Book Review: The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

Book Review: The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore (MG) for reading level, (YA) for content 5 Stars *****

What a terrific book for sophisticated MG and YA readers! This book is totally modern with its Harlem slang, supportive lesbian mother, mostly absent caring father with a new girlfriend, an idolized older brother who was shot to death in a nightclub in the Bronx, gang bangers who terrorize the younger, unassociated kids, conflicted desire for a better life, friends who teeter on the edge between right and wrong, friendship with an autistic girl which started out as dislike, rivalry, then evolved into a healthy cooperation to achieve excellence and fame, and a helpful community center counselor. This book has it all.

Twelve -year-old Wallace (Lolly) Rachpaul, who  lives in Harlem in the upper east side of Manhattan, is obsessed with keeping his possessions from being “confiscated” by the thugs who frequent 125 St. Despondent over the death of his twenty-year-old brother, Jermaine, Lolly begins to give up on life and loses interest in his school work. His only interest is constructing buildings with his individual Lego kits. When Steve, a young man who serves as a positive role model for the neighborhood boys, gives Lolly a book for Christmas entitled A Pattern of Architecture, Lolly is inspired to innovate. He combines all the Lego pieces, integrating the blocks from all the kits, with his imagination on fire. His mom’s girlfriend brings bags full of Lego pieces from her job at a toy factory. Ali, the counselor at the community center, encourages Lolly to build with his Legos and gives him a private room to construct the imaginary alien world of Harmonee. From this activity, Lolly utilizes math and creative writing. The other kids become involved and Lolly’s mutually beneficial relationship with autistic Big Rose begins. Lolly and Big Rose find a common area in which to gain public recognition.

At the end, Lolly is able to come to terms with his brother’s death, his parents’ separate lives, his loyalty in friendships that don’t always run smoothly, and his desire to excel in life and avoid the trappings of the life around him. Lolly tells us how much he has changed from the beginning of the story, “Since then I had learned the most important thing: the decisions you make can become your life. Your choices are you.”

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

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Book Review: The Road to Ever After by Moira Young (MG)

Book Review: The Road to Ever After by Moira Young (MG) 2 Stars **

We meet thirteen-year-old Davy David, orphaned at birth, now living on his own in Brownvale in the graveyard where his mother, who died giving birth to him, is buried. Davy doesn’t know quite where, but he chooses a spot he likes, tends to a briar rose bush he plants in her memory, and considers this his home. Davy was in an orphanage that went out of business so to speak, and he was left at the age of nine to fend for himself, grateful for the sporadic odd job that enables him to buy food and for the negligible kindness of some local adults.

The mean-spirited parson is a hypocritical, secret drunk who cheats on his wife. The neighborhood boys bully poor Davy. A homeless, scruffy dog attaches himself to Davy. Davy does not attend school but is a frequent visitor to the public library where he educates himself, especially about angels found in classic books of art. Davy is also an exceptional artist who leaves etchings of angels in the dirt wherever he goes. Just as his “home” is destroyed by the nefarious parson, Davy meets wealthy Miss Elizabeth Flint, an about to turn eighty, witchy, crotchety old woman who drafts Davy into her service. She pays him for driving her to her ancestral home to attend to her important business—” a three-day passage of the soul to its final embarkation point to the great beyond.”   A friendship develops and Davy’s life is changed forever.

Does this remind you of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist?

While this is a somewhat charming book, I’m not sure how relatable this story is for today’s young reader. The book has a copyright date of 2016. It has an old-fashioned feel but the setting’s time and place are ambiguous. The reader must suspend belief to accept that thirteen year old Davy can suddenly drive cars, motorcycles, and trucks while being chased by their rightful owners and the police. Is this child actually living unattended on the streets and in a cemetery of this unholy town?  Where in the world is Brownvale, anyway? The book is meant to portray a spiritual journey—Davy helps Miss Flint’s spirit travel to its final resting place. After all, Miss Flint is already dead!  Yes, and they even hold a wake with Miss Flint’s restless soul, Davy, and George , the dog, in attendance. Let’s not forget that Miss Flint is now aging backwards and has the beauty and physical stamina that were hers when she was in her twenties. Admirable, of course, but the entire book lacks spirit and has so much thrown in, it’s a hodge-podge of many different books. Disjointed. Disconnected. Out of context. Everything comes out of left field.

