Reviews

"This is a great learning book! My boys love all the crazy tractor pictures and my 4 year old was counting up to 50 in a day thanks to this fun book!"

C ZERR, AMAZON.COM, 6/7/2018

"Fifty photos of different makes, sizes and types of tractors, each one in some difficulty -- many of them stuck in mud, but some that suffered a mechanical breakdown, or broke through a bridge, or got caught in a flood, or the operator obviously steered wrong and hit something ... the goals of this book are to teach counting from one to fifty with both numerals and written number words, and to teach safety on the farm and in life. These pictures could generate dozens of safety conversations. Well done!!"

MOM/GRAMMOM, AMAZON.COM, 10/22/2018

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"My nephew loved it so much! Made it to Switzerland before Christmas!! Very fast shipping. Very satisfied! Thanks so much! :)"

JESSICA, ETSY.COM, 1/15/2019

"I bought two copies as gifts for friends who have young sons. In both cases, I was texted a picture of said child (and said child’s older brothers and father) utterly engrossed in the book within 20 minutes. While it is unlikely to win a Pulitzer, I feel the word ‘masterpiece’ is applicable."

EMMA, ETSY.COM, 1/8/2019

"My boys loved these books! Illustration was colorful and intriguing. Live in a farming community so very fun for kids to be able to recognize machines. Would purchase again!"

ASHLEY W, AMAZON.COM, 4/23/2020

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"My son, who is 2.5 absolutely loves this book! We read it several times a day, and he loves picking out all the animals. Great story and great illustration, we love it!"

LINDSAY K., AMAZON.CA 4/24/2019

"Those books are amazing for little children".

MADELINE S., MLARSONBOOKSSASK Review on Facebook 4/9/2020

Melanie Larson’s children’s book, The Day I Lost My Bear in Cypress Hills (Adventures of the Barnyard Boys), is a simply told and colourfully illustrated day-in-the-life story of five-year-old Finn and his family. Finn wakes at his grandparents’ log cabin in Cypress Hills, raring to begin an adventurous day with activities that range from swimming lessons to rock climbing. As the title reveals, the enthusiastic boy loses his treasured “stuffie” during the day, and he “[needs] his bear to sleep!”

The book features large-font text and bright images – the illustrator nailed Cypress Hills, with its distinctive evergreens (including Lodgepole pines) featured on nearly every image. I suggest that this upbeat story be read to and by youngsters for its vibrant celebration of the great outdoors, and its display of how much fun can be had doing things that don’t require anything but an imagination. Particularly now, during a global pandemic, it’s so beneficial for children of all ages to discover how it’s the little things – like going for a walk with one’s family, hot dog roasts, or stargazing – that often provide the most joy and remain in memory.

Finn and his brothers Owen and Dez ride bikes, play in the lake, build sandcastles, and hike: “We collected pine cones, sticks and bugs.” They visit the local museum and see a mounted “cougar, a moose and even a beaver dam”. The protagonist’s beloved bear appears in many of the illustrations, and as a bonus, Larson’s included a pictorial inventory of Cypress Hills’ creatures – both winged and land-based – at the end of the story, and invites readers to find the images in the book.

Larson worked as an Environmental Consultant prior to writing children’s books, and the rural mother of three previously published Count Them! 50 Tractor Troubles, “to help her children learn to count and spell to 50 while learning farm safety”. Her illustrator, Brahmachari, is also an animator – with “many clients from all over the world” – and his large-eyed, expressive characters romp delightfully across the pages in their “fun-filled day!”

The writer and illustrator have teamed to create what any child might consider an ideal summer day, complete with Bubble Gum ice cream. When Finn’s ready to cuddle Bear and “look at the bright stars before bed,” he realizes the bear’s been misplaced somewhere along the way and the search begins. I love how we see bats swooping through the dark between trees, and Finn’s mom holds a protective arm over her head, just as this woman would do. Will the boy ever “hold Bear again”?

Though this well-produced book might be especially prized by anyone who’s visited Saskatchewan’s Cypress Hills, it’s certainly also a story to be enjoyed by young children anywhere. I recommend it for its outdoors and family-positive themes, and the overall cheery tone. I expect that Finn and his brothers will get up to many more adventures in the unique and beautiful southwestern corner of the province. Here’s to that!

Shelley A. Leedahl, www.skbooks.com 1/10/2020

Many children of a certain age go through a “dinosaur phase” – a period when they’re passionate about the magnificent creatures that roamed the earth 70 million years ago. I remember taking my own children to Drumheller’s Tyrell Museum when they were young. In Saskatchewan, dinosaur aficionados can visit the T.rex Discovery Centre in Eastend or The Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina to learn about all-things-dinosaur, and meet Scotty, the life-sized Tyrannosaurus rex models. They could also pick up a copy of Melanie Larson’s latest illustrated children’s book, The Day I Discovered a Dinosaur Bone?! (Adventures of the Barnyard Boys), and tag along with brothers Finn, Owen and Dez as they search for – and find – something interesting in the Saskatchewan hillsides.

After watching their “favourite dinosaur movie,” six-year-old Finn and his brothers are inspired to unearth fossils too. “I bet we have a short-necked plesiosaur right in our own backyard!” Finn says. The boys go to work, but unfortunately their digging only results in the discovery of “an old, broken toy truck”. Undaunted, the trio also search the beach – no luck there – then their grandparents’ ranch, where Finn digs up a “bone” that is “so big that it would not fit inside [the] van!” The family decides to take the discovery – strapped to the van’s roof – to the dinosaur museum. What has Finn found? (No spoilers!)

As with her earlier title, The Day I Lost My Bear in Cypress Hills, Larson again includes many “Fun facts” in this cheery book. Among other interesting trivia, readers learn about dinosaur discoveries near Herschel, Ponteix, and Carrot River, SK, and that “In 1874, the first dinosaur fossil was found in Grasslands National Park” by geologist George Dawson. Children will also have fun locating the twelve bird, animal and insect images at the end of the book within the previous pages. Did you know that “the official word for dinosaur poop” is coprolite? Me neither!

The story’s filled with dinosaur names – always fun to say – like Triceratops, Mosasaurus, Troodon and Ankylosaurus. I enjoyed the humour in the book, as well. When the museum’s paleontologist tells the boy’s that what they’ve found may be “more than 65 million years old,” Finn says: “It’s as old as Grandpa!”

There’s book-to-book continuity regarding the playful illustrations, which feature lots of colour, big-eyed characters, and a few details that demonstrate the prairie flora and fauna, ie: prairie lilies. I appreciated the bold, easy-to-read black font against white pages, and the book’s quality production will hold up well against small hands and smudges.

Larson lives in Simmie, south of Swift Current, and works as an Environmental Consultant. Another of her five titles is Count Them! 50 Tractor Troubles, and I expect we’ll continue to see her brand – fun, educational stories featuring these three adventurous brothers and their family – in future books, as well. This tale’s sure to bring joy to any budding little archeologists in your life. For more information, visit the author’s website at mlarsonbooks.com.

Shelley A. Leedahl, www.skbooks.com 8/4/2021

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