“A year in our new garden” by Gerda Muller

After my last postings and the longer downtime you might have realized that we just moved. Our new home does not only have more rooms than the previous townhome (including an office!), but also a big yard. Almost an acre, to be honest – an acre, that has to be mowed and cared for, but also promises lots of fun for Finja and us. Finja jumped in right away: Armed with kid-sized garden utensils she started to seed, plant and organize right away. She loves to feed the squirrels and already set up an insect hotel with rooms for hibernating lady bugs, butterflies and bees. And sure, we got tons of kids gardening books as presents from family and purchased some ourselves.

61PM5eCwMAL._SX360_BO1,204,203,200_

While unpacking the moving boxes I also discovered a wonderful book in my review copy box – „A year in our new garden“ seems to be written especially for Finja! So we finally read the book tonight after watering the recently planted herbs.

A year in our new garden” by Gerda Muller was published by Floris Books. Floris books is the largest children’s book publisher in Scotland, producing international picture books, activity books and the Kelpies and Picture Kelpies ranges of Scottish children’s books. You might remember our review of „Thistle games“, „Harris the hero“, „Otto and the secret light of Christmas“ and „Little fairy makes a wish“. “A year in our new garden” was first published in 1988 under the German title “Ein Garten für die Kinder aus der Stadt” – “A yard for the children from the city”.

FullSizeRender 3

The story: Anna and Benjamin just moved into a new home with their family. Although in the middle of a busy town, the house featured a beautiful, big garden. Although the garden is “a mess”, the family has plans to make the place beautiful: Their mom wants a patio, Benjamin wishes for little plot with lots of flowers and a pond, Anna dreams of a vegetable patch. Soon the family starts mowing, seeding, pulling weeds and planting. With some helpful hints from neighbors and friends Anna and Benjamin’s yard starts to grow and flourish. The family has a busy, interesting and motivating year in the new garden!

FullSizeRender 2

“A year in our new garden” is not just a goodnight story. It offers children and adults the opportunity to learn about plans, gardening and the different kinds of flowers and gives practical tips how to sow seeds, planting flowers in the right season, crafting with chestnuts and acorns and spotting wildlife. And did you know that you can make a crown from leaves? The book is the perfect companion for children who love to discover nature year around. I can’t imagine a child who wouldn’t be ready for gardening after reading the delightful story!

Finja already loves “A year in our new garden”, recognized lots of plants, can’t wait for collecting acorns in fall and has plans for a little pond, too. It seems Gerda Muller’s book is just the right fit for her! In general I would recommend the book for preschool- and elementary aged children. With lots of things happening on every page Gerda Muller’s book is great for toddlers, too!

The timeless illustrations of “A year in our new garden” are just like the book designs I remember from my childhood. They are gentle, but full of detail – different from today’s picture books, but in a good way!

More information:
A year in our new garden
Written by Gerda Muller
Publisher: Floris Books
ISBN-13: 978-1782502593

“Will you help Doug find his dog” by Jane Caston

I really must apologize for being offline for such a long time. Our move into a bigger home didn’t go as planned and we are still battling with a huge water damage. But: The books are safe and I can’t wait to get started on some new reviews!

The last three weeks were a little crazy for Finja. Reading helped her to keep her schedule and calm down after another exciting (and loud – think about fans, de-humidifier and air filter…) day. Look at this picture – do I need to tell more?

DAH8jeiVYAAg2Ip

One of the books she’s totally into is “Will you help Doug find his dog?” from one of my favorite publishers, Barefoot Books. “Will you help Doug find his dog” is a little different from the Barefoot books I selected so far. It’s not about diversity, it’s not about cultural literacy, but it’s about sharing the love of reading with your child and offering them a book they can discover by themselves.

willyouhelpdougfindhisdog_hb_fc_rgb_72dpi_w_2

The story: Doug is devastated, he lost his dog… Luckily, Doug can count on the help of the young reader enjoying his story at this very moment. Together with Doug kids can sort through all the different dogs on the pages of the lovingly illustrated volume. Is Doug’s dog scruffy? Can you give all spotted dogs a pat? And tickle all small dogs? Finally, there is Doug’s dog!

