There are many beautiful picture books based on the relationship between mother and child and the importance of this bond. But, there could be a lot more books written about the equally important relationship between a father and his child. With Father's Day right about the corner, I found just the book to help celebrate this great day. "Just the Two of Us" is a wonderful picture book based upon a song that was popular several years ago. Will Smith up-dated the song by making it into a rap and again popularized it to become a big hit. He recently collaborated with the talented and well known Kadir Nelson to illustrate the pictures of this rap and create a wonderful picture book. The result has made this one of the finest father-child celebrations that I have seen!  Mr. Nelson has painted such realistic pictures, that are so full of color and detail, that you can feel your heart-strings pull as you look at the father's face as he looks in upon his sleeping newborn son.  Later, you begin to see the competitive spirit on the son's face as he grows older and is trying to dribble a basketball around his father's side.

The wonderful way that Smith placed the words on each page emphasizes the bond between father and son. But, I think, that the very best part of this outstanding book, is on the front page of the book. Will Smith wrote a poem about growing up and becoming a parent. It summarized his life, dreams and goals in a very succinct manner.  It begins like this: "I told my parents I wanted to build a castle in the sky. 'Here's a pencil and paper, let's draw the plans,' they replied."

If you want to read a picture book to your child that may begin to open their door to your total devotion to them, this is the book to read! Great for all ages.

I am always looking for a great mystery book to read. When I find that mystery, I read every book that author has written. This is the case with Wendelin Van Draanen's latest book, "Sammy Keyes and the Runaway Elf". When I reviewed her first book, "Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief", I couldn't wait to read more of her books. She has written five Sammy Keyes' mysteries and has recently published a sixth. Ms. Van Draanen has the talent for writing great detective masterpieces for kids that will keep them guessing throughout the entire book. Not until the final few chapters will the reader begin to tie everything together and reflect back on the clues that were discreetly given along the way.

In this current book, Sammy Keyes is taking care of a rich owner's dog on a parade float. When the dog suddenly darts off of the float, Sammy realizes she'll be in big trouble if she doesn't retrieve the dog immediately. Unfortunately, she loses the dog. But she meets up with a large elf sitting under a tree. It ends up being a small girl dressed up like an elf.  The girl had run off and her mother had been searching for her. As you are reading about all of the events that happen to Sammy, you find yourself wondering how these are all going to tie into the complete mystery.  But, eventually, they all do come together, tied up very nicely, at the end. As Sammy tries to locate the rich owner's dog, she uncovers many more facts than she bargained for and you wonder if she will ever be able to bring the dishonest people to justice.

This is one of Ms. Van Draanen's greatest strengths in writing mysteries. Many times, I have come across a good children's mystery writer, but, as an adult, I can figure out "who done it". I have also found that, many times, children can too. But, not so with the Sammy Keyes series. Ms. Van Draanen has an uncanny ability to keep you guessing by sprinkling red herrings continually throughout the story so you don't know who is guilty and who is innocent. She also writes such great descriptions of how Sammy is feeling at the moment of being unsure about what she is doing, or how she is feeling about her friends and family.  This also a great lure for pre-teen to teenage readers.  As they read about how Sammy feels about her situation in the story, they will, most likely be able to identify with Sammy's frustrations. And I find myself re-reading some of the author's great descriptive comparisons of some of Sammy's dilemmas. For example, in chapter 7, where Sammy finally meets the wealthy dog's owner, she realizes she is in for more than she bargained for as she leaves the mansion. "I felt like I was stuck in quick sand. The more I moved the deeper I sank, and at the rate I was going it wouldn't be long before I was completely swallowed up."

This book will keep 10 and older guessing all of the way through!

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