Doom & Gloom by Monica Shaughnessy

Doom & Gloom

by Monica Shaughnessy

Genre: Children, Science Fiction, Action

Four Stars

Dane Winters suffers from a rare disease that makes him “allergic” to sunlight. If UV rays or even strong lamps hit his skin, they cause lesions that could kill him. Lucky for Dane, his family is wildly wealthy. The Winters’ own a technology company that pretty much owns the town where Dane lives. But that doesn’t mean he’s the town celebrity. His need to hide from the sun makes him a recluse and a stranger to most people. His caregiver Maeve and his fencing instructor Alexandrov live with him and comprise his makeshift family, while his best friends Jinx and Charles comprise his social group.

Despite his lonely existence, Dane loves his hometown of Winterville. When thugs take over and terrorize the town, he and Jinx devise a plan to save the town by reviving their old imaginary heroic duo, Doom and Gloom. This time, though, they will use Dane’s family’s amazing inventions to turn their make-believe real and beat the bad guys.

Dane is a great character for a kid to follow. He feels all the self-conscious and frustrated feelings of a kid of 12 along with the challenges of his disability. His bravery not only overcomes the natural obstacles of his life, but the unusual ones as well.

The story felt a little hard to follow at first due to the author’s interesting technique of interrupting her own paragraphs with new information. Perhaps I got used to it later on, because it seemed to either go away or become a part of the young boy character.

I loved all the setbacks that Dane had to address and the creative way he followed them. Though as a parent, my hair stood on end at the rebellious streak or the attraction to danger, I appreciated the kid point of view and the dawning awareness that his parents were humans with faults.

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Ping Ping Panda and the Power of Personal Responsibility


Ping Ping Panda and the Power of Personal Responsibility

by Bernadette Shih & Stephen Smoke

Genre: Children, Folk Tale

Four Stars

I read Ping Ping Panda: The Power of Personal Responsibility with my 5-year-old son. I really like the purpose behind the story and the message to kids about taking responsibility.

Ping Ping the Panda receives a bag of money from his father for summer activities, telling him that it must last the whole summer. At a festival, Ping Ping and his friends enjoy all the cash and use it all on games, treats, and rides. When he returns home, he argues with his father about the money. Ping Ping is angry that his father sticks to his decision not to give Ping Ping more money. Father has a plan, though, and gives Ping Ping extra work. When the work is done, Ping Ping’s father gives him pay for his work. Over the summer Ping Ping earns enough money to go to the Big Concert and bring his friends along.

My son said he liked the story and the pictures, and his favorite part was where Ping Ping took his friends to the concert.

I enjoyed the bright, colorful pictures and the story’s admirable theme. The character pictures show cute and varying emotions in an interesting historical environment.

As a parent, I appreciate any reinforcement of my own lessons about responsibility. It is so easy in this fast and bountiful culture to miss the appreciation of what we have and of others’ generosity.

This book is written in the present tense, and I’m not a fan of that style. I feel the switch in the dialogue between past, present, and future tense, while correct, still makes for awkwardness in the flow of the story. This may not bother other readers. The story also uses a few big words which may be difficult for younger children. I don’t mind the bigger words because a few included in the story becomes an opportunity to teach a child vocabulary.

Ping Ping Panda: The Power of Personal Responsibility is a charming story that children will enjoy and learn a positive message. I approve this title for Awesome Indies.

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Poppy the Proud by Emlyn Chand

Poppy the Proud

By Emlyn Chand

Illustrated by Sarah Shaw

Genre: Children

Poppy is a peacock with an ego problem. He is the most beautiful in the park and it’s gotten to his head. When a beautiful white peacock chick named Snow arrives in the park one day, Poppy is eclipsed. Why does everyone love this new kid? How can Poppy get back the admiration he deserves?

This was a darling tale about getting over yourself. Poppy learned image isn’t everything through failed attempts to beautify himself and the humiliation that followed.

I wondered if the format that appeared on my Samsung Galaxy seven inch tablet would not provide enough picture stimulation for Corbin, but the pretty peacock-feather details helped keep his eyes entertained. I would have liked to have heard more about the festival where Poppy was covered in colored powder. Though a bird might not know the name of the festival, we humans were interested.

I really love tales of redemption! I read it to my four-year-old son, Corbin, who enjoyed the story and loved the bright pictures. He said “My best part was when the peacocks put their heads in the shirt.” The language and message were perfectly understandable to a child of only four, and were relevant to a wide range of ages. Image and appearance are such an important topic in life today with cameras in every hand, and I really appreciated reading my son the message that it’s about making others happy and caring for them, and not about being praised.

Thank you for the lovely story, Emlyn!

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Into The Mist: Silver Hand by Steve Finegan

Into The Mist: Silver Hand

by Steve Finegan

Genre: Children, Young Adult, Fantasy, Mythology

Gabe is a young teen under pressure. He has just moved to a new town, facing a new house, a new school, and all the trouble that comes with it. In addition to his regular stresses, he lives with an epilepsy disorder resulting from a head injury when he was little. Strangely, his affliction initiates a connection to something fantastic. After meeting the perky neighbor girl, Ellie, supernatural things begin to happen to Gabe. A strange wood full of old trees, a ruin, a witch’s ghost, and a creepy legend all lead into the Mist.

Steve’s story is packed with action, fantastic scenes, and heroics. Gabe’s calling and unique challenges flavor this story with realism alongside the supernatural. All the awkwardness of life as an early teen, coupled with that knowledge that somehow he is different from everyone, inferior, makes Gabe a compelling character. The amazing things he has to do to overcome his fear and doubt to set things right make me want him to succeed.

I did feel that sometimes the flow of the story was interrupted by excessive description. I sympathize with the author’s love of his scenery and ceremony, but I think he would have achieved better flow if he had left it to the reader to imagine some of the setting.

The ending left me wanting more, which was intentional. Themes of honor, trustworthiness, consideration, and responsibility made it an excellent read for kids. I particularly liked his themes of redemption and how it wasn’t an easy fix. Gabe had to suffer to make things right when he screwed up. I can’t wait to see what happens in the continuation!

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