“Will you help Doug find his dog” combines the idea of a search-and-find-book with interactive, sensory books like “Tickle my ears”. Lots of things are happening on the colorful pages, sorting and counting keeps children entertained and helps them to rediscover the story every time they pull “Will you help Doug find his dog” out of the bookshelf.

FullSizeRender

The book from Jane Caston was illustrated by Carmen Saldana and is one of the books that keeps kids smiling and motivates them to “read” a book all by themselves. The publisher recommends “Will you help Doug find his dog?” for children between 1 and 5 years of age. Helping Doug find his dog is a fun way for preschoolers to practice early math skills, sort and spot similarities and differences! With lot of action on every page it’s a page turner for younger children as well.

“Will you help Doug find his dog?”
written by Jane Caston
illustrated by Carmen Saldana
Publisher: Barefoot Books
ISBN-13: 978-1782853206

„The Blue Bird’s Palace“ by Orianne Lallemand

Sometimes life just happens – and your blog is deserted for weeks… But no matter how stressful life is, grabbing a good book always is always like a short vacation. I really enjoy our evening story time. Transferring some if Finja’s books into their temporary home aka “moving boxes” almost hurt, although I know we’ll unpack them again in just a week. 🙂

9781846868856

To make up for the smaller selection of books available outside of our countless book boxes we read some new ones. Finja now reached the age where she loves fairytales and especially everything about Disney. Because, let’s be honest: Which girl doesn’t? To achieve a balance, I try to incorporate some unusual fairytales from all over the world in our daily reading routine. Sometimes really good tales are hard to come by, especially when you are searching for strong female role models. Luckily, there are some stories with strong female protagonists – Finja was fascinated by the real-life-stories of “Goodnight stories for rebel girls” by Elena Favilly.

But heroines are not always born strong, brave and kind – sometimes they have to grow into their roles. During the last days, I fell in love with the modern version of a Russian fairytale. „The Blue Bird’s Palace“ by Orianne Lallemand was published by one of my favorite publishers, Barefoot Books.

Blue-Bird's-Palace-The_pp4-5_W

The magically illustrated volume tells the story of Natasha. Natasha has a wonderful childhood in the Blue Forest, spending her time picking apples, baking bread and making sweet jam with her mom. Life changes when Natasha’s mother dies during an especially cold winter. Natasha’s dad buries himself in work to forget about his wife’s death. To make up for it, he spoils Natasha with everything she wishes for. Only the tastiest food is good enough for her. She enjoys only the finest fabric and the best stories. At age sixteen, the blessed girl is beautiful, but moody. She wants more and more – and especially: A bigger, better house with more rooms. But her father refuses to leave the cottage he shared with his wife. Natasha gets consumed by her own fury. When an old woman with a blue bird offers her a wish in exchange for a tasty fruit in her basket, Natasha desires a palace. But “not just any old palace, though, a magical one. One where I can invent all kinds of different rooms whenever I like.” Natasha’s wish is granted, but it doesn’t turn out as she likes… Natasha will not be able to leave her magical palace. For some time, the girl entertains herself with inventing new rooms. She wanders the wonderful palace and is at easy with the life of a princess.

Blue-Bird's-Palace-The_pp14-15_W

But after some time, Natasha gets bored with inventing new rooms. She misses her dad, the orchard the grew up in – and finds back to a simpler life again. “There would be no more dressing-up sessions; no more walks through her splendid rooms; no more magnificent feasts.” The magical palace shrinks to the size of a cottage. When Natasha discovers she’s able to leave the palace as a blue bird at night, she spends her days baking bread, leaving the loaves on the doorsteps of the poorest cottages. Will Natasha’s kindness be repaid? Will she be able to return to her father?

What I loved about “The Blue Bird’s Palace” is Natasha’s development from a selfish, spoiled girl to a thoughtful and kind woman. The story can be a reminder for us parents not to spoil our kids too much – but it can also be a story of growing-up and achieve happiness with being at ease with ourselves. I didn’t expect Finja to follow the modern interpretation of a Russian folk tradition. The tale is longer than most fairytales, there are not fairy godmothers or sparkles involved. But Finja listened carefully, asked questions about Natasha, her moodiness and her development to a kind young woman. Actually, she just snatched the book away while I was reviewing it, quickly retiring into her room to browse through the pages!

