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November 20, 2021

5 Entertaining Children's Books

Here in the U.S. we are headed into a holiday week which means rambunctious kids at home at least for part of the week if not all of it. Whether you are planning a quiet Thanksgiving at home and want some reading material to enjoy with your young readers or are needing something to keep them entertained while you prep or travel for the holidays, MK and Donna have some great recommendations for you.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

Reviews by MK French

Batman and Robin and Howard by Jeffrey Brown

Batman and Robin and Howard
November 2021; DC Comics; 978-1401297688
ebook, print (160 pages); comics

Damian Wayne is determined to protect Gotham City, but makes a mistake big enough that he's forced to take time off from being Robin. Bruce Wayne decides he should start over at Gotham Metro Academy. Damian meets Howard,  already known as the smartest and most athletic kid in school. Their rivalry begins immediately because only one of them can be the best in their class.

Jeffrey Brown is an author and illustrator, known for children's and middle grade books taking various properties and tweaking them for younger audiences. If you've ever read the Jedi Academy series, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If not, go find them! They're adorable, and my children all enjoyed reading them. Jeffrey has a way of being subtle about messages for kids, understanding the way they think, and absorb lessons.

Damian is impetuous and impatient, which led to his mistake. He doesn't want to think he makes mistakes, which would prevent him from learning and growing. He starts off thinking the worst of the school and Howard, who is trying to make him feel comfortable as the new kid. We have the benefit of seeing their thought bubbles, color coordinated to make it easy to tell who is who. We know that Damian compares everything to what he knew, and Howard is trying to be a good friend. Their misunderstanding leads to conflict, and they have to work it out for themselves. While I'm never really a fan of taking adults out of the equation or making them look silly, it's more important for the two boys to actually talk to each other and discover their similarities.

Overall, this is a cute book for elementary school-age readers, and it shows in a concrete way for those readers why being open and honest is important for making friendships. Damian and Howard both work off their misperceptions at first, and only once they talk can they really help each other and become friends. It's an important lesson for children to learn.

Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale

Amethyst Princess of Gemworld
November 2021;  DC Comics; 978-1779501226
ebook, print (160 pages); comics

Amaya is a princess of House Amethyst on Gemworld and a known troublemaker, so when her pranks go too far, she's grounded on earth. Her week of grounding turns into three years, and Amy is a middle schooler with no memory of Gemworld. When a prince of the realm returns to bring her back, how will she cope?

Shannon and Dean Hale are the husband and wife team writing many children's versions of comic franchises. This volume is illustrated by Asiah Fulmore, who really brings lovely images to illustrate the text. I love the colors and expressions on all of the characters' faces, really capturing the essence of twelve-year-olds dropped into Gemworld.

On Gemworld, Amaya had more magic than a nine-year-old really should have, and there was no way to check her childish impulses. This leads to her being grounded on Earth, where there is no magic. Unfortunately, glitches meant she and Citrine forgot about Gemworld, becoming Amy and Trina. Amy has a best friend, gets bullied, deals with homework and chores like any other girl. But soon Amy and her best friend Autumn are brought to Gemworld, which had been overrun by Flaw in her absence, and her family all disappeared. Now that she's back,

This is a DC comic, so there are fun nods to other famous properties. I laughed out loud when Amy tried to use "magic words" to open a door: Shazam and Azrath Metrion Zinthos, which DC fans will recognize as the name for the hero Shazam and the words that Raven uses to channel her magic. Amaya has a sword and instincts that allow her to use it to defend the helpless people of her realm, and her time on Earth mellowed her out. She doesn't want servants doing everything for her, treats Topaz with kindness and introduces him to his first sleepover and games, and respects his ideas. The adults of course look down on the kids and discount their observations; that's not any different on Gemworld than it would be on Earth. The troublemaking urge has been tempered by the kindness within so that Amy wants to save Gemworld from the Flaw and manages to do so.

Kids will love Amy's confidence and natural skills. She isn't perfect and is often unsure of herself when out of place. But she leans on the emotional supports she has, and her cleverness helps solve the problem. Amy is a great character and a fun kid to spend time with, and one that other children will have fun reading about.

The Captain's Daughters by Doreen Berger

The Captain's Daughters
April 2021; PolarisPrint; 978-1736542101
ebook, print (340 pages); science fiction

Twelve-year-old sisters Diane and Robin grew up on the starship Polaris, which their father captained. There was ample opportunity for pranks and adventures, especially when aliens bent on revenge kidnap the girls. The two escape the aliens' vessel and find themselves in a parallel universe almost identical to their own. The main difference is that their father doesn't recognize them. Even with alien creatures and intergalactic war, the sisters are determined to find their way home.

We first meet the girls on earth with their father, biologically their uncle but had adopted them after their parents were killed in an interplanetary war. The girls aren't twins but are eight months apart. Captain Marsh has to protect his ship, the Polaris, as well as the crew and his family. His ship is scanned and damaged, and the girls are kidnapped. They're meant to be exchanged for a general's son when they escape, finding their father's counterpart in this new universe. The way home isn't a straightforward one, and they do have some difficulties convincing this new universe that they are who they say they are.

A lot of the back story is outright told to us, rather than being laid out naturally as the story progresses. That throws me out of the book, as well as comments like "unauthorized use of a distress signal." Flashbacks interrupt the forward flow of the story as well. Aside from that, the story is definitely an interesting one and one that middle-grade readers would enjoy.

Jam Sessions by Jerry Harwood

Jam Sessions
March 2020; Gerald O Harwood; 978-1734787405
ebook, print (214 pages); humor

Phillip starts at a new school in the middle of the academic year, and things don't start off well. It isn't any better when bullies tease him. One class is fun, which includes daily writing prompts known as "jam sessions" to get the creativity flowing. Can his real life ever match the stories he writes?

Middle school is tough enough as it is, but entering in the middle of the school year means that he doesn't know the other students, which cliques are which, how teachers like to do things, or what is considered normal. With his mother taking him out of a potentially dangerous situation that's only alluded to in the first chapter, Phillip is shy and fearful of this new place. The first boy that reached out to him in a positive way turned out to be one of the school bullies, but of course, he wouldn't know that. Unexpected situations trigger anxiety attacks, and he continues to feel out of place.

The cute doodles in the book add the youthful rhythm of the book. Kids will identify with feeling out of place or odd, or if they have anxiety. We have a positive look at counseling and situation analysis, as well as distraction techniques that are commonly used to treat anxiety in children. This is a real problem many children have, as is explained in the appendices, and it's wonderful to see Phillip work through his struggle with anxiety and making new friends. He's able to talk about his anxiety, figure out why he feels the way he does, and even stand up for himself. This is a powerful message for children to read and learn from.

Buy Jam Sessions at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

Review by Donna Huber

Eli and the Mystery of the Hallowshine Dragon by Eve Cabanel

Eli and the Mystery of the Hallowshine Dragon
October 2021; Twenty Two House; 978-1777908812
ebook, print (44 pages); fantasy

Eli is a Moon Elf and she lives in an enchanted land that has fairies and unicorns and of course, a dragon. But something is wrong. At nightfall, water drops fall and anyone outside gets turned in hard rock candy. One night Eli's best friend's baby bunny falls out the window while looking for shooting stars at turns into hard rock candy. Eli and Luna must save the baby bunny and go on an adventure through the enchanted forest.

The illustrations are incredible. They are brightly colored and whimsical. Even if your child can't read on their own yet, they will spend hours exploring Eli's world through these wonderful illustrations. They will capture the imagination of curious kids who will probably make up their own stories - I know I would have.

As an adult reading the story, I saw a few winks to other popular stories. One of the creatures that Eli, the Nakki, reminded me of the Grindylows from Harry Potter. The Hallowshine Dragon speaks like Yoda from Star Wars.

The story teaches about friendship, loneliness, and feeling different.

(Kindle Unlimited subscribers can read the ebook for free)

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour

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  1. i have been sharing some childrens books. i have two nieces up north and thought, why in the world am i not taking this opportunity to share lots of kids books with them, so i am reading and reviewing a lot of them too. i hope to do a lot more next year

    thanks so much for sharing the wonderful looking books

    sherry @ fundinmental

  2. Shannon and Dean Hale did the novelization of Squirrel Girl and that was a fun and good book to read.