Book Review: Coraline by Neil Gaiman #BookReview #Coraline

Coraline

by Neil Gaiman

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From Goodreads:

“Coraline discovered the door a little while after they moved into the house. . . .”

When Coraline steps through a door to find another house strangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous.

But there’s another mother there, and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.

Coraline will have to fight with all her wit and courage if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life. Continue reading “Book Review: Coraline by Neil Gaiman #BookReview #Coraline”

Book Review: The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo #BookReview #KateDiCamillo

The Tiger Rising

by Kate DiCamillo

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From Goodreads:

The National Book Award finalist from the best-selling author of BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE – now in paperback 

Walking through the misty Florida woods one morning, twelve-year-old Rob Horton is stunned to encounter a tiger – a real-life, very large tiger – pacing back and forth in a cage. What’s more, on the same extraordinary day, he meets Sistine Bailey, a girl who shows her feelings as readily as Rob hides his. As they learn to trust each other, and ultimately, to be friends, Rob and Sistine prove that some things – like memories, and heartaches, and tigers – can’t be locked up forever. Continue reading “Book Review: The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo #BookReview #KateDiCamillo”

The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl – Book Review

The Magic Finger

by Roald DahlQuentin Blake (Illustrator)
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Summary from Goodreads:

What happens when the hunter becomes the hunted?

To the Gregg family, hunting is just plain fun. To the girl who lives next door, it’s just plain horrible. She tries to be polite. She tries to talk them out of it, but the Greggs only laugh at her. Then one day the Greggs go too far, and the little girl turns her Magic Finger on them. When she’s very, very angry, the little girl’s Magic Finger takes over. She really can’t control it, and now it’s turned the Greggs into birds! Before they know it, the Greggs are living in a nest, and that’s just the beginning of their problems…

My Thoughts:

The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl is a story about a girl with a magic finger. She lives next door to the Gregg family who like to hunt for fun and this makes her very angry. She doesn’t think it’s right for people to hunt animals for fun and when she gets angry, her finger takes control. Her magic finger has a special lesson in store, but the big problem is not knowing exactly what will happen when she uses it.

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The story teaches a huge lesson to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I read this with two of my younger children and we all enjoyed it. It’s certainly thought-provoking and inspired an entire conversation with my family about eating meat and how we should be responsible and care for the animals we have. It will also get you thinking about why it’s important to control your disposition because actions always have consequences.

5*****

Find this on Goodreads and Amazon
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  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Puffin (July 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141346515
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141346519

Continue reading “The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl – Book Review”

Ronaldo: The Reindeer Flying Academy – Book Review & Author Interview!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year again! We are reading all of our favorite Christmas books and introducing some new ones as well. We had the pleasure of reading Ronaldo: The Reindeer Flying Academy over the last few days and I have our official review for you and an interview with the author as well!

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Ronaldo: The Reindeer Flying Academy

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Blurb:

Ronaldo is the top flying cadet at the prestigious Reindeer Flying Academy. He dreams of getting his flying license, just like his hero, Vixen.
In this first exciting chapter in the ‘Ronaldo’ series, our hero is faced with his toughest flying test ever – The Endurance Challenge!
Can Ronaldo triumph over mean bully, Dasher, and win the ‘Golden Wings’ medal? Spurred on by Rudi, his quirky, loyal best friend and with a belly full of his favourite carrot pancakes, Ronaldo takes on the challenge of his life!

My Thoughts:

This is the first book of three in the ‘Reindeer flying Academy’ series. I read this with my children in one sitting and we all enjoyed it very much.

Ronaldo is a reindeer who dreams of being just like his hero Vixen–part of the North Pole Reindeer Team. Only the best reindeer will be chosen by Santa for the team. When it comes time for the Endurance Challenge during Saturday’s Flying School, Ronaldo dreams to win. He remembers his grandad’s advice,

“Don’t just think it! Imagine! See it, feel it, believe it!”

Will Ronaldo win the challenge and receive the Golden Wings?

Ronaldo has strong family support and a best friend named Rudi who became one of four favorite characters. Everyone could use a friend like Rudi! Ronaldo is nearly reluctant to heed his families advice at times, but may learn that they’re smarter than he thinks!

I thought this book was very inspiring and appreciated all the important lessons that influence young readers about standing up for yourself, trusting your loved ones, following your dreams, and believing in yourself. The story is well written, cute, and comical. The illustrations are perfect and offer breaks in the reading. When paired with the short chapters, this makes it an easy read for early chapter book readers.

