Reviewed by: BigAl with input from The Princess
Genre: The Idea Tree Children’ s Picture Book
The Stars Twinkle Brightly Illustrated Children’s Book
Approximate word count:
The Idea Tree Fifteen pages (excluding front and back matter)
The Stars Twinkle Brightly 2,100-2,200 words
The Idea Tree
The Stars Twinkle Brightly
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“Mary E. Fam, an Educator, has taught students of all ages locally and abroad. She also serves her community as a Youth Mentor. In addition to her Master's thesis/dissertation "The Social and Academic Effects of Bullying" (Fam, 2006), Mary has published various articles on teaching tools that promote student success and been involved in curriculum development at elementary and secondary levels. She is a member of numerous educational organizations that specialize in professional development for teachers and excellence in Education.”
The Idea Tree
“This is the fantastical tale of the origin of Fall (Autumn) as the product of a single idea. The story resonates messages of confidence, courage, anti-bullying concepts and the encouragement to go forward with a good idea.”
The Stars Twinkle Brightly
“The story of an eight-year-old boy who discovers he has cancer. The author transforms an otherwise unpleasant topic into an uplifting and useful resource for parents and children dealing with cancer. The boy’s triumph over cancer leaves the reader feeling joyful and comforted and serves as a testimony to the power of perseverance and love. The story promises to provide a positive perspective on the many negatives of childhood cancer. The illustrations give life to the boy’s courage and determination in a colourful and cheerful way!”
I gave The Princess, my nine year-old granddaughter, several children’s books to read and then quizzed her about them afterwards. Two were Mary Fam’s books, The Idea Tree and The Stars Twinkle Brightly. As soon as I mentioned the first of these in our Q&A session, she smiled and with excitement in her voice said, “I really like this author.”
Before I had a chance to ask my first question about The Idea Tree, she asked if I wanted to know the grade (on an A, B, C, D, F scale, as I’d asked her to do for previous books). She said it was A++. (Apparently Ms. Fam did some extra credit work and scored over 100%.) She thought the vocabulary and story of both books were a good fit for her age (a couple months into grade three) and a year younger. Those in grade one (at least this early in the year) wouldn’t be reading yet.
The message of this book, that it was okay to be different and to “go for it” if you have an idea, is one that seemed to resonate with The Princess. The photographs in the book, while viewable in a grayscale Kindle, really cry out for a color reader such as a Kindle Fire or other tablet computer, as the colors are a big part of the story, supporting and helping drive the message home.
The Stars Twinkle Brightly is longer with many more words. The pictures aren’t as critical to the story, so the necessity isn’t as high for a color reader, although still preferred. When The Princess said, “I really like this author,” she was talking about both books. This one also received an A++, as well as getting the nod when asked to pick her favorite of the two. When I asked her favorite part, I was surprised that her answer was the beginning. She then quoted the first line of the book from memory, “the stars twinkle brightly when the night is quiet and calm.” It makes sense that catching the attention of a young reader from the beginning matters at least as much as with older readers and there was something about this opening line that hooked her.
However, the story, about an eight year-old diagnosed with cancer, obviously interested The Princess as well. A couple years ago she was in an accident that involved hospital time and multiple surgeries, which she related to the challenges the protagonist of this story went through, and she commented in comparison to the girl with cancer in this story, her experience hadn’t been so bad.
When I read it, I agreed; it was a good story, and would be especially well suited to a child of this age who is going through this experience or knows someone who is. (The author went through this when a child, which lends authenticity to the story.) If The Princess’ reaction is a good indication, the target audience is also capable of relating the story to their own lives and experiences.
The Princess says she “really likes books.” The future author also gave these books high marks for inspiration, saying they gave her “ideas to write her own books.”
Although I noticed at least one word using UK spelling conventions (colour) and there might be others I missed, it didn’t seem to be an issue for The Princess, which is how it should be. I’ve noticed that she, and I’m guessing many young readers, who are still developing skills in spelling and constantly increasing their vocabularies through their reading, don’t get hung up on such trivial matters as they focus on the story and work out what words they haven’t encountered before are and what they mean.
No significant issues
Rating: ***** Five stars