Sophie Washington: Secret Santa by Tonya Duncan Ellis

If your child enjoys books with strong female protagonists, a hint of mystery, and the joy of Christmas, then Sophie Washington: Secret Santa by Tonya Duncan Ellis will be a perfect gift.

It’s a few weeks before Christmas and Sophie and her friends are busy as school is coming to a close before the break. When Sophie begins receiving presents from a secret Santa, she can only guess who it might be. Is it one of her friends or one of the boys she knows? The answer might surprise her.

Though this is the seventh book in the Sophie Washington series, it’s the first one I’ve read. It’s a quick, fun chapter book with cute illustrations. As the reader gets to know Sophie and her friends, they eagerly turn the pages to see if they can figure out who Sophie’s secret Santa really is. Sophie is spunky and she has a love him/not so in love with him relationship with her younger brother that makes her even more relatable. In addition to the mysterious Santa, the book also addresses the topic of bullying. I don’t think we can have enough books that tackle this issue, and I like the author’s handling of it within this story.

If you set a story at Christmas, you’ve already partially won my heart. Sophie Washington: Secret Santa also inspires me to check out the previous books in the series to follow more of Sophie’s adventures.

EXCERPT:

“Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg!”

“Be quiet, Cole!” I put my hands over my ears to muffle my brother’s out-of-tune singing and focus back on my laptop to finish my English essay. It’s less than three weeks until winter break and my teachers have been piling on the assignments to make sure we get our end of semester grades in.

There sure is a big change between fifth and sixth grade, workwise, at Xavier Academy, the private school my brother and I go to. Between all the essays and projects and studying for final exams, I feel I can barely take time to pat my dog, Bertram, when I get home; whereas, my eight-year-old brother Cole acts like he’s already on vacation.

Since we got home from school an hour ago, he’s been living it up, shooting hoops in the driveway, eating a snack and now playing on the handheld video game player that my mother would make him put up if she were downstairs with us. I ought to tell on him now…

Ding Dong!

The doorbell interrupts my thoughts.

“Can you get it, Sophie?” Mom yells from upstairs. “I’m putting some clothes in the closet.”

I would ask her why she wants me to answer the door, and not Cole, but I already know the answer: “Because you’re the oldest.”

Of course, that logic doesn’t hold when it comes to who gets the first dessert or who doesn’t have to do the dishes at night. As the baby of the family and favored child, my little brother has got it made.

I trudge to the front door in time to see the mail carrier heading back to his truck. He’s left a medium-sized box on the porch. Wonder what it is?

My mother sometimes has holiday packages delivered to the house, but Cole and I haven’t made our Christmas lists yet, so I doubt it’s anything for us. I open the door, pick the package up, and check out the label. It’s got my name on it in bright, red ink, “Sophie Washington.”

Who could this be from?

I never get any mail, except for birthday gifts my Granny Washington sends to our house in Houston from Corpus Christi when she can’t be here, and I don’t remember my parents ordering anything for us online. Granny is driving up to see us tomorrow, so I doubt she would mail presents here when she could just bring them with her.

“Mom, I got a package!” I call out.

“What is it?” Cole bounds from the family room to stare at the box as I set it on the kitchen counter.

“Back off, Cole, it’s mine,” I move him to the side with my hip and take a closer look at the delivery. The box is wrapped in brown paper, and there is no return address. It looks difficult to open with my fingers, so I pull a butter knife out of a drawer in the kitchen and slit through the tape on the side. A sweet, sugary scent fills the air.

“Cool!” exclaims Cole in appreciation as the brown wrapping slides off to reveal a box filled with packages of licorice, gummy bears, gum, and red and green M&Ms. I notice a typed note underneath.

Dear Sophie,
Hope your day is super sweet!
Your Secret Santa

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 2 – 6
Series: Sophie Washington (Book 7)
Paperback: 122 pages
Publisher: Page Turner Publishing (September 10, 2018)
Language: English

Digital version available for only 99 cents!

Also available in softcover!

Website: tonyaduncanellis.com

Facebook: @tonyaellisbooks

Twitter: @TonyaDEllis

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.

GIVEAWAY

Tonya Duncan Ellis will be awarding $20 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

Enter to win a $20 Amazon/BN GC – a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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Mrs. Wordsmith The Social Journey

Mrs. Wordsmith–a UK-based education company–has launched The Social Journey in the United States. This monthly subscription program for children ages 3 thru 6 is said to focus on “developing social and emotional intelligence…Young children develop deeper social, emotional and academic skills with the right vocabulary.”