Overall, I personally found this to be an encouraging book for all ages that my children adored. We’re looking forward to reading the other two books including the full-color illustrated edition. 4****

4-stars

 


 

  • Print Length: 109 pages
  • Publisher: Maxine Sylvester; 1 edition (December 16, 2015)
  • Publication Date: December 16, 2015
  • Ages: 5-10
  • Grades: 2-5

You can find this book on Amazon and Goodreads.

If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read this book for free!


 

Author Interview with Maxine Sylvester

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Q: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

A: I wrote my first book in the Ronaldo series, The Reindeer Flying Academy, three years ago. I followed up with The Phantom Carrot Snatcher one year later, and self-published Rudi’s Birthday Extravaganza a few months ago. Some reviewers for the first book commented that they would have preferred colour illustrations. I liked the suggestion so recently published a second edition of The Reindeer Flying Academy in glorious colour. I think children will love the colour illustrations. The book is a perfect Christmas read.

(Click the covers to find these on Amazon)

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Q: What made you decide to write children’s books?

A: I’m still a child myself! I get as excited as a five-year-old every time a new Disney film comes out. My illustrations are inspired by animation. My niece says I am in touch with my inner child. I think it’s an advantage as I naturally write for children.

Q: What are some of your favorite childhood books? (or one favorite)

A: My first reading books were Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne, and Paddington by Michael Bond. As I grew up I read anything by Enid Blyton, The Famous Five and Secret Seven books. I also loved The Railway Children by E. Nesbitt.

Q: What influenced you to write Ronaldo: The Reindeer Flying Academy, and are any of your books influenced by your childhood?

A: I have to admit, I stole an idea from A.A. Milne! He wrote about the toys in Christopher Robin’s playroom. I wanted a reason to illustrate so decided to write a short story. I looked around my bedroom, and my favourite toy was a plush reindeer. I took it from there. Some incidents in the book were inspired by my childhood. Ronaldo has a different name to all the other reindeer and gets teased because of it. I was teased about my name. He also has to wear a hideous hat. I had one of those as well. Furry and with pom poms!

Q: How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

A: I have written three Ronaldo adventures, but there are four books. Two editions of The Reindeer Flying Academy are available, one has colour illustrations, the other has black and white.

I think my favourite book is the last one, Rudi’s Birthday Extravaganza. The characters are well-developed now, and I had a lot of fun with them. The book still makes me laugh even though I know what’s going to happen. I also have a soft spot for the ending of The Reindeer Flying Academy.

Q: What do you think makes a great children’s book?

A: I think values should be in there, but it’s important not to preach. Children are smart; you never want to talk down to them. I try to get a message across in a fun way. Ronaldo is a good role model for children. He’s kind, conscientious and brave, but never boring. He also has to overcome adversity and I think it’s good for children to see how he handles things. Needless to say, the stories need to be entertaining with lots of laughs and fun illustrations. The Ronaldo books have heart and I hope that children feel they are picking up a friend in a Ronaldo book. You never know what is going on in a child’s life, and books can provide comfort and inspiration.

Q: Do you create all of your own illustrations?

A: Yes, they take longer than the actual writing of the story. I trained in “cartoon art’ and was mentored by British cartoonist/, caricaturist, Steve Chadburn. I did further studies in children’s book illustration with talented artist/illustrator, Jan Nesbitt.

Q: What’s the publishing process been like for you and how do you market your books?

A: As a self-published author on Amazon, it was quite easy; especially as my partner Mark does most of the technical stuff! I am hopeless. He say’s Facebook and Twitter are great tools for reaching people. We have had varying success with promotions. A lot of it is trial and error, seeing what works and what doesn’t.

Q: Do you like to read a lot? If so, who are some of your favorite authors and are there any that heavily influence your writing?

A: I read every night before going to sleep. I read all sorts! I’ve read all of Sidney Sheldon’s books and most of Lee Childs, Jack Reacher series. If ever I feel anxious or wracked with self-doubt, I read Dr. Wayne Dyer. His gentle words always encourage me. I think he’s a must for anyone in this industry!

I loved the Harry Potter books; they were like picking up old friends. I have so much respect for J.K. Rowling. The whole world waited with baited breath for her books and she never disappointed.

I am a total Disney geek and have just finished a book on Walt Disney. What a visionary! Walt Disney has always been my biggest inspiration. I think my stories come from a lifetime of watching Disney movies.

Q: Are you working on anything now and do you have any future projects planned?

A: I have just started writing the fourth book in the Ronaldo series – The Vixen Pederson Workshop. It will be ready by Christmas 2018.

Q: Can we expect more books in this children’s series?

