Book Reviews

Top ten "Best Books" of 2011 "'She will not clutch, nor even touch, the bumblebee I gave her. The fly, she hates (but tolerates it ... like a sour neighbor).' This striking bilingual exploration of a little girl’s aversion to all things wiggly works effortlessly on every level. Operating as a Spanish and/or English rhyming and grammar lesson--plus a humorous, yet gross, index of bugs, including beetles, salamanders, moths, and spiders, among others--and presenting museum-quality, collage-like artwork, this title raises the bar for all children’s picture books." – ForeWord Reviews (She Doesn’t Want the Worms – Ella no quiere los gusanos)

“A lot of action, hair breadth escapes ... Well done western novel.” - Randy Johnson, Vine Voice (Amazon, To Swallow the Earth)
“[Y]ou will want to grab this book. There is a lot of action ... a page turner [that will] keep you guessing. And the conflicts with Wade and Patricia might surprise you, as well. Never a dull moment in this read. ... so well written you can completely see what he is describing. You will enjoy this book. 5 stars!” - Sonja Nishimoto
“[A] lot of ‘classic’ elements ... the fun comes in how they, our heroes, get there. ... Wilcox, with Beckstrand's assistance, has woven an adventure that Louis L’Amour would approve. ... I read this with buying the film rights in mind. If I had the spare cash, the check would be in the mail and I'd be thinking about casting my leads. ... The writers tell the tale with good characters (real people, not 1950s Hollywood cowboys), fabulous scenery that cries out for ‘filmed entirely on location,’ and a plot line with as many switchbacks as a high-mountain sheep track. A short, easy read that will brighten up any evening.” - Phoenix Roberts
"I let my 14 year old son read it first, and he loved it! Great for ages 14 and up. I especially liked the dialogue, very natural, yet lyrical. Beckstrand obviously did a lot of research to make it true to life. Kudos!" - Susanne
"A wonderful story of adventure, grit and survival. Karl’s done an amazing job of beautifully illustrating this story through his words. I highly recommend it!" - Lindsay Condie

I've read this twice, a jam packed and ingenious story with accurate ... descriptions of the ... Sierra Nevadas. ... Think Zane Grey or Louis L'Amour. There are some pretty awesome ‘special effects’ for a book, with amazing escapes! ... A subtle, sweet and completely clean love story in the background...just right! - Susan B., Librarian, Odyssey Charter School (A Sky So Big)
“... as I got into the book I found it difficult to put down to do tasks or go to sleep. I learned quite a bit about my beloved Sierra Nevada range around the Lake Tahoe area. I enjoyed reading this.” - Elaine Fales

"For bilingual readers, those studying either language or anyone who likes stories about scaredy-cat dogs, this no-frills app may sound about right. … The narration and text are handled well, and the story is suspenseful without ever getting too intense for younger readers." - Kirkus Reviews (Sounds in the House)

“Karl Beckstrand's bizarrely funny picture book … shows how good bananas go wrong … Fair trade and organic labels … are replaced by tattoo-like stickers proclaiming 'Del Malo,' 'Un-Organic,' or 'Dull' … Faerber's illustrations style the bad bananas as … skate punks … Salvation appears in the form of banana-based recipes. Cookies, fruit salad, pancakes, and more … Delicious … I'll take an appreciative 'mmm' from The Horn Book staff any day.” – Katie Bircher, The Horn Book blog (Bad Bananas – A Story Cookbook for Kids)

"Wilcox is a gifted writer. He has the ability to draw you into his story with a combination of simple language and homespun charm. The stories have a bit of everything, adventure, melancholy, joy. … There is a touching scene with the family dog named Old Blue. Local dialect makes it an authentic read … written with both common sense and pathos. … Teachers might want to consider using the book as part of a study unit on American life in the early twentieth century. I find it difficult to explain why I like this book so much, but I recommend that you give it a try." - Barbara Ann Mojica (Horse & Dog Adventures in Early California)

“In this delightful book, a girl is presented with creepy crawly creatures that she doesn't want. Beckstrand's humorous rhyming text captures her reaction to each one. The text is written in blue crayon but changes colors for the animals' names. The bright illustrations are fun and capture the sentiments of the narrative. This bilingual version of the story includes a pronunciation key ... Online activities complement the presentation." – Ana Rodriguez, Tamarac Elementary, for School Library Journal (She Doesn’t Want the Worms – Ella no quiere los gusanos)

“Karl Beckstrand guides readers into a world that is eye-opening and page-turning!” - UP Authors (Bright Star, Night Star: An Astronomy Story)

Top 10 on for large print children’s titles and also Spanish children's titles, 2011-2012 (Crumbs on the Stairs – Migas en las escaleras: A Mystery)

