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Penelope Anne Cole enjoys writing children’s stories to be read aloud. “Reading to children is the best way to help them love literature.” Ms. Cole has taught and tutored at every grade level, K to 12, and community college. She also reviews children's books. When not writing or reviewing children’s books, Ms. Cole enjoys dog walking, reading, gardening, church, and choir activities. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a member of the California Writers Club:  Fremont Area Writers, SF Peninsula Writers, and South Bay Writers, and is a Reading Therapist with Read America. Ms. Cole reviews books at

http://pennyreviews-chat.blogspot.com/

See reviews of Ms. Cole's books at

http://reviewsforpenny.blogspot.com/

Her website is www.penelopeannecole.com

Contact Ms. Cole for School Author Visits, locally in-person, or by SKYPE.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Animal Sound Mix-up by Connie Arnold with artwork by Kit Grady

Animal Sound Mix-up by Connie Arnold, with artwork by Kit Grady, is a delightful rhyming book.  This charming book is certain to please many children, who will laugh and giggle at the animals making such funny sounds.  It’s fun to speak the rhymes and make the animals sound silly.  I can even hear them saying, “Oh no, a bird doesn’t say oink.  A monkey doesn’t say moo.  And whoever heard of a barking horse?”  

Kit Grady’s artwork is perfectly suited to the story.  It is fun and whimsical, as much a treat for all eyes as the rhymes are fun for little ears to hear and repeat.  The animals are clearly having a great time and invite young readers to play along with them.

My daughter and I have always loved rhyming books, with many fond memories of reading the rhymes aloud together.  As soon as you finish the book, your child will want you to read it all over again.  Animal Sound Mix-up is surely such a book.  It is bound to quickly become an oft requested favorite, enjoyed many times over.  Thank you Connie Arnold for this lovely book.

Animal Sound Mix-up is available from Guardian Angel Publishing, also Amazon.com.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Secret Service Saint, by Janet Ann Collins, with artwork by Eugene Ruble

Secret Service Saint by Janet Ann Collins, with artwork by Eugene Ruble, is a wonderfully rich and timely addition to Saint Nicolas lore.  The title will capture the attention of the younger set.  This story takes us back to the time of the early church and shows the reader how God changes us and uses us for good.    

Nicolas wanted an adventurous life, so God gave him that and more.  First, Nicolas had an adventure sailing to a new life.  Then he became an important, wealthy church leader.  Somehow that wasn’t enough.  Nicolas wanted more adventure in his life.  He prayed and God used him to help needy people in secret.  In disguise, Nicolas used his wealth to help poor people.  After he died the secret good deeds stopped.  Then people realized it was Nicolas who had helped them.  People spread stories of his secret gifts and help throughout the world.  Saint Nicolas became our modern day Santa Claus, who gives gifts in celebration of the birth of Jesus.

The artwork by Eugene Ruble adds to the historical feel of the story.  His vivid pictures bring every nuance of the story to life.  The emotions of each character come alive as you turn each page.  You clearly see how the joy of secret giving changed Nicolas.  His smile and twinkling eyes are etched on his features even as his face ages in the story.

This is a lovely book that teaches the true meaning of Christmas to young people today.  It shows children how helping and giving will bring more joy and satisfaction than getting presents.  When we give from the heart, expecting nothing in return, we are doubly rewarded.

Secret Service Saint  is available from Guardian Angel Publishing, also Amazon.com.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Signs of Trouble, by Janet Ann Collins, Art by Jack Foster


Signs of Trouble, by Janet Ann Collins, with artwork by Jack Foster, is a true-to-life book with lessons for all children on how to conduct themselves on field trips or any visit to a new place.  The two children in the story, Kim and Amy, are Special Education students.  They become separated from their group and must use what they’ve learned to stay safe, get help, and find their way back to their class.  Kim and Amy do the right thing in staying together and supporting each other until help comes.

Jack Foster’s playful and expressive artwork complements Signs of Trouble quite well.  You clearly see the emotions on the children’s faces.  The seriousness of the subject matter -- children getting lost -- is softened by the colorful images Jack Foster created to accompany the story.  It’s a fine pairing of whimsy and substance.

When I read Signs of Trouble, I recalled my visit to our mall as a substitute teacher with a special needs class.  We successfully practiced meeting the bus, navigating the mall, and eating at the food court.  Our visit went well, but it could have turned out like this book did with kids getting distracted or lost. 

This engaging book will work well for both special education and mainstream children to emphasize the need to pay attention, stay safe, and stick together.  I thank Janet Ann Collins for reminding us of the difficulties faced by special kids and of the care and guidance provided by their teachers and parents.  

