A pleasant, if somewhat unfocused, children’s tale.


A debut picture book about a modern-day boy who meets his Chinese ancestors.

As the story opens, a mysterious red box appears on Kai’s doorstep. In it, he finds a beautiful red silk jacket. Kai is mystified when his mother calls the jacket a “special gift” and adds, “You’ll understand what I mean one day.” That night, he falls asleep with his new jacket on, and is awakened in the middle of the night by three magical visitors: Tai-Poh, Tai-Goong and Uncle Fay. They tell him that all firstborn children in his family receive this special jacket, and with it, their guidance. Several days later, when Kai’s cousins tease him about being too scared to cross a dangerous river, his ancestors warn him to “do what is right, not what someone else wants him to do.” Kai listens and resists his cousins’ teasing, potentially averting a disaster. As months pass, Kai’s ancestors continue to advise him, but soon the jacket is too tight, and Kai also learns he’s going to be a big brother. He puts the jacket back inside the red box and it disappears in a twinkling of light, but he knows his ancestors will always be with him. Campbell delivers a story that at times seems a bit scattered; are young readers receiving a lesson about the importance of not giving in to peer pressure, or is the book preparing soon-to-be older siblings for a family’s newest arrival? The book emphasizes that Kai is his family’s firstborn child and that only firstborns may wear the magic jacket, but much of the narrative leaves this behind, instead dealing with why it’s important for Kai to reject his cousins’ teasing. However, even if its focus is a little unclear, the narrative itself feels fresh, and the illustrations are bright and cheerful. Readers may find that the pacing feels rushed in places—several months pass during the course of the narrative, which seems odd for a picture book—but the effect doesn’t overpower the story. Although some of the characters could have been a bit more fully developed, they’re still all distinct enough to carry the story to its conclusion.

A pleasant, if somewhat unfocused, children’s tale.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615585055

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Blissful Thinking Publishing, LLC.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.



In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

Did you like this book?

A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Mary's Song

From the Dream Horse Adventure Series series , Vol. 1

A novel tells the story of two spirited girls who set out to save a lame foal in 1952.

Mary, age 12, lacks muscle control of her legs and must use a wheelchair. Her life is constantly interrupted by trips with her widower father to assorted doctors, all of whom have failed to help her. Mary tolerates the treatments, hoping to one day walk unassisted, but her true passion involves horses. Possessing a library filled with horse books, she loves watching and drawing the animals at a neighboring farm. She longs to own one herself. But her father, overprotective due to her disability and his own lingering grief over Mary’s dead mother, makes her keep her distance. Mary befriends Laura, the emotionally neglected daughter of the wealthy neighboring farm owners, and the two share secret buggy rides. Both girls are attracted to Illusion, a beautiful red bay filly on the farm. Mary learns that Illusion is to be put down by a veterinarian because of a lame leg. Horrified, she decides to talk to the barn manager about the horse (“Isn’t it okay for her to live even if she’s not perfect? I think she deserves a chance”). Soon, Mary and Laura attempt to raise money to save Illusion. At the same time, Mary begins to gain control of her legs thanks to water therapy and secret therapeutic riding with Laura. There is indeed a great deal of poignancy in a story of a girl with a disability fighting to defend the intrinsic value of a lame animal. But this book, the first installment of the Dream Horse Adventure Series, would be twice as touching if Mary interacted with Illusion more. In the tale’s opening, she watches the foal from afar, but she actually spends very little time with the filly she tries so hard to protect. This turns out to be a strange development given the degree to which the narrative relies on her devotion. Count (Selah’s Sweet Dream, 2015) draws Mary and Laura in broad but believable strokes, defined mainly by their unrelenting pluckiness in the face of adversity. While the work tackles disability, death, and grief, Mary’s and Laura’s environments are so idyllic and their optimism and perseverance so remarkable that the story retains an aura of uncomplicated gentleness throughout.

A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?