"[A] funny, interactive story that is easy to play, read and enjoy. The dog hears all kinds of noises that come with every house. … It's also educational, as it helps the child realize everything usually has an ordinary, benign explanation behind it. … The mystery is interactive as the child tries to figure out what's behind the 'scary' noises and discovers squeaks, taps and creaks everywhere. … It's fun to try and find … 28 different hidden sounds. … The story is sweet [and] can entertain a child simply and effectively … and the illustrations by Channing Jones are funny. … The app can be customized. … The music and volume can be brought up and down. It's available in Spanish as well as English. … The language is clean and there isn't any violence. There's nothing to worry about here--except you might want to buy more of these to share." - Sharon Haddock, Deseret News

"... A perfect combination of plot and picture ... a big-eyed dog ... faces his fears head-on ... Illustrations by Channing Jones are so appropriate for every plot point that you will find yourself smiling at every page. A delightful addition to the world of picture books." - Crystie Cook, Poet (Sounds in the House)

“Elevando la Lectura Bilingüe” – T. Navarro, El Observador

“What a great concept for a story for children that includes an interactive cookbook! The idea is refreshing, fun and creative. The writing flawlessly goes from page to page from the start to the end. I really enjoy the descriptions of the bananas and their different uses in our kitchens. I believe this book will get kids to open their imaginations and see the many possibilities that fruits can have, not only to feed us, but also to entertain us. The story will surface every time they eat a banana for days to come and will become a great conversation piece for friends and family ... you will find different recipes for the kids to try at home ... The language used in this book is child friendly and the situations are age appropriate. The drawings and color throughout the book are vivid and fun. This book will delight children from 1st - 4th grades, their teachers, and parents.” - Anna del C. Dye for Readers Favorite

“El libro envía un mensaje para enfrentar los temores”. – Normand Garcia, AhoraUtah, Mayo 2011 (Sounds in the House)

Bad Bananas: A Story Cookbook by Karl Beckstrand is a great addition to a child’s library. As a teacher of third graders, and now leading a children’s book reviewing club, I plan to share this with my students. The illustrations are bold and bright and pull in the attention of the readers. The recipes will provide great times in the kitchen using bananas to create a variety of (low sugar) foods. The story itself is full of humor and readers will probably never look at a banana as 'just a fruit' again. And I do believe there is a double meaning to 'even a bad banana can turn out good.'” – Joyce M. Gilmour,

“Fluff forsaken, here's to communication clear and concise.” BYU Comms Magazine, 2008

“This is a fun book for kids ages 4 to 12. … While banana characters get crazy, this cookbook shares healthy recipes for everything from banana muffins to pancakes and smoothies. This is a family-fun cookbook that’s a story and a cookbook.” – Kat Dennis, Easy Cooking in the Kitchen (Bad Bananas – A Story Cookbook for Kids)

"... beautifully colored pages that are attractive to the kids. The illustrations have lots of expressions and are easy to understand. The writing should be easy to follow for pre-schoolers. It provides a great conversation piece for parents, teachers, and guardians. It will help to ensure the children of their safety and sort out the different things that can scare us at night or when we are alone. The theme has been covered before, yet our kids are so different from each other that I am sure this book will touch many kids suffering from anxiety in all its forms. The main character in this book is a dog that is alone and exploring all the different noises usually associated with a house. The furnace, creaks, refrigerator, steps, squeaks, and many others noises can turn the child's imagination into a field full of fun or a field full of fear. It is important for all parents to have an opportunity to re-assure their child that all is well and that normal noises are a reality they will have to live with for the rest of their lives. Once they are shown, or the noises explained, children will react more appropriately to them. This will surely make the difference between scared children that will burden their parents with their fears or those that will grow up ready to take on the world. The story is well done. The drawings are age appropriate and colorful, yet easy on the eyes.” - Author Anna del C. Dye for Readers Favorite (Sounds in the House)

"A story, an activity book [with] recipes parents and kids can enjoy together ... a rollicking romp through badness that any kid can relish. Charming; even a bad banana can turn out good!" – Alison Levy, Park Slope Food Coop Linewaiter’s Gazette, Brooklyn, NY (Bad Bananas – A Story Cookbook for Kids)

She Doesn’t Want the Worms is a funny tale about a little girl and what bugs her. The illustrations are colorful and edgy—and full of surprises.” – Amy Stewart, Midvale Valley Journal

“This story cookbook for kids lets parents do two good things with one action. Parents can read with their children and share quality time … preparing and enjoying the recipes in the book.” – (Bad Bananas)

“A silly book about bananas … The book has seven recipes for things like banana bread and cookies and a smoothie …The bad bananas make the other fruit mad. The pictures were kind of funny. Most of the recipes are pretty healthy and not really hard to make.” – Marten Weldon for

