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Reviews of books.jpg

Dr. Elana Ashley’s English and English-Spanish editions -
Case One: The Missing Friendship Bracelet Caso primero: El brazalete de la amistad desaparecido

Kirkus Discoveries: 
”Simple, appealing photographs of puppets in a house illustrate the homespun tale about a lost bracelet and a fight between friends.

Ellie Elephant, who wears embroidered jeans and a dungaree cap, is heartbroken because her friendship bracelet is lost and her best friend Eli has gone home angry. Suddenly, her phone rings and a mysterious voice claiming to be ‘a detective and a peacemaker’ offers help. She agrees, blinks her eyes three times and meets Splunkunio Splunkey, a tall (compared to puppet-size elephants), brightly colored alien. They call Eli, who’s still mad but agrees to come over and help retrace the steps that led to the disappearance of the bracelet. Splunkey takes the two elephants through their activities from earlier that day: hide-and-seek, Eli getting stuck under a bed, the bracelet’s sudden disappearance and the yelling and accusations. Of course they find the bracelet and make up, but a plot that could be stale is freshened by the enjoyable photographs and Splunkey’s quirky diction (‘I need to scramdoodle ‘cause I’m in a time crunch’: ‘Then again, since this case was a piece of cake, how about giving me a piece of cake?’). Each page features two vertical columns of text, one in English, and one in Spanish."
“When Ellie Elephant loses first her treasured friendship bracelet, then her best friend, over the ensuing upheaval, it’s up to Detective Splunkunio Splunkey to help Ellie put things right again. In this charming, bilingual book for children, author and photographer Dr. Elana Ashley has done a delightful job of bringing the story to life as she introduces young readers to the bright, joyful world she has created.

Detective Splunkey, a wildly colorful and imaginative, birdlike alien, appears to Ellie and her friend Eli to assist them in reenacting what happened in an effort to trace back where Ellie’s bracelet might have been lost. Children will learn values of trust [at one point, Ellie believes her friend might have stolen the bracelet], patience, logic and forgiveness, as the two pals work together through their grievances to retrieve the bracelet with a little assistance from the strange-looking visitor from space.

Splunkey himself is a delightful conglomeration of wisdom, humor and sassiness that children will both enjoy and relate to, as he first calms, then guides the friends through the logical process that will lead to Ellie’s bracelet. The story’s text is run concurrently in English and Spanish, making it easy to pick out and learn new words in either language. Ethnic touches like Ellie’ bracelet, which is a colorful collection of tiny cloth dancers in traditional Mexican garb, adds visual, as well as cultural interest.

The author’s photographs are enchantingly simple, with inherent, understated humor in every gesture of her puppets, from the first picture of Ellie mourning the loss of her bracelet and the fight with her friend, a box of tissues clutched in her paw, to the…photo as the two friends watch in wonder as Splunkey takes off for his next adventure.  …young readers will eagerly follow the adventures of Splunkunio Splunkey and hunger for future installments.” 

The Bloomsbury Review, Children's & Young Adult Books:
"Elana Ashley has created an excellent bilingual children's book. It's an interesting story for young children, from about four to eight. It's well illustrated, with appealing and colorful photographs. It teaches a lesson about friendship and understanding. And it works equally well in English and Spanish. Magically, Ellie gets a phone call...It's Splunkey, a mostly red, yellow and blue alien...With humor, understanding and patience, he [Splunkey] helps Ellie and Eli act out the events (some touching and some humorous) that happened before the bracelet was lost... In the end, they both learn something about cooperating to find the truth. …Unlike some dual language books, this one is just as enjoyable in either language.’ 

Imagine the time and effort the author/ photographer put into making this book a reality ─ quite impressive. This book would definitely make a nice addition to any children's library, and I am sure will be getting giggles for years to come. Very imaginative!"

Judge's Critique - Writer's Digest 11th Annual International
Self-Published Book Awards:
"Splunkunio Splunkey Detective and Peacemaker ─ what an original idea! Using photography to illustrate this book was a brilliant concept, and the author/illustrator has done a fantastic job of bringing her main characters to life through her photographs. Kids will love how Ellie, Eli, and Splunkey adorn the pages, acting out the story and solving the mystery of Ellie's lost bracelet.   I can remember seeing books like this at the public library when I was a child and wishing there were more that contained other types of art besides watercolors and colored pencil drawings. It is so wonderful to see people take their skills and utilize them to create books for young readers. The photography is super, and the creatures are really adorable.  I can only imagine the time and effort the author/ photographer put into making this book a reality ─ quite impressive. This book would definitely make a nice addition to any children's library, and I am sure will be getting giggles for years to come. Very imaginative!"


Dr. Elana Ashley’s English and English-Spanish editions: 
Case Two:
Big Bully Holly Howler
Caso Segundo: La gran abusiva Holly Howler

Midwest Book Review, Nancy Lorraine, Senior Reviewer:
"Big Bully Holly Howler" is Case Two in the Splunkunio Splunkey, Detective and Peacemaker series. Illustrated with colorful photos of fantastic puppet figures of all the story's characters, "Big Bully Howler" tells a common story of schoolyard bullying behavior made universal by the attractive animal puppet figures.

