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review 2017-03-26 23:02
God's Easter Miracles (Sea Kids #6) by Lee Ann Mancini
God's Easter Miracles: Adventures Of The Sea Kids - Lee Ann Mancini

In God's Easter Miracles, the sea kids learn that Easter isn't just about the Easter bunny or candy. It's about Jesus Christ giving up His life for all of us, and how we are to sacrifice ourselves for others. Paul, who is autistic, struggles with relationships. Jimmy doesn't want to share and Lenny clings to life due to a terrible boat accident. 

~from back cover








It's Easter Sunday, the day that celebrates Jesus Christ rising from his mortal death, and all the kids in the coralhood (rather than neighborhood) are coming together for celebration and fellowship. Sunday school brings the kids a lesson on that most important day for Christians, but it also leads to your standard Easter celebrations such as Easter egg hunting. Sunday school teacher Miss Linda has made this hunt extra special. She has told the children that anyone who finds one of the special eggs with a cross on it gets to pick a special gift from the classroom treasure chest as an extra treat! Naturally, all the kids are over-the-moon, excited! 


When the kids get back to the classroom with the baskets brimming with candy-filled eggs, autistic student Paul finds he does not have one of the cross eggs in his basket, causing him to have an emotional meltdown. Miss Linda discovers another student, Jimmy, has found two of the cross eggs and suggests Jimmy should give one to Paul. Jimmy is not immediately down with this idea but the whole scene is temporarily forgotten when manatee Brian gets word that his brother, Lenny, has been most seriously injured by a boat propeller. While Lenny's life hangs in the balance, everyone in the coralhood is quickly called together to begin a prayer vigil in hopes that Lenny will make a speedy recovery.  Though Jimmy attends the prayer vigil with everyone else, he still has an inner struggle with what the right course of action to take is, regarding Paul and the egg. Along with healing for Lenny, Jimmy also prays for guidance with his own struggles. 




I've adored this series from the very first book (and I've written up reviews for them all), but this one I struggled with a bit more than the others. The illustrations are still top-notch, but the plot left me with mixed feelings, at least until I got to the end. The ending brought everything together nicely and made it all make sense, as an ending should, but even so, I still had that thin vein of "I dunno, man.." continuing to linger. 


I applaud Mancini for incorporating a character with autism into the series but I'm not sure I entirely agree with how the teacher, Miss Linda, worked with Paul. First with the egg, I thought it unfair to put the responsibility of calming Paul's meltdown on his classmate, Jimmy. Jimmy was right, he found his eggs fairly, and it should be his natural choice whether to share or not. Though Miss Linda outwardly makes it sound like a choice, she is very heavy-handed with pressuring Jimmy to make the "right" decision. This causes Jimmy to have his own day of emotional upset thinking he is in the wrong for even debating giving up his honestly won prize. In my mind, I felt the responsibility of calming Paul should have been the teacher's alone, perhaps keeping extra cross eggs or a different kind of prize for such situations. I felt bad for Jimmy having to carry the weight of that situation on his shoulders. But I liked that Jimmy's father later comes in with the voice of reason that heals Jimmy's heart, basically telling him that if you want to do a kindness for someone, make sure it is truly a calling from your own heart, not because you're guilted into it. 


(Also, check out the wall art behind Jimmy's dad -- it's the cover from Sea Kids #3, I'm Not Afraid!)



Then there was the scene where Paul is struggling to write a get well card for Lenny. Miss Linda suggests she just write it for him. Again, not sure I like the message of just doing things for those with disabilities rather than teaching them how to best work with their physical or mental challenges. But as I said earlier, the book closes on a strong message: that generally speaking, giving ultimately provides the giver with a much richer and more satisfying experience than receiving a gift. 


I also liked the introduction (I don't recall seeing him in previous books, anyway) of Mayor Hammerhead. Hope to see more of him in future installments! 



And can we just talk about this illustration of Paul praying -- I can't get over how adorable it is! 




FTC Disclaimer: GLM Publishing and ebook tour coordinator Susan Barton both kindly provided me with complimentary copies of this book with a request that I might check it out and share my thoughts. The opinions above are entirely my own. 




My reviews for the previous books in this series:


#1 Fast Freddy


#2 What A Bragger


#3 I'm Not Afraid! 


#4 A Servant Like Jesus


#5 God's Gift


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review 2016-12-14 14:05
Jingle Bells, illustrated by Kathleen O'Malley
Jingle Bells - Kathleen O'Malley

This is a little holiday book, designed & manufactured with the idea of gifting I imagine, that I came across just recently.


