Friday, May 24, 2013

Review: Kaya Story Collection (American Girl: Kaya Books 1-6) by Janet Shaw

Kaya Story Collection
Title: Kaya Story Collection
Author: Janet Shaw
Publisher:  American Girl Publishing
Release Dates: January 1, 2010
Pages: 404, Hardcover
Lexile Measure: 650-840
Age Range: 8+
Goodreads Rating: 3.85 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: The perfect way to learn about Kaya is with this complete set of her six books in one hardcover. The set includes: Meet Kaya, Kaya's Escape, Kaya's Hero, Kaya and the Lone Dog, Kaya Shows the Way, and Changes for Kaya.

Meet Kaya: Kaya dreams of racing her beautiful mare Steps High. Her father warns her that the horse isn't ready, but when a pesky boy insults Steps High, Kaya accepts his challenge to race. As they ride, Kaya loses sight of her little brothers. Her carelessness earns her a nickname that her friends won't let her forget.


Okay, my daughter does not own an American Girl doll.  I know, I'm the meanest mom in the world, right?  She actually considered using her own money to purchase one at one point a couple of years back, but we told her that she would first need to show us that she would actually play with and take care of a $25 Target doll for a few months.  She's a very practical girl and by the end of that few months even she agreed that it just wasn't worth the money to buy an American Girl - she just didn't play with dolls very often!  There was a little part of me that was afraid to get D into the American Girl books because I thought she might then decide that she once again wanted a doll.  But, while we were studying Daniel Boone and his interactions with the Native Americans for our homeschooling, I just couldn't resist picking up this Kaya book from the library to see if she would enjoy "learning" about Native Americans via these stories (and I only put learning in quotes because I was hoping she would love them and it wouldn't feel like learning).  Well, it worked.

These stories follow Kaya, a young Native American girl from a Nez Perce tribe.  In the first book, Kaya boasts about her new horse and leaves her little brothers (who she was supposed to be watching) in order to try and race some boys in the tribe.   Because of her misbehavior, she earns the nickname "Magpie" meaning that she put her own wants and needs before others.  This is a theme throughout all six of the books as Kaya tries to live down her nickname and prove to herself and others that she truly does put others before herself.  I love that it is a learning experience and that she continues to make mistakes, but gets better and better at it as the series goes on.  There are also good lessons in the books about how a person is not the sum of their mistakes and about how striving and learning are all part of growing up.

Throughout the books, Kaya has many adventures.  She is kidnapped by a neighboring tribe and must show courage and strength to escape, she befriends a lone dog and learns to love and let go, and she escapes a flash fire with her horse and its foal.

One thing that I loved about the books are how there were small pictures scattered throughout illustrating words that most likely wouldn't be familiar to young readers.  For instance, in the first few pages of the book, Kaya's brothers hide behind a travois.  Right next to the text, there is a small picture of a travois (which is basically two poles with a frame attached to a horse so that they could transport their supplies).  I loved these little illustrations strewn throughout the book - they were such a great learning tool!  

Overall, I thought these books were fun and educational.  The first book did start out a bit slowly for my 9-year-old daughter.  I told her she did not have to read the full series and that I just wanted her to at least complete the first book to give it a chance.  Well, by the time she finished the first book, she was too curious to find out what happened and she ended up happily reading them all and asking to read other books in the Kaya series.  So, I call that success!  In fact, we picked up another American Girl story collection at a recent Scholastic warehouse sale  (Kit).  I'm definitely going to keep my eyes peeled for more of these story collection books!  4/5 stars

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights the upcoming releases that we're most looking forward to.  Here are my picks for books that my kids and I are eagerly awaiting! 

The first is book 2 in a series - My daughter absolutely loved the first book and can't wait for the second.

The second book, I found on another book blog and it just sounds amazing, but I'll probably read it before I pass it off to my kids to make sure it's age appropriate (I couldn't find an age range listed for it).

The Last Dogs: Dark Waters
The Last Dogs - Dark Waters
Christopher Holt
Release date: June 11th 2013

Having narrowly escaped a pack of vicious wolves, canine heroes Max, Rocky, and Gizmo are happy to find a moment of peace as they travel down the mighty river. Soon, the trio come across a lavish boat moored close to shore. They're wary of facing another community of dogs, but when they climb on board, they discover that things are different on this ship. These dogs aren't like the power-hungry ones they've encountered in the past. Food is plentiful and rationed fairly. Plus . . . they've seen humans, who Max, Rocky, and Gizmo thought had disappeared without a trace.

The brave companions meet new friends and encounter old enemies in their search for the humans while they travel to places they never imagined -- from a high-speed monorail to a zoo filled with exotic animals. Max, Rocky, and Gizmo uncover secrets that promise to change their lives forever as they draw closer to figuring out why the humans left and being reunited with their families.

The Last Dogs: Dark Waters is the second book in a thrilling series about three unlikely friends on an epic quest to find their people -- and bring them home.

The Bell Between Worlds
The Bell Between Worlds (The Mirror Chronicles, #1)Ian Johnstone
Release date: June 6th 2013

A glorious epic fantasy in the grand tradition of C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman, and a major publishing event, The Mirror Chronicles will take you into another world, and on the adventure of your lifetime…

Half of your soul is missing. The lost part is in the mirror. And unless Sylas Tate can unite the two worlds, you will never be whole again.