So many kids I know love getting packages in the mail. Isn’t it great to know that this package will help them learn important skills to better prepare them for school, foster creativity and a love of reading, and teach them how to manage their feelings.

My package arrived in a colorful blue box with an animated character on the front that would encourage a youngster to tear it right open and get started. Inside, I discovered a storybook, an activity book, word cards, a sturdy stand and instructions.

As you can see, the storybook, activity book and word card include matching artwork that allows your child to recognize all the month’s words and concepts through repetition. The artwork and storylines are so funny, parents and kids can enjoy a chuckle or two to make learning easier for everyone. These pictures can’t do the artwork justice. Vibrant colors and zany character antics and facial expressions ensure your child will be picking up the books numerous days out of the month.

The storybook gets you started, but then you have days and days worth of activities to increase word use and comprehension. Coloring, drawing, writing practice and more can be found within these sheets that are easy to tear out. It is suggested you place the activity book on the included stand so your child can try out the activities whenever they feel like it.

The word cards help when you are on the go or if you’re looking to spend some extra time playing word games. The first card gives you some ideas, but you can probably think up some of your own too.

The Social Journey is available online for $22.49 a month (cancel anytime) or you can save $30 by making one payment of $239.40. Shipping within the United States is free.

I wish The Social Journey was available when my girls were this age. A program that makes learning fun, fosters creativity and a love of reading, and helps children manage their feelings is destined to have a great impact on generations of children.

I received a free Mrs. Wordsmith The Social Journey package thanks to Allison+Partners. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

When the Butterflies Came by Kimberley Griffiths Little

From the author of Circle of Secrets comes a moving, magical adventure filled with family, faith, loss and love.

Tara Doucet’s life is a sham. She lives in one of the most prestigious homes along the bayou of Louisiana, but her father left them, her mother hides in the south wing of the house crippled by melancholy, she has nothing in common with her older sister Riley, and her beloved Grammy Claire has just passed away.

Then the butterflies come and begin to follow Tara around. A strange butler appears at their door to take them back to Grammy Claire’s house on the island of Chuuk, and she finds a stack of keys and detailed letters from her grandmother with a mystery to solve. As she learns more about her grandmother’s life, she knows the truth will change her life forever.

Circle of Secrets is one of my favorite books. When I learned Little had a new book coming out in 2013, I asked her for a copy. She graciously sent it my way, and then my life got crazy. Determined to catch up on overdue reviews this year, I brought When the Butterflies Came with me on vacation. Now, I am kicking myself for not reading it sooner.

What a fabulous book! Filled with mystery and magic, and set against the beauty of the bayou and an isolated island filled with secrets, Little has created an engaging adventure-filled story. Tara is the perfect protagonist–one readers will sympathize with and cheer for from the very beginning. Her troubled life unfolds as she discovers more and more about the grandmother she thought she knew. As she gets closer and closer to discovering Grammy Claire’s secrets, the danger increases until she’s not certain who is friend or foe. The ending will both thrill and shock. With When the Butterflies Came, Little solidifies her place in children’s literature. Her masterful storytelling will draw you right in and hold you tight until the last page is turned.

Highly recommended!

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Paperback: 330 pages
Publisher: Scholastic (2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0545541506
ISBN-13: 978-0545541503

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

Lions, Leopards, and Storms, Oh My! by Heather L. Beal

Learning about storms has never been so much fun. In Lions, Leopards, and Storms, Oh My! by Heather L. Beal, we return to Ms. Mandy’s childcare for another entertaining and educational story.

When Lily and Niko are playing outside, a loud boom makes them wonder what is going on. Ms. Mandy brings them back to the classroom, and with the help of Mr. Raccoon, talks to them about storms and what to expect. Most importantly, the students learn how to stay safe.

Just like in Tummy Rumble Quake, Beal shares important information with young children in a lighthearted way. The cute animal characters, illustrated so sweetly by Jubayda Sagor, ask the questions youngsters will want to know when faced with experiencing a storm for the first time. The colorful artwork also serves to make the story more playful to lessen anxiety. The final page of the book has questions and activities, and the children will enjoy going out to the Train 4 Safety website with the help of their parents to print out a certificate of training completion.

I look forward to more safety books from Beal and Sagor soon.

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Paperback: 24 pages
Publisher: Train 4 Safety Press (May 22, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0998791261
ISBN-13: 978-0998791265

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

Midnight Teacher by Janet Halfmann

Midnight Teacher by Janet Halfmann is the story of one woman’s courageous journey to improve the lives of others through literacy.