Signs of Trouble is published by Guardian Angel Publishing.  Also available on Amazon.com.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sea Turtle Summer by Nancy Stewart


As a newcomer to Nancy Stewart’s Bella and Britt series, I enjoyed Sea Turtle Summer without having first read One Pelican at a Time.  Being an environmentalist, beach lover, and teacher myself, I was impressed with how passionate the two friends are in appreciating and caring for their beach “home” and its marine life.  Scientific information on sea turtles at the back of the book will give students, teachers, and parents more food for thought.

While savoring a walk on the beach, Bella and Britt witness the rare occurrence of a sea turtle laying her eggs in daylight.  Knowing the sea turtle’s nest will need protection, the two girls hurry to the ranger station.  However, the ranger went home sick and now the girls must look after the turtle’s nest on their own.  Bella and Britt’s determination to save the sea turtle’s eggs will help inspire other children to safeguard the natural wonders and wildlife in their own locales.

The wonderful watercolor artwork by Samantha Bell is the right mix of realism and seeing the world through a child’s eyes.  One can feel the sand underfoot and between toes, and experience the waves slipping to shore beneath the rolling dunes.  It’s magical and carries the reader from page to page along with Bella and Britt on their mission. 

Sea Turtle Summer is a pleasurable read with the timeless message of sticking to your principles and using all resources at hand to accomplish an important goal.  Bella and Britt are strong and courageous in confronting the obstacles to protecting the sea turtle’s eggs.  At the end of the story you wonder what adventures the girls will have next and you want to be right there with them.

Sea Turtle Summer is available from:

Monday, November 28, 2011

barthpen@heaven.org by Kevin Scott Collier


Kevin Scott Collier’s book, barthpenn@heaven.org, is an inspirational book and helps introduce the concept of faith to young readers.  The story is compelling, the writing gentle and life-affirming.  I admit that tears may flow when reading this special book, but they will quickly become tears of triumph.  This is a good story for kids who struggle with being different and finding their own way.  I recommend it without reservation

I enjoyed reading. barthpenn@heaven.org.  It's a wonderful story for "tweens." Using the vehicle of an email from heaven, Kevin presents an unlikely communication between an angel in heaven and a boy on earth.  The angel, Bartholomew Pennington, unwittingly directs an email to the wrong Jordan Mink, not the one who died and is expected in heaven, but a young boy named Jordan Mink.  Bartholomew then stumbles into a mutually satisfying email correspondence with ten year old Jordan.  

At first, Jordan doesn't believe Bartholomew is an angel.  Bartholomew convinces Jordan by getting involved in his life.  Naturally, Heaven wants to close this heavenly communication breach.  However, the more Bartholomew learns about Jordan, the more he wants to help him with problems in his life and teach him.  He teaches Jordan important life lessons such as don’t judge by appearances, don’t jump to conclusions, “it’s not what we have but who we are,” one person can make a difference, and the importance of promises made and kept. 

Bartholomew helps Jordan overcome problems, make friends, and answers Jordan’s questions.  We all know the hardest question:  “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  Bartholomew explains that dealing with pain and suffering is a part of all of us.  Overcoming problems in life, dealing with loss, pain, and suffering has made us into compassionate people.  We become stronger people who can rise above the challenges and disruptions we face.  But when Jordan suddenly gets very sick, it's touch and go.  Bartholomew intercedes for Jordan and is able to exact a miracle to save his life.  In so doing, Bartholomew has proven his own worth and he is promoted to be Jordan's Guardian Angel.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Little Skink’s Tail, by Janet Halfmann

Little Skink’s Tail, by Janet Halfmann, illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein, is a fun book about a little skink, or lizard, who loses her tail to a hungry crow.  Little Skink wonders what it would be like to have a different kind of tail.  She imagines she has the tail of the other animals she meets.  This results in a series of silly images of a skink with the tail of another animal. 

The story of Little Skink is a visual and audio delight.  The descriptive words Janet Halfmann chooses give the reader fun words to roll off their tongue like puffy-fluffy, wiggly waggly, flick and fluff, and stickily-prickily.  I imagine the children listening to this story will have as much fun with the words and images as the reader does.

The artwork by Laurie Allen Kein is essential to the story’s enjoyment.  Little Skink’s Tail is exquisitely illustrated.  The animals come alive, displayed in their natural beauty and appeal.  This is a story with heart, personality, and fun on every page.  It is available in English and Spanish with audio.  The audio book is as much a treat for the ears as the book is for the eyes

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Professor Horace, Cryptozoologist, by Kevin Scott Collier


Professor Horace, Cryptozoologist, by author/illustrator, Kevin Scott Collier, is a fun rhyming book for kids. It is a playful introduction to some mythical and legendary creatures that kids may have heard of, such as Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and a Ropen (flying dinosaur). Professor Horace seeks out these creatures, but promises to keep them secret. Kids will enjoy the rhyming, the fun of the hunt, and see the importance of promises made and kept. The illustrations are great for "what do you see in this picture?" I heartily recommend this for beginning readers who like mysterious and mythical creatures.