By the way, I hate, hate, hate the ending. SPOILER ALERT! Guess who inherits all of Miss Flint’s wealth and property? BUT, Davy will still be alone in the world, although next door to kindly Mr. Blye, his sweet wife, his mother-in-law, and his friendly, loving four children. Is this supposed to be a satisfactory ending for an orphan, still only thirteen years of age, to have great neighbors? Is this supposed to fill the hole in Davy’s heart?

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

Book Review: Hero by Jennifer Li Shotz

Book Review: Hero by Jennifer Li Shotz  (MG) 3 Stars ***

A charming story for dog lovers and kids. Hero, a highly skilled black Labrador , now retired police dog, lives with twelve-year-old Ben and his family in Gulfport, Mississippi. “Hero was more than just a regular police dog in the K-9 unit—he was also trained as a search-and-rescue dog. Hero and Ben’s dad had been partners on the Gulfport police force for eight years. In that time, Hero had busted a lot of criminals—and saved a lot of lives.” And to boot, Hero also saved Ben’s life! No exaggeration.

Hero and Ben are inseparable. One fateful day, they encounter an adorable, terrified puppy that shows signs of painful wounds indicative of being prey at the local, hard to locate dog fighting ring. Ben takes the puppy to the veterinarian for emergency treatment, names him Scout, and is given parental  permission for temporary foster care until they can find the true owner or another permanent home.

A suspicious looking man is often seen lurking around Ben’s house. Whenever Scout sees him, he trembles and whines. Hero stands between Mitch, Ben, and Scout a number of times letting Mitch know he’d better keep his distance. Ben later finds out this man, Mitch, runs the dog fighting ring. Suddenly, Hero and Scout are missing. Ben takes his best friend Noah on a dangerous quest to search for the beloved dogs. After bloody traumatic injuries, confrontations, and threats, Ben’s father shows up in the nick of time to save the day. This vicious, heartless ring is broken up and all participants are brought to justice.

Ben is an admirable character —responsible, hard working, caring, generous, and fair-minded. However, his independent spirit causes him to put himself, Hero, and Noah in a dangerous situation. The story is pleasant and changes to exciting near the end, but not anything we haven’t heard before. The reader must sometimes suspend belief. Interactions with the “bad guys” are unrealistic and might serve to set a bad example for young readers to think they can outwit adult criminal types. Overall, a pleasant dog story of friendship and integrity.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

Kudos to B & N Stamford, CT For a Successful Book Signing Event

Kudos to Barnes & Noble Stamford, CT for a Successful Book Signing Event!

EDUCATORS DISCOUNTS APPLY

Please join me

                                     Today Is the Last Day

Sunday, August 19, 2018
12:00pm-6:00pm

Stamford Town Center  
100 Greyrock Place
Stamford, CT
203-323-1248

 My Book Titles
The Science Project
The Ocean’s Way
Who Do Voodoo?
The Ocean’s Way Poetry Companion
Sojourn Into The Night—A Memoir of the Peruvian Rainforest

Please visit my website elainedonadio.com for study guides aligned with state standards for science, social studies, and literacy.

All rights reserved August, 2018.

Guess Who’s Doing a Book Signing at Barnes& Noble, Stamford , CT Aug. 18-19?

Guess Who’s Doing a Book Signing at Barnes & Noble Stamford, CT?

EDUCATORS DISCOUNTS APPLY

Please join me.

                                     Saturday, August 18, 2018 
                                           12:00pm-6:00pm

Sunday, August 19, 2018
12:00pm-6:00pm

Stamford Town Center  
100 Greyrock Place
Stamford, CT
203-323-1248

 My Book Titles
The Science Project
The Ocean’s Way
Who Do Voodoo?
The Ocean’s Way Poetry Companion
Sojourn Into The Night—A Memoir of the Peruvian Rainforest

Please visit my website elainedonadio.com for study guides aligned with state standards for science, social studies, and literacy.

All rights reserved March, 2018.

MG Book Review: Abby Spencer Goes To Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj

MG Book Review: Abby Spencer Goes To Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj —3 Stars  ***

Here’s the thing: I hate not to love a book that represents diversity, a fatherless child-parent reunion, cultural enlightenment, and a happy ending. But, here I am. So, the book is good—light, optimistic, fun, upbeat, zany, fairy-tale like in its tone and events. It tells the story about Indian- American, thirteen year old Abby Spencer, living in Houston, Texas who travels to Mumbai, India to meet her father for the first time.

Kids, especially girls, will probably love the book with its very cool, trendy main character on an adventure of a lifetime. For me, a reading professional, I saw many shortcomings: unrealistically simple dialogue; shallow characterizations; absence of emotional depth; lack of story development and transitions; awkward writing; an unsatisfying ending.

While the title is very catchy, it is not representative of the heart of the story as stated by Abby in Chapter 1, “I hurriedly scribble, The one thing I want most in my life is excitement. Liar! My inner voice bursts like an annoying pop-up on a computer screen and surprises me. The thing you want most is to meet your father! the inner voice accuses.” Abby’s mother and father met in college, and her father returns to India after graduation, never knowing that Abby’s mother was pregnant with his child. The author tells us what Abby wants, but then downplays its emotional impact.

Abby is eating frozen yogurt with friends when she adds coconut flakes for the first time causing a severe allergic reaction, requiring an emergency trip to the hospital. When the doctor asks if Abby’s father has the same allergy, Abby is motivated to Google her father. One thing leads to another( as Google searches often do) and Abby discovers her father is actually the most famous male sex symbol screen actor in India.

Abby’s mom calls the telephone number listed for his production company, and the rest is history, as they say. Abby is invited for a visit to Mumbai since she has one week off from school for Thanksgiving holiday. The meeting is initially awkward. Quickly, the glamour of Bollywood and its trappings, the attentions of a handsome boy who coincidentally is visiting Mumbai from Texas, the constant hounding of the paparazzi, the visits to the movie set, the loving attention of a newly found grandmother, all add up to a wonderful adventure. But, where are the deep emotions, feelings, thoughts, conflicts? Abby’s dream has come true, but according to Abby, it’s her father she really wants, not the excitement. So, why does the author diverge from the main character’s realization of her goal in life?

Abby returns to Houston with wonderful stories to tell her mom and grandparents. A few days later, guess who drops in for a surprise visit? Abby’s sex symbol dad drops in for three days to say hello before running off to film another movie. Abby is invited to return to Mumbai during summer vacation. Will he return?  Will the romance between Abby’s mother and father be rekindled? Who knows? The author does not address these questions and leaves everyone hanging. The only one who is not upset by the lack of clarity is zany, cool-girl Abby.

The author does include scenes of poverty and desperation that are so common in India. Hungry, dirty bare-foot children and dogs beg for food. Abby is touched by their plight. Her father’s employees bring food and money to them. Abby’s father vows to contribute major money to alleviate the suffering they witness.

The author misses an opportunity to really focus on the extremes of poverty with the starving masses and the wealth enjoyed by a few in India. It should not be a cursory observation. A first meeting between a child and her father deserves much more emotional depth than zany Abby is allowed. This book could have and should have been much more. It had the potential to become an important voice against poverty and for parental responsibilities. Instead, we have a star struck teenager. Maybe it’s me?

Lesson Ideas

  •  Investigate the factors that create the extreme poverty and disease in India. What steps, if any, can the Indian government take to alleviate the suffering of its people? Explain the caste system. What cultural factors might negatively influence government or humanitarian efforts to improve the plight of the Indian people?
  • Locate India on a map. Which countries surround it? What are its natural resources? Topography? Weather? Industries? Government? In what ways does India’s location  influence its destiny?
  • Design a T-shirt or poster to create awareness of the struggle to survive in India. 
  • Plan a group or class fund-raising event to raise money to help starving and diseased children and dogs in India. What steps can be taken on a global basis to help alleviate starvation and disease in India and other struggling countries? 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

 

MG Book Review: See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

MG Book Review: See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng -5 Stars  *****

This book is perfect for 10-12 year olds, especially those who are obsessed with communicating with outer space and/ or unfortunately, are victims of parental neglect.

