Bergers Book Reviews

Michelangelo for Kids: His Life and Ideas


Author: Simonetta Carr
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Genre: Biography
ISBN: 978-1-61373-193-2
Pages: 144
Price: $18.99

Author’s website
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Michelangelo is one of the best known artists in the world.  Although he lived during the Italian Renaissance, much is known about him through documents and letters.  This biography shows us the story of his life, from childhood up until his last days.

An abundance of Michelangelo’s masterpieces have survived the last centuries, and people flock to admire them.  But who was Michelangelo?  What were the driving passions in his life?  The Popes of Rome, his Catholic faith, various ruling members of society, and his own family all influenced his art and his life.  An artist of that time worked for patrons, and didn’t always make his own decisions what to create.  Michelangelo was no exception, and at times had his hands full trying to please everyone who made demands on him.  But although commissioned by others, he left his own indelible mark on everything he created.

Michelangelo for Kids is a comprehensive biography of his life and works, which also includes 21 activities for kids.  These are art-inspired drawing ideas based on one of Michelangelo’s techniques.  Although this book is written for kids, adults would find this an interesting and informative read.

Reviewer:  Alice Berger

 

 

March 29, 2017 Posted by | biography | Leave a comment

Under the Moon


Author: Misja Fitzgerald Michel
Illustrator: Ilya Green
Publisher: The Secret Mountain
Genre: Music Storybook
ISBN: 978-2-924417-78-8
Length: 40:09
Pages: 40
Price: $16.98

The Secret Mountain Website
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Under the Moon is a storybook and music CD combo, featuring seasonal jazz standards and lullabies.  The CD includes the following tracks:

  • Willow Weep for Me by Billie Holiday
  • Gone With the Wind by Julie London
  • It Might As Well Be Spring by Nina Simone
  • Come Rain or Come Shine by Sarah Vaughn
  • Stormy Weather by The Golden Gate Quartet
  • Blue Moon by Mel Tormé
  • The Snow Is Falling by Ray Charles
  • Winter Wonderland by Louis Armstrong
  • Let It Snow!  Let It Snow!  Let It Snow! by Vaughn Monroe
  • December by Kay Starr
  • Winter Weather by Fats Waller
  • What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? by Ella Fitzgerald
  • Moon River by Audrey Hepburn

These mellow, bluesy, and upbeat tunes follow the seasons, beginning with spring.  The accompanying storybook provides illustrations, information, and song lyrics.  This is a great collection of classics that both kids and adults will enjoy throughout the year.

Reviewer:  Alice Berger

March 28, 2017 Posted by | music | Leave a comment

Figley’s Search for the Perfect Pet (Mutasia)


Author: Suzanne Cotsakos
Illustrator: Ryan McCulloch
Publisher: Mutasian Entertainment LLC
Genre: Children
ISBN: 978-0985600280
Pages: 48
Price: $15.99

Author’s website
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Billie Penicorn is a penguin-leopard-narwhal with a problem. Her pugapillar is too boring, and she wants to find a new pet. So her friend, Figley, the possum-cow-finch, tries to help. He knows of several mixed-up animals that would make fine pets, and brings them to Billie one by one for her approval. Each of the possible pets is also made up of several different animals, and one part seems to be perfect while another is definitely not. Billie looks at them all, growing more and more frustrated that she can’t find the perfect pet. Finally, Figley discovers the one pet that would suit her best, and Billie is happy once again.

Billie doesn’t know what she’s looking for when she casts aside her faithful pugapillar. But in searching for something different, she realizes what she truly wants. Kids will see that the grass is not always greener on the other side, and what they already have is probably what they really wanted all along.

Figley’s Search for the Perfect Pet is a humorous story told with unique and colorful illustrations of preposterous animal combinations. Other Mutasia books in this series are also available, as is an adorable line of plush Mutasia animals. Kids will really enjoy these creative Mutasia books and stuffed animals. I highly recommend them.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

March 14, 2017 Posted by | animals, children | Leave a comment

Author Interview: Suzanne Cotsakos and Ryan McCulloch

Bergers Book Reviews offers a warm welcome to author Suzanne Cotsakos and author-illustrator Ryan McCulloch, who have stopped in today for a chat:

What was your inspiration for creating the brand Mutasia?
Suzanne: We created Mutasia for several reasons. First off, we wanted to create a brand that we would’ve loved as kids. Secondly, it was really important to us to embrace and celebrate what makes each child unique. That’s why all the characters are mixed-up mixes of different animals. We wanted the characters to represent the individuality that each child possesses.

Can you explain the land of Mutasia, and some of its inhabitants?
Ryan: Mutasia is an island where all the characters are a mix of two or more animals. So we have our main character, Figley, who’s part possum, part cow and part bird. His friends are just as mixed-up as he is, like Billie Penicorn, who’s a penguin-leopard-narwhal mix, and Chadwick, who’s a cheetah-elephant-frog.  There’s also a bunch of exotic wildlife everywhere you look, and it’s a lot of fun to design all these crazy critters. Kids just love inspecting them and guessing what kinds of animals they’re a mix of! It’s been so rewarding to see kids interacting with our books and really thinking creatively and getting the wheels in their heads spinning!

