodils.” As these words also dance across each spread, Ivy’s world erupts into a riot of color.
Ivy In Bloom introduces the poetry of Dickinson, Longfellow, Browning, Wordsworth, Frost and others. Excerpts from their writings, as seen through Ivy’s eyes, will open up poetry as a way for children to express their own feelings about the changing of seasons. This book includes longer excerpts and brief bios of each author.

My thoughts on the book: This is the second illustrated book from Vanita Oelschlager that I have read so far, and I must admit that she is a great storyteller. You can read my previous review here (Postcards from a War).

Ivy in Bloom is emotional and original in the sense that it incorporates bits and pieces of poems written by world renowned authors.

First, you get a beautiful children’s book that you can read to your children. Then, you have a more adult section in the last pages. The author included the full poems that inspired her. You get to see the “borrowed words” in the original contexts. Witty and unique, right?

It’s refreshing to discover such pieces of work that can address both the very young and the adults! You can expose your child to great literature in a fun, child-friendly way, as well as talk about important topics like nature.

What a better way to expose your child to beautiful prose and poems? You never know, it might inspire some new great writers.

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

The Blue Hour [Isabelle Simler]

The sun has set, the day has ended, but the night hasn’t quite arrived yet. This magical twilight is known as the blue hour. Everything in nature—sky, water, flowers, birds, foxes—comes together in a symphony of blue to celebrate the merging of night and day.

With its soothing text and radiant artwork, this elegant picture book displays the majesty of nature and reminds readers that beauty is fleeting but also worth savoring.

My thoughts on this children’s book: The Blue Hour is a gorgeous children’s book filled with exquisite illustrations displaying vivid and vibrant colours. It boats neatly-crafted drawings in a vast range of blue nuances. It’s a sweet ode to nature, its wildlife and the peace and quiet of dusk.

I’m sure children will love to learn about the multiple animals represented in the book, as well as enjoy the soothing message it conveys.

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Postcards from a War [Vanita Oelschlager]

Postcards is intended for 4-8 year olds, ones who are old enough to understand that a parent in the military may have to go to a dangerous place, but maybe not why. It shows the important intergenerational bonding that families often experience during times of war.
The postcards and letters in the book were received by the author from her father during World War II.

Wilfred Bauknight sent home many letters and postcards that included his illustrations while on active duty in the Philippines in 1945-6. Wilfred was an engineer, skilled in draftsmanship. The illustrations he included with his correspondence look like they were “engineered” – a lot of detail!

My thoughts on this children’s book: Postcards from a War is a beautifully crafted children’s book. It is filled with lovely, sober sepia-coloured illustrations, giving the book an overall old-fashioned, elegant look and feel.

It offers some very helpful material to use if you need to talk to children about their parents who’ve gone to war. How to deal with their anxiety, fear and sorrow? How to soothe them when they worry about their parents’ safety overseas? I thought the collection of letters, drawings and souvenirs was a fabulous way to try and maintain some level of family life despite the distance. It also makes for an incredible keepsake.

I am sure that children will benefit from reading this book as they won’t feel alone. They’ll know that generations after generations, lots of children like them have had to go through a similar experience, and still do.

This touching book also conveys a beautiful message about peace and the future.

My score:  ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Do Fairies Bring the Spring? [Liza Gardner Walsh]

Everyone knows fairies love spring flowers and summer sun, but is it the fairies who wake up the earth as the snow melts? Do they entice the trees to turn green and the flowers to grow? In this charming follow up to Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows, Liza Gardner Walsh, acclaimed author of the Fairy House Handbook and Fairy Garden Handbook, explores the matter in a children’s picture book of rhyming questions. Combined with delightful illustrations by Hazel Mitchell this whimsical book will help children discover the world of fairies and learn to enjoy and appreciate the outdoors.

This children’s book will appeal to the little girls who are already fond of the magical world of fairies. The illustrations are stunning, colourful and full of joy. The wow factor has definitely been achieved. It is a sweet story filled with rhymes and life lessons. It teaches the child to take care of nature, the plants and flowers and all the creatures visiting them. It is a story of patience and care, about life and hope of future growth.

It is a beautifully written, poetic and visually captivating children’s book.