Barefoot Books recommends “The Blue Bird’s Palace” for age 5 to 10, but the book offers a complex story and is a wonderful gift for adult readers, too.

There is just one word left for the illustrations by Carole Henaff: Beautiful! The acrylic artwork seems to be inspired by The Arabian Nights and other classics, uniting the classical fairytale illustration with a radiant, more modern approach.

“The Blue Bird’s Palace” is a wonderful tale for children and adults every age – from “twonagers” to teenagers to adults 🙂

“The Blue Bird’s Palace”
written by Orianne Lallemand
illustrated by Carole Henaff
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Barefoot Books
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-1846868856

„Gus’s garage“ by Leo Timmers

There are some books we don’t read once or twice, but three of four times – per evening. „Gus’s garage” by Leo Timmers is one of them.

Guss-Garage-cover-LROne of the reasons: Main character Gus is instantly likeable. The friends pig stores lots of curious things in his garage. Curious children will discover metal bins, an old fridge, a goldfish glass, a bathtub, some old piping, an old grandpa chair. What will he use them for? The next page brings the answer: Rhino Rico is complaining about the too small seat of his scooter. Gus has the answer: “Let’s see. I have some bits and bobs. This goes with that. There. Just the job!” Soon a happy Rhino leaves Gus’s garage on a completely remodeled scooter, sitting comfortable on his newly designed grandpa-chair-seat.

Will Gus find a way to help his other customers? Giraffe Gina is freezing her long neck off in the chilly air, while penguin Mrs. P “needs refrigeration”. Walrus Walter on the other hand is suffering what is, in his opinion, a too dry car… When the last customer of the day, rabbit Henry, is speeding away in his newly tuned up car, there is nothing more to do for Gus. Except: Inventing something for his own comfort…

FullSizeRender 2

Leo Timmer’s story about going out of your way to help others features friendly Gus, who creates unique gismos to help his customers. Gus uses old garbage to invent something new, tailored to his friends’ needs. The colorful pictures by the author show how the pile of square parts in front of Gus’s garage slowly shrinks with each customer. Curious children will re-discover the abandoned parts in the newly renovated cars of Gus’s friends! The rhyming text is catching and Finja loved to read it with me: “Let’s see. I have some bits and bobs. This goes with that. There. Just the job!” Although the book is recommended for children age 5 to 7, it is a fun read for younger children, too.

Leo Timmers is one of Belgium’s most popular children books authors and we are glad Gecko Press brought „Gus’s garage“ to the US!

More information:
“Gus’s garage”
written and illustrated by Leo Timmers
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Gecko Press
ISBN-13: 978-1776570928

„The Beeman“ by Laurie Krebs

Did you know that I was an official Barefoot Book Ambassador in 2016? As someone who constantly has her nose in a book, promoting literacy and working with the great Barefoot community was the perfect fit! Well, that being said – I quickly discovered that direct marketing isn’t for me. A year later I still love Barefoot books and miss the discounts I got as an Ambassador. That doesn’t change that I’m not a seller, so I keep on reading and reviewing.

TheBeeman_PB_W

Imagine my delight when I was offered review copies of the newest Barefoot books by one of the literacy agencies I’m working with! Sure, I said yes – and quickly re-discovered my love for Barefoot Books. Is there something better than unconventional, diverse children’s literature? Finja chose the first two books to read and review. One of them: “The Beeman” by Laurie Krebs, illustrated by Valeria Cis. “The Beeman” is one of the wonderful non-fiction books that teaches children about the real world and score with delightful pictures, an attention-grabbing storyline and rhymes.

