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Foreword Reviews Preteen Novel Piranhas Like S’mores: 5 Stars

Foreword Reviews: Juvenile Fiction
Piranhas Like S’mores
JZ Bingham
Balcony 7 Media and Publishing
Pub Date: November 4, 2014




Piranhas Like S’mores will strike a chord with all readers as it portrays life events that are as funny as they are sad.


Inside Piranhas Like S’mores by JZ Bingham, young readers find a fun caper that navigates the tricky landscape of adolescence as characters explore lessons in honesty, compassion, and grief.

Eleven-year-old Klyde is involved in a little shady entrepreneurship, doing classmates’ homework in exchange for cash. His partner in crime is his cousin Bonney, who soon schemes with him on the ultimate science fair project. Using the resources of a rich friend, Seldon, the preteens acquire an elaborate fish tank and create a documentary on the feeding habits of piranhas.

Bingham illustrates productive problem-solving as the three characters execute their ambitious science project idea. They even get permission to import the Amazonian fish that are banned in their home state. “I know we were just a bunch of kids and all,” Bingham writes as Klyde, “but with the help of all the adults around us, encouraging us and stuff, we were doing something pretty cool. We were on a mission, and we were getting it done.”

On a deeper level, the author sprinkles in more serious obstacles to show young readers how to handle tough emotions. Firstly, there is Seldon, who is dealing with the death of his mother; Bingham uses Klyde and Bonney to show how to relate to a truly grieving friend. Secondly, Klyde’s beloved dog passes away, and Bingham presents a touching scene in which the parents lovingly comfort Klyde. Thirdly, Bonney suffers a horrible accident that lands her in intensive care, and Klyde and Seldon must confront their own fear of losing a close friend.

Bingham should be commended for managing to address life’s harsh realities within a comic tale sometimes so ridiculous that piranhas dine on s’mores. But what really stands out is the author’s knack for conveying an authentic preteen voice. Klyde’s mix of awareness and innocence is a dead-on portrait of the confusing jumble of emotions in those formative years. His voice and the cultural references he uses make him a believable protagonist.

Whether Bingham’s characters are trying to get piranhas into a fish tank or visiting their comatose friend in the hospital, they call on personal strength, kindness, and the support of others to find their way. As Bingham writes, “Some things go bad without you ever seeing them coming. And some things go bad because you made them happen. Either way, you can try to make things right again.”

Piranhas Like S’mores will strike a chord with all readers as it portrays life events that are as funny as they are sad. In the book’s final line, Klyde concludes:

“Bittersweet: It’s what life tastes like. And if you can handle the bitter, the sweet will come later.”

Amanda McCorquodale



5 Stars Foreword Review of Piranhas Like S'mores by JZ BinghamAvailable wherever books are sold, in print and eBook formats. Convenient links: AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

Channel Blue by JZ Bingham, 5 Stars Foreword Reviews Juvenile Fiction
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Foreword Reviews Juvenile Fiction: 5 Stars For Channel Blue


Foreword Reviews Juvenile Fiction
Channel Blue: Riders of the Storm
by JZ Bingham | Jason Buhagiar, Illustrator
Balcony 7 Media and Publishing
Pub Date: April 30, 2014



Pulled in by standout illustrations, kids are introduced to life lessons such as perseverance, sportsmanship, and overcoming adversity.

For once, judging a book by its cover will serve teachers, students, and parents well.

Illustrated by Jason Buhagiar, JZ Bingham’s Channel Blue is as riveting in its text as it is in its animation-style visuals. The fourth in the award-winning Salty Splashes Collection, Bingham uses clever rhyming couplets to create a picture book about an alluring cast of surf-loving animals and the sea creatures under the waves.

The adventure story is superbly packaged in hardcover with a sleek front-cover design and truly beautiful illustrations, with layouts reminiscent of Disney storyboards.

On the morning of Heat Wave, a surf contest, cartoon animals Stump and Crump attempt to thwart the feline Beardsley so that their boss, Diggy, has a better shot at winning the Golden Fin trophy. The duo enlists the aid of dolphins and sharks as furry beach babes Oola and Kat look on to see which surfer will come out on top. Through Bingham’s metered verse, Beardsley overcomes a broken surfboard, rocks outside his cave, and sinister sharks to not only win the contest but also to exercise supreme sportsmanship in befriending his rival in the end.

