Powder Monkey by Donna M. McDine


Powder Monkey by Donna M. McDine is a heartrending, powerful story of survival and perseverance.

Tommy is taken by the press gang and forced into servitude for the Royal Navy. It is a tough life for a farm boy, but he learns to survive by being willing to do the jobs many of the other boys do not like to do.

This is a book for middle grade readers that shares a part of British history that is about as attractive as the years the United States was divided by slavery. It’s not a light story for youngsters to enjoy. Instead, it’s a story to teach children about the difficulties in our past and what they can learn from them.

Tommy’s story is brought to life by McDine’s captivating story and the stunning illustrations of K.C. Snider–one of my favorite artists. The emotions Snider captures in this book are so realistic you can’t help but be touched by them; especially the two at the end of the book. This author and artist should collaborate often.

Powder Monkey would make a great addition to any school or home library.

Rating: :) :) :) :)

Paperback: 24 pages
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc; large type edition edition (May 20, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616333855
ISBN-13: 978-1616333850

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

Diego’s Dragon, Book Two: Dragons of the Dark Rift by Kevin Gerard


Filled with adventure, Diego’s Dragon, the second book in the Dragons of the Dark Rift series will captivate young readers.

With the fifth sun promising a time of peace for all creatures, the Sol Dragones and their leaders eagerly await the new age; but Vipero wants to alter the ancient prophecy by eliminating the Sol Dragones, which would endanger Diego’s world. Guides, Diego and Rachel travel with their dragons to the Dark Rift to battle Vipero’s immense army, the fate of earth hanging in the balance.

Middle grade readers will enjoy this exciting tale of dragons, ancient prophecy, and a human guide that must learn to harness his powers to fight effectively. Whenever there is a story with an epic battle, getting to know the characters is important to understanding the desires of both sides and being able to root for one side to triumph. Kevin Gerard did a fine job of creating his characters and the world in which they live in order to make that happen. The affection between and Magnifico and Estrella was heartwarming, while the dedication of Mr. Sullivan and Magnifico to training Diego is admirable. They, along with Rachel (Estrella’s guide), make a fabulous team.

While the opening of Diego’s Dragon didn’t capture me right away, I was swiftly caught up in the story and racing to its satisfying conclusion. I’m eager to see what happens next.

Rating: :) :) :) :)

Series: Diego’s Dragon
Paperback: 214 pages
Publisher: Crying Cougar Press; 2 edition (April 6, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0985980249
ISBN-13: 978-0985980245

Purchase at:


Barnes & Noble



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

The Brain Sucker by Glenn Wood

The Brain Sucker by Glenn WoodA creative, zany adventure awaits middle grade readers in The Brain Sucker by Glenn Wood.

Callum McCullock is a disabled boy living with his grandmother, Rose. When demented scientist Lester Smythe’s plot to eradicate goodness from the world puts Rose in danger, Callum and his good friends, Sophie and Jinx, band together to defeat his evil plan.

There is so much to enjoy in this novel: the well-developed characters, the neat inventions, the antics of Lester’s bumbling thugs, the craziness caused by Jinx “little problem,” and so much more. Wood definitely knows how to create a story this age group will love. There are kids in the roles of heroes, a battle between good and evil, humor, and the love of family and friends.

It didn’t take me long to finish this one because I never wanted to put it down. I also really felt the selected font was perfect for the story, so kudos to the book designer.

Highly recommended.



Rating: :) :) :) :) :)
Series: Thunderkit Chronicles
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; US Ver 1 edition (June 28, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1512161624
ISBN-13: 978-1512161625
Purchase at Amazon!

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

How a Historical Hero Can Inspire Young Readers by Fiona Ingram, Author of The Search for the Stone of Excalibur

excalibur front cover final2-2

Continuing the adventure that began in Egypt a few months prior in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, cousins Adam and Justin Sinclair are hot on the trail of the second Stone of Power, one of seven ancient stones lost centuries ago. This stone might be embedded in the hilt of a newly discovered sword that archaeologists believe belonged to King Arthur: Excalibur. However, their long-standing enemy, Dr. Khalid, is following them as they travel to Scotland to investigate an old castle. Little do they know there is another deadly force, the Eaters of Poison, who have their own mission to complete. Time is running out as the confluence of the planets draws closer. Can Justin and Adam find the second Stone of Power and survive? And why did Aunt Isabel send a girl with them?