How did you approach writing ‘Figley’s Search for the Perfect Pet’?
Suzanne: We knew two things off the bat; we wanted to showcase our unique critters and we wanted to include a message about appreciating the things around you. So, we did some brainstorming and came up with a skeleton plot.
Ryan: Afterwards, we filled that loose outline with funny gags that would move the story forward visually.  We tried to envision scenarios that children would enjoy. And we love the challenge of creating situations that are relatable and recognizable to kids, but also have fantastical elements happening at the same time.  Once we settled on that, we started writing the draft and illustrating the pictures!

We understand Suzanne you are the voice of Figley, and Ryan, you are the voice of Chadwick. Is the audio version of the book read in the different character voices, can you explain?
Ryan: We have a wonderful cast that voices all our characters in our animations and music albums. When we were producing the audio book we decided there wasn’t enough actual dialogue in the book to warrant bringing everyone in to record their parts. Instead we had Suzanne, in her own voice, narrate the story. It came together really well and we are really proud of our audio book. It has fun music and hilarious animal sounds and sound effects that really bring it to life and make it an immersive experience!

There are plenty of Mutasian characters to choose from on the island of Mutasia. How did you decide which of them would star in this new story?
Suzanne: From the beginning, Figley was designed to be the ‘every kid,’ the character that really represents our readers. He’s observing the world and colorful characters through the perspective of a young elementary school-aged kid. He’s imperfect, he makes mistakes, he has a lot to learn. But he’s also curious and constantly finding out who he is and what he wants to be, just like kids are. This story was a great vehicle for him to explore his passion and share it with his friends, make mistakes and learn a lesson.

Can you explain the message you would like to leave with the reader?
Ryan: The message in the book is about having an optimistic perspective.
Suzanne: Exactly! It’s about learning to see the good in, and appreciating, the people (and things) in your life, and not taking them for granted.

Aside from books, Mutasia has a variety of other children’s products. Can you tell us a little more about them?
Ryan: Yeah, we have an animated DVD, “The Mish Mash Bash.” It’s an awesome showcase for our characters and the world we’ve created, and it’s filled with adventure, comedy, and some really catchy songs. Our album, Nature Calls, which is available digitally or on good old-fashioned CD, is amazing. It’s upbeat and really, really funny.
Suzanne: One of the things we hear most often from parents is how much THEY are enjoying listening to our music with their kids! They’re so relieved to have kid’s songs playing that aren’t annoying and repetitive, and there’s lots of humor and references that go over the kids’ heads but the parents get it. And we can’t leave out our cuddly stuffed animals! They’re great quality and the kids are obsessed with them. We have a lot of parents send us pictures of their kids holding them and sleeping with them! We love that feedback!

Do you have any other books coming out soon that children can look forward to?
Ryan: We are actually working on our follow-up book RIGHT NOW, and we’re super excited about it!  It’s definitely the funniest book we’ve written so far. Hopefully the kids will be laughing so hard they don’t notice they’re learning a lesson!

Thanks for visiting with us today, Suzanne and Ryan!

You can find Mutasia on the web at:
Twitter Account: @Mutasia
Instagram: www.instagram.com/mutasia
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/mutasia
Website: www.mutasia.com

March 14, 2017 Posted by | author interview | Leave a comment

See Inside the Dinosaur: An Interactive 3-D Exploration of a Triceratops


Author: Michael Bright
Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books
Genre: Children / Science / Nature
ISBN: 978-1-62686-566-2
Pages: 48
Price: $21.95

Buy it at Amazon

Millions of years ago, many different kinds of dinosaurs roamed the earth. See Inside the Dinosaur features some of these fascinating creatures and explains a little about them. Focusing on dinosaurs individually and in groups of like beasts, it shows when they might have lived, whether they were plant-eaters or carnivores, if they were able to fly, what kind of skin covering they had, and other interesting facts.

A dinosaur guidebook is provided, along with a Triceratops model with 33 removable body parts, and a 7-piece card stock T. Rex model. Assembly instructions are included for both.

It’s so much fun to learn about dinosaurs, and kids will really enjoy working with this kit.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

March 9, 2017 Posted by | children, nature, science | Leave a comment

Winning With Money

Winning With Money
Author: Aaron Coleman
Publisher: Elevate
Genre: Finance
ISBN: 978-0-9829300-3-8
Pages: 128
Price: $14.95

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

Running out of money before the month is over is a common problem. But working with a budget can be difficult and cumbersome. Winning With Money was created as a simple alternative to budgets, and it really works.

In a step by step process, Coleman walks the reader through this unique method of controlling spending each month. He provides worksheets and guidance in ensuring that this simple system can help everyone. After determining the reader’s monthly fixed costs, he explains how to determine the amount left over for spending each day. Follow the plan and never run out of money again.

