Queen Vernita Visits The Blue Ice Mountains by Dawn Menge

Queen Vernita Visits The Blue Ice Mountains by Dawn MengeBook Review
Title: Queen Vernita Visits The Blue Ice Mountains
Author:  Dawn Menge
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Released: 2009
Pages: 32
ISBN-13: 978-1432711696
ISBN-10: 1432711695
Stars:  4.0


Children’s author Dawn Menge is a smart woman. She has a Masters Degree and Clear Credential in Special Education and is currently working towards her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction.

Through her character Queen Vernita (who now officially has a series of adventures in print!), she has created an absolutely wonderful storybook teacher for young children (ages 5-9) that is once again spectacularly illustrated by the very talented Bobbi Switzer. One of the reasons I love the Queen Vernita series so much is because of the bright, bold colours that are used in the pictures, and the other is that the stories are so fun and intelligent.

Every year Queen Vernita of Oceaneer (first introduced in Queen Vernita’s Visitors) writes to twelve of her closest friends and invites them to come to visit her. In this installment, the Queen has requested that her friends go with her to see the Blue Ice Mountains in the Land of Quails. Each month of the year she takes a different friend and together, on each day of the week, they experience the fun of adventure and education. Queen Vernita’s January visitor, Debbie, learns all about crabs! In March, Queen Vernita and her friend Christopher take a boat to see some tidewater glaciers and learn all about them. August weather encourages the Queen and her friend Marcella to visit the temperate rainforest of the Blue Ice Mountains where they meet park ranger Larry who tells them all about the flora and fauna of the region. In September, Vernita and Virginia discover the wonders of the Aurora Borealis and in November, Vernita and Dylan go snorkeling in the freezing glacier water and uncover the mysteries of underwater life.

Every day of the week Queen Vernita does something different with her friend who is visiting her that month and she shares so much joy with them that I find myself being envious and wishing I had a friend like Queen Vernita myself. Or better yet, perhaps I could become Queen Christine and create a similar environment for my own friends to enjoy! However, I must say that I would be very tired of having company for a whole year, no matter how much I enjoy the camaraderie of friendship!

Queen Vernita Visits the Blue Ice Mountains is another splendid children’s book by Dawn Menge and I hope that her audience continues to grow because the premise of this series is truly enjoyable and shouldn’t be overlooked. Parents and teachers everywhere will love teaching the monthly calendar, days of the week, and the changing seasons through the exciting activities of Queen Vernita and her visitors.

A Frog Named Waldor by Jacqueline Rankine-Van Wassenhoven

A Frog Named Waldor by Jacqueline Rankin-Van Wassenhoven

Book Review
Title: A Frog Named Waldor
Author:  Jacqueline Rankine-Van Wassenhoven
Illustrator: Annie Zhang
Publisher: PublishAmerica
Released: January 14, 2008
Pages: 16
ISBN 10 – 1424199263
ISBN 13 – 978-1424199266
Stars: 2.5

A Frog Named Waldor is a sweet children’s picture book about a little girl named Jennifer who loves to read, particularly books about water fairies. Now, as I love fairies and talking frogs are irresistible, I was very intrigued by the premise of this story. On a hot July afternoon, Jennifer takes her book to a favourite spot by a pond near the village where she lives to enjoy some quiet reading time when she is quite surprised to make the acquaintance of Waldor, the talking frog. They talk about water fairies, and through a magical twist of fate, Waldor is just the creature with the power to introduce Jennifer to some real, charming water fairies that he knows!

I believe that author Jacqueline Rankine-Van Wassenhoven had excellent intentions for this book. There are some lovely illustrations by Annie Zhang (my favourite being the one that depicts Jennifer and Waldor dancing at a musical fairy jam amongst the toadstools). However, the story ends very abruptly, seems unfinished, and doesn’t quite hit the mark, although it is clear that the author has a lot of love for the subject matter.

The book is only 12 pages long, and of those 12 pages, there are five adorable, colourful, full-page illustrations. My niece and nephew, who are 7-years-old enjoyed it and thought Waldor was pretty cool, but they wanted to know more about him. This story is more about Jennifer and the fairies than about Waldor, so the book’s title is misleading. They also liked the idea of the magic bulrushes that allowed Jennifer to ride on the back of Mrs. Nightingale, who carried her home.

For some reason, this book is listed on Chapters.Indigo.ca as costing $32.95, which is extraordinarily expensive for a 12-page picture book. It also looks pretty overpriced at other online booksellers’ sites. If those prices are correct, I cannot recommend that you buy this book.