Join Justin and Adam as they search not only for the second Stone of Power, but also for the Scroll of the Ancients, a mysterious document that holds important clues to the Seven Stones of Power. As their adventure unfolds, they learn many things and face dangers that make even their perils in Egypt look tame. And how annoying for them that their tag-along companion, Kim, seems to have such good ideas when they are stumped. Book extras include some historical background on King Arthur, the Dark Ages, warfare and weaponry during Arthur’s time, and details on Excalibur. A fascinating peek into the life and times of the real King Arthur, perfect for young time travelers and budding archaeologists.

For More Information

  • The Search for the Stone of Excalibur is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
  • Find out the latest on the book at Facebook.

Guest post: 

How a Historical Hero Can Inspire Young Readers by Fiona Ingram

I’ve always been fascinated with the figure of King Arthur, so much so that when the idea popped into my head to use Excalibur, and thus King Arthur, in Book 2: The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, I couldn’t have been more pleased. Before I began my serious research, I had always thought of King Arthur as a kind of hazy figure who was mostly legend. To my surprise, I found enough information to pinpoint Arthur as a historical figure, a Dark Ages king, a Briton who lived and fought around AD 500. Arthur’s biggest achievement in history was turning the tide of the Anglo-Saxon advance at the Battle of Badon in AD 516, keeping Britain safe for the next fifty years. Starting around AD 700, references to Arthur and his brave exploits on the battlefield began to emerge and have continued to the present day.

Even in his own time, Arthur’s name became synonymous with heroic deeds, bravery, and victory on the field of battle. The half-mythical, half-historic nature of the original Arthurian legends developed with the retelling of the tales. With Arthur’s name becoming increasingly more mythologised, it was perhaps inevitable that with the advent of the first ‘fiction’ writing (around the twelfth century) that Arthur would appear in an even more heroic light than before. Following Arthur’s death at the Battle of Camlann (AD 535), his fame spread all over Europe. The Arthurian stories journeyed with merchants and other travelers from country to country, from city to city, from monastery to monastery, and from one royal court to another. The idea of chivalry emerged. This new code emphasized that one should live and conduct oneself with honor, courtesy, and bravery.

Why, centuries later, is the figure of Arthur still so important? Arthur is important to us because he appears as the ideal of kingship during both peace and war. He stands for all that is true and good in a leader. He became a conquering hero, a champion of peace and justice, a king of kings. This is the kind of hero that will appeal to young readers, and perhaps inspire them to emulate King Arthur, to be someone who ‘does the right thing,’ and stands head and shoulders above the rest just because he knows what makes a hero. Being a hero can encompass many things; it’s about standing up for what you believe in; defending someone who is weaker or who may be being bullied at school; making sure you treat people and animals with respect, love, compassion, and that you show the qualities of a young knight of the Round Table. A young reader can easily become a hero to his family, friends, and community by following the ideals that make a good, caring and responsible person.FionaIngram-794310

Fiona Ingram was born and educated in South Africa, and has worked as a full-time journalist and editor. Her interest in ancient history, mystery, and legends, and her enjoyment of travel has resulted in the multi award winning The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, the first in her exciting children’s adventure series—Chronicles of the Stone. Fiona has just published the second book entitled The Search for the Stone of Excalibur, a treat for young King Arthur fans. She is busy with Book 3 entitled The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper.

For More Information

Read my review of The Search for the Stone of Excalibur here.

Read my review of the first book in the series, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab here.


Guest Blogger Glenn Wood, Author of The Brain Sucker

The Brain Sucker by Glenn WoodThe Brain Sucker by Glenn Wood is a book written for middle schoolers (ages 9-12) featuring a Callum McCullock, a unique hero, and his two friends. Callum is confined to a wheelchair – but that certainly doesn’t stop them from moving to stop “The Brain Sucker“. We’re searching for websites, blogs, and other online locations where we can share information, interviews, reviews and much more about The Brain Sucker. The Brain Sucker was originally released by Walker Books Ltd in New Zealand, Australia and the UK and was a Sakura Medal nominee. It is now being released in the US and Canada by the author.

For much more about Glenn Wood and The Brain Sucker, you can visit his website –http://www.glennwoodauthor.com/

The Brain Sucker has been previously released in New Zealand, Australia and the UK. But this is the US and Canadian launch. Callum, his grandmother Rose, his friends Sophie and Jinx and the evil demented scientist Lester Smythe are heading to the US – and are ready to meet you!

The Brain Sucker is a critically acclaimed children’s book that has been published in Australasia and the UK by Walker Books. It follows the story of a disabled boy and his two friends who band together to defeat the evil plans of a demented scientist who has invented a brain sucking machine to rid the world of goodness.

Writing characters with a disability by Glenn Wood

I have an admission to make. I didn’t set out to include a disabled character in my story. While I have a reasonable knowledge of mental disability – my parents worked with intellectually handicapped people for some years – physical disabilities were new to me. I had never used a wheelchair myself or knew of anyone who was confined to one. This is how it came about.

When I first came up with the concept of The Brain Sucker I was confident the idea of an evil genius who had invented a machine that could suck the goodness out of kids was strong enough to explore further. I also knew that having a great central premise was not enough to carry the story. The book also had to be populated with strong and interesting characters.

Lester, my antagonist, came to me fairly quickly. His purpose and personality sprang directly from the book’s premise. But once his character was formed I needed an equally compelling hero. I wanted a character that had the guts to handle whatever was thrown at him, a boy who had already faced adversity and risen above it with strength and humour. The resulting protagonist was Callum, a thirteen-year-old boy who had been born with a spinal injury and was confined to a wheelchair.

This presented me with several challenges. As previously stated, I knew very little about children with disabilities or the restrictions faced by people in wheelchairs. It was vital I handled writing a disabled character with sensitivity and I was acutely aware that my character could never feel like a victim. I also wasn’t interested in writing a story where disability was the central theme. It became increasingly important that my readers saw Callum as a teenage boy first and foremost and the fact he was in a wheelchair became almost irrelevant.

Experts I spoke to confirmed this was the right approach and I quickly discovered that having a hero that was confined to a wheelchair was liberating rather than limiting. The way Callum copes with his disability opened up two very strong character traits. He became fiercely independent but also incredibly stubborn and this developed into one of the main themes of my story – the importance of being able to ask for help when you need it.

Writing a character like Callum has been a rewarding experience for me. The response to the book has been extremely positive with many reviewers commenting on how refreshing it is to see a disabled character in the main role in an action adventure.Glenn-Wood-Author-Brain-Sucker

Glenn Wood
Author of The Brain Sucker and The Bully Chip


Glenn Wood is an award winning copywriter and author who has four published books to his credit. These include his popular autobiographical novels – The Laughing Policeman and Cop Out – and two middle school books The Brain Sucker and The Bully Chip.

For more information about The Brain Sucker by Glenn Wood, visit his website http://www.glennwoodauthor.com You can get a copy of the book at http://www.amazon.com/Brain-Sucker-Thunderkit-Chronicles/dp/1512161624/


Blogging at Christian Children’s Authors: Themes in Children’s Literature



Check out my post at Christian Children’s Authors where I compare discuss how some of the themes from books of my youth still appear in popular books today. You can find it at http://christianchildrensauthors.com/2015/07/17/themes-in-childrens-literature-then-and-now/

Coming Soon!: The Book of Dares for Lost Friends by Jane Kelley


Val and Lanora have been friends forever. Val expects their relationship to stay the same. But after they start middle school, Lanora decides to reinvent herself. Her parents have split up, and she wants to rise above that. Unfortunately Lanora’s choices lead her into trouble. Val hates watching her friend lose her way. She wants to rescue Lanora, but how? Val doesn’t know what to do until a stray cat leads her to a strange boy who lives in an even stranger bookshop. Together they embark on a quest. Will they be able to save a lost friend? Will they get lost themselves? Or will they find a way to help each other become who they want to be . . . .

Jane Kelley has created a nuanced, universal story about friendship and that delicate time of adolescence when there is much to lose and much more to find.

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (July 14, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1250050871
ISBN-13: 978-1250050878

Pre-order here!