I was really impressed by how easy and effective this system is for those who don’t want to be bothered with creating and sticking to budgets. The only trouble spot I see is those pesky unexpected expenses. Although saving as a general rule is covered, a “leaky roof” fund might also need to be encouraged. I highly recommend Winning With Money.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

March 1, 2017 Posted by | finance | Leave a comment

Super Animal Powers: The Amazing Abilities of Animals

Super Animal Powers
Author: Ryan Jacobson
Photographer: Stan Tekiela
Publisher: Wildlife Picture Books
Genre: Animals / Nature / Children
ISBN: 978-1-59193-648-0
Pages: 32
Price: $12.95

Buy it at Amazon

Some animals can do amazing things. In fact, you might even say they have super powers. For instance, a Peregrine Falcon can fly more than 200 miles per hour. A Dung Beetle can lift and carry 1,141 other Dung Beetles. And a Northern Raccoon is the smartest and sneakiest thief, when it comes to food.

But these aren’t the only animals with super powers. This unique book describes the amazing abilities of 14 different animals with powers like super strength, super vision, and invisibility. Each two page spread describes the featured animal’s super power, and includes several photos of each in their natural habitats.

Kids really enjoy reading about our natural world and the fascinating animals that inhabit it. Super Animal Powers: The Amazing Abilities of Animals is sure to be a big hit.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

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Gold Winner of the Mom’s Choice Awards Honoring Excellence.

February 27, 2017 Posted by | animals, children, nature | Leave a comment

Journey to 50: How to Live with Gratitude, Grace and the Effects of Gravity

Journey to 50
Author: Laurie Russell
Publisher: Elevate Faith
Genre: Women / Health / Christian
ISBN: 978-1943425310
Pages: 272
Price: $16.99

Author’s website
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Turning 50 is not something most women would willingly choose, but the alternative just isn’t all that terrific. So the best thing she can do is accept it gracefully with a sense of humor. Journey to 50 is a lighthearted look at the “joys” of aging and how to cope with them.

Beginning with her thoughts on redefining aging, Russell guides the reader through family and health issues she can expect during these middle-aged years. Focusing on faith and having fun round out the five sections. Each chapter provides a series of mini-meditations of Russell’s own experiences and words of wisdom. Poking fun at herself and the aging process, she leads us on a journey filled with laughter.

Growing older will never be fun, but with friends and family as support systems, good self-care, and a positive attitude, women can conquer their fears in facing this challenging time in their lives. Journey to 50 provides an enjoyable guide to not only surviving these years, but even actually thriving.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

February 24, 2017 Posted by | Christian, health | Leave a comment

A Fatal Twist (A Downward Dog Mystery #4)

A Fatal Twist
Author: Tracy Weber
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Genre: Cozy Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-7387-4878-8
Pages: 312
Price: $14.99

Author’s website
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Kate first meets the philandering fertility doctor while assisting a doula as part of her training course. Soon after, she realizes the man is married to her yoga student, Rachel. When Kate finds his lifeless body at a hospital event, Rachel has just fled the scene. Kate has no intention of telling the police what she saw, but soon finds out they have their own agenda.

In her heart, Kate knows that Rachel is innocent, no matter what the evidence shows. So she tracks down anyone who might have been affiliated with Dr. Dick, as he was less affectionately known. Some of her methods are unorthodox, and she leaves quite a few encounters after having made a new enemy. But in the process of her investigation, she develops a grudging respect for her new assistant who intentionally smashed her car in Karma’s a Killer, and is now working off the damages.

A Fatal Twist is a laugh almost from the word go, as Kate gets into trouble with her best friend, her live-in boyfriend, her dog, and the two puppies her boyfriend has decided to rescue and bring home. And Kate’s investigative technique is hilarious, as she pokes and prods her way to one annoyed response after another. If you enjoy zany cozy mysteries, you’ll love this one.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

February 20, 2017 Posted by | mystery | Leave a comment

Code Red (Faith Flores Science Mystery)

Code Red
Authot: Janie Chodosh
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Mystery
ISBN: 978-1929345281
Pages: 298
Price: $10.95

Author’s website
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After solving her mother’s murder in Death Spiral, Faith Flores is off to Santa Fe, New Mexico, for a summer internship in science, working with genetically modified chiles. She’s never met her dad, but knows he grew up in Santa Fe, and plans to look him up while she’s there. Soon after arriving, Faith learns of a dangerous teen drug on the local market called liquid gold, which has suddenly become more plentiful.

Family matters quickly get out of hand as her search for her dad takes an unexpected turn, but they’re not as complicated as Faith’s romantic life. A new boy in the internship program, Clem, rivals Jesse back home, and she needs to sort out how she feels about both of them. And when a girl Faith meets at a party dies from an overdose of liquid gold, Faith’s antenna goes up. After watching her mom battle addiction, Faith is determined to stop others from being traumatized by this deadly drug.

Faith is a tough-minded teen who’s not afraid to tangle with the bad guys. Nothing holds her back from her investigations, even when trouble is lurking all around her. But in Code Red, we also see Faith’s softer side, as she grapples with her family discoveries. I really enjoyed this book, and I can’t wait to see the next installment in this series.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

February 16, 2017 Posted by | mystery, teen | Leave a comment