Do you know where our honey comes from? Bees not only provide us with honey, their work as pollinator is important for our environment – but bees are critically endangered. “The Beeman” teaches little ones about bees, a bee man’s everyday life and why bees are neither scary nor dangerous, but important for our environment.

interior1_image_3383_1

The story: Grandpa, the bee-man, teaches his young grandson the basics of beekeeping. His relationships to his bees is one of friendship and respect. They are family. We discover the boxes where bees live and sleep – the “beehive”. We learn about different kinds of bees and their duties: What are worker bees for, how do you recognize drone bees and why is the queen so important for a bee colony? Did you know that the house bees dry up the nectar brought by worker bees to make honey? How will the bees survive in winter and how does the honey get from the honey comb into the bottle? Author Laurie Krebs wrote her rhyming story easy to understand, several pages of endnotes full of essential facts about bees and beekeeping are perfect for children and parents that have more questions. The recipe for “Grandma’s Apple and Honey Muffins” is a tasty activity for hungry readers.

I re-discovered my love for non-fiction when Finja started to ask questions about our world. “The Beeman” is one of the books I love for my preschool-aged daughter: Easy to understand and awakening curiosity. She’s able to discover “The Beeman” by herself, even if she’s not able to read yet. The illustrations by Valeria Cis are colorful and grasp her attention, but they are also true to fact. The publisher recommends “The Beeman” for age 5 to 9, in my opinion the book is already perfect for preschool aged children.

A wonderful book for curious children (and parents)!

“The Beeman”
Written By: Laurie Krebs
Illustrated By: Valeria Cis
Publisher: Barefoot Books
ISBN-13: 978-1846862601

„Hello World“ by Jonathan Litton

“Hello” might be just a little word. But it starts relationships. A friendly “Hello” opens doors. A “Hello” brings smiles. The book Hello World – A celebration of languages and curiosities” picks up the significance of this small word. The concept of this book is simple, but it’s message is complex: The world has over 7000 languages, all of them alive and changing every day. At the end of this century half of them will be lost. “Learn the small languages as well as the big ones, and keep these languages alive.” This message on the last page of “Hello World” was most impressive for me as a parent. Did you know that a language is lost every 14 days?

"Hello World" by Jonathan Litton

That’s why it’s so important to teach our children about language and culture. “Hello World” makes a beginning, the book shows preschool and elementary school aged children how much fun learning a new language can be. And there is a lot to learn with the over 140 languages shown in this book! Sturdy pages with colorful maps of each continent teach about the “Hello” in different languages and the numbers of speakers – including “Hello” in Native American Hand Talk and American Sign Language. Multiple flaps with pages of each continent invite to linger, browse and discover. Especially fascinating: Trivia about each continent, like the Incan civilization, the different languages in West Africa and the Egyptian hieroglyphs. Or maybe you want to try the unspoken Maori greeting gesture “hongi”? Finally, readers learn to say “Goodbye” in different languages.

"Hello World", published by 360 degrees

Hello World” introduces children to foreign cultures, celebrates diversity and makes learning global languages fun. Finja started exploring immediately and although she can’t read yet she had lots of fun asking about each continent or country and finding “America, far away from Germany”. According to the publisher “Hello World” is intended for children 8-12 years, but I found it fascinating for preschoolers, too.

fullsizerender7
Multiple flaps make learning fun!

This book was published by “360 degrees”, an imprint by Little Tiger Press. According to the publisher’s homepage “there is great value to be had in pausing for a fresh look at your surroundings. 360 Degrees illuminates a multitude of curiosities, from the inner workings of a spacesuit to the physiology of a penguin, and from the life-cycle of lemmings to the intricacies of Chinese characters. From the everyday to the extraordinary, our authors and illustrators have crafted interactive books to intrigue and delight.” This is definitely something we could see when exploring “Hello World”! We recently reviewed “Things that grow” from the same publisher.

"Hello World" by Jonathan Litton

„Hello World“
written by Jonathan Litton
illustrated by Cartographik L’Atelier
Publisher: 360 Degrees
ISBN-13: 978-1944530006

„Things that grow“ by Libby Walden

The older Finja gets (or maybe, the older I get 😀 ) the more we enjoy exploring nonfiction-books. Finja is a curious child and there probably wasn’t a day without at least two-hundred-forty-five “whys” in months. She wants to know everything and sometimes comes up with really weird questions: How do the bones get into a body? Are stuffed animals born from other stuffed animals? Which part of an animal does meat come from? Why do plants need sunlight? When she’s not satisfied with my answer she’s searching for one herself, which sometimes can be a little confusing. Did you know that this little girl is convinced her favorite mac and cheese with a bunny on the package are made from bunny meat? Yes, I know…

