The Veterans’ Clubhouse by Kristen Zajac

Veterans

The Veterans’ Clubhouse by Kristen Zajac is a touching story that shows young people they can make a difference. Patrick, Hailey and their parents befriend a homeless veteran in need. To offer help to Charlie and others like him, they organize a benefit concert to raise funds to build a resource center at their church.

What an inspiring and heartwarming story! Two kids see a need in their community and they work with their family and other adults around town to make a difference. The reader is also witness to Patrick and Hailey using their special talents (drumming and drawing) to help their cause. This book shows how one seed planted can blossom into a field of flowers that touches many.

The vibrant artwork of Jennifer Thomas Houdeshell brings Zajac’s story to life. Considering Charlie is a Vietnam veteran, the colors and designs found inside are inspired by that time period. I also like how doing so weaved Hailey’s drawings into the illustrations.

My father and one of my brothers served in the U.S. Armed Forces, so this is a book whose subject is close to my heart. I applaud Zajac’s continued commitment to sharing the importance of our veterans and veterans’ issues with young people.

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Paperback: 24 pages
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc; large type edition edition (June 12, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616336617
ISBN-13: 978-1616336615

I received a digital copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Guest Blogger: Maria Andreu, Author of The Secret Side of Empty

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COMING NEXT SPRING… The Secret Side of Empty

**Read about the book and scroll below for details on how to enter to WIN a $250 Amazon gift card just by liking the author’s Facebook page!**

You’ve heard the news stories. Now hear the real story.

M.T. is starting her senior year with a lot going for her. She gets great grades, has a best friend she met in kindergarten and a boyfriend who is sweet and into her. But life – at least as she knows it – is about to end.

M.T. is what the news calls “illegal” – she came to the U.S. with her parents as a baby and never got the right papers that allowed her to stay. She lives in fear of her family getting deported, in even more fear that she’ll have to go to the home country she doesn’t even remember, of people finding out her ugly secret and of the increasingly volatile situation at home. When senior year is over, the protected world she’s found in her small parochial school will disappear. Without a social security number, she won’t be able to go to college, get a job or, maybe worst of all, get a driver’s license.

But she’ll worry about all that later. First, she’s got a senior year to take on.

The Inspiration Behind The Secret Side of Empty by Maria Andreu

The Secret Side of Empty, in bookstores Spring, 2014, is the story of a high school senior, M.T., who is hiding a big secret: she’s “illegal.” Her parents brought her over as a baby and overstayed their visas. She’s American in every way except one: on paper. No one knows, not even her best friend Chelsea and her sweet boyfriend, Nate. With senior year coming to a close, she has to figure out how she’ll build a life with no social security number, no college, no driver’s license and no way to get a real job. But first she’s got to make it through senior year.

The inspiration for this story came from my own experience. I, too, came over to the U.S. as a baby and was undocumented as a teenager. Being a teen is hard enough, but when you mix in the fear of getting deported from the only country you’ve ever called home due to a decision you had no hand in making, it’s really stressful and it makes you wonder why you don’t belong when everyone else does.

Looking back now, I realize I was almost magically lucky. When I was 18 there was an amnesty and I was able to become a citizen. Suddenly, everything I thought was hopelessly out of reach – a college degree, a house, trips abroad, a job – became possible. My first reaction was to put it all behind and forget it. I look just like everybody else, so I figured I’d just pretend I was.

I tried to forget my experiences for 20 years. It wasn’t until after 9/11, when the rhetoric about immigrants got so ugly, that I began to feel that it was irresponsible not to share my story. The news was filled with all kinds of negative news about immigrants, trying to play on people’s fears. I realized that I could help shed light on the human side of the experience, and that’s what I set out to do in The Secret Side of Empty.

First and foremost I set out to write a book people would want to read. It’s not a political book at all. M.T. doesn’t care about the issue and isn’t up on the news about it. She just wants her life to work out, she wants to stop being so afraid that her boyfriend is going to dump her, and she tries to cope with the fact that the people around her have so much more than she has but don’t appreciate it. She wants to figure out what to wear to the dance, what to write in her latest English paper. That’s it. But of course she’s caught up in these forces that are so much bigger than she is.

Writing this book was tremendously therapeutic. For the longest time, my own background as an undocumented immigrant was my deepest, ugliest secret. Revealing it while talking about the book opened me up to a lot of compassion and warmth from people. And, most of all, it helped me understand that the truth has a great healing power.

I would love for you to take this book-publishing journey with me, from cover reveal, to first galleys, to an inside peek of what it’s like to do a book signing (There will lots of fun giveaways along the way). When I was growing up poor and undocumented, I never believed I could make this dream come true. But here it is! Like my Facebook page for news on the book and also to enter to win a $250 gift card. https://www.facebook.com/maria.andreu.booksmaria

Maria Andreu is an author and immigration rights activist. She lives in beautiful Bergen County, New Jersey with her two wonderful middle schoolers. At the age of 12, she wrote in her diary, “Most of all, I want to be a writer.” Growing up undocumented and poor, she never imagined that dream might come true one day. Her work has been published in Newsweek, The Washington Post and The Star Ledger and her first novel, The Secret Side of Empty, will be published by Running Press in Spring, 2014.

A Note from the Author, Maria Andreu:

The fulfillment of great dreams feels best when shared, which is why I’m inviting people to Like my Facebook page and come along with me on the fabulous and improbable journey of publishing my first novel.  As my thanks, when you like the page by July 31st, you’ll be able to enter to win a fan-only sweeps for a $250 Amazon gift card!

Be the first to get updates on the cover, new tour stops, and fan-only content (plus enter a sweeps for a $250 Amazon gift card) by liking the author’s Facebook page here:  https://www.facebook.com/maria.andreu.books

The book is already getting industry buzz and news coverage, so Like the FB page to get updates on that as well.

Mr. Choli’s River Trip by Chris Wardle

The residents of Daphne Wood return in the second book of Chris Wardle’s Tinfish series, Mr. Choli’s River Trip.

Now settled into their new location, the members of the colony living in Daphne Wood are happy with their new place. In their previous adventures, they discovered a tunnel that leads to a town long ago deserted by the people whose wars and diseases caused their demise. Traveling through the tunnel from time to time has allowed Mr. Choli and Mr. Ginger, the cats, to stock up on their supply of canned fish that they keep in an abandoned car they now call home. The detective shingle proudly in place, Mr. Choli has certainly gained a lofty reputation for his investigative work.

When Mrs. Cat-biscuit, the goat, shares her concern that the vegetation in Daphne Wood is struggling to survive in the heat and wind, Mr. Choli and Mr. Ginger lead another expedition to find new plants that are better able to handle the increasingly hot conditions. While back at Daphne Wood, Mr. Denzel, the mole, and the remaining members of the gardening team start a new project that just might protect the existing plants in the colony from the harsh conditions.

I enjoyed Mr. Choli’s River Trip even better than the first book in the series. New adventures, new characters, and the developing friendships among the residents of Daphne Wood, add to this already engaging and thought provoking series. Again, the reader gets the opportunity to witness how the climate changes have impacted the colony and the ingenuity of the residents working together to solve the problem. The cooperation amongst the characters is truly one of the best parts of these books; teaching readers that working together, they can make a difference. In addition, the prose flowed even more smoothly in this book than in the first, making Mr. Choli’s River Trip an even more exciting adventure in reading.

The cover art on both of these books is downright hilarious. I absolutely love the picture of Mr. Choli with his pipe and magnifying glass. All he needs is a Sherlock Holmes hat. The back cover of both books has color versions of some of the illustrations found inside.

I would definitely recommend Mr. Choli’s River Trip to any youngster interested in environmental issues, those who love animals and nature, and readers who like engaging stories filled with fun and quirky characters. I can’t wait to read the next two books in this series!

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Publisher:  Lulu
  • SRP:  $7.96



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The Lighthouse of Mr. Tinfish by Chris Wardle

Mr. Tinfish, the penguin, and the other animals of the colony are alarmed when the sudden climate changes cause a rapid rise in the sea level that threatens all their homes. Luckily, Mr. Vinegar, the walrus in charge of the colony, enlists the help of the cats Mr. Choli and Mr. Ginger to find a new location for the colony.

In the first of this humorous and engaging series of quirky characters, young readers will discover: Mr. Tinfish, the penquin who lives in the barrel-lighthouse with his family; Mr. Vinegar, the walrus who owns the hardware store and the self-appointed leader of the colony; the cats Mr. Choli and Mr. Ginger who spend their time investigating mysteries as the resident detectives of the colony, when they aren’t snacking on mackrel sandwiches; Mr. Taverre, the parrot who is constantly on the lookout for pirates; Mrs. Chutney, the walaby, who states the obvious and then explains it, and many other interesting characters who make up the colony.

The expedition to find a new location for the colony, the adventure of moving the entire colony to Daphne Wood, the mystery of the disappearing river, and rescuing the animals from Volcano Island, all combine together to make The Lighthouse of Mr. Tinfish an engaging and quick read.

Wardle has an eloquent style that might be lost on some younger readers, but anyone ages 9 through 12 will enjoy the flow of his prose. The only hitch I found was that the author continued to repeat descriptive phrases of the animals throughout the book, referring to Mrs. Chutney on many occasions as the one who states the obvious and then explains it, and others in the same manner. I felt once the reader is engaged in the book, he will remember the quirks of each character and these descriptors did not need repeating.

The charming and funny illustrations are black and white inside the book, but  many are featured in color on the back cover and on the author’s website. I can only assume these illustrations are the handiwork of the author, since there is no credit given to an illustrator within the first few pages of the book.

The Lighthouse of Mr. Tinfish is an enjoyable first book of what I feel will be an amazing series. While dealing with a serious issue, the reader is pulled in by the quirky characters and their adventures, and will look forward to reading more books by Chris Wardle.

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