Fun New Books for Kids of All Ages
Reviewed by Michele Ashman Bell

Summer in Exile, by Christina Sagnimeni, Bonneville Books, 150 pages.

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The last place Jessie Annon ever thought she’d spend the summer before her senior year was Willowville, Texas, with her aunt and uncle and their five kids.  But there she was, and she wasn’t happy about it.

Of course, her mother had a good reason for sending her to “Mormonville,” as Jessie called it.  Jessie had been with her boyfriend when he was busted for driving under the influence.  And since she herself had been drinking, she’d also gotten in big trouble and therefore banished to suffer a Summer in Exile.

But as horrible as she thinks it is, she slowly begins to enjoy hanging out with her relatives and especially with her seventeen-year old cousin Tommy and his friends.  Jessie learns that kids her age can have fun and hang out together without drinking and doing things she did with her friends back in San Diego.  She also begins to realize that she actually enjoys going to church with the family and church dances with Tommy and his friends.

What begins as the worst summer of Jessica’s life, turns out to be a wonderful experience that changes her life forever.

Christina Sagnimeni has a writing style that speaks directly to the heart of the reader, especially youth.  Her fresh dialogue and humor make this book both enjoyable and entertaining, but underneath all the fun is a heartfelt message filled with emotion and honesty.

I enjoyed this book and the way Sagnimeni developed the characters and allowed them to be true to themselves and real-to-life.  She didn’t pull any punches and that’s what gives this story the impact that will make it a favorite.      

Don’t miss Summer in Exile by Christina Sagnimeni. 

Two new books from CFI are sure to please younger readers.

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The first one, Call Me Little Echo Hawk, written by Terry EchoHawk, illustrated by Jim Madsen, is the meaningful story if a young girl named Savannah EchoHawk who learns from her grandfather how she got her last name.  He teaches her that knowing about the people who had her name before her would help her know which paths to follow in life. 

Savannah’s grandfather tells her the story his great-grandfather, Big Crow, a Native American.  As a young boy Big Crow lived in a lodge of dirt and grass with his family.  Big Crow’s father, along with the rest of the tribe, followed buffalo herds in the summer to get food and animal skins used to make tepees.  Big Crow grew to be a strong warrior, and a good hunter, like a hawk.  He was respected by other members of his tribe for his many good deeds.  In fact, his good deeds were echoed throughout the village and he became known as the hawk whose deeds were echoed.  They called him Echo Hawk. 

From her grandfather Savannah learns to be proud of her heritage and have courage to do what is right.  

Not only is this book beautifully written, but it is also beautifully illustrated.  I found myself gazing at the art work long after I’d read the text on the page.  It also caused me to reflect upon my own heritage and the great people who had gone before me in my family, who had sacrificed greatly during their own lifetime for their freedoms and their beliefs.

This is a wonderful story that has a powerful and important message.  Don’t miss Call Me Little Echo Hawk.

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Another book with a powerful message for children is I Chose You, written by Lindsey Shumway, illustrated by Amy Hintze.

This story has a simple yet sweet message that teaches children to appreciate and celebrate their differences and to know that they were part of Heavenly Father’s plan.  Young children especially will delight in the story and illustrations as they recognize things about themselves that make them special. 

Beautifully written, with vivid and colorful images, I Chose You, is the ideal book and a perfect addition to a child’s library.

And finally, for the middle-grade readers I’d like to highly recommend Sariah McDuff: Primary Program Diva, by Lee Ann Setzer, Bonneville Books, 61 pages.  Also available; Sariah McDuff: Christmas Detective, Sariah McDuff: Valentine’s Day Scrooge, and Sariah McDuff Will Walk With You.

It’s time for the Primary Children’s program, and Sariah McDuff knows just the thing to make it a memorable experience for all – she will be the very first Primary Diva! After all, Bethni Sharp has her videos on TV and is famous all over the world, so why can’t Sariah be famous in Primary and Church and school?

Join seven-year-old Sariah, sister Margaret and their bewildered parents, as Sariah tries to become the quintessential singing star with purple sequins and a head microphone, but learns instead that music can be so much more than just a way to be the center of attention.

Lee Ann Setzer tells the funny stories of larger-than-life Sariah McDuff – a young lady with lots of energy and unusual ideas! Fun reading for parents and children alike, Sariah McDuff, Primary Diva is only the first of many misadventures and heartfelt lessons for our LDS heroine.

The many adventures of Sariah will definitely bring a smile to your lips and warm your heart. 

Also at the top of my list for middle-grad readers is:

CTR Club #1: Challenge for Brittany, by Lisa J. Peck.  Also available; CTR Club #2: Brittany to the Rescue, CTR Club #3: Megan’s Secret, CTR Club #4: Skating with Spencer.

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In Book One of the CTR CLUB series, Brittany Stevenson, her little sister Christine, and her best friend Meagan have been asked by their bishop to be friends with Parker – a new kid in the ward.  But Parker is autistic and loves to play with Brittany’s braids. He even tries to stick them in his mouth!

Can Brittany overcome her embarrassment to reach Parker’s heart?

Children will be delighted with the fun characters and situations, but still learn wonderful lessons of life and friendship.  

The CTR Club books are entertaining and fun but also teach valuable lessons to youth.  Kids will read them over and over and want to share them with their friends.