"Things that grow" by Libby Walden

Maybe you remember me mentioning the German “Wieso? Weshalb? Warum” book series from Ravensburger. By now Finja has almost every book out of this series and she still enjoys reading it again and again. Anyway, every book is made in a similar matter so I was searching for other science books for kids. There is not a lot of educational material for preschool age children on the market, especially when it comes to more abstract topics like genetics or the cycle of life. I still have some books from university at home, but there are hardly appropriate for a four-year-old…

My question was answered when we received a review copy of “Things that grow” from Libby Walden, published by 360 Degrees. 360 Degrees is a new imprint of Little Tiger Group. The description of 360 Degrees is more than promising: “360 Degrees illuminates a multitude of curiosities, from the inner workings of a spacesuit to the physiology of a penguin, and from the life-cycle of lemmings to the intricacies of Chinese characters.” So, exactly what we were searching for!

"Things that grow" by Libby Walden

The format of “Things that grow” is unusual for a biology book for children. The rather small volume fits in the hand of preschoolers and elementary school children. The accurate, but still artistic illustrations by Becca Stadtlander made our daughter curious for more. That is, more information about basically everything in our world…

“Things that grow” describes the world around us from a seed to a tree, the development of the animal kingdom including the “missing link” and the evolution of man and finishes with a quick description of our universe, including the “big bang” and the ever-changing surface of our planet earth. The book offers a lot, from facts to little crafts like growing cress in an egg shell.

"Things that grow" by Libby Walden

The language is not too bloomy, but matter-of-fact and accurately. Finja might not have been able to grasp the meaning of each chapter without additional explanations. For us this was not a problem at all, as we enjoyed the journey together – “Things that grow” had something for both of us. I still would recommend “Things that grow” more for elementary school children than preschoolers – the recommended age range according to the publisher is 7 to 10.

"Things that grow" by Libby Walden

Author Libby Walden is an editor at Caterpillar Books. You can find more information about her on her blog “Through the wardrobe”, which is partly inspired by one of her favorite children’s books, “the supremely brilliant The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”.

More information:
“Things that grow”
written by Libby Walden
illustrated by Becca Stadtlander
Hardcover: 62 pages
Publisher: 360 Degrees
ISBN: 978-1944530051

„The wolves return“ by Celia Godkin

When the first settlers set foot on American soil, they encountered wolves everywhere. But due to hunting and habitat changes there were hardly any wolves left by the middle of the 20th century… 1978, the wolves were listed as a threatened species in forty-eight states. In 1995 thirteen wolves from Canada were released on the Yellowstone National Park. The following year another ten wolves followed. The experiment was a success with now over hundred wolves living in Yellowstone. But, even more important: The wolves play an important role for the health of other species and the balance of the ecosystem.

"The wolves return" by Celia Godkin, Pajama Press

“The wolves return” by Celia Godkin, biologist and associate professor at the University of Toronto as well as award-winning author and illustrator, explains the journey of reintroducing wild wolves to Yellowstone and the consecutive changes in the environments of the park in kid-friendly words.

Wolves had been extinct in Yellowstone for a long time and the return of the big carnivores has a huge effect on the local wildlife, which in return changes the environment and local wildlife: As wolves primarily prey on weak elks, they keep the herds smaller, but healthier. The elks move from the bottom of the valley to the higher areas with more trees for shelter, which gives the seedlings which were previously eaten by elks the chance to grow. Within years, the valley changes to a wooden area with tall trees. Beavers use this trees to build dams and beaver houses to raise families. Beaver ponds are a home for waterfowl and fish, which in return attract ospreys and otter. Berry bushes are growing back and provide food and shelter for birds, insects and bears. Fewer elk also let bison herds increase in size. But wolves not only control the number of elks. As huge predators, the coyotes leave Yellowstone. They prey now becomes food for hawks, weasels, badgers and foxes… After almost 20 years the return of a few wolves changed the face of Yellowstone National Park forever. Would you have guessed that a single species can have such a high impact?
"The wolves return" by Celia Godkin, Pajama Press

 

Ecology is a complex topic, but Celia Godkin does a great job with explaining biological correlations to children from preschool to middle school age. Her texts are easy to understand, without complicated technical terms or terminology. What wakes the love for nature are her artwork: True-to-life pencil and watercolor illustrations capture the attention of children and adults from the first page on. It’s hard for an expert to explain scientific topics in easy words and almost impossible to find the right words suitable and plausible for children. Celia Godkin does an expert job! The appendix of the book gives a short overview of the history of wolves in the US and is a great add on for older children, teacher and parents.