Born into slavery, Lilly Ann Granderson was sold to a slave owner in Kentucky after the death of her mother. The master’s children would often play school and gave Lilly an old speller and taught her to read. She began sharing this gift of reading with others on the plantation. Once the owner died, she was sold to a cotton plantation in Mississippi, where it was illegal for slaves to learn to read. Undeterred, she restarted her school, teaching late at night to avoid being caught. The school grew. When patrollers discovered the slave school Lilly faced a hard punishment, but the authorities eventually ruled there was no law against a slave teaching other slaves.

What I admire about Halfmann’s biographies is that she highlights people who have made a difference in this world long past the pivotal times in which they lived. Granderson’s story displays her tremendous strength and determination to offer a gift that others took for granted because it was never a right denied to them. She knew the risks and faced them without fear of the consequences because she believed education was the path to freedom for her people. Between Halfmann’s moving text and London Ladd’s stunning artwork, the reader is immediately drawn into Granderson’s story.

A perfect book for any school or personal library, Midnight Teacher could inspire many school projects and empower young people to action for the causes for which they are passionate.

Highly recommended!

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Grades 1-6
Reading Level Grades 3-6
Lexile Measure: 950 (What’s this?)
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Lee & Low Books; Illustrated edition (February 13, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1620141639
ISBN-13: 978-1620141632

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

Review Blurbs from the Amos Faces His Bully VBT

 

So excited to share some of the many great things bloggers said about my latest book, Amos Faces His Bully. 

 

I recommend AMOS FACES HIS BULLY for young readers to show that they do not have to tolerate being bullied. It would make a great addition to school libraries, public libraries, and of course your own library. – The Story of a Writer

Amos Faces His Bully was a cute kids book that I would personally recommend for any child…I hope the author decides to write more books like this one as it was really a great read for a young child! – Sefina Hawke’s Books

I personally found this book to be perfect for young school age children because it gives them an idea of how to deal with bullies and it uses a bible story to do so. I loved the way that the words teach children to put their faith in God. Overall, this a must read book for any young children! – Books for Books

I highly recommend this book for all the children in your life. I love the lesson behind the story and truly enjoyed the story and the illustrations. – Reviews by Crystal

I would recommend this book to parents to read with their children if they feel that they may have an issue with bullying because it may help to solve the problem by giving them the confidence to stand up for themselves. – The Next Best Thing to Mummy

I have read many of Cheryl’s books through the years and she has always been right on point. We need more Christian books like this for young children to have in their hands. – The Blended Blog

While teaching about standing up to bullies, the book also opens the door for reading and talking about scripture — a win-win for parents! – By the Book

This is a great children’s story that encourages children to stand up to bullies but, more importantly, it teaches to put their faith in God by using a story from the Bible. – Bound 4 Escape

What a wonderful read! Lessons mixed right with the bible…Just an all around wonderful book! Star rating beyond a five! – Stormy nights Reviewing & Bloggin’

I really enjoyed this poignant story of handling a very real problem for children using a classic Biblical tale, which creates a fantastic way in which to reinforce or introduce scripture to younger audiences. – That’s What She’s Reading

I thought this book was a very well thought out story for youngsters. I think it would help the bully as well as the bullied. – A Room without Books is Empty

 

About the Book: 

Title: AMOS FACES HIS BULLY
Author: Cheryl C. Malandrinos
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing
Pages: 20
Genre: Christian children’s picture book 

BOOK BLURB:

Amos is targeted by the town bully because he is so small. When word reaches Amos of his friend David’s battle with Goliath, he thinks back to what David told him about putting his faith in God’s protection. Perhaps the same God can help Amos face his bully too.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Guardian Angel | Amazon | Barnes & Noble |Indiebound.org

 

Rosie and Friends: One-of-A Kindness by Helen Hipp

Rosie and Friends: One-of-A Kindness by Helen Hipp is a sweet and encouraging story about friendship and kindness.

When Hornsby loses his horn in a fight, he is no longer accepted by his herd. Struggling with a sense of belonging, he wanders off and winds up finding some new friends that teach him a valuable lesson.

Between the cute story and the delightful illustrations, there’s a lot to like about Rosie and Friends: One-of-A Kindness. It has a terrific message and even includes some discussion questions and an activity at the end. Kids will love this one and parents can use this as a way to discuss friendship, kindness and belonging with their young ones. The colorful illustrations by Taryn Cozzy will keep readers turning the pages. Definitely a fun read.

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Grade Level: Kindergarten – 6

Paperback: 40 pages
Publisher: A Different Kind of Safari, LLC (November 13, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0989013456
ISBN-13: 978-0989013451

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.