Review 5 star
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Princess Journee is a little mouse with a big mission. In the Pond of Reflection (Pearls of Wisdom Series Book 1), written by Catherine Ann Russell and illustrated by Brooke Connor, the princess lives with her royal father. He abhors shallowness and has forbidden mirrors in the peaceful kingdom so that no one will be self-conscious about their appearance. The internal person, the “inside-out,” is of greater importance. But Journee doesn’t know what she looks like and feels she doesn't know enough about herself even though she is aware the external does not define her. For her birthday, she goes out on a quest, traveling through the kingdom with three friends, in search of the Pond of Reflection, which can serve as a mirror since the kingdom has none.
With a pristinely flowing narrative and quirky characterization, The Pond of Reflection (Pearls of Wisdom Series Book 1) has a lot of charismatic strength, and the story never falters. A moral fable at its finest, it springboards off a Bible verse, Proverbs 27:19, to build a winsome story about finding true self-respect. It's a beautiful, high-quality fantasy story about a set of four close-knit animal friends who quietly meander through an enchanted countryside and discover life together, with a splendid yet understated interior of illustrations and decorative page design that makes this book perfect for little readers to savor and read over and over. Catherine Ann Russell’s book is the sort of story I loved to read as a child and I'm sure many young people today will enjoy it too because it depicts the world of children, what they need and what preoccupies them, so sympathetically.
Review 5 star
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The Freight Train in the Sky is a sweet, easy-to-read chapter book for children. Author Holden Russell introduces young readers to an orphan named Paul, who lives with nuns in an orphanage because his parents died as a result of widespread disease. Although well cared for, Paul feels lonely and has never fully faced the grief of losing his parents. He channels his emotions into a fascination with the stars and with mythology. After studying constellations and myths through books, he sees a shooting star and goes on a journey through the constellations on a train run by a benevolent spirit man called the Conductor. And Paul soon finds the heavenly realms hold something he could never have hoped to wish for.
The Freight Train in the Sky is a beautifully told narrative. Lightly floating sentences and expert storytelling created some amazing visual images that made me feel like I was watching a good animated movie. I got really got entranced by Holden’s Russell’s superficially simple, but emotionally very charged tale. The adventure aspect is just what beginning readers and their parents look for in a fantasy story as the majestic legendary figures like Hercules and Sagittarius help Paul learn (my favorite was the episode onboard the Argo) and the inclusion of Paul’s family in his journey injects a vein of elemental pagan dignity that will help children understand why ancient peoples told stories about the constellations. A solid book that uses mythology as its basis, The Freight Train in the Sky was very enjoyable.
Review 5 star
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Kitten from the Sky (Little Box’s Adventures) is a charming children’s book by K. W. Tey. Little Box is a shy boy who keeps to himself. He always wears a square box over his head and that makes him feel safe. Although he believes he is happy, actually Little Box is afraid to take risks or be seen. But when a kitten flies from the sky and lands in a tree, Little Box finds an inner resourcefulness. Faced with challenge after challenge in getting the kitten out of the tree, he endlessly tries new strategies fearlessly—even taking a giraffe from the zoo! When the kitten escapes on his own, Little Box realizes he gained a lot of new skills and needed them more than the kitten needed rescuing.
Kitten from the Sky is a heartwarming, cute-as-a-button story. A faceted gem of a tale that uses the simplest language for small children to tell something wonderful—the value behind never giving up and trying new things. K. W. Tey is an inspiring picture book writer who presents a fun, quirky little hero, but Little Box’s humanness as he puts a box over his head to hide, but then finds himself up to the task when a situation needs him is what seals the deal on this book. Young Little Box has the quite relatable problem of overthinking too much and he gets (literally in this case) stuck in a box. Handling surprises that come your way is an important life skill and Little Box finds he’s quite up to the challenge. As is this book if you’re looking for something really feel-good for kids. Recommended.
This is the companion for Sarah Scheele's newsletter blog. In it I share reviews for books I'd recommend/are similar to my own.