Cheryl Matsen-Nieves
Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

Review Rating:4 stars!

Battle of the Beetle: The Journey Beyond is a children's fantasy novella written by Cheryl A. Matsen-Nieves. Raphael and his companions, Frogeye, Sister Seven and Haniel, are being attacked by a gigantic beetle. It set its sights on Haniel, flew high into the sky, and then turned and plummeted at her, piercing her throat and beginning to feed on her blood. Raphael grabbed his sword and struck at the giant bug, carving off a piece of its wing, but the bug was not affected and reacted by flying into the sky once more to attack Raphael in turn. Raphael was ready and waiting with his sword, but the bug was wily and turned at the last minute, stabbing Raphael in the hand. The beetle then went on after Frogeye. No matter how hard they fought, the brave company seemed to have no way to combat this foe, until they invoke the forces of the universe for assistance.

Cheryl A. Matsen-Nieves' children's fantasy novella, Battle of the Beetle: The Journey Beyond, is a whimsical New Age tale that is original and entertaining. While I cringed at the thought of the beetle's eyes bubbling and dripping like lava, I imagine the targeted audience will be clapping and cheering as the persistent foe gets his comeuppance. Matsen-Nieves uses snappy dialog, idioms, rhymes and word play to keep the hilarity and whimsy going throughout this slightly different epic fantasy. This imaginative story should keep readers giggling and reading further as the adventurers battle bravely on despite overwhelming odds. Battle of the Beetle: The Journey Beyond is recommended reading for children who love fantasy.

Everyone has a gift. Some have gifts that are magical and save lives. Others have gifts of compassion, love and friendship. Raphael and Haniel's gifts have a special purpose, to fight the evil that surrounds them and, in this story, the evil is a huge beetle. But it is Frogeye, the one-eyed frog friend, a prince in its own right, who must really save the day
This is a fantasy adventure that will thrill all young readers. Cheryl A Matsen-Nieves leads the reader through the plot using mostly dialogue. Whilst this makes the reading lighter and easier, more descriptive passages would be helpful, including some backstory to prepare the reader to understand the protagonists' quest. There are a lot of surrealistic episodes, made almost believable by the characters' exchanges amongst themselves. For example, Frogeye, the one-eyed frog, exerts more power than anyone thought he could, especially when he suddenly displays more than one eye, only to revert to his one-eyed state. The magical tree, known as the Sister Seven, has a great sense of humor and manages to keep the rest of the mismatched troupe of adventurers in line. 

The beetle, the very huge beetle, maliciously appears out of nowhere and causes great havoc. The motley group of adventurers stands together, but one of them gets seriously wounded by the beetle. Another adventure develops as the cast search for some magic to heal the wounds inflicted by the beetle. And, yes, again, it is the one-eyed frog, Frogeye, who plays a significant part. An interesting tale and a lively adventure of fantasy for young readers.

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Review Rating:5 stars!  
Reviewed By Lisa McCombs for Readers’ Favorite

“I will not take any more of your poison! I know what you did to my mother and her servants. I know how you fed and poisoned many in the castle. But you did not succeed in poisoning me. My mother warned me about you and your broth. I welcome battle with you and I challenge you now, old woman. You and your evil will not walk this universe as long as I live! You will be defeated so we can travel through the next geode. We will reach the castle and conquer all!” This young Haniel proclaims in the wake of an attack against the old woman responsible for her mother’s death. Haniel is determined to regain and rebuild the kingdom once ruled by her parents. With the aid of loyal servants - Frogeye, Wise Old Owl, and Wolvarith - Haniel and her brother Raphael must defeat the old lady on the crystal broom in order to reclaim their inheritance and keep the forest and its creatures safe. Can they succeed?

The Journey Beyond Universal Truths is a middle grade fantasy written by Cheryl A. Matsen-Nieves. With the addition of character pencil sketches, this makes for a winning tale for fantasy-loving young readers. The vocabulary Matsen-Nieves employs in her descriptive passages brings an enchanted world to life in an infectious style that leaves the reader wanting a continuation of this well-written story. A sincere lesson in loyalty provides a combination of mature thinking with the innocence of youth. This is a lovely story for middle grade youngsters.

Review Rating: 4 stars!
Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite

The Journey Beyond: Universal Truths is a middle grade fantasy novel by author Cheryl A. Matsen-Nieves. Another instalment in The Journey Beyond, this story sees brother and sister Raphael and Haniel facing new trials and tribulations in the quest to recover and rebuild their kingdom. Determination fuels the youngsters and they are supported by an adorable cast of friends and allies, including Frogeye, a charming three-eyed frog with a penchant for getting into trouble. Their adversary is a woman on a crystal broom, whose witchy ways pose a threat to the siblings’ wishes coming true. Magic, fortitude, and friendship will be required for them to overcome evil and continue their quest.

Cheryl A. Matsen-Nieves knows her middle grade audience well and creates a simple but imaginative tale that is certain to delight the target audience. The world in which the adventure is set is vibrant, colorful and interesting, as are the animal servants who accompany and aid our central heroes. I preferred Haniel to Raphael, finding her strength and willpower very inspiring, but the best developed character by far was the villain. The scenes, including the murderer of the siblings’ mother, leapt off the page with a sinister note that doesn’t permeate the rest of the book. Overall, I feel that The Journey Beyond: Universal Truths contributes a small part to a greater narrative, which is going to get better and better as it unfolds. For now, it’s definitely recommended for parents looking for a short, enjoyable fantasy read to inspire their children’s imaginations.  