A: Absolutely. I find as one book evolves, ideas for another book come to the surface. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is limitless!”

I’d like to thank Maxine Sylvester for participating in this interview.

thankyou

Continue reading “Ronaldo: The Reindeer Flying Academy – Book Review & Author Interview!”

The Unicorn in the Barn by Jacqueline K. Ogburn – Book Review and Author Interview

Last month, we took a trip to Barnes and Noble and picked up The Unicorn in the Barn. We were instantly attracted to the title, cover, and blurb. I had the pleasure of reading The Unicorn in the Barn with my younger children and you can see my review and author interview with Jacqueline K. Ogburn below.

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The Unicorn in the Barn

by Jacqueline K. Ogburn, and Rebecca Green (Illustrations)

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   For years people have claimed to see a mysterious white deer in the woods around Chinaberry Creek. It always gets away.
One evening, Eric Harper thinks he spots it. But a deer doesn’t have a coat that shimmers like a pearl. And a deer certainly isn’t born with an ivory horn curling from its forehead.
When Eric discovers the unicorn is hurt and being taken care of by the vet next door and her daughter, Allegra, his life is transformed.
A tender tale of love, loss, and the connections we make, The Unicorn in the Barn shows us that sometimes ordinary life takes extraordinary turns. – Goodreads

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 My Review

Have you ever seen a Unicorn? Eric has, and now his life may be changed forever.

Eric’s grandmother isn’t well and has been put into a nursing home. Her house is now being occupied by someone new, a girl named Allegra, and her mother, a veterinarian. One day, Eric stumbles upon Allegra pounding in a “No Trespassing” sign on the tree where his treehouse resides: his favorite place to be. They don’t seem to like each other, but Eric doesn’t know yet that Allegra may not be as awful as she seems.

As Eric spends more time around the woods and farmhouse, he begins to discover magical creatures, including a white and glowing animal he first thinks is a pony. Soon, he realizes this beautiful pony-like animal is a unicorn: the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. He soon observes that she’s living in the old barn near the farmhouse which has been converted into a vet practice by Allegra’s mother. The unicorn was meant to remain a secret, but Eric is inquisitive and must find out everything he can about this magnificent creature.

We absolutely loved all the magical creatures in the book, especially Moonpearl, the majestic unicorn. The talking animals reminded us of another favorite children’s story-Charlotte’s Web. The human characters are memorable and even though it’s an imaginary story, it felt real. The relationship between Eric and his grandmother is heartwarming and we admired how Eric and Allegra’s friendship developed over time.

There were a few events in the book that we needed to stop and discuss that dealt with loss and mourning and not everything unfolded the way we wanted it to. Overall, this story was beautiful and something I would’ve loved reading as a child. We fell in love with all of the illustrations and found ourselves wanting more. My kids did enjoy it and I’m happy to have it as part of our home library.

My rating on this book is 5*****

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You can find this book on Goodreads and Amazon as well as many other bookstores.

  • Age Range: 10 – 12 years
  • Grade Level: 5 – 7
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (July 4, 2017)
  • ISBN-10: 054476112X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0544761124

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Author Interview with Jacqueline K. Ogburn

 

Q: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

A: I didn’t really start calling myself a writer until after about my third picture book. By then I began to believe it was something I was good at, not just a fluke. I had always written things – poetry, journals, letters – starting when I was around 8 or 9.

Q: What made you decide to write children’s books?

A: My path was a bit unusual. I had moved to New York City in my early 20s because I wanted to work in book publishing. My first job was in children’s books, and it made me remember how I fell in love with reading. I wrote my first picture book when I misunderstood a book title. I thought it was The Noise Lullaby, but it turned out to be The Norse Lullaby. Not nearly as intriguing a title, so I wrote a manuscript to go along with the incorrect one.

 

Q: What is your favorite childhood book?

A: Lots of favorites: From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and A Wrinkle in Time, also Harriet the Spy and It’s Like This, Cat were some I read and reread. Looking at that list, it is not surprising I moved to New York City. I also loved Black Beauty and Bambi, both which had very sad and harsh scenes. And lots of fairy tales, mostly the one from the Grimm Brothers. I hated most of the Hans Christian Anderson stories. I especially loathed The Little Match Girl. His stories seemed so cruel.

Q: Have you always enjoyed writing? 

A: Like many people, I started with poetry. I like playing with the rhythms and how intricate they could be. Writing a poem can be like solving a puzzle, finding how the pieces fit.

Q: What influenced you to write The Unicorn in the Barn and are any of your books influenced by your childhood?

A: My daughter sparked the idea, when she mentioned that unicorns might be hard for a vet to treat. The setting of the story is based on the farm in North Carolina near Charlotte where my grandmother and my mother grew up, and my uncle still lives. I tried to give it a Southern feel, but not in a stereotypical way.

My book The Jukebox Man was based on my grandfather, who had jukeboxes and pool tables at bars and restaurants throughout North Carolina. The illustrator, James Ransome, also used my house in one of the pictures.

Q: How does writing make you feel and does it come easy for you?

A: I hate starting a piece. Starting is so hard, trying to find a way in. Those first fewwriting-center-1024x692.jpg sentences set up so much. Once I get past that, it is very absorbing. Picture books are so short that I can usually write a full draft in a day or two. I can hold the whole picture book in my head while I research and work out the plot or the structure.

Novels are hard because they have so much middle. Some many possible blind alleys and it seems to magically expand. Or you get stuck and aren’t sure how to keep it building towards the end.

Q: How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

A: That’s like asking who is your favorite child. I love them all. I have published 10 picture books and one middle-grade novel. I love The Reptile Ball because it was a collection of poems. The Magic Nesting Doll was an original fairy tale. The Bake Shop Ghost because it is about cakes and a cranky ghost. Also because I got to write a musical based on it and see it performed, and it was made into a short film, which I got to see being made.

Q: What makes a great children’s book?

A: It’s easier to say what makes a bad one – a didactic approach, condescending tone, sugary sweet sentimentality, not respecting that children are people, stories that rote, routine and boring.

Q: Why don’t you illustrate your own books and what’s the process like for finding illustrators?

A: While I like to draw, I haven’t developed that talent. There are so many incredible artists out there, and I have been lucky in the ones who had illustrated my books. I don’t find the illustrators, the publisher does that, because they give a separate contract to the artist. I usually discuss the style of art the story needs with the publisher. Lots of artists have turned down my stories, for all sorts of reason – they didn’t like it, didn’t fit their schedule, etc. Once I met an illustrator years after he turned down my story. He did wonderful, realistic illustrations of children that were beautiful and intense. He remembered my story. He explained that he didn’t do it because the action took place inside, and he hated drawing interiors. He loved illustrating outdoor scenes.

 

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Illustrations from The Unicorn in the Barn by Rebecca Green

 

Q: What’s the publishing process been like for you and how do you market your books?

A: I have been very lucky in my publishing career. I don’t have an agent, but have worked with several editors at three different houses. I have had several books rejected, and probably don’t market those enough. I do some online marketing for my published, but that is changing so rapidly that it is hard to keep up. I do some school visits, but I have a day job, so I’m not a true road warrior.

Q: Do you like to read a lot? If so, who are some of your favorite authors and are there any that heavily influence your writing?2839.jpg

A: I read constantly. I’m the type of person who reads the cereal box if there is nothing else around. For picture books, Margaret Mahy was an influence – she is very funny and whimsical and playful with language. For a novel, The Bridge to Terabithia was an influence.

Q: When it comes to writing, what tools do you use?

A: Pen for poetry, computer for prose.

Q: How long did it take you to write The Unicorn in the Barn?

A: More years than it should have – about 10. I didn’t work on it consistently. I would put it away for months at a time, then find myself thinking about the characters and work on it until I got stuck again.

Q: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?

A: The middle kept growing, that there were more things I realized I needed to put in that weren’t part of the original outline.

Q: Will there be any other books regarding Moonpearl or the characters in this book in the future?

A: I have some chapters of a sequel, told from Allegra’s point of view. The main magical creature is a griffin, because I love the hybrid of lion and eagle.

Q: How did you come up with the character names in the book and are any characters or events based on anything true?

A: My daughter who gave me the spark, her middle name is Harper, so I used that for Eric’s family name. I did research by volunteering at the Piedmont Wildlife Center, so some of the details about the clinic are drawn from that, and the farm is based on the one where my grandmother and mother grew up.

Q: I appreciated that the book dealt with some harder topics like aging, death, and mourning which can be difficult for children to cope with. Did you make any major edits to the book or have other endings for the story?

A: I changed an important scene. Originally Eric tried to take the unicorn to his grandmother and Moonpearl ran away after being frightened by a car. My editor and husband thought it made Eric seem too selfish and unsympathetic. So I had to change a lot and ended up with the wampus cat.

If you tell a story about a hospital or a doctor, about healing, then death is always a possibility. I called a friend crying once, because I realized I needed to include the death of an animal if it was going to be a fantasy grounded in reality.

Being the parent or grandparent of a children’s book protagonist is risky business – they die off at an alarming rate. The loss of a grandparent or a pet are frequently a child’s first experience of death, and the initial setting I created made them almost inevitable. I tried to do it in a way that was emotionally true, but not crushing. To show that these things can be faced, especially with help.

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?images.jpg

A: Read a lot, and be persistent. Dr. Seuss was famously rejected over 30 times before he found a publisher for his first book, And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street.

Q: Do you have any advice for parents who are dealing with struggling readers?

A: That is a bit outside my expertise, but modeling reading is one. Anything that appeals to an interest they have, don’t worry about if it’s “good” just something that they want to figure out. Reading out loud, just as sharing, not as pressure.

Q: Are you working on anything now and do you have any future projects planned?

A: The possible sequels and I have an idea for a series, maybe a bit younger than this.

Q: What else do you like to do outside of writing?

A: I live in Durham, North Carolina, which is now a foodie town. I like to cook and eat well. I grow herbs and flowers and tomatoes, because not even the farmer’s market has tomatoes as good as the ones in your own backyard.

I’d like to thank Jacqueline K. Ogburn for her time in completing this interview.

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Continue reading “The Unicorn in the Barn by Jacqueline K. Ogburn – Book Review and Author Interview”

This Week’s Children’s Book Favorites

This week I came across some great children’s books and can’t wait to share them with you. You can see all of my reviews below. If you want to add them on Goodreads, just click the cover.

The Bear Report

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This is such a cool book that teaches kids about polar bears in a fun way. It reminded me so much of The Polar Bear by Jenni Desmond.

Sophie has to do a book report on polar bears and all she can come up with is that they’re big, mean, and they eat things. After a visit with a real polar bear who takes her on a journey through its habitat, she learns much more.

The illustrations are amazing and the story is engaging and educational.

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The Secret Life of a Snowflake: An Up-Close Look at the Art and Science of Snowflakes

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The Secret Life of a Snowflake has to be one of the most beautiful children’s science books I’ve seen. The author, Dr. Kenneth Libbrecht, is a professor of physics and studies crystals. Not only does the book contain many photographs of Dr. Libbrecht’s snowflake finding’s, it also teaches facts about them. Many of these facts I never knew as an adult which makes this a book for everyone. Some of them include:

-Why is snow the color white?
-How are snowflakes made?
-Why are they all so different?
-Why do snowflakes all have 6 branches?

The author even covers the different states of water, clouds, the birth of a snowflake, and provides a pattern for cutting your own paper snowflake.

This is a wonderful book that would be perfect for applying in a science curriculum for kids. If you simply can’t wait to read this book, you can visit his website at www.snowcrystals.com. Here you will find countless photos of close-up snowflakes. Simply Amazing.

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Dormouse Dreams

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Dormouse Dreams is a children’s book about a little dormouse who is hibernating for the winter. There are so many things happening out in the snow. The fox will ski, the chickadees chitter, and the snow piles high, but the little dormouse is fast asleep. He dreams of adventures with his little dormouse friend, but will she ever arrive?

Fairly short sentences and an easy read makes this book perfect for younger readers. It works well as a read aloud book too. We loved the illustrations most.

4-stars Continue reading “This Week’s Children’s Book Favorites”

The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty’s Prince by Serena Valentino

 

22890934.jpgI decided to spend my entire rainy Sunday reading nothing but Beauty and the Beast. After finishing Lost in a Book this morning, I was still hungry for more. This review may contain some spoilers so read at your own risk.

The Beast Within begins with the Prince and how he’s sickened with the fact that he’s been transformed into a beast. He’s tormented by the three evil sister witches who have cast a spell on him. At this point Beast understands that only true love, both given and received, can break the curse that’s been bestowed upon him.

The majority of the story heads back to the time when the Prince’s life was perfect and he hadn’t a care in the world. He was arrogant and vain. Here we learn about his best friend Gaston, and Circe, his beautiful and soon to be wife. This is where the questions begin. Is Gaston a real friend? Is the love the Prince feels for Circe true love that will have the power to break the spell?

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I liked the way the author used the three sister witches in the story with the added twists. I truthfully enjoyed learning about the Beast before the curse as well, but the relationship with Belle fell short on detail and the ending came way to fast for me. I found it strange how Circe became so understanding in the last moments and she wanted everything to be fixed after spending the majority of the book bitter toward the Beast.

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I still really liked it and I’m glad to have read it. This is perfect for upper grade school readers all the way up to adult.

4-stars

Continue reading “The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty’s Prince by Serena Valentino”