Sparkle Always

A hint of magic and a dusting of faith turn this middle-grade novel into a true confection.
In Rowell’s debut, Abby and her grandmother (affectionately called “G-ma”) explore what it means to rely on yourself. In true Harry Potter style, Abby uses a book that allows her to follow a group of children into a magical realm, where they all learn about their own unique personalities. “Sparkle Rooms” allow them to explore the many possibilities inherent in their natures, and they eventually settle on characteristics with which they feel at peace. (For example, a child named Alex is a “thinker,” while Perk is more physical and athletic.) When Abby sees the kids again five years later, after they’ve become jaded preteens, they shine less: The world has taught them not to rely on their inner joy or their “God-Glow.” Abby faces her own sparkle-challenge when a cruel neighbor mocks her aspiration to become a Spanish dancer. It takes G-ma’s help, and another journey into the magical realm of Sparkle Rooms, for Abby to understand how to “shine in a world that prefers predictability over possibility.” The book’s style can be over-the-top and saccharine at times (“Everyone is so much happier when they remember to sparkle”). However, its lesson applies not just to children, but to everyone: We all decide whether we want to listen to ourselves or to those around us. Other touching, meaningful insights dot the pages, but the book’s real strength lies in its subtle psychological lessons about the ego. Throughout, it couches its ideas in relatable terms: “If I stop being me to make everyone else happy, I won’t even know who I am anymore.” This teaching, in particular, is applicable to all ages. Parents can read along with their kids, and try to remember what it felt like to shine from within.

An overly sweet but often thoughtful kids’ book.

Pub Date: May 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1492866022

Page Count: 166

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2014

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An excellent introduction to the Kenyan culture for children.

If You Were Me and Lived in ...Kenya


Roman (If You Were Me and Lived In…Norway, 2013, etc.) offers a children’s primer of the geography, sports, food and vocabulary that Kenyan kids encounter in their daily lives.

The latest installment in this cultural series—preceded by books on Mexico, France, South Korea and Norway—takes young readers to the African nation of Kenya, where they get a short, engaging lesson on the country’s culture. The opening phrase “If you were me…” helps kids imagine a narrator not much different from themselves. Their Kenyan counterpart lives with their parents (“If you needed your mommy, you would call for Mzazi. When you are speaking to your daddy, you would call him Baba”), buys milk from the market and pays for it “with a shilling,” eats snacks (“samosa, a small triangular pastry filled with meat or vegetables and fried in oil”) and goes to school. The book covers Mombasa Carnival, a large yearly festival, and discusses its importance. It also explains the basics of cricket, a popular sport in Kenya, and the fact that kids usually entertain themselves with handmade toys. Roman’s books are successful since she draws connections between cultures while maintaining a tone that keeps young readers engaged. Colorful illustrations further enhance the text, such as one showing kids playing with cricket bats. A glossary at the end offers a pronunciation key for the unfamiliar words throughout. This series of books would be a natural fit in school classrooms and would also provide a good way for parents to teach their own kids about the cultures, languages and geography of different countries. This installment is a quick read that may help kids see the similarities between themselves and their Kenyan peers.

An excellent introduction to the Kenyan culture for children.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2013

ISBN: 978-1481979917

Page Count: 30

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2014

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For families looking for a holiday adventure or parents hoping to improve a child’s behavior, this work may make a good...



A cranky little girl changes her behavior after a warning from one of Santa’s helpers in this debut rhyming Christmas book.

With bushy red hair and freckles, the narrator—who appears to be age 5 or 6 in the cartoonish images—throws a tantrum to avoid going to the mall on Christmas Eve. But her scheme doesn’t work—and it lands her on Santa’s naughty list. Her grumpy antics are interrupted by Glynt P. Spryte, one of Santa’s Behavioral Elves. He’s been trying to subtly adjust her conduct for months. Now that her deeds have crossed the line, he is paying her a visit. Glynt’s dire warning (no toys!) and his lack of hope that her behavior can improve in time for Christmas give the narrator just the push she needs to clean up her act. “But the best part is this—I LIKE who I’ve become,” she says on the final pages. Crighton’s lines scan well in her series opener, using a vocabulary overly advanced for her narrator’s age. The rhyme scheme and rhythm are reminiscent of Clement Clarke Moore’s famous Christmas poem, though the obvious message may not enthrall mischievous young readers. Glynt is a fun invention: a combination of angry and sorrowful wrapped up in a cowboy outfit. But the uncredited illustrations don’t match the story’s description (he’s called “young” and “handsome” but appears with gray sideburns and a Santa-esque figure).

For families looking for a holiday adventure or parents hoping to improve a child’s behavior, this work may make a good addition to their collections.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-947352-87-2

Page Count: 28

Publisher: BookBlastPro Inc.

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2018

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