Review and Giveaway: Red Knit Hat Girl by Naoko Stoop

 

Title: Red Knit Cap Girl

Author: Naoko Stoop

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Red Knit Cap Girl is a little girl with a big dream — to meet the Moon.

Red Knit Cap Girl lives with her animal friends in an enchanted forest. There is so much to see and do, but more than anything Red Knit Cap Girl wishes she could talk to the Moon. Join Red Knit Cap Girl and her forest friends on a journey of curiosity, imagination, and joy as they search for a way to meet the Moon.

Gorgeously illustrated on wood grain, Red Knit Cap Girl’s curiosity, imagination, and joy will captivate the hearts of readers young and old as her journey offers a gentle reminder to appreciate the beauty of the natural world around us.

Review:

Red Knit Cap Girl is the story of a girl who longs to talk to the moon.  After many failed attempts, she asks Mr Owl how to reach the moon.  By following his advice, she throws a party with her animal friends in honor of the moon.  Gentle and quiet, the book shows that anything can be accomplished once you set your mind to it.  With help from her forest friends, Red Knit Cap Girl discovers a way to finally make her dream come true.

I liked the quiet tone of Red Knit Cap Girl, and thought the soft illustrations fit the story perfectly.  The animals don’t have a lot of distracting detail, but instead are painted with rounded edges.  The shading for the animals is delicate, and the backgrounds all feel textured, which gives the paintings a great deal of depth.  The artist created her paintings on plywood, and each page has a unique backdrop for the story.  I thought the illustrations were cute, and Red Knit Cap Girl and her acorn shaped head are adorable.

GIVEAWAY!

Little Brown and Company has a copy of Red Knit Hat Girl for one lucky reader.  Not sure if you want to enter?  Here are some sample pages from Red Knit Hat Girl!  The animals are super cute! 

 

I love how her knit hat looks like an acorn!

Fill out the widget below to enter for your chance to win a finished copy of Red Knit Hat Girl!  I want a young reader to enjoy this book, so entering is easy!  What are you waiting for?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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Waiting on Wednesday–The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

I love books with animal protagonists, and The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate looks like a great MG read.  I love the cover, too!  I just hope it doesn’t make me cry….

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

In stores January 2012

Review: Binky Under Pressure by Ashley Spires

 

Title: Binky Under Pressure

Author: Ashley Spires

Publisher: Kids Can Press

ISBN: 978-1554535040

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

In Binky’s third adventure, our intrepid, sometimes accident-prone hero is shaken out of his routine when he’s forced to contend with Gracie, a dainty striped foster kitty who comes to live at Binky’s space station (aka his home at 42 Sentinel Parkway). Binky instantly resents the new arrival, whose cute face and perfect manners are downright annoying. Indeed, Gracie seems too perfect. So Binky decides to do some undercover investigating and discovers a shocking truth about the family guest. Soon Binky is thrust full-throttle into a situation that puts all his Space Cat skills to the ultimate test!

Review:

Binky’s back for another humorous adventure, and this time around he has a companion.  A decidedly unwanted companion, in the form of foster kitty Gracie.  When Binky’s beloved humans introduce him to his new room mate, he’s apprehensive at first, and then plain annoyed.  She’s eating his food, using his litter box, and playing with his best friend!  How could they do this to him?  Taking matters into his own furry paws, Binky explains to Gracie that there just isn’t room in the space station for both of them.  Then Gracie pulls out her triumph card – she’s a member of F.U.R.S.T., and she outranks him!

I loved this outing for Binky.  Gracie is there to evaluate him, and report back about his worthiness to keep his space cat card.  Binky being Binky, it’s kind of touch and go as he blunders his way through one test after another.  It’s only after an actual alien invasion that he’s finally able to strut his space cat stuff and save the day, with some team work with his CO.

The art showcases Ashley Spires’ distinctive comedic look.  Binky’s plump torso and triangle shaped head mask a skilled warrior who deals death to alien invaders with little hesitation.  Gracie is drawn with more cunning lines, and at first, I doubted her ability to commander a well-run space station like Binky’s.  A little adversity and a stealth invasion pushed those thoughts right out of my mind.