“… El autor destapa su mundo interior … creando así una simpática historia donde la amistad y el valor ayudan a un personaje … a vencer su fobia por la oscuridad.” – Normand Garcia, AhoraUtah (Sounds in the House)

"She Doesn't Want the Worms! is a hilarious, witty, bilingual book with English/Spanish pronunciation guide for children age 2 and up. Creative multi-media illustrations delight and disgust … Although she is not frightened, the girl definitely has other ideas about what makes a suitable gift … She Doesn't Want the Worms is yucky, funny and challenging … Kids age [3] and up will love [it] and … will have a chance to effortlessly learn Spanish at the same time. No adult … will be tempted to go to sleep before the twist ending.” - Midwest Book Review

“Al igual que los otros títulos publicados por este mismo autor, este libro es muy entretenido y magníficamente ilustrado, fácil de entender por los pequeños de todas las edades, con una historia sencilla y amena a la vez.” – M. Angulo (Ruidos en la casa)

"For many of us, the study of family history includes a discovery of the immigration of our ancestors, and a new interest in the countries and cultures from which they came. Author Karl Beckstrand learned of his family’s heritage (at least from one particular “branch”), and [wrote] this children’s story, Anna’s Prayer – the story of his immigrant ancestors. Anna lived with her mother and sister in Sweden. When they joined the [LDS] church, they were persecuted and her mother was fired. (I didn’t even realize the Mormon church existed in Sweden in the 1880’s!) Ultimately, her mother decided to send her and her sister to America. The book tells of Anna’s journey, first by boat to the United States, then by train to Utah. It tells of her [struggle] ... unable to speak English. Anna remembers, though, what her mama told her – that her Heavenly Father understands her. God answered her prayer for a Swedish speaker -- and then some! (Isn’t that just like God? Providing even more than we could ask or think?) As you have probably discerned by now, the book revolves around a Mormon young girl. However, there is nothing in the text that would offend or concern me as a conservative Christian. Rather, it’s a sweet story about trust in a Father who cares for us wherever we are, and an eye-opening peek into the difficulties our ancestors faced in coming here, in a context perfect for children to understand. (We also found it a useful segue into talking about Mormonism.)" - Rachel Ramey,

“Este libro los niños lo pueden leer todos los días, a mi hija le encanta, participa mucho de el, me gusta el vocabulario que lleva, fácil de entender para niños, y lo disfrutan. Muy bueno.” – L. Trask (Ruidos en la casa)

“I enjoyed reading this book and have used it in my classroom. I have read several books by the author and have enjoyed each ... The pictures are super ... the fact that it has both Spanish and English is helpful for my students ... Favor de seguir escribiendo libros tan bonitos como este”. – C. Martin – Educator (Crumbs on the Stairs)

"This delightful new book from Karl Beckstrand is a great read with fantastic illustrations. The rhyming text introduces a rich vocabulary of words to describe the creatures in the story and the young girl's reaction to them. I also love Mr. Beckstrand's books because they present the story in Spanish as well as English. My children are taking Spanish at school this year and his books are a delightful way to present excellent literature as a means to practice and reinforce the language they are learning at school. Delightful book!” – A. Carr, (She Doesn't Want the Worms)

“… highly recommend it …the author does a great job of teaching Spanish throughout.” – Jason A. (Crumbs on the Stairs)

“I was surprised to find that this book, Bad Bananas: A Story Cookbook for Kids, was written by the same man who wrote Anna’s Prayer. They’re so different! This silly book personifies bananas. Watch them transition from young and good, to adventurous, to just plain bad – ill-intentioned gang members who are a bad influence on other fruit. The text is full of puns, and recipes are interspersed at appropriate points. The illustrations are fun. You’ve not seen anything until you’ve seen a banana wearing cornrows or participating in extreme fruit sports! Pay attention to the fruit labels – even these are accurate and made use of for literary effect (which bananas are organic and which aren’t?). Recipes include a Banana Smoothie, Banana Topping, Fruit Salad, Banana Pudding, Banana Muffins, Banana Pancakes, and Banana Redemption Bread – which reminds us that ‘even a bad banana can turn out good.’” – Rachel Ramey

“Un libro que mantiene el interés de los niños en cada pagina, con muy buenas ilustraciones que desarrollan la curiosidad de los pequeños. El autor presenta este libro de una manera muy sencilla y entretenida.” – Miguel A. (Migas en las escaleras)

"This is a true story and the illustrations are exquisitely done by Shari. I highly recommend this book for everyone who enjoys stories about their ancestors ... Rating: five stars." - Teri Rodman (Anna's Prayer)

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Black History Month article in Deseret News

Deseret News

Anna's Prayer in Deseret News

Salt Lake Tribune's Spanish language newspaper

Deseret News Spanish language newspaper