The Crypto-Capers: The Chest of Mystery by Renee Hand

In the highly-anticipated conclusion of the seach for the Golden Monkey, the Crypto-Capers team is up to their eyeballs in danger and mystery. Book 4 in the series, The Chest of Mystery,  picks up right where Book 3 left off. Having found two of the pieces to open the treasure room in the previous book, they discover they have only solved half the puzzle. With the Panther hot on their trail, time is running out.

The team travels to Pisa, Italy to meet with the one man who holds all the answers. But when he disappears without a trace, they have to depend on each other and believe in what they know. Will that be enough to lead them to the lost treasure of the Mayans and the Golden Monkey?

Wow! I’ll tell you that this book was definitely worth the wait. In Book 3, the danger had been cranked up for the Crypto-Capers. In the conclusion to this mystery, they get more than they bargained for. The Panther is closing in, Morris is in danger, and their new friend Emmanuel might be an important piece of the puzzle.

In addition to Max, Mia and Granny Holmes, the fourth member of the team, Morris, joins them in the field.  This is unusual, and the reader can see this as a bit of growth in this character. Speaking of growth, I’m glad to see the cover artist doesn’t forget that the kids are growing as the series moves along. All the kids seem a bit older on the cover now.

We are also treated to meeting some new characters in The Chest of Mystery. Their relationships add a new element to the story, and keep the series fresh, just like adding pieces to the unfolding mystery does. The reader will also discover why she needs to hold onto the first three books in this series, as she will refer to them for help in solving the puzzles in Book 4.

Author Renee Hand has won awards for her writing. It’s truly no surprise to me. She delivers consistently well-written, engaging stories. I am always eagerly awaiting her next book.  The interactive element of The Crypto-Capers series will have even the most reluctant readers solving crimes with the team.  These are books you don’t want to miss!

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Publisher:North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc.
  • ISBN-10:0878393943
  • ISBN-13: 978-0878393947
  • SRP:  $12.95

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This Little Piggy: And Other Favorite Action Rhymes Illustrated by Hannah Wood

 If you and your preschooler are ready for some playtime, pick up a copy of This Little Piggy: And Other Favorite Action Rhymes from tiger tales.

In this lively collection of traditional fingerplays and action verses, youngsters can join in the singing, tickling, wiggling, and clapping with more than fifteen favorite laptime rhymes.  From “Pat-a-Cake” to “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”, and from “Here is the Church” to “Five Little Monkeys”, your child will enjoy playing along and singing along right with you.

I am a huge fan of interactive reading materials. That’s why I have always enjoyed The Crypto-Capers series by Renee Hand. One of the best ways I know how to get kids interested in reading at a young age is by making reading fun. That’s exactly what This Little Piggy does.  

I wasn’t familiar with the artwork of Hannah Wood until this book. Now I’m going to search for more books that she’s illustrated. Her characters are cute, charming, and sometimes funny. The spiders are playful and fuzzy looking, the fingers on the hand for “Where is Thumbkin?” have faces, and there are five adorable little monkeys dressed in pajamas jumping on the bed. I swear the doctor told them not to do that. 😉

Preschools and homes everywhere will want to own a copy of This Little Piggy: And Other Favorite Action Rhymes.

  • Publisher: Tiger Tales
  • ISBN-10: 1589258495
  • ISBN-13: 978-1589258495
  • SRP:  $8.95
  • Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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    Tweet for Literacy – Prize Package 6 Announced!


    Our Motto: “The family that reads together has a lot of fun!”

    The Tweet for Literacy Giveaway is a campaign designed to raise awareness of the importance of involving the whole family in a child’s reading activities. Tweet for Literacy will be giving away literacy-related prizes every two days throughout the month of November in honor of National Family Literacy Month. Help a child to read, and let the fun begin!

    How to Enter the Tweet for Literacy Giveaways

    Step 1: Follow our 7 sponsors on Twitter. This step is required. We will all follow you back!