My Sister is My Best Friend, by Nicole Weaver

My Sister is My Best Friend, a picture book by Nicole Weaver and illustrated by Clara Batton Smith, was a surprising treat.  What surprised me was that it is written in trilingual form.  Yes, each page of the story has three versions, written in English, Spanish, and French.  If you and your child are bi-lingual, you’ll have fun reading this book and figuring out what the words in the third language mean.  My daughter read it to me in English and Spanish, and then I read it to her in French.

The story itself is very sweet.  It celebrates the delight these girls have in growing up with a twin sister who is clearly a best friend and fun playmate.  The girls laugh, play, pretend, romp, help their mother, and enjoy outings together.  It is sisterhood served up in a double helping.

The illustrations add to the fun of the story.  In each panel you see the two sisters happily playing together and having a great time.  But it’s not all about play.  They also help their mother, as they care for each other, and even play with their big fluffy dog.  Their delight and enjoyment of each other is clearly evident. 

This is one book that you have to read at least three times to fully appreciate -- in English, Spanish, and French.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fur and Feathers by Janet Halfmann. Art by Laurie Allen Klein


I loved Fur and Feathers by Janet Halfmann with artwork by Laurie Allen Klein.  It’s an imaginative story full of silly fun and solid scientific information for young inquiring minds.  Listening to the audio reading of the book was most enjoyable.  I picture children sitting in a circle captivated and transfixed by this story.  The text is also available in Spanish.  As a parent, teacher, and author, I really appreciate a book as enchanting and stimulating as this one is.  There are additional teaching resources and activities online.

This is a charming story about a little girl named Sophia who dreams of a wild wind that whips the coats off of animals and various other creatures.  The poor animals then need her help to make new coats and coverings for them.  It is a delight to see Sophia try and then find just the right “clothing” for all her animal friends.  She sews, snips, tucks, paints, and “slimes” through the night until all her critter friends are suitably clothed again.  The story ending with a visit to the zoo is especially dear.

Laurie Allen Klein’s illustrations are amazing, rich with detail and whimsy.  There is so much going on in each panel that parents and teachers will have plenty of “what do you see in this picture?” questions to ask their children and students.  This is a story that will be enjoyed, requested, and beloved by many, many children.  Although I wish it were available to me when my daughter was young, I’m thrilled it is available now. 

Autumn Arrived. Home for the Holidays. Ho Ho Ho

Autumn arrived with the cool and wet weather.  The leaves are changing color.  We've survived Halloween and are poised for Thanksgiving with Christmas close behind.  Since the shopping days are numbered, I will be posting children's book reviews to help you with your holiday book shopping.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Autumn Arrived, Almost

Or is it Indian Summer?  We had a couple of cool rainfalls.  Some of the trees are changing color.  It cooled down to sweater weather.  But later this week, it's expected to warm up again.  It's October.  I want the leaves to change color and fall.  I want to smell moldy leaves decaying when we're outside walking.  I want fireplaces crackling and warming us from the cool night air.  Some houses have put up harvest and Halloween decorations --  I want more.  I can hardly wait for the first frosty morning breath that you can see in the air.  I love the change of seasons.  Bring it on!  And with it give us comfort, healing, and the warmth of this season.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Taking life one day at a time

My brother had AFIB and had a heart ablation to correct his arrhythmia last month.  On blood thinners, he developed a brain bleed requiring surgery to clear.  Then his heart arrhythmia worsened.  After a week in ICU his heart rate and rhythm is now stable.  The staples come out of his scalp tomorrow.  We have been by his side every day.  Each new day is a minor miracle.  We talk of the mundane and daily activities.  We talk of the past, what we shared, what we remembered.  We sang songs. We hugged and kissed coming in and leaving the ICU.  Life is beautiful and precious, especially shared with loved ones.  Hug and kiss coming and leaving, always.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Grief and Sadness

This week has been a rocky one.  The pain I felt upon hearing of the tragic passing of my vet's daughter in June gradually decreased.  This week brought new pain from learning of another tragic loss of a twenty year old daughter.  How can anyone live with the loss of their beloved child?  The pain, grief, and sorrow must fill every part of their being.  Others want to help ease this profound suffering, but there is so little any one can say or do to help.  Only time passing can lessen the intensity of the pain.  Perhaps a dull ache, an emptiness, the feeling of loss will always remain; a permanent hole in the heart.  Yes, everyone experiences losses in their lifetime.  We try try to reach out in our feeble effort to comfort.  We ask what good can come of such suffering?  We hope and pray that the indomitable human spirit will rise up and embrace life, remembering goodness, kindness, and love.  May you who are suffering be comforted and supported in your time of need.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Double Digits!

Parents and teachers are mindful of milestones and transitions that children make, such as losing their first (or their last) baby tooth, first attaining double digits, or the first painful loss (of a beloved pet or person.)  How you acknowledge these milestones and transitions is very important.  If you have personal stories about such momentous occasions, please share some.