Children/Young Adult

Sebastian's Tale by Dylan Weiss

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

In Sebastian's Tale, author Dylan Weiss has written an entertaining story about a young skunk, Sebastian, and his weasel friend during their first year after leaving home. Sebastian was born without his stripes and his friend has an overweight issue. Both are bullied by their peers, but despite these factors, Sebastian learns that an ancient family prophecy claims that he will do great things to save the skunks and weasels. In doing so, he will grow his stripes and become a leader among skunks. When it comes time to leave their family homes, the two have several misadventures, and it's not until they meet a human who has the ability to communicate with all animals that things start to make sense to them. 

This book is an easy read. Sebastian's Tale reinforces the need for humans to take care of the environment and to remember that our encroachment into forest lands impacts the wildlife that is already there.  I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy stories about animals and nature.

MWSA Review by Bob Doerr (June 2018)

Author's Synopsis

Sebastian’s Tale is a fast paced, allegorical coming of age adventure.  As the story develops, readers discover, along with our hero, a lovable stripeless skunk, and his sidekick, a clever but oft misguided weasel,
exactly what is destroying Penn’s Woods.

Together Sebastian and Willie learn how to battle this menacing new enemy threatening life as we know it on earth. Although the telling is a fantasy, in reality the author hopes that lessons learned by Sebastian
and his woodland friends are embraced by children and young adults who choose to protect our environment against the degradation brought on by present day pollution.

Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Fantasy/Sci Fi, Young Adult
Review Genre: Children & Young Adult—Young Adult (fiction or non-fiction)
Number of Pages: 197

my daddy is a sailor by Tahna Desmond Fox

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

my daddy is a sailor is an excellent book to share with the young children of deploying sailors.  It uses clear, rhythmic language to define to young children what sailors do in a way that will make the children proud of their parent.

I especially liked the way Tahna Desmond Fox paid tribute to fallen sailors from the copyright year, using almost an ""Easter-egg"" technique to recognize the sailors lost in the USS MCCAIN and USS FITZGERALD accidents, as well as a C-2 Greyhound mishap.  It's very appropriate, and serves as a reminder to all the sense of sacrifice that goes with service, without being at all morbid or ""dark.""

The illustrations are clean and support the story, and it will resound with any child who has a Daddy getting ready to ship out.  Similar to MY SAILOR DAD by Ross Mackenzie, this is a necessary work to help children understand why Daddy has to be gone.  Well done to the author.

Review by Rob Ballister (March 20118)

Author's Synopsis

Learn the words Daddy knows about his ship and where he goes, in the Navy. Daddy is a sailor in the United States Navy. Learn the words Daddy knows about his ship and his mates. Join Ollie the Octopus and travel with Daddy as he sails on every sea in a great, big ship, watch what he does on board, and see the sights he sees. Due to the naval tragedies that occurred while creating this book in 2017, I paid tribute to our fallen sailors aboard the USS John S. McCain (DDG-56), the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62), and the C-2A Greyhound (VRC 30). Each lost sailor is represented by a golden bird in flight or a star in the heavens, signifying they have passed from this world but their memories remain. My heart and love go out to the families, friends, and loved ones of these twenty sailors, and every sailor who never made it home.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-938505-34-8
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover
Genre(s): Picture Book
Review Genre: Children & Young Adult—Picture Book
Number of Pages: 38

Through My Daughter's Eyes by Julia Dye

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Through My Daughter’s Eyes by Julia Dye presents a military family from the first-person perspective of their seventh grade daughter, Abbie. With unerring accuracy, Dye depicts the preteen mind, with all its angst, emotion, and hard-earned wisdom. What’s unusual in this coming of age story, though, is that Abbie must deal not only with the turbulence of the middle school years, but do it in the context of the particular stresses pressed upon military families whose loved one is deployed to a combat theater. 

During her father’s 14-month deployment to the Middle East, Abbie struggles with classmates who dismissively taunt her about her father’s absence, her own sadness, her mother’s increasing inability to cope, and the growing estrangement between her parents and herself. 

While aimed at the young adult audience, this book can also hold the attention of adults, whether they are from a military background or not. Military families will find much (maybe all) they have in common with the Mathews family, sharing their journey from pre-deployment jitters through post-deployment post traumatic stress. Nonmilitary families will gain a better understanding of the small percentage of the population that is still willing to lay their lives on the line for their country and for freedom for all.

MWSA Reviewer: Betsy Beard (Feb 2018)

Author's Synopsis

Through My Daughter’s Eyes is a one-of-a-kind, much-needed look at what it means to come of age in a military family today.

Our middle school heroine Abbie is wiser than her years—and most of the adults in her life, for that matter. Equal parts Flavia de Luce and Harriet the Spy, Abbie describes her life this way: “My best friend and fellow Army-brat Megan and I had a plan to get through Dessau Middle School (Go Diamondbacks!) by being just good enough to not get noticed and not so good we’d be picked out for any attention. And it worked—for a while.

"Then my dad got deployed—again—and mom fell apart, leaving me in charge of my own life and, it seemed, everyone else’s. When Dad came home after about a hundred-million years, he wasn’t much help, either. I know war is terrible, but it’s not like he talks to me about it, so how was I supposed to know what to do? He’s not even the same dad that left.

"I turned to my grandpa for help, but in the end, I had to let go of being the glue that kept everything together. I had to learn to give my parents room to save themselves—and our family.”

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1944353148
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Fiction, Young Adult
Review Genre: Children & Young Adult—Young Adult (fiction or non-fiction)
Number of Pages: 190

Jacqueline by Jackie Minniti

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Author Jackie Minniti weaves a poignant tale of fear, friendship, hope, and faith in Jacqueline. This novel is based on the true story of ten-year-old Catholic Jacqueline and twelve-year-old Jewish David, during the final years of the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. It is set in the town of Rennes and is a tale for both young and old.

Through bombings, air raids, ever-present hunger, constant fear, and death, Jacqueline, her widowed mother, and David live through the war. One day, when Jacqueline and David are away from their apartment building, the Nazis round up David’s family and ship them off to a transfer camp before their likely shipment to a concentration camp, and Jacqueline’s mother takes him under her wing and into her home.

War stories are not totally about armies and battles. They are about ideas, implementation of those ideas, and how that implementation affects ordinary people. Jacqueline lets the reader see the war through a child’s eye, which is perhaps the purest version of war…and the most touching. Among other heart-wrenching events, the great tragedy for Jacqueline and David may have been losing their childhoods.

The text is written in a way that flows smoothly, and the dialogue seems quite realistic. I think children of middle grades and beyond would find the book both enlightening and interesting. It is also a touching read for adults.

Minniti’s story resonates for all children, regardless of nationality, and is especially relevant for youngsters who find themselves in the midst of strife around the world today. It is a gem to read, and the author unequivocally allows the reader to feel the impact of war on young people. I would read it again and recommend it to friends, young and older.

MWSA Reviewer: Patricia Walkow (Feb 2018)

Author's Synopsis
When ten-year-old Jacqueline Falna hears her mother’s scream, she is unaware that
the axis of her world is about to tilt. Her father’s plane has been shot down by German fighters. In the midst of poverty, food shortages, air raids, and the grinding hardship of  daily life under Nazi rule, she forms an unlikely alliance with David Bergier, a twelve-year-old Jewish neighbor who poses as her cousin after his family is “relocated” by the Nazis. When Rennes is liberated, Jacqueline meets an American soldier and becomes convinced that he has been sent to reunite her with her father. 

Based on a true story, “Jacqueline” is a tale of family, faith, unusual friendships, and
the resiliency of the human spirit set against the backdrop of occupied Rennes in
1944. With the drama of fiction and the authenticity of personal history, “Jacqueline” 
is both a story about family and a family’s story.

ISBN/ASIN: ISBN-10: 0996329080, ISBN-13: 978-0996329088, ASIN: B011SCVPJS
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle, ePub/iBook
Genre(s): Fiction, Historical Fiction
Review Genre: Children & Young Adult—Chapter Book
Number of Pages: 219

My Dad Got Hurt. What Can I Do? Helping Military Children Cope with a Brain-Injured Parent by Brunella Costagliola

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Inspector Harry Callahan once said, "A man's gotta know his limitations."  And when it came to reviewing My Dad Got Hurt. What Can I Do? Helping Military Children Cope with a Brain-Injured Parent by Brunella Costagliola, I figured I better ask the experts.  Since this book is intended for elementary-school-aged children, and your reviewer's elementary school days are 50 years in the past, it was clear that some outside help would be appropriate.  So I brought the book to my local Great Falls Elementary School (where I do volunteer work), read it aloud to the members of the fourth grade class, and then asked for their opinions.

Although none of these kids had parents in the military—much less one who had suffered traumatic brain injury—they were quite interested and willing to read/listen, discuss the details, and share their opinions about this book.

Just as MWSA does with all its reviews, I asked these fourth-graders to evaluate the book's cover, its artwork, and its content.  Was it appropriate, attention-grabbing, directed toward the targeted audience; and did its message come through?  The answers to these questions were almost uniformly "yes."

The book points out "Seven Cs" (seven words beginning with the letter C, such as cause, control, cure) that can help kids understand what's happening to his or her parent, and suggest various coping skills to help them deal with the difficult challenges they will face.  The "Seven Cs" were integrated into short and easy-to-understand phrases, which can serve as a discussion guide for the entire family.  The fact that the words all start with the same letter also makes them easier to remember.

Having heard from the experts, I can now highly recommend this book to families trying to cope with this incredibly challenging type of injury.  The cover artwork and illustrations are indeed top-notch; and the writing definitely geared toward the targeted age group.  With a little bit of discussion to better understand some of the details, this book would be extremely helpful as a "training aid," or simply a way to guide and focus a family's discussion.

MWSA Reviewer: John Cathcart (Feb. 2018)

Author's Synopsis:
"My Dad Got Hurt. What Can I Do?" is a juvenile fiction book aimed at helping military children learn how to cope when Mom or Dad come home from deployment suffering from traumatic brain injury. Sponsored by the National Academy of Neuropsychology Foundation and illustrated by Disney cartoonist Valerio Mazzoli, this book was written by Brunella Costagliola, best-selling editor, writer, and proud Air Force wife. Dr. Johnson, a neuropsychologist, along with her mischievous side-kick Mr. Brain, introduce the Smith Family, made of Mom, Dad, Jackson, who is 9 years old, Isabella, who is 7, and Sally, their adorable dachshund. Dad is in the military and he wears his uniform proudly. They love to spend time together and we see them playing outside while Mom cooks. One day, however, the children see Dad pack up. He has to deploy. Even though they are sad to see him go, they know they will be able to see him via computer and they will count down the days till his return by eating a cookie from the "Daddy's Goodnight Kiss" jar. While deployed, Dad is in an accident that leaves him injured. Once his wounds are healed, he is able to go back home to his family. While everybody is happy to have him back, something is off. Dad's behavior has changed. Once a happy, patient, and caring father, he is now moody, short-tempered, and aggressive. The children notice a big difference and wonder, who is this person who came back home? He may look like Daddy, but he is not the same person. Even Sally can tell something is different. The children, not sure of why Dad is so angry all the time, begin to blame themselves for this sudden change: should I have cleaned my room better? Should I have eaten more vegetables? Just when the children are about to give up hope after Dad yells at them for losing a baseball game, Dr. Johnson and Mr. Brain come to their rescue! They explain to Jackson and Isabella that Dad's brain, specifically the front lobe, was injured in the accident. She also gives them a poster to bring home with them that explains the "7Cs", which are "rules" for children to remember. These rules remind them that, "I didn't Cause it"; "I can't Cure it"; but, "I can help by taking Care of myself" and "Celebrating myself". Soon after, the children run back home feeling happy and empowered by their newly-acquired knowledge of what is wrong with Dad and how they can help not only him, but especially themselves. And Dr. Johnson? Well, she and Mr. Brain are ready for another adventure, helping children understand how the brain works! The reason why this book was written is to help military children understand traumatic brain injury. While there is plenty of literature catered to adults and the affected service member, there is very little for military children. Hence, the team behind "My Dad Got Hurt" set out on an a mission to fill this literary gap. When dealing with a stressful situation as the one described in the book, children have a tendency to internalize feelings, since they are not capable to properly express them and verbalize them. One of the most common reactions is for children to blame themselves and feeling guilty over something they have no control over, such as Dad suffering from TBI. This book aims at providing children with the proper vocabulary so they can understand what happened and their role in helping the whole family adjust to their new normal.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1483472577
Book Format(s): Kindle, Soft cover
Genre(s): Fiction, Picture Book
Review Genre: Children & Young Adult—Picture Book
Number of Pages: 38

Americana A Civics Handbook Second Edition; by Mary B. Mackley

MWSA Review
Americana A Civics Handbook is a great reference book that all high school students should have available to them. I applaud Mary B. Mackley for the hard work she must have put into compiling the book. Filled with copies of relevant documents, such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, official portraits of our nation's founders and historic buildings, Mackley put this book together as an educational resource devoid of any personal beliefs or political positions. The book covers the presidents, lists the states and when they came into the union, identifies the national parks, and so on.

I am going to ensure that my grandkids know I have this book, and when they are in high school, I will do my best to get them to read it! And don't let me mislead you - this book is appropriate for older folks like me, too! I recommend this book for everyone.
Reviewed by Bob Doerr, MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
Embrace the foundations of our Nation. All ages will enjoy this book from the 5th grade up through adult years. It is a handy resource for first time learning, review or reference. The book focuses on the early years of America but there is so much more historical information, facts and trivia included. There is an easy to follow chronology focusing on Colonial times and the Revolutionary War era, leading up to the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. You will have your own copy of these historical documents. Also included is information about the Presidents, First Ladies, the Original Thirteen Colonies, Three Branches of Government, the Fifty States, National Symbols, Electoral College, Pledge of Allegiance and more. The U.S. Citizenship Test of 100 questions is included and  is excellent for civics or citizenship studies, as well as letting you test your own civics proficiency.
     There is a special note on the National Parks...their history and how they preserve our American heritage. There are many sites of historic importance and natural beauty preserved for our benefit. There are lists of the National Parks related to Colonial and Revolutionary War times, Sites of Remembrance (for our Veterans), and of our most cherished National Parks. The author hopes that readers might be inspired to visit some of these historic sites and places.  And lastly, the author hopes to make a contribution to civics education.
     There are over 50 pages of historical sketches and images. Book size is 8.5" x 11"  and was revised January 2017.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1514221563
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History, Reference, Young Adult
Review Genre: Children & Young Adult—Young Adult (fiction or non-fiction)
Number of Pages: 298