Ellie Elephant was upset by mean, bullying behavior of a classmate, Holly Howler, better known as Big Bully Holly Howler. She called on her magical detective/peacemaker friend, Splunkey to help. Splunkey suggests that Ellie call on her friend Eli Elephant to help with the problem. After listening to Ellie's report of several situations in which Holly displayed mean or bullying behavior, Splunkey made some suggestions, advising Ellie to use clues both seen and unseen, heard and unheard, to solve problems. He also encouraged Ellie to think about how Holly felt, and whether she had any friends or not. Next day, Eli helped Ellie by saying: "Just be yourself ─ kind and funny...Act with Holly the way you want her to act with you." Ellie proceeded to surprise Holly and everyone else by making some kind, friendly remarks and gestures that helped Holly feel accepted by the group. Amazingly, Holly surprised Ellie by apologizing for her behavior in front of Mrs. Bea and the class. Then Ellie and Holly hugged each other. On the way home from school, Eli asked Ellie how her day had gone, and she reported, ‘It was amazing!’

"Big Bully Holly Howler" ends with questions for teachers and parents to discuss with children, plus the final reminder from Splunkey: ‘Always remember: To make a friend - you need to be a friend!’ This inspiring, charming story takes its place in the innovative series for elementary students, featuring creative use of detective and peacemaker skills to solve interpersonal problems. Also highly recommended is the same title in Spanish and English: "Caso Segundo: La gran abusiva Holly Howler (9781480822184, sc, $16.95), written and illustrated by Elana Ashley, PhD.

Joan Franklin Smutny, Director, The Center for Gifted – Midwest Torrance Center for Creativity, Glenview, IL:
“Author and Illustrator Dr. Elana Ashley offers an exceptional book for children to explore this question for themselves.  What an evocative, sensitive, and creative story this is for the young mind!  The characters are fully realized individuals who help readers to think more perceptively about bullying and the harm it causes.  Ashley’s illustrations bring characters vividly alive in a way that will appeal to every child and lead him/her to insights and lessons on this critically important topic. The book is needed in every library, classroom and home.  The author’s marvelous imagination and originality in illustrating and writing teach all of us the answer to the question — bully, victim or bystander?”  

H. B. Barrett, Ed.D., Retired Science Education Professor, Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, Illinois: 
"What a unique and thought-provoking treatment of a deeply troublesome social issue! This book has a number of features that are normally not found in other texts. One such feature is the inclusion of a Spanish translation side by side with the English in Ashley’s bilingual edition of Big Bully Holly Howler. The use of puppets/animals as characters in real life photographic settings is another effective communication strategy. The basic concept that is pervasive throughout the story is that the only way to make a friend is to be a friend. Dr. Ashley effectively gives strategies for succeeding with this challenge. The use of questions for discussion among students and their parents and teachers at the end of the book provides a great foundation for building understanding of bullying issues and developing smart strategies for coping with such situations.  And her poem at the book’s conclusion adds an emotional twist – making the reader more psychologically aware of possible factors influencing the making of a bully and the creation of possible solutions to eliminate the problem. 

Although this book is written for the K - 3rd grade student population, its concepts can be expanded to include other age groups as well. In her excellent treatment, she gives situations that students’ might encounter in typical school settings. Dr. Ashley’s multiple novel approaches to her story all come together to make her work a must read for children, parents and others interested in eradicating bullying as a social issue."

Olena-Elena Aleksandra Fomina, Chicago Mom, Blogger, Chief Humane Growth™ Officer, SV Global Group-SV Branding:
“There are lots of beautiful children's books on the market today. However, Dr. Elana Ashley’s book Big Bully Holly Howler ‘stands out from the crowd’ for many reasons. For me those reasons are originality, creativeness, support and promotion of the humane values of peaceful, conflict resolution, ethical leadership and positive role models for the healthy development of our children…

Dr. Ashley's book tells a story of real life challenges that our children face every day ─ bullying and learning how to act when someone is a bully around you… one of the unique features of the book ─  real ‘live’ puppets are living children’s lives and showcasing real struggles of bullying and school friendship issues… 

Case Two: Big Bully Holly Howler will be a joyful read for children on their own, as well as with an adult. For deeper understanding of the book’s purpose, I strongly suggest that parents read it along with their children to uncover the valuable messages that author Dr. Elana is conveying and follow through with a discussion of the questions found at the conclusion of the story. I highly recommend this book for elementary and middle school children around the world to read in order to recognize the warning signs of bullying behavior, adopting healthy skills and strategies to bring about peaceful, conflict resolution,  and implementing the timeless values of understanding, kindness, respect, honesty and empathy in the building of friendships. 

As a parent, it is one of my major parenting goals to develop strong, moral character and nurture positive, ethical values in my daughter. Dr. Ashley’s great work contributes positively to my parenting goals and through her books and lively readings followed by discussion, she reminds us of an important life lesson that we all, even adults, should always remember and cherish in life ─ “treating one another as we would like to be treated.”


The Banner photo appearing at the top of the Book Review section was taken of Dr. Elana Ashley with her two informative and colorful pop-up stands representing her work as a writer of books and a creator of artwork at the author’s booth where she participated in the Business Expo of the Assyrian-American Chamber of Commerce in Skokie, IL in September of 2017.