Our daughter loved “The wolves return”. She is interested in nature in general and loves wolves – she wants to convince me that our local coyotes are “just baby wolves” each time we spot one… It was really enjoyable to teach her about one of her favorite animals and the development of an ecosystem within a short time span. I studied biology at university and am acquainted with the basics of ecology, although it never was my specialty. I didn’t even know of the return of the wolves to Yellowstone and had a great time researching the topic. We will follow on this topic tomorrow as I found some interesting videos and materials online… I can just guess what a great resource this book is for homeschooling parents or teachers! The publisher also provides a teaching guide, which was unfortunately not online yet at time of this review.

"The wolves return" by Celia Godkin, Pajama Press

Long story short: “The wolves return” is a great non-fiction book with an environmental message for children every age. It’s a great way to raise children who love nature and are sensible to the ecological problems. “The wolves return” is another wonderful children’s book by Pajama Press, an independent publisher from Canada.

More information:

“The wolves return”
by Celia Godkin
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Pajama Press
ISBN-13: 978-1772780116

„A friend like you“ by Andrea Schomburg and Barbara Röttgen

I hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s day! We never celebrated Valentines, not before Finja and not now. Our celebration mostly consists of crafting some Valentines for Finja to bring to school the next day… Yesterday my husband surprised me though – for the second time in 14 years I got roses and, much more important, a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Ice Cream! I’m not the kind of women who needs roses or sparkly things, but you are my hero when you bring ice cream… The remaining evening my husband worked on his latest drone footage and I finally had some time to read a book. But isn’t that what love is about? To know what the other wants, what he needs, to share fun time – and give him room when he needs it?

"A friend like you" by Barbara Röttgen and Andrea Schomburg

A book I read with Finja for Valentine’s day is just about this: Giving each other room and still coming back to each other. “A friend like you” by German author Andrea Schomburg tells the story of an unlikely friendship: Squirrel just finished collecting nuts for the winter when he meets an exhausted bird. The friendly squirrel offers one of his nuts – and although bird usually doesn’t eat nuts he gives it a try. Bird likes to fly and squirrel likes to climb, but they find a way to enjoy a wonderful time together: Squirrel darting to the highest treetops and turning somersaults while bird flies with him. Squirrel even hums along when bird sings. Both are happy together: “When you sing, it gives me happy goosebumps all over the back”, says squirrel. And bird agrees: “I never thought I would meet a friend like you.”

But as the day comes to an end, they must decide: Will bird stay with squirrel, who buried nuts enough for two – or will he fly away, as he likes to?

“A friend like you” is a wonderful story not only for Valentine’s day. Bird and squirrel are different, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be good friends. They can try something new, have a wonderful time – and find a way to be together while both have room for what they like and what makes them “bird” and “squirrel”. A real friends respects you and supports you in being yourself. And, after all, the message of “just trying something new” is great for toddlers who often love routine too much… The wonderful illustrations by Sean Julian are the perfect addition to the perfectly written story.

It doesn’t happen often that I find translation of German books in the US. “A friend like you” is the first book of author Barbara Röttgen, who is a therapist and mother of two kids. Author Andrea Schomburg was born in Kairo, grew up in the region around the river Rhine and now lives in Hamburg and Berlin. She writes for children and adults. The original German version of “A friend like you” was published by Brunnen Verlag is called “Eichhorn und Vogel probieren es mal” – “Squirrel and Bird give it a try”. I have to be honest, I like the English title “A friend like you” much better. 🙂

196988

A wonderful book about friendship – not only for Valentine’s day!