    Step 2: Re-tweet (RT) any post about the giveaway. Use the hashtag #Tweet4Lit on each RT. Be sure to add the URL link for this contest page. It’s .

    Sample Entry Re-tweets

    RT @ccmalandrinos Tweet for Literacy is giving away 12 prize sets and a grand prize thru Nov. Enter here.  #Tweet4Lit

    RT @ccmalandrinos Enter Tweet for Literacy giveaways here! New prize sets every 2 days. #Tweet4Lit

    Step 3: That’s it! See the Official Rules below.

    Official Rules

    You can re-enter as many times as you like. Prizes are awarded every 2 days starting on November 8. First day to enter is November 6, 2009. Last day to enter is November 30. A prize package will be awarded on each even day of the month. Each prize package will be a set of items that are literacy related. See below for specific information on prizes.

    The name of the winner will be selected at random and will be drawn at approximately 6pm CT. The winner will have 3 days to respond. If we don’t hear from the winner, we will select another winner for that prize package. We will notify our 13 winners by Direct Message (DM) on Twitter.

    Whereas you can enter as often as you like, if you are not following all 7 sponsors on Twitter, which will be verified, your entries will be disqualified. All entries that comply with the above rules will be valid for each drawing, including the Grand Prize. The Grand Prize will be awarded on December 1, 2009.

    Open to residents of the U.S. only. Must be at least 18 years old to enter.

    If you have any questions or comments about the giveaway, please contact Linda Thieman at blog (at) katieandkimble (dot) com.

    Our Sponsors


    Holly Hardin, author of the children’s picture book Aurora of the Northern Lights

    Twitter name: @hollyhardin

    Blog: Holly’s Helpful Hints

    Sheri Kaye Hoff, Life Coach and author of Keys to Living Joyfully

    Twitter name: @sherikayehoff

    Blog: Coach Sheri’s Living Joyfully Everyday blog

    Nicole O’Dell, author of the Scenarios books for girls ages 10-15

    Twitter name: @nicole_odell

    Blog: Nicole O’Dell blog

    Linda Thieman, author of the Katie & Kimble: A Ghost Story chapter book series for ages 7-10

    Twitter name: @lindathieman

    Blog: The Katie & Kimble Blog


    Susan Buetow, homeschooling mom/blogger

    Twitter name: @susieqtpies

    Blogs: The Homeschool Messenger; Scraps of Life

    Cheryl Malandrinos, writer/mom/book blogger

    Twitter name: @ccmalandrinos

    Blog: The Children’s and Teens’ Book Connection

    April Pohren, mom/book blogger

    Twitter name: @cafeofdreams

    Blog: Café of Dreams

    Prizes and Winners

    The Tweet for Literacy campaign was designed to encourage family literacy. Our motto is “The family that reads together has a lot of fun!”

    Our goal is to empower children and teens, especially girls, who are so often overlooked. We also seek to teach tolerance and self-acceptance through reading and through family interaction.

    Our sixth prize package winner will be selected on November 18, 2009, at 6pm CT. Total value of Prize Package Six is $116.

    Prize Package Six

    1) Henry & the Crazed Chicken Pirates by Carolyn Crimi and John Manders for ages 4 to 8. ($15.99 value) This is the sequel to Henry & the Buccaneer Bunnies. Donated by Blue Slip Media.

    2) Aurora of the Northern Lights by Holly Hardin (autographed — an $18.95 value), the delightful Yuletide-themed picture book by one of our Tweet for Literacy sponsors. Donated by the author.

    3) Kids Across, Parents Down: Crazy Critters: The Puzzles That Kids & Adults Enjoy Together by Jan Buckner Walker; Ages 9-12, $4.95 value. Donated by Tweet for Literacy sponsor April Pohren.

    4) While Shepherds Watched: Stories of Christmas Miracles and Mysteries by Steven Roberts. For all ages. (Value $15.95). Donated by Tweet for Literacy sponsor Cheryl Malandrinos.