Review Rating: 5 stars! 
Reviewed By Tracy A. Fischer for Readers’ Favorite

In a lovely story for middle grade readers, The Journey Beyond: Universal Truths by author Cheryl A. Matsen-Nieves is a fun read that continues the story of siblings Raphael and Haniel as they attempt to rebuild their kingdom. Facing such obstacles as a witchy woman with a crystal broom, but surrounded by many magical friends, including a talking three-eyed frog, this excellent brother-sister duo is determined to make everything right for those they love. Will Raphael and Haniel be able to right all that has gone wrong? You'll simply need to read The Journey Beyond: Universal Truths to find out!

I very much enjoyed The Journey Beyond: Universal Truths. I felt that author Cheryl A. Matsen-Nieves has done a fantastic job in creating characters that her readers will be able to connect with, relate to and truly care about, and will continue to think about long after the story is done. If that isn't a hallmark of a great author, I'm not sure what is. Her use of magic and fantastical characters is delightful, and her world creation skills, even in a relatively short book, are simply second to none. Any middle grade reader who enjoys fantasy, or who is just looking for a great read of fiction in general, should absolutely read this book. I highly recommend The Journey Beyond: Universal Truths. I look forward to reading more from the very talented author, Cheryl A. Matsen-Nieves, as soon as possible. If her next work is anything like this one, it will certainly be worth reading!

Review Rating: 5 Stars!
Reviewed By: Deepak Menon for Readers’ Favorite

Review Rating: 4 Stars!

Review Rating: 5 Stars! 
Reviewed By Barbara Fanson for Readers’ Favorite 

What a fun way to learn to count! The musical rhyming words and the dancing ball and jacks create a winning combination to help children learn to count. Add & Subtract with Hairy Hank by Cheryl Matsen-Nieves is a colorful, fun book to teach children how to count, add, and subtract. The main character, Hairy Hank, is a hippo, who teaches us how to count by playing with a ball and jacks. And if you don’t already have a ball and jacks, you will want to buy a set right after reading this book. Hairy Hank shows us a fun way to add using the jacks. Author Cheryl Matsen-Nieves makes addition and subtraction an easy game to master. Add & Subtract with Hairy Hank is an educational book ideal for ages 3 to 6. 

The book combines toys with imagination to help children add and subtract numbers. The author uses rhyming words to create a song that children will enjoy hearing—and playing along with—more than once. The cute, but simple illustrations by Toby Mikle add so much to the story. He adds imagination to the game such as the dog standing on his two back paws with his other two paws high in the air. His drawings of mom and child with their hands up, cheering, help make this story exciting and add encouragement to other children who may be playing along. Add & Subtract with Hairy Hank has fun, bright colors and an excellent story (game) that children will want to read and play many times. 

Review Rating: 5 Stars! 
Reviewed By: Jessyca Garcia for Readers’ Favorite

My daughter and I really liked Add & Subtract With Hairy Hank by Cheryl A Matsen-Nieves. In the book Hairy Hank teaches children to add and subtract by playing jacks. The book is catchy and fun to read. This is a must-read for any child learning beginner’s math.

I have been struggling to teach my 5-year-old daughter to understand how to add and subtract. So when I saw this book, I grabbed it right away. I was not disappointed! Add & Subtract With Hairy Hank helped my daughter to start to grasp the concept of addition and subtraction. I loved that Matsen-Nieves made the story rhyme. This helped my daughter to pay attention and even want to participate in reading with me. By the end of the book, she was happily reading it out loud by herself. She had never heard of the game jacks before, so I had to explain to her what it was. At first I did not like the character of Hairy Hank. I just thought his name was weird. However, I really liked that Matsen-Nieves showed the actual math problems in the story. The illustrations also show the math problems. The kids are able to count the different number of jacks on each page. This is a great help for visual learners.

I am definitely keeping this book in my collection and will be recommending it to my daughter’s teacher. I plan on reading it over and over with my child. I hope that Matsen-Nieves continues to write more books like this becauseuble click here to add text.
Review Rating: 5 Stars! 
Reviewed By: Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite

Add & Subtract With Hairy Hank is an educational picture book for children written by Cheryl A. Matsen-Nieves and illustrated by Toby Mikle. Addition and subtraction are abstract concepts that can be very difficult for young children to master. They frequently get nervous and feel overwhelmed by the equations and rules for even these simple arithmetical procedures. Matsen-Nieves and her iconic counting hippo, Hairy Hank, introduce addition and subtraction in a non-threatening and familiar way that makes counting a fun activity rather than a learning experience. Parents and caregivers will automatically know that there is a great deal of learning going on along with the rhyming and playing with jacks, but young readers will get so wrapped up in the jacks, the hippo and the rhythms, that they'll not even notice that they're mastering some difficult concepts for children their age. Toby Mikle's illustrations are brightly colored and cheerful, and they make it virtually impossible to resist following those dancing jacks with your own eyes and beginning to count them for yourself.

Cheryl A. Matsen-Nieves's educational picture book for children, Add & Subtract With Hairy Hank, makes learning arithmetic fun, and that's a very good thing. While some kids automatically take to numbers and arithmetic, it can seem challenging and completely incomprehensible to others. Young readers will get so captivated by Hank and his dancing jacks, that they'll quickly find that the apprehension and fear they’ve associated with learning arithmetic is not really such a big deal after all. Counting, adding and subtracting becomes simply a way of playing along with the characters in the story rather than the mastery of abstract concepts. I've always enjoyed the puzzles and magic inherent in arithmetic and math and am one of those rare beings who actually loves algebra, so I