Sylas Tate leads a lonely existence since his mother died. But then the tolling of a giant bell draws him into another world known as the Other, where he discovers not only that he has an inborn talent for magic, but also that his mother might just have come from this strange parallel place. Meanwhile, evil forces are stirring, and an astounding revelation awaits Sylas: that the Other is a mirror of our world, and every person here has their counterpart there, known as a Glimmer. As violence looms and the stakes get higher, Sylas must seek out his Glimmer, and unite the two halves of his soul – otherwise the entire universe may fall...

Book Blast & $50 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!! Introducing The Trouble with Toads by Danyelle Leafty

  trouble with toads
The Trouble with Toads Once upon a time a young girl wanted revenge. But first, she wanted to be beautiful. Twelve-year-old Bettony has read enough stories that begin with ‘Once upon a time’ to know what happens to the ugly stepsisters at the end, and she’s determined to escape that fate by any means necessary—even by magic. Unfortunately, when it comes to magic, there is no place for regret, refunds, or exchanges. Even if you accidentally turn your older sister into a toad. If Bettony wants her Happily Ever After to end well, she’s going to have to find a way to turn her sister back into a person before their mother finds out she’s been dabbling with magic and grounds her for life. Tracking down the family magic turns out to be surprisingly easy. Now, if only it came with directions . . . THE TROUBLE WITH TOADS (45,000 words) is the first book in a new upper MG series The Secret Stepsister Society. The second book will be released Summer 2013.

danyelle  Author Danyelle Leafty Danyelle Leafty writes upper MG and YA fantasy, and is the author of THE FAIRY GODMOTHER DILEMMA series. Danyelle has always loved fairy tales, and prefers stories where someone gets eaten, or at the very least, transmogrified. Much of her inspiration has come from fairy tales, because as G.K. Chesterton so aptly states, "Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten." In her spare time, she collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers. She also collects books, and one day hopes to make a house out of them. She enjoys learning languages, fiddling with her harp, and perfecting the fine art of mothering. (It's a lot like trying to herd chickens during a lightning storm while a goat stampede is going on.) One of her heroes is Albert Einstein, particularly for the following quote: "Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The most important thing is not to stop questioning."

Book Blast Giveaway
$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
Ends 6/10/13
a Rafflecopter giveaway   Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. Prize value $50 US.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Scholastic Book Sale Finds!

Okay, so today I went to the Scholastic Warehouse sale near my house and let me just tell you that I am a total sucker for a kids' book sale.  I just honestly want to buy one of everything.  I'm not sure if it's good or bad that I had a coupon for $25 off off a $100 purchase.  Because, of course, then I have to spend $100.  At any rate, I think I made out pretty darn well.  In the end, I got 42 books for $81 (after tax).  Some are even hardcover.  Can't beat that!  Here are just a few of the books I picked up:

Elska (Horse Diaries, #1)  My Little Pony: Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell  Peter Pan in Scarlet  Tuesdays at the Castle (Castle Glower #1)

The Invasion  Play Dead (A Dog and His Girl Mysteries, #1)  Kit Story Collection  We Are Not Eaten by Yaks (An Accidental Adventure, #1)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Review: Daniel Boone: Frontiersman by Janet Benge & Geoff Benge

Daniel Boone: FrontiersmanTitle: Daniel Boone: Frontiersman
Author: Janet Benge & Geoff Benge
Publisher:  Emerald Books
Release Dates: March 1, 2004
Pages: 215, Paperback
Lexile Measure: Not Available
Age Range: 8+
Goodreads Rating: 3.75 stars
My Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: "Children and adults alike love the popular Christian Heroes: Then & Now series. Now Christian Heroes authors Janet and Geoff Benge tell the stories of Heroes of History with the same engaging narrative style and historical depth This new series brings the shaping of history to life with the remarkable true stories of fascinating men and women who changed the course of history. Legendary American frontiersman Daniel Boone (1734-1820) blazed the famous Wilderness Road and is still revered for his courage and determination.


We read this book as part of our homeschool curriculum and I absolutely love letting the kids learn about history through literature. It makes it all seem so much more real to them.  This book was a fantastic way for the kids to learn about frontier life. 

One thing that I especially loved about this book was the portrayal of the settlers' relationships with the Indians.  You could see the struggle on both sides and there were no easy answers (no absolute rights or wrongs) given. Sometimes the Indians' actions were portrayed positively and sometimes negatively - but the same went for the white men. Of course, the story was written mostly from the settlers' perspective, but you often saw the positive aspects of the Indians, just as Daniel Boone did in his lifetime.  I think the book gave a realistic view of what it was like to live in those times in the frontier and the story was told in an exciting way, which kept my kids very interested!  5/5 stars

Just as a note - we also read Daniel Boone: Young Hunter and Tracker by Augusta Stevenson to go along with Frontiersman.  This book focused more on Daniel's childhood and was also an excellent read!

Check out other books that we've used in our homeschooling on my GoodReads Homeschool list.