    5) Across the Pond by Storyheart (Barry Eva), autographed, for Young Adults. (Value $19.99) Donated by the author.

    6) Close Encounters of the Third-grade Kind: Thoughts on Teacherhood by Phillip Done ($22.99 value). Donated by Hachette Book Group.

    7) Killer Bunny Hill by Denise Robbins (signed/personalized), a $16.95 value, for Mom or Dad. Donated by the author.

    Check back here daily as we will continue to update the list of prizes.

    The Crypto-Capers in The Legend of the Golden Monkey by Renee Hand

    The Legend of the Golden MonkeyThe Crypto-Capers are back with a new adventure, a new mystery to solve, and some new friends in  The Legend of the Golden Monkey.

    Max, Mia, and Nellie “Granny” Holmes travel to the ancient ruins of Chichen Itza, which was once a flourishing Mayan city filled with secrets. Now in the midst of a treasure hunt, the Crypto-Capers must sabotage the Panther’s efforts to find the treasure first. While Morris helps remotely from Max and Mia’s home in England, the Crypto-Capers must depend upon each other and their new friends in order to discover the truth that will locate the items needed to unlock the treasure room and bring closure to an archeologists whose history is tied to the Golden Monkey.

    Author Renee Hand has kicked it up a notch in this latest installment of  The Crypto-Capers Series.  Max, Mia and Granny are again pitted against their nemesis, the Panther, to be the first ones to find the items that will solve the mystery of the Golden Monkey. We met the Panther in the second book of this series, The Case of Red Rock Canyon, and we only get a glimpse into how dangerous this person can be. In Book 3, we learn more about the Panther and exactly what lengths he’ll go to, to get what he wants.

    In addition to the Panther, Maggie Devereaux is a character that is carried over from the second book, though she plays behind the scene roles.

    Hand has done an excellent job of further developing her characters as she continues this series. All the Crypto-Capers are learning more about themselves and each other.  Morris is moving forward with bringing them top-notch technology to help solve the crimes, and the strength and cohesiveness of the team continues to grow. The addition of new characters, while developing those who have been present since the start is flawless. I enjoyed Emmanuel and Spencer–characters created by young fans of The Crypto-Capers Series–and how they become involved in this current mystery. I am glad they will return in the next book.

    The cryptograms from this book are slightly more challenging, but even without a key there are enough clues to figure them out, so that this reading experience, like for the other books in this series, is interactive and fun.

    The Crypto-Capers Series by Renee Hand includes some of the best and most engaging books for children in grades 4 through 7.  I continue to look forward to the next book in this series. If you decide to purchase a copy of this one, make sure you hold onto it because like all the other Crypto-Caper books, they are tied into each other and you will need them later.

  • Publisher: North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc
  • ISBN-10: 0878393307
  • ISBN-13: 978-0878393305
  • SRP:  $12.95

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    Emily the Chickadee Series by Carol Zelaya – Book Reviews

    Emily coverEmily the Chickadee is featured in a three-book series by Carol Zelaya:  Emily Waits for Her Family, Caring for Emily’s Family, and Emily’s New Home.  This beautiful series  illustrated by Kristin Metcalf is a group of rhyming books that teachhow children to observe nature.  While I don’t typically review books as a group, I am going to do it here and see how it works.

    In Emily Waits for Her Family, it is spring and a young girl spots a pregnant chickadee sitting in a tree.  She names the mommy-to-be Emily and watches as she builds a nest in the flower box outside her window and waits while her three eggs hatch into baby birds.  Soon four birds sit in the tree singing happily to their human friend below.

    Emily and her family of three return in the summer to keep the little girl company and she cares for them in Emily Cares for Her Family.  The girl buys the chickadees a feeder and fills it with seed.  Then she buys them a birdhouse so they can stay warm and dry, and finally a birdbath so they can splash and play.  The girl enjoys watching the birds in her yard through her window, where the reader sees the flowerbox that Emily had once built her nest in.Caring for Emily's family

    In the final book of this series, Emily’s New Home, the young girl is sad because she has moved away and she misses her birdie friends.  Autumn has turned to winter and she wishes winter would just go away.  Then one spring day the girl notices some twigs and straw on the floor of the front porch.  Looking closer she finds a nest and her friend Emily waitng for another new family.  The reader is then encouraged to care for her feathered friends with food and water and with lots of love to keep their birdie friends coming back.

    Emily's new homeThis is a sweet and charming series that shows children how to observe their feathered friends and care for them properly.  Each book includes a Chickadee Log at the end where readers can write down their observations and in what season they are viewing the birds.  Metcalf’s cover illustrations for the books change swith the seasons and give readers an indication of the passage of time, which compliments the lyrical prose that mentions each season. 

    My youngest daughter is quite taken with the Emily the Chickadee books, and even my older daughter does not mind listening in because she enjoys poetry.  More than fluffy books about a bird and her family, this series shows young readers how to appreciate, love and observe their feathered companions.  The Emily the Chickadee series will make an excellent gift.

    Rating:   🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Publisher: Richlee Publishing 
  • ISBN-10: 0979626501 (Book 1)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979626500 (Book 1)
  • ISBN-10: 097962651X (Book 2)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979626517 (Book 2)
  • ISBN-10: 0979626528 (Book 3)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979626524 (Book 3)

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    Video Trailer for The Crypto-Capers

    Back when Renee Hand toured with Pump Up Your Book Promotion to discuss her new interactive children’s detective series, The Crypto-Capers, I created a video trailer to help promote these great books.  You’ll find reviews of Book 1 and Book 2 on this blog. 

    You can visit Renee online at her website or check out her new Crypto-Capers blog.  I believe a new Crypto-Capers book is due out sometime in the fall.

    The Crypto-Capers in The Case of Red Rock Canyon by Renee Hand

    The Crypto-Capers Book 2Following up the success of her first Crypto-Capers children’s mystery, The Case of the Missing Sock, Renee Hand and the Crypto-Capers return for another adventure in The Case of Red Rock Canyon.

    In Book 2, Max, Mia, and Granny Holmes are in Las Vegas, Nevada while computer genuis Morris, who continues to develop all types of techno gadgets, stays safely in touch with them from their house on Baker Street in London.

    When a one-of-a-kind necklace goes missing from a theater production, the Crypto-Capers are hired by the producer to find it–never realizing that their very lives could be in danger.

    Hand kicks it up for readers a notch in The Case of Red Rock Canyon. While a key was provided for the cryptograms in Book 1, there is no key included in Book 2. The clues for how to solve the cryptograms come from the story. In addition, while the level of danger in The Case of the Missing Sock is fairly low, one of the Crypto-Capers is kidnapped in this new one, and the remaining two have to solve the crime and find their missing partner.

    Which brings me to my one tiny nitpick about the book. Keeping in mind that Morris, the technology guru, has a way to monitor the location of and vital signs for the missing Crypto-Caper, there doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency on the part of the others to find their missing partner. They go out to eat and partake in small talk about how expensive their lunch was, but until the last few chapters of the book, they don’t seem to be all that concerned about their partner’s fate.

    That aside, the first two books indicate that this is going to an excellent series that will attract all types of children: boys, girls, puzzle solvers, mystery lovers, and even reluctant readers.

    Again Hand makes the wise choice of dropping readers right into the action from the very first page, engaging the reader right out of the gate. It appears that the cases the Crypto-Capers must solve will grow in complexity throughout the series, continuing to challenge your young reader.

    According to the author, it is advisable to also purchase The Case of the Missing Sock and to hold onto it and The Case of Red Rock Canyon.  This isn’t a bad thing, because I believe young readers will want to follow the Crypto-Capers from the very beginning; and  once they start, they’ll never be able to stop.  It also makes me wonder what else Renee Hand has in store for her fans.

    Rating:   🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Publisher: North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc.
  • ISBN-10: 0878393099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0878393091
  • SRP:  $12.95 (U.S.)