What a wonderfully, surprisingly insightful book this turned out to be! The formatting is so different from a traditional book that I was not sure what to expect. The story is told in the first person point of view — without quotation marks and often in interview format—of eleven year old Alex Petroski from Rockview, Colorado who decides to travel to a site near Albuquerque, New Mexico to the SHARF rocket festival where he plans to launch his home-made rocket in competition. Before he leaves, Alex rescues an abandoned dog whom he names Carl Sagan after his role model and idol. Carl Sagan accompanies Alex on his three-day trek which gives them both a series of adventures and a purpose to clarify some loose ends and missing information. Alex uses his IPOD to keep a record of conversations and sounds to create a Golden Record which he plans on sending into outer space, similar to what the famous astronomer Carl Sagan did with Voyagers 1 and 2.

As the story unfolds, it is apparent that Alex is a neglected, unsupervised child with a heart of gold and the wisdom of a much older person. Although he is eleven, Alex likes to brag that he has the smarts of a thirteen year old and should not be judged by his age. Alex’s father is deceased, his mother is schizophrenic and missing in action most of the time—physically, mentally, and emotionally—and  his twenty-four year old brother lives and works in Los Angeles. Alex goes to great lengths to hide the fact of his abandonment.

His open, loving, and generous spirit endears him to the outside world as he travels with Carl Sagan to meet his destiny. Alex meets up with friendly, caring, adult strangers who aid him in his now three-fold quest: to attend and compete in the rocket festival in New Mexico, to verify if the man on the internet search with the same name and birthdate as his thought-to-be-deceased father is in fact his father in Las Vegas where he inadvertently discovers a half-sister, and to visit his older brother, RJ in Los Angeles whom he hasn’t seen in over one year.  Alex and Carl Sagan both experience setbacks as Carl Sagan is hopelessly lost in Las Vegas and Alex is severely injured in Colorado. Thankfully, the adults in Alex’s world step up to the plate bringing this heart-wrenching story to a satisfactory ending as they learn to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions—all except for Mom who is an extreme case requiring long-term treatment, which may or may not work.

Wow! What an emotional roller coaster!

Lesson Ideas—
* Study the cosmos, interplanetary communication, principles of rocket science, Carl Sagan
* Calculate distances from location to location according to different methods of transportation

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

Chapter Book Review: Magnificent Mya Tibbs-The Wall of Fame Game by Crystal Allen

Chapter Book Review: The Magnificent Mya Tibbs- The Wall of Fame Game by Crystal Allen- 5 Stars *****

This book is perfect for 8-10 year old readers.

What a delightful book! We meet 4th Grader Mya Tibbs from Bluebonnet, Texas who is filled with a zest for life and a cowgirl spirit that keeps her going through all situations. When Mya is challenged by the class mean girl, Naomi, to participate in the school Wall of Fame Game Mya is motivated by the challenge as she thinks, ‘Everybody is looking at me. Naomi just called me out like the bad guys called out Annie Oakley, back in the Wild West, for a duel in the middle of the street.’ “I have no choice,” Mya announces to her best friend, Connie. Yee-haw!

Mya’s competitive spirit leads her to study daily for the Wall of Fame Game. Mya  also practices every day to re-create her mom’s chili recipe until she gets it right so she may win the community contest. Mya’s mom has won the last two years, but her baby girl is due to be born any day, and she must stay off her feet. Mya accepts this challenge so mean Mrs. Frazier won’t win. Cowgirl Mya is intent upon stealing the show at the chili contest by performing a cowgirl chili song.

Mya, her brother, and their friends all help to prepare the room for the new baby girl, Macey so it will be ready when she is brought home from the hospital. All of the friends also display a generosity of spirit in helping without expecting anything back.

Mya wins one contest, but not the other. Her mother explains that the beauty of entering both contests gives a reason for the family to work together as a unit so they can help one another practice to accomplish their goals. While Mya is determined and has a one track mind about winning, her older brother, Nugget, is a wonderful example of another way to handle challenges. Nugget tries repeatedly to make the baseball team, but once he realizes his strength lies in coaching, he graciously announces to his family, friends, and coach that he excels at coaching and would like to act as an assistant coach to bring his team to victory. And that’s what he does.

I loved this book for showing readers how a functional family and community work with healthy competitiveness and a generous spirit in helping loved ones achieve their goals. Everyone in this story worked hard for what they wanted to achieve. No whining allowed!

Lesson Ideas—

The author included the following website as provided by Mrs. Heather Renz who provided information from the Mastery Club as a reference for anyone interested in playing the Wall of Fame Game or looking for other teaching tools to use in the classroom or at home. Click here .