“In spite of all his scheming and in spite of all his tricks,” Bingham writes, “the mighty Diggy hit a wall with quite a lot of bricks. ‘We made it, man. Here, take my hand.’ The bobcat took a stand. This humbled Diggy mightily. He grinned and took his hand.”

Pulled in by Buhagiar’s standout illustrations, kids are introduced to life lessons such as perseverance, sportsmanship, and overcoming adversity. Rhymes make the narrative fun to read aloud and will also benefit new readers as they work through Bingham’s mix of easy and slightly advanced vocabulary.

Bingham also packs in the action: the furry cartoon cast has a beachside dance party, snorkels through reefs, rides sting rays, conspires with sharks by moonlight, and surfs the white- crested swells. Meanwhile, Buhagiar adds intensity through highly expressive characters drawn to capture the drama and excitement of the Heat Wave competition.

Channel Blue will undoubtedly stand out on any bookshelf, and once cracked open, it will likely become a favorite at group story times or in the hands of a young beginner reader.

Amanda McCorquodale



channel-blue-book-review 5 Stars Foreword Reviews Juvenile FictionAvailable wherever books are sold and in select libraries. AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE 

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Foreword Reviews Juvenile Fiction: 5 Stars for Dreamy Drums

Foreword Reviews Juvenile Fiction
Dreamy Drums: Trouble in Paradise
JZ Bingham
Balcony 7 Media and Publishing
Pub Date: November 1, 2013



Fun illustrations and animal characters, combined with a pleasing rhyming scheme, make this a book that parents and children will want to read over and over again.

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Dreamy Drums, Trouble in Paradise, is a high-quality, eye-catching, colorful picture book with a cast of animal characters that children will enjoy. The first book in the Salty Splashes Collection™, this book introduces a cast of animal pals and the hijinks they get themselves into. From Sammy, the young puppy learning the family rules, to a day spent at the beach with his sister Kat and friends, the group manages to fall asleep on a small boat and drift off in a storm until they beach at an island.

JZ Bingham’s rhyming text excels at using both prose and spoken words to define the characters’ personalities, such as when Kat dreams of being back to the only child, thinking, “She imagined ‘Prisoner Sammy’/ and she grinned from ear to ear.” The rhyme is simple to moderate, good for lower elementary school students.

There is an abundance of text in Dreamy Drums, some pages having five stanzas—quite a bit for a thirty-two-page picture book. There is one logic error: when Sammy learns the rules, he discovers that he has some ‘no-nos’ hidden in his room that he needs to put in a bag and hide, but in the list of his rules, there is nothing noted that would make sense to bag, hide, or keep. The book gets part of its title from a picturesque stanza: “The thunder claps were distant, dreamy drums in their heads.”

Dreamy Drums, Trouble in Paradise, of the Salty Splashes Collection, has an ensemble of fun animal characters written in a rhyming scheme that parents and children will want to read over and over again.

Illustrator Curt Walstead has drawn cartoon characters that fit the personalities Bingham created for them. According to the book’s introduction, Walstead hand-drew the illustrations onto Balcony 7 Studios storyboard designs. His illustrations are fun and colorfully bright, with movement, direction, and appropriate amount of details. Walstead has an impressive resume, including Dragon Tales, Men in Black, Dora the Explorer, and Go Diego Go, just to name a few.

The cover illustration is eye-catching, with emotion on the characters’ faces during the storm. The title is printed large and bold at the top, with the author’s and illustrator’s names at the bottom. The book is a durable hardcover with dust jacket with quality paper inside. There are one or two pages where part of the illustration and storyboard seem slightly fuzzy, but it doesn’t affect the overall feel of the book.

Beth VanHouten




Learn more about the entire cartoon eBook and book collection

Available in print, eBook, audiobook and Read-To-Me Audio Ebook formats wherever books, eBooks and audiobooks are sold.