I see no actual author's credit given anywhere in the book, only that it is published through Publications International, Ltd / PI Kids and the illustrations are done by Kathleen O'Malley. A website is provided, for anyone interested in looking up more of this company's catalog: pilbooks.com


Inspired by the classic Christmas song, this book features a quick little story for young readers that tells of a brother and sister who plan a holiday surprise for their family. Thinking they will both have to work at their respective jobs on Christmas Day, Andrew ( a clerk at a general store) and his sister Arabella (a schoolteacher) are informed that they, in fact, do have the day off. This allows the siblings to give their mother the best Christmas gift of all, time with the family all together!


Andrew's boss at the store, Mr. Ward, offers Andrew the use of his horse Nelly drive out to the family dairy farm. Andrew picks up his sister at the boarding house in town where she lives and off they go on a snowy sleigh ride through the woods, anticipating their mother's fresh cinnamon rolls they know she'll be baking and the look of surprise and joy on her face when she gets to see them! 


Within the story, Andrew whistles the "Jingle Bells" tune as Arabella talks excitedly, and the very last page features a full lyrics sheet to the classic song. The story itself is cutesy and heart-warming and the illustrations give it that little something extra to make this a sweet, cozy read for the littlest readers in your life. :-)


Happy Holidays! 

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review 2016-12-13 14:58
God's Gift (Sea Kids #5) by Lee Ann Mancini
God's Gift (Hardcover) - Lee Ann Mancini

In God's Gift, Christian and his sister Mary believe they get more presents at Christmas. However, Jacob and Jeremiah believe they get more presents on Hanukkah. The children learn that Christmas and Hanukkah are about celebrating the gift God has given to His children. It's not about how many presents are under the tree at Christmas or the eight days of presents for Hanukkah. It's about God's provision for those He loves. God gives the gift of the Messiah to the Christians and the gift of Light to the Jews. The true gift from God is learned in this colorful holiday story!







Sea turtles Christian and his sister Mary are at the "coralhood" (because it's underwater, instead of neighborhood) playground with their starfish friends Jacob and his brother Jeremiah. They start out having an animated conversation about their anticipation for their respective upcoming holiday festivities -- Christian and Mary are from a Christian home while Jacob and Jeremiah are Jewish -- but the conversation quickly turns heated. Before long, all the kids are arguing about who has the better celebration and who gets more presents each year.





The fight is broken up and all the kids go home that night to vent to their parents about what was said by the other children. Shocked that their children could be so off the mark on understanding the true meaning of the holiday season, all the parents are inspired to bring the kids together for a lesson in the real "reason for the season". Jacob and Jeremiah's parents invite Christian and Mary to their Hanukkah celebrations to hear the stories behind the reason for the menorah, prayers and ceremonies. Likewise, Christian and Mary's folks invite Jacob and Jeremiah over to hear the Nativity story and observe the tree decorating tradition. Through observing the religious traditions of their friends, the sea turtles and the starfish all learn that it's not about the presents at all! Presents are nice, but they're just meant to be symbolic. The true purpose is remembering to honor each person with love, generosity, compassion and charity. 


Once again, author Lee Ann Mancini nails it with her now trademark technique of using a charming underwater world of relatable young characters to teach timeless lessons in morals and values that will surely set little readers on the right path toward growing up to be beautiful, stand-up people of admirable character. In this timely holiday addition, Mancini reminds readers to remember not to be all-consumed with counting presents but to instead take time to humbly acknowledge, appreciate and honor the family, friends and blessings already around you on a daily basis. The fact that this story, right from page 1, offers inclusive illustrations and storyline featuring both Christian crosses / Christmas trees and Jewish Star Of David / dreidel /  yarmulke (or kippah) references makes this a wonderful gift idea for those who observe either Christmas OR Hannukah! 




Readers who have been following this series from the start will get a kick out of seeing past featured Sea Kids -- such as Freddy Octopus from Fast Freddy and Melissa Blowfish from What A Bragger! -- in the background of a few of the illustrations. Also look for the artwork by the front door of Jacob's house and you'll see it's the cover art from I'm Not Afraid! (Sea Kids #3)


FTC Disclaimer: BookCrash.com & GLM Publishing kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book with a request that I might check it out and share my thoughts. The opinions above are entirely my own. 


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review 2016-12-13 12:34
Fast Freddy (Sea Kids #1) by Lee Ann Mancini
Fast Freddy - Lee Ann Mancini

2016 Note: Strangest thing, I am getting ready to write & post a review for the 5th book in this series and am just now seeing that this first book is not listed anywhere on my shelves, even though I wrote a review for it in March of 2015?! So for bookish housekeeping's sake, I am reposting this review now that I have the book back on my shelves... just wondering where it went before?!