The Adventures of Butterbean and the King by L. Michael Hellums

The Adventures of Butterbean and the King by L. Michael HellumsBook Review
Title: The Adventures of Butterbean and the King
Author:  L. Michael Hellums
Illustrator: Malachy McKinney
Publisher: Xlibris
Released: 2007
Pages: 106
ISBN-13: 978-1425772338
ISBN-10: 1425772331
Stars:  2.5

Children’s author L. Michael Hellums has created two immensely likeable lead characters in his book, The Adventures of Butterbean and the King. Best friends, Rufus Jingles, also known as Butterbean because of his large girth and obvious passion for food, and King Tissell, so named for his beer bottle cap hat, which he wears wherever he goes, are ants from South Texas. Their “story begins in an ant mound far, far away…two miles west of Crown, Texas.” Butterbean and the King, who were never cut out to be worker ants, decide to spend their summer investigating the world outside their ant mound.

So begins the adventure, as they set out for Crown, Texas “to find out what King Tissell is actually the king of.” Along the way, they make friends with the likes of Dottie the dragonfly, Pepito the pill bug and Mundo the mythological Mexican wish beetle, whose “sole purpose in life is to grant one last wish to terminally ill insects.” Butterbean and the King also encounter enemies along the way, in the form of poisonous plants (fortunately King paid attention to the dangerous-plant book in Mrs. Delmont’s class!), ant lions, a Southwestern zebra scorpion called Socrates the Sorcerer and a couple of fierce horny toads called Gizmo and Otis who would like nothing better than to make a meal of them.

Upon discovering the disappearance of Butterbean and The King, Queen Vida enlists General George, Lieutenant Harrisant and Major Rudolf to send out a search party of army ants to find the missing juveniles before the predators of South Texas get to them first.

“The fireflies split up with the separate parties, lighting the way to the battle royal where the forces of good and evil collided to occupy the same position at the same time. It was a small stampede of the queen’s army tromping through the mud and rain to tackle a couple of monsters they hoped they would never have to meet. Fortunately for Butterbean and the King it was the soldiers of Queen Vida’s army with the most heart, the bravest of all her forces.”

Will Queen Vida’s army save Butterbean and the King? Will they make it to Crown, Texas and find out what King Tissell is really the king of? Will Mundo’s gift of a magic matchstick save the ants from unknown danger? These questions and more are answered in The Adventures of Butterbean and the King.

Hellums’ story, which is suitable for children ages 8-12, is engaging and delightful but seriously hampered by the lack of a professional editor as his numerous spelling (i.e. queen’s “thrown” instead of “throne” and sunshine “shown” instead of “shone”), grammar and sentence structure errors make for a largely distracting read and not one that could be easily read aloud as a bedtime story.

Malachy McKinney’s illustrations are wonderful but would have been far more effective if they had been printed in color. I understand how expensive self-publishing can be, but in order to be a successful self-published author, one must ensure he puts forth his very best effort and doesn’t take detrimental shortcuts that could lead to the downfall of the book’s success. That being said, Hellums’ story, once edited by a professional, should be good enough to attract a publisher and earn him a 3.5 star rating from me.

The Adventures of Butterbean and the King continue in volume two, entitled “The Tale of the Crown Jewels.” Discover more about Mikey’s world and author L. Michael Hellums at http://www.storiesfrommikeysworld.com and view the book’s trailer on YouTube here:

Queen Vernita’s Visitors by Dawn Menge, illustrated by Bobbi Switzer

Queen Vernita's VisitorsBook Review
Title: Queen Vernita’s Visitors
Author:  Dawn Menge
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Released: 2008
Pages: 36
ISBN-13: 978-1598007145
ISBN-10: 1598007149
Stars:  3.5

The ultimate test for a children’s book is the response given to it by children and when I read Queen Vernita’s Visitors by Dawn Menge, beautifully and brightly illustrated by Bobbi Switzer, to my six year old niece and nephew, they loved it and I loved it too!

Dawn Menge’s wonderful soft cover book is part of an educational series for children and the premise of Queen Vernita’s Visitors is unique and enchanting. Vernita is the Queen of a “majestic world called Oceaneer.” She has spent a whole year alone in her castle and decides that she really misses her friends. Queen Vernita decides to send out invitations to 12 friends to invite them to spend one month of the year with her.

Dawn Menge teaches children about the months of the year and how many days are in them as well as the days of the week and the changing seasons. She also inspires her readers to think of interesting activities and fun ways to spend time with friends. The story sparked the imaginations of my niece and nephew and they both agreed that August’s illustration and its’ list of activities was their very favorite. Ethan liked it because it has frogs in the picture and Erika loved that Queen Vernita and her friend Hannah went camping and slept under the stars and most importantly, that they made a campfire and cooked S’mores! They also both agreed that they could never eat as much turkey as the Queen and her friend Nicole ate in November or they would be sick!

Queen Vernita’s Visitors is a well written story that is delightful to read to children, chock full of rich colors, enjoyable illustrations that make you smile and ideas to spark not only the imagination of children, but of adults too. It’s a winner!

You can purchase Queen Vernita’s Visitors for US $12.95 at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. But first, be sure to check out Dawn Menge’s trailer for the book here: