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A Superhero for God
By Rosemary Broadway
Archway Publishing, 2014
Hardcover $25.99, Paperback $15.95
Genre: Children's Book
Reviewed by Jan White

Rosemary Broadway has written a children’s book based on a true story about one of her grandsons. The story teaches an inspirational lesson for all ages, reminding readers of God’s love, forgiveness, and mission for each of us. Read more...

Ernestine’s Milky Way
By Kerry Madden-Lunsford and Emily Sutton
Penguin Random House, 2016
Hardcover $17.99
Genre: Children’s Literature
Reviewed by: Samantha Bonner

Kerry Madden-Lunsford and Emily Sutton have written a story that I greatly enjoyed reading to my soon-to-be five year old daughter. The story is set in the Great Smoky Mountains during the 1940s. Written from a third person point of view, the tale is about a five year old girl and her pregnant mother working hard to maintain their family farm while the father is away at war.  The young girl, Ernestine, is a hard-working, very determined little girl, who enjoys working alongside her very pregnant mother.  Each time she faces a challenge, she says, “I can do it, Mama. I’m five years old and a big girl.” As a parent, those words symbolize a child’s transition from baby to big kid. In this delightful tale, Ernestine is shown milking the family cow and basking in the glory of a successful milking. Her mother, who understands the struggles of maintaining a family farm alone, volunteers to contribute milk to one of their neighbors. The young girl is charged with the task of carrying two jars of milk to her neighbor. Slightly intimidated by the distance, this brave girl is up for the challenge. As she embarks on the lengthy journey, she reminds her mother that she is five years old and a big girl. Thus begins the major narrative of the story.

Using the planets as her guide, this tenacious young lady embarks on her journey.  Along the way, young Ernestine hears an seemingly ill-fated noise in the bushes and naturally assumes the worst. However, she meets this obstacle with bravery, reminding herself that she is strong and capable.  As she descends deeper into the woods, she continues to hear very unsettling sounds, causing her to scurry. Fortunately, each unsettling sound proves to be nothing more than calm, docile animals. Confident of her abilities, she continues on the journey but, eventually, she accidentally drops one of the milk-filled mason jars. Feelings of disappointment overtake young Ernestine as she arrives at her destination. Ever so understanding, Mrs. Ramsay, welcomes young Ernestine and basks in the gift of a neighbor's milk.  As the family celebrates this luxury, they thank young Ernestine and, soon enough, send her home. This young girl is able to prove that she is indeed a 'big girl.'

The infusion of figurative language brings to life each element young Ernestine experiences on her journey. For example, "She carried the jars in an old feed sack close to her heart while the mountains slept like giant elephants under a scattering of stars.”  Madden's personification of the mountains as sleeping elephants further illustrates the sense of calm and quiet Ernestine experiences on her quest. Another example is the use of onomatopoeia to depict the sounds of the forest: “...she heard a fearsome grunta-grunta-grunta,” and, “...she heard a snuffa-snuffa- snuffa along the path.” The realistic sounds that you can make as you are reading further create a more compelling and immersive reading atmosphere.

In addition to the colorful language, vivid descriptions, and realistic depiction of life in the 1940s, the motivation to keep trying stands out. Even though Ernestine was faced with a difficult task to complete, she perseveres, even at her young age.  My “soon-to-be" five year old daughter thoroughly enjoyed joining me in saying, “I’m five years old. I am a big girl!”   She immediately found a connection with our main character.  When selecting books to read to my young child I hope that she can make a connection to the text in a positive way. This book definitely provided me with that.

Ernestine’s Milky Way is a phenomenal, realistic depiction of a young heroine surviving her world with tenacity and determination. The young girl, Ernestine, demonstrates traits that kids of any age can relate to. Kerry Madden-Lunsford and Emily Sutton were able to infuse various educational and character building lessons in this carefully written book. Ernestine’s Milky Way will be a hit in any elementary school classroom.

Big Al's Game Day
Aubie's Game Day Rules
Big Al Teaches the Alphabet
Counting With Big Al

By Sherri Graves Smith
Mascot Books, 2012
$14.95, Hardcover


Reviewed by Pam Kingsbury

Sherri Graves Smith, a native of Tuscumbia, loves football, reading, and her home state of Alabama. Having grown up in a family of readers and sports fans, when cancer forced her into early retirement she decided to pursue her lifelong desire to encourage reading in children the same way that her parents encouraged her to read. The resulting books—a series devoted to Game Days at various colleges around the country—teach the invaluable lessons of good manners, good sportsmanship, and the importance of healthy rivalry. Read the complete review

By Kerry Madden;
Illustrated by Lucy Madden-Lunsford
Mockingbird Publishing, 2013
$12.59, Paper


Reviewed by Lindsay Hodgens

When Kerry and Lucy Madden-Lunsford say there’s nothing fancy about Kathryn (Tucker Windham) and Charlie (Lucas), they are only half-telling the truth. On one hand, the authors spin a wonderful tale about two friends, bonded together by their love of simple things like tomato sandwiches and turning combs into homemade musical instruments, which indeed establishes the two as people who do not feel the need to surround themselves with fancy things. Kathryn and Charlie come across as individuals who are as eccentric as they are down-to-earth, so I can definitely see how there is nothing fancy about the pair. Read the complete review

By David C. Kopaska-Merkel; Illustrated by Valerie Bodell
Sam’s Dot Publishing, 2012
$8, Paper


Reviewed by Jonathan Rutan

Making a valiant effort to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Seuss, The Edible Zoo by David C. Kopaska-Merkel is a family friendly romp through the fantastic. In his book, Merkel uses a unique—yet hilarious—approach when he decides to discuss some of the many different animals that live in our world. His interest in them, however, is not one in which he wants to talk about how they might look, but rather how they might taste as he illuminates the many different aspects of devouring a horse—or a crocodile—before moving on to imagine how delicious an aardvark—or a woodchuck—might be. Read the complete review

By Irene Latham; Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
Roaring Brook Press, 2012
$15.99, Hardcover

Children’s Literature

Reviewed by Peter Huggins

Who wouldn't want to live at the zoo? Eleven-year-old Whit, apparently, the central character in Irene Latham's new middle grade novel, Don't Feed the Boy. Whit is dissatisfied with life at the Meadowbrook Zoo in Alabama, dissatisfied with his busy parents who always seem to put their jobs at the zoo— vet and head elephant keeper—ahead of him, dissatisfied with having no friends since he is homeschooled by the capable and calm Ms. Connie. All of this changes when Whit meets a girl (of course!), Stella, aka the Bird Girl because she draws birds at the zoo and uses the zoo as a refuge from a difficult situation at home. Read the complete review

These children’s literature titles were recently released by Alabama authors or publishers, or they cover subjects related to our state. Simply click a book’s title to learn more. View the complete list

By Guild of Professional Writers for Children;
Illustrations by Sue Blackshear
Look Again Press, LLC, 2011
$23.95, Hardcover; $16.95, Paper


Reviewed by Linda A. McQueen

Tuskaloosa Tales Stories of Tuscaloosa and Its People is an interesting collection of short stories for children that examines the diverse heritage of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. There are true stories as well as fictional stories of people, places, and events of the past. These stories from the past have developed to form Tuscaloosa’s future. Read the complete review

By: Hester Bass; Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Reviewed by: Linda A. McQueen

Enter the world of reclusive nature-lover Walter Anderson, a renowned watercolor artist who lived a simple life at the edge of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, a place where the sea meets the earth and the sky. In this exquisite picture book biography, Orbis Pictus Award winning writer Hester Bass and Caldecott Honor winning illustrator E.B. Lewis pay honor to this uncompromising American artist and offer a powerful glimpse into the secret world of Walter Anderson.

By: Adele Colvin; Cover illustrated by Peyton Carmichael
Reviewed by: Sherry Kughn

Several talented Birmingham residents worked together to produce an audio version of Birmingham author Adele Colvin’s two books ,The Donkeys’ Tales, first published in 1998 by Crane Hill of Birmingham (and re-released by Pelican Publishing of Gretna, La., in 2008), and The Donkey’s Easter Tale (Pelican Publishing, 2009). The result is a pleasant audio experience of the reading of both books as though they were told by three generations of donkeys who took part in the life of Jesus.

By: Adele Colvin; Illustrated by Peyton Carmichael
Reviewed by: Sherry Kughn

This flawlessly written book for children ages eight-up is framed by a grandfather donkey taking advantage of a rainy day to tell his two grandchildren donkeys stories about his associations with Jesus. The grandfather donkey tells how he was scared to be ridden, only to find that his rider was none other than the gentle Jesus. The grandfather’s parents, he said, knew Mary and Joseph. His mother, he said, carried Mary to Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth. The grandfather donkey tells how he carried Jesus to the temple when he threw out the money changers, healed the sick, defended himself against tax collectors, and taught the crowds. The grandfather donkey also witnessed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the cross, and at the resurrection.

By: Various Authors
Reviewed by: Rebecca Dempsey

Julia Tutwiler, Amelia Gayle Gorgas, and Jennifer Chandler are Alabamians who distinguished themselves by overcoming obstacles unique to their respective goals and the times in which they lived. Components of the Alabama Roots series, these three biographies are written in simple but engaging prose designed to interest third through eighth graders, and they are educational, entertaining, and inspiring. Roz Morris, Zelda Oliver-Miles, and Tom Bailey have thoroughly researched their subjects to create memorable characters who are an integral part of Alabama’s history.

By: Peter Huggins; Linda A. McQueen
Reviewed by: Junebug Books, 2008

In the Company of Owls by Peter Huggins will instantly grab the attention of the reader. It is a delightful, easy to read adventurous story of courage and family loyalty. It also employs humor and wisdom. While reading this novel you can visualize life on a dairy farm from sunrise to sunset. Huggins’ descriptive metaphor such as “hugging a pillow and listening to the crack and pop of the cedar as it glowed and burned in the stone fireplace” gives a feeling of peaceful coexistence with nature. All is well at the end of the day. Unfortunately for the Cash family, their peaceful life will have frightening consequences.

By: Sue Brannan Walker; Illustrated by Kate Seawell
Reviewed by: Tony Crunk

Sue Brannan Walker, a state literary treasure, is associated as closely with Mobile as with Alabama. She has further cemented that legacy with a charming new book for children (and their affiliated adults), Reuben’s Mobile. The book’s conceit is simple but engaging: through a series of page-long poems and accompanying illustrations, the title dog, a (real-life) Harlequin Great Dane, visits a number of key Mobile landmarks. In the process, readers receive thumb-nail introductions to distinguishing features of the city’s history, natural landscape, and cultural traditions.

By: Ellie Kirby
Reviewed by: Tony Crunk

According to the Author’s Note at the end of this picture book, “On July 5, 1792, a five-year-old child named Caty Sage disappeared from a farm in Grayson County, Virginia.  In 1848 her brother Charles found a white woman living with an Indian tribe in Kansas and became convinced that she was Caty.  Since then her story has been told and retold until it has become a beloved legend in the mountains of Southwest Virginia.”

By: Robert Inman
Reviewed by: Tony Crunk

This is an interesting hybrid of a children’s book. While long enough to be a chapter book, it more closely resembles a picture book in format (per physical dimensions, color illustrations, e.g.). As a holiday book, then, it seems designed to appeal to all ages of young readers (or listeners).

By: Charles Ghigna; Illustrated by Julia Gorton
Reviewed by: Linda A. McQueen

Do you or a friend need a boost, a little inspiration to get you to that goal or accomplish that dream? If you answered “yes,” then look no further. Charles Ghigna, a resident of Homewood, Alabama, and author or more than thirty books of poetry, has written a collection of fifty poems that inspire everyone-children, parents, athletes, coaches, teachers, and graduates from middle, high school, or college.

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