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

Book Review: Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani

Book Review: Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani- 5 Stars  *****

Another beautifully written story by one of America’s most talented authors. Set in 1949 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s post WWII America, this story shows the strong connection between the people of the small village of Roseto Valforte, Italy and the immigrants who left their old life behind to pursue the American dream. Filled with the ups and downs of family and work relationships, the desire and drive to fulfill personal goals, the quest for love and acceptance, the desire to create and maintain community and family, Trigiani takes us on a beautiful journey as we drop in on the lives of her characters who seem so real, the reader feels as if visiting old friends.

Trigiani writes beautifully with a command of language that is never soppy or melodramatic, but manages to drive right to the heart of the situation. The book is filled with humor and some of the best one-liners I’ve ever heard. Feelings, concerns, conversations are deep but relatable, personal but universal, humorous but poignant. This book represents the beliefs at that time—especially those of Italians and Italian-Americans—the importance of family, marriage, children, the community, and the Catholic Church. Many ideas might seem out-dated, but here is a snapshot of another time and place, in this country, where basic values mattered and roles and expectations were clearly defined. I was raised with these guidelines. No, my life did not turn out as I expected. The world had other ideas and maybe I was not strong enough to secure my place in it with the same intention that moved me earlier in life. Sometimes, in going with the flow, we lose our core and lose sight of our dreams as we tread water to keep afloat.

Some examples—

(Nicky) “She had everything planned. The future came with a recipe.”

(Mabel) “A woman holds her virtue like a prize,” she continued. “It’s her way of securing her future with one man under one God in one house of her own design. In exchange for that life, imagined in her dreams,, and promised by the man of her choosing, secured with a decent ring, the woman gives the man a joy he has never known.”

Mabel went on, “Look at what the man gets. He gets a life! He is taken care of! He gets a house full of children, hot meals, the laundry done, waxed floors, clean sheets, and a foot rub every other Saturday night or whatever particular request the husband makes of the wife, that’s for the couple to sort out in private. Now, let’s look at what she gets. She gets a purpose. A woman aspires to be a bride in order to be a wife, which gives her a job, which gives her a place in this world that is indisputable, irrefutable, and wholly and uniquely her own in the eyes of God and the law. When you yank that away from a woman and you rescind a proper offer of marriage, you have fired her from her own life.”

(Narrator) “Nicky had always been the extra boy, the pinch hitter, the fill-in when a kid didn’t show up, called in sick, or quit. He was the replacement, dutiful, cheery, and reliable. If he was good, he was always allowed to stick around. Maybe that’s why he was so eager to try on someone else’s life for a while, to be Carlo Guardinfante. It hadn’t worked out so well to be Nicky Castone.”

(Narrator) “Jo followed Nancy down the long gravel path out of the cemetery. When they reached the street, they embraced before parting, one went east, the other west, but somehow that day, they went in the same direction.”

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

My Books Are Now Available for Borrowing from Manhasset Library, NY!

Great news! Printed copies of my books are now available for borrowing from Manhasset Library, LI, New York. 30 Onderdonk Avenue, Manhasset. 516-627-2300.

Printed copies of my books are also available for inter-library loan at Queens Library, Nassau County Library, and Suffolk County Library in New York.

The digital copies are available in Queens Public Library and may be available in other library systems throughout the country. If your library cannot provide access to these books, please ask them to purchase in digital or paperback formats to add to their collection.

My Book Titles

Middle Grade…(8-12 year olds )

The Science Project
The Ocean’s Way
Who Do Voodoo?
The Ocean’s Way Poetry Companion

12 – Adult…

Sojourn Into The Night—A Memoir of the Peruvian Rainforest

In New York, this is where you can find my printed books:

The physical copies are available from the Queens Library system at Central Library, Jamaica; Bay Terrace Library in Bayside; Whitestone Library in Whitestone. Or, you can borrow through inter-library loan if you’re a Queens County library patron.

Also, the physical copies are also located in the East Hampton Library and Port Washington Library. Suffolk and Nassau County library patrons can borrow through inter-library loan online.

Happy reading! If you do decide to borrow my books from the library, please remember to write a review on the library website.

Thanks,

Elaine

Please let me know how you do. I’d love to hear from you author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

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