Review from March 2015:


This is a pretty adorable book that will help Christian parents discuss the topics of anti-bullying / accepting the differences of others with their young readers. A great book for anyone really, as the Christian elements, though there, are not heavy handed at all.

Freddy, an octopus, transfers to a new school but immediately struggles to fit in. The fish point and laugh at him because he has the body of an octopus but a head like a shark. Miss Mermaid, the teacher, points out that the students like her and she's half-person/half-fish. My favorite though was the janitor seahorse who points out "look at me! I'm not chubby, I'm pregnant!", teaching child readers how silly and hurtful it can be to put labels on others, or try to fit everyone in a specific box. Feeling stronger with all this support behind him, Freddy the Octopus points out that he has the strength of an octopus but can also be as fast a swimmer as a shark. His classmates then get the idea that maybe if Freddy joins the school swimming team, maybe they could win against reigning champs The Baracudas for once!

Such a sweet story that's sure to get young readers cheering Freddy on. I was especially touched at the page that shows Freddy saying a prayer actually thanking God for making him different and unique.

The one concern I had -- and this could just be me reading into things too far -- but the whole thing with Freddy's classmates learning to like him after they thought maybe he could win them a swimming medal. My concern would be that some young kids might interpret that as people will like you as long as you can get them what they want. Then again, that can be something parents can clarify and discuss with their children.

I also recommend picking up a copy of this book to see the jaw-dropping, stunning illustrations done by Dan Sharp, who has previously done work for Disney, Warner Bros. and American Greetings Card Co. I think young readers will really enjoy its Finding Nemo-esque feel. Fast Freddy has been named as a 2015 finalist for the IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) Ben Franklin Award, in the Children's / YA book cover design category. 
If you enjoy this book, Mancini also has another in the series called What A Bragger, also available through the GLM Publishing website.
Note: The only place I can currently find these books available for purchase is directly through the GLM Publishing website. If interested, you can click on the titles, which will take you to their GLM Publishing pages for purchase. Each of the softcover editions of these books are $6.99 a piece, I think the shipping charge vary by location {I did a test to see what the S/H charges looked like and it showed $2.50 for me here in NC. Not too bad! :-)}
2016 UPDATE: All of Mancini's titles are now available through Amazon.com 
FTC Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary copy of this book through BookCrash.com and GLM Publishing Company in return for an honest review. The opinions below are entirely my own.
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review 2016-12-07 21:09
One Small Donkey by Dandi Daley Mackall, illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens
One Small Donkey - Dandi Daley Mackall,Marta Alvarez Miguens

Your family will love this heartwarming Christmas story told from an unlikely perspective: a donkey carrying Mary to Bethlehem. Though the donkey wasn’t the biggest, fastest, or strongest of all the animals, he had an important job all the same. Adults and children alike will love the message about how God has big plans for little ones.





This children's story opens with -- say it with me now -- one small donkey! Our adorable donkey protagonist is grazing on a hill,  enjoying some fine weather, when he spots two big, gorgeous horses with flowing manes coming his way. Donkey admires their strength and beauty and wishes he could claim the same qualities for himself. Alas, he finds himself of slight size and noticeable clumsiness. He also struggles with speed. But little does he know, HE has been chosen for a very important task and will soon be a key player in every future retelling of the Nativity story ever. This particular donkey will be responsible for carrying a very pregnant Virgin Mary to Bethlehem so she may birth the Baby Jesus. Not too shabby for this wee donkey!  


Admittedly, the biggest pull for me with this board book was the undeniably adorable (and beautifully colored!) illustrations. Illustrator Marta Miguens does a fantastic job bringing real personality to the story's starring mule! But aside from the illustrations, I think this little book offers a great way for parents to share the Nativity story with their youngest readers without overwhelming them with too many details at once. While the basics of the familiar tale are all touched upon, very small readers will enjoy the focus on all the livestock characters that typically take a backseat in more grown up tellings of this Christmas legend. Additionally, this story provides an important message to young readers that everyone has innate gifts that can help better the lives of others, even if those gifts are not always immediately recognizable. Life has a way of calling on those gifts when most needed, even if it seems to take months or years. But when called upon, the person often sees that no one could have helped quite like they were able to! 


I've come across some reviews that mentioned the wording at times being clunky, throwing off the flow of the rhymes. I didn't notice it myself at first but after seeing such reviews I did another read-through and sure enough, a few pages near the story's end do have a few awkwardly phrases lines. Now seeing that, I would recommend adult readers to do a silent read through or two before sharing with your child, just to get a feel for where to put the vocal pauses. 



FTC DISCLAIMER: BookLookBloggers.com and Thomas Nelson Publishers kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

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