If you are looking for a chuckle worthy escape from the stress of your day, grab one of the Binky books and be prepared to laugh.  A lot.  If you want to laugh even more, read them aloud.  To anything.  Make sure you vocalize the sound effects.  You’ll be rolling around on the floor, even the dog isn’t quite as amused as you are.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Animal Magnetism by Jill Shalvis

 

Title: Animal Magnetism

Author: Jill Shalvis

Publisher: Berkley

ISBN: 978-0425239810

Reading Level: Adult

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Co-owner of the town’s only kennel, Lilah Young has lived in Sunshine, Idaho, all her life. Pilot-for-hire Brady Miller is just passing through. But he soon has Lilah abandoning her instincts and giving in to a primal desire.

It’s Brady’s nature to resist being tied down, but there’s something about Lilah and her menagerie that keeps him coming back for more.

Review:

Animal Magnetism is a book that I picked up on impulse at a Borders’ closeout sale.  One look at the woe-be-gone puppy cuddled to the cover model’s chest, and I had to have it.  I didn’t even read the synopsis on the back of the book.  I have been challenging myself to read books outside of my normal comfort zone, so I scooped this up, thinking that the puppy couldn’t steer me wrong.  He didn’t!

Due to preconceived, and highly erroneous,  impressions I had about the line, I have avoided any Berkley Sensation titles.  I am not sure why or when I started to view them in such a negative light, because I have never actually read one, but for the record, my idea of what they are like was so far off base it’s not even funny.  This is a fun, humorous contemporary romance with engaging characters and an added cast of critters to complicate the protagonists’ lives.

Lilah makes a bad first impression with Brady Miller when she crashes into his truck.  Oops!  It was  really the duck’s fault, but trying to explain that would make her sound absolutely nuts.  Lilah is lucky that Brady turns out to be a nice guy, because she has a carload of animals to ferry back to her kennel.  Instead of leaving her hanging out to dry, he offers to chauffeur her, and her charges, home.  Before you can say “Quack!” they share a mutual attraction, but as Brady makes it quite clear, he’s only in town for a short time to visit his foster brothers, and then he’s hitting the highway again.

And this brings me to the reason I gave the book a slightly lower grade than I would have otherwise.  Lilah pursues a fling with Brady, knowing that there is no future for them. She accepts that he isn’t going to be a permanent addition to her life, and she wants to get him and her blazing attraction to him out of her system.  This is my second least favorite romance trope, with the dreaded destined mate trope edging out in front.  I’ve only been reading romances again for a short while, and several of the book have featured this plotline.  Sigh. (Rant off)

Lilah isn’t the kind of girl to be content with a wild fling, regardless of how satisfying the sex is.  She takes her relationships very seriously.  She isn’t the love ‘em and leave ‘em kind of girl.  She values how other people feel, and that’s what I loved about her.  She grows attached to everything, even the stray animals she shelters for a short time.  It eats away at her every time she has to give them up, even knowing that she has found a wonderful, forever home for her furry charges.  I was a little resentful of Brady for what I saw as almost taking advantage of her.  He knows what she’s like, and he still agrees to a no-strings attached relationship.  Sometimes somebody has to be the adult and just walk away from a situation before someone else gets hurt.  When it started to look like his feathers were going to get singed, too, I forgave him.

The sparks fly between Lilah and Brady, and steam almost rises off of the pages.  While their relationship is riveting (and hot!), it’s the secondary characters who give this book its soul.  Lilah lives in a small town, and everyone knows everything about everybody else.  When a sexy stranger drifts into town and makes a temporary home above the animal clinic, every woman from miles around is drawn to openly drool over the very eligible bachelor.  Better yet, the staff running the clinic is made up of two more hotties, and I am left to wonder if the practice would be as profitable if Dell and Adam resembled some of their four-legged clients.  Dell, Adam, and even Jade quickly won me over with their humor.  All of these tough guys (and one snarky girl) are caring and concerned about the people around them.  I love people who will go out on a limb to give their friends a hand.  I am so happy that there will be more books featuring them, and am counting down the days until I can visit with them again and learn more about them.

There were a few places where I felt the plot was spiraling a teeny bit out of control, and I wondered at Lilah’s swift healing abilities, but I quickly shrugged these off and boosted up my suspense of belief barrier.  This is a quick, fun read, perfect for a little escape from reality.

Grade: B

Review copy purchased at Borders

Review: The Trouble With Being a Horse by Emily Edwards

 

Title: The Trouble Being a Horse

Author: Emily Edwards

Publisher:  Single Stride Publishing

ISBN: 978-0986671500

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

The main character, Olivia, is an eleven-year-old girl who loves horses and finds her greatest happiness with them. The rest of her life is not so great: her family mostly ignores her and don’t really understand her, and she’s a bit of a social outcast. She feels unhappy a lot of the time, as many young girls can feel, and in a low moment of unhappiness she unwittingly wishes to become a horse, as she thinks this will solve a lot of her problems. Olivia is shocked, to say the least, when she is actually turned into a horse. Thrust into the unprecedented situation of being a girl in a horse’s body, Olivia is unsure of what to do. She feels strongly that she should keep her unusual state a secret, and joins a group of wild ponies, but is forced to seek help after sustaining a bear attack. Luckily, she winds up at a good stable, and meets Jenny, the daughter of the man who runs the centre, and together they form an unbeatable team in the show ring. But when Olivia can’t resist showing off how much she knows, she puts her secret and friendship with Jenny in jeopardy. Olivia must decide whether she wants to remain as a horse or return to her life as an ordinary girl, and in the process is taken on a journey of self-discovery.

Review:

Olivia is your typical horse-crazy young girl.  She lives for her riding lessons and for hanging out at the barn.  Her family doesn’t have a lot of money so she has muck stalls and perform odd jobs at the barn to pay her way, but she doesn’t care.  She loves horses, and she wants to learn to be the best rider she can be.  She is frustrated that her family isn’t supportive of her equestrian goals, and when she is forbidden from riding anymore, she rebels.  She goes to the barn anyway, and wishes that she was a horse.  She thinks that life would be much easier that way.  She feels unloved and unappreciated at home, and the uncomplicated life of a horse seems ideal to her.  After a bizarre twist of fate turns her into a horse, Olivia learns just how wrong she is.  Being a horse isn’t nearly as easy or carefree as she thought!

This book offers a twist on the usual horse-theme – the protagonist actually gets turned into a horse.  Now a horse-girl, she ends up in the care of Jenny and her family.  Able to understand everything that is asked of her, Olivia tries to be the perfect horse.  Only being the perfect horse isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Jenny quickly becomes frustrated with her new mount, because she does everything before she’s even asked.  It’s as though Jenny doesn’t even need to be part of the equation for them  to win at horse shows.  Olivia’s perfect horse act has also garnered a lot of unwanted attention, and after a tragic accident befalls Jenny’s father, Olivia learns just how hard it really is to be a horse.

I thought the premise of this book lived up to its promise.  While Olivia understands everything that is going on around her, she can’t make the humans in her life understand her.  She finds it frustrating and frightening that she has no control over her life now that she is a horse, and that she can’t take anything in her life for granted.  An accident changes everything, forcing her into an unpleasant new home.  Now that she has had so much time to think, Olivia realizes that maybe being a girl wasn’t so awful after all.

This book will delight middle grade girls who enjoy horse and animal stories.  There’s a ton of suspense, and I actually started worrying about how Olivia was going to deal with the ownership change that put her in a horrible situation.  The ending was just a bit too simplistic in regards to how Olivia’s long absence was dealt with, but over all this is a satisfying read.  Olivia returns home with a new perspective, which helps her to better understand both the people and horses in her life.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher