Review: Book Club Young Readers’ Event

The Steinbach and Area Book Club held a young readers’ event on Monday June 26th. We had 8 authors present. We looked at 14 books by a total of 14 authors.

Celesta Theissen with her daughters, Keziah and Priscilla
Rachel Theissen
Anita Daher
Doreen Millichamp
Casia Schreyer
Gabriele Goldstone
Laura Reeves
Heather Radford
Kim Rempel with her daughter Abby
Kristy Pantin
Susan Rocan

Some of the books I’ve read on my own so I’ll leave a proper review with a rating. Others I haven’t read, and we only looked at excerpts at this event, so I will mark them as such and only give my first impressions.

Wonder Horse by Anita Daher – First impressions – The main character is a high school student who has moved halfway across the country. To help her adjust her parents have bought her a horse. This is a story of fitting in and making choices. The story has a first person narrator named Sarah. Sarah’s voice feels authentic and age appropriate. This is a book I would recommend.

Journey to the Mermaid Kingdom by Celesta, Priscilla, and Keziah Theissen – Review – This is book one in an early chapter book series for K-3. The story follows a mother, her 4 children, and their 2 cats, as they are magically turned into mermaids and go on a quest beneath the sea. The first book chronicles their journey to the mermaid kingdom where they are needed to help set something right. The story has sea-wizards and sea-dragons and talking dolphins. It’s a fun fantasy adventure for kids. My only peeve with this book is the size of the cast. With so many named characters it’s hard to keep them straight and it’s hard for each of them to get enough talking time, especially with how short the story is and the age group it’s aimed to. Still, my daughter and niece enjoyed the book. 4 out of 5 from me; 5 out of 5 from them.

Picking Worms, The Campfire Boys Book 1 by Doreen Millichamp – First Impressions – This series is about a group of 5 boys who meet at a family camp and become friends over the summer. The first book is about learning to pick worms to sell to the fishermen. These books aim to be wholesome family fun similar to Super Fudge or Ramona and Beezus. There are no cellphones here, and no magic either, just campfires and good, old fashioned adventures. The selection Doreen chose to read was about their first evening learning to pick the worms. I found this selection repetitive in its language. Also, it was midway through the book so I didn’t have a good feel for the characters and got easily confused. I also dislike the physical layout of the book (using a whole line space between paragraphs instead of indenting the first line of each paragraph – I know, that’s how I do my blog, but blogs are different from books). My grandmother has the full set and reads them around the campfire to my kids and my niece. They all love the whole series.

Purse People Adventures by Kim and Abby Rempel – First Impressions – This is a story about a girl who is the size of a push pin who lives in Abby’s purse with her little brother. We didn’t read much of this book but we found it reminiscent of The Littles.

Red Stone by Gabriele Goldstone – Review – I had the chance to read Red Stone and the sequel Broken Stone last summer. The story is a lightly fictionalized biography of the author’s mother – fictionalized only in that she doesn’t have all the details and had to fill in missing conversations and events based on her historical research. This series (there are 2 more books coming) is aimed at middle grade kids. While historically accurate and very emotional it is age appropriate in language and content. The story is compelling, not the least bit boring. You really feel for Katya, the girl in the story. The story focuses on Katya and her family, German-Russians living in what is not the Ukraine, in the 1930s as the Communists begin seizing the farms. I recommend this series for young history buffs, and for classroom use, or even for anyone who has German-Russian heritage and wants to know more about their own history. 5 out of 5 stars.

Diary of a Kid Witch by K Pantin – First Impressions – A cross between Harry Potter and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Told in journal or diary format by the 10 year old main character it even has some doodle style illustrations. Each “chapter” is headed by the day of the week by no date. We only read the first few entries but I can see it getting confusing as it just keeps repeating Tuesday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday …. over and over again in various orders. The story was cute and the narrative voice very casual. I didn’t like that she spelled ’cause as cuz.

Grandfather Clock by Rachel Theissen – Review – My kids and I read this book when it first came out and except that the concepts around the time travel hurt my grown-up brain it was a brilliant book, especially as it was written when Rachel was 8. The story follows 2 kids and a green alien. Yup, time travel, aliens, kids, clocks, missing parents and grandparents, a great mix. And easy to read. My son read it when he was in grade 1 and except for a few words was able to read it on his own. 5 out of 5 stars.

Withershins by Susan Rocan – First Impressions – Withershins is apparently an urban legend ritual, like Bloody Mary, where you run around a church three times at midnight. I suppose it’s spooky because old churches have graveyards on the property. We read the prologue which set up the main character, a 17 year old girl, and the situation that presents the opportunity to play Withershins. The back of the book explains that the main character will be sent back in time to solve some sort of problem. This book has been high on my ‘to read’ list for some time and I hope to do a longer review soon.

Frontier Life by Heather Radford – First Impressions – to be completely honest, the back of the book turned me off so much that I didn’t read much of this book out loud to the group. The book is about 3 year old twins who will be at least 10 by the end of the first book who travel from Wales to Canada with their family in 1945. Their father is going to Northern Ontario as a missionary. The cover of the book as a picture of Jesus with a little white girl and a little black boy and they’re all in Biblical times clothing. The description makes it sound more like a pioneer book. And then to have it set after the Second World War was jarring. The three year old twins don’t speak like three year olds (I know, my niece is three). The description on the back describes the Native Americans of Northern Ontario as “evil devil worshipers” which put me off right away. The font was quite small, which isn’t standard for an early reader. I won’t be reading this book and I won’t be recommending it to my kids.

Gifted: The Super Seven book 1 by Celesta Thiessen – First Impressions – I have read this book but it was a while ago so I don’t want to leave a full review without reading it again. The series is about seven teens with super powers who learn that they are made right just the way they are and that they all have a purpose. Well written, if a little on the short side. Would recommend to 4th graders and there abouts.

Laura Reeves Guide to Useful Plants – Laura gave a wonderful presentation on rope making, weaving, and dye making, all activities you can do with your kids. I have a longer review of her book coming up very soon.

We also looked at Complex 48 and Rose in the Dark by me.


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