„A friend like you“
written by Andrea Schomburg and Barbara Röttgen
illustrated by Sean Julian
Publisher: Tiger Tales
ISBN-13: 978-1680100310

„Sophie Sue – Book 1: Robbie the Rhino“ by Stef Albert

We always had pets as part of our family and I can just imagine how author and illustrator Stef Albert felt after passing of his beloved Dachshund “Sophie Sue” … Stef Albert set pen to paper and created “The Magical Adventures of Sophie Sue” as an educational and inspirational adventure series for children and a way for Sophie Sue’s legacy to live on. “Sophie Sue travelled the world, sailed the seven seas and lived in a variety of countries. Always ready for the next adventure and loved by all who knew her, Sophie Sue touched the hearts of many.” Stef Albert’s mission: Through magical rescue missions, Sophie Sue and her animal friends teach children love towards pets and animals, awareness on endangered species, international travel, countries, flags, cultures and even a few foreign words in each story.

book-1-robbie-rhino

Dogs and world cultures – doesn’t that sound great? We were thrilled when Stef Albert contacted us about writing a review of the first part of the Sophie Sue series! „Sophie Sue – Book 1: Robbie the Rhino“ arrived just in time for Christmas with free stickers of Sophie’s animal friends and a bookmark. To be honest: I let Finja browse through the first adventure of Sophie Sue alone before I had a peek. Funny enough our four-year-old understood most of the story without even being able to read. And she had lots of questions right away: “Are these the Rhino’s parents?” “Why are they in a cage?” “Are these bad men?”

We read the book together a few days later. The story: Sophie Sue is a friendly Wiener dog with lots of friends. And Sophie Sue has lots of magic, too: Her magic ball tells her whenever an animal around the world needs help and she’s able to turn into a special Wiener-Copter to start a rescue mission with all her friends. Today Rhino Robby from South Africa needs Sophie Sue’s help. On the way to the country on the South tip of the African continent giraffe Larry Long tells his friend about South Africa and its inhabitants, its flag and spoken languages. Within “Sophie-seconds” the copter arrives in the bush of South Africa; the animals can spot Robbie Rhino right away. Poachers have kidnapped his parents and Robbie tries to keep up with the fast driving truck who will take his parents away… Sophie and her friends arrived just in time – but will they be able to rescue the Rhinos and bring the family back together?

untitled
“Robbie Rhino” teaches children about language, nature and culture of South Africa.

I loved that Steph Albert teaches a lot about the destination country, in this case South Africa. Basics like the flag, language or characteristics of a certain culture will stick with the young readers. In this book of the series children learn to say “Thank you” and “Goodbye” in Afrikaans. He also educates about conservation and nature protection. The important of these topics shouldn’t be underestimated in today’s world! I want our daughter to be raised with the awareness of other cultures and the need to protect nature and wild animals. And as I spend some month in Namibia during High School I loved to hear some Afrikaans words again!

Finja loved the colorful, almost cartoon-like illustrations by the author. Sophie Sue and her friends show lots of expression; the thieves seem like caricatures. She also caught on to the moral of the story pretty quick, even without me reading the whole book right away!

Sophie Sue’s magic makes rescue missions over continents possible and although a dog turning into a helicopter being a little much for me (especially after Sophie’s house falls away when she turned fist, but is whole again when the animals arrive back after they adventure) it seems to spark children’s imagination and may be one of the reasons why younger kids love Sophie Sue. I read Fantasy novels as well, so it’s absolutely understandable!

Robbie the Rhino” is just the first of eight Sophie Sue adventures. The curious Wiener will travel to India to rescue an elephant, will visit Croatia, Frankfurt and other places of the world. Most of the books will be released in 2017 and are available for pre-order on the Sophie Sue homepage. Until then young fans of can find a free holiday video about Radkus Reindeer in Russia, a short ‘Meet the Characters‘, screensaver and more online.

Radkus Reindeer in Russia by Stef Albert from Sophie Sue on Vimeo.

Stef Albert donates a large portion of proceeds from The Magical Adventures of Sophie Sue to animal and children organizations.

More information:
„Sophie Sue – Book 1: Robbie the Rhino“
written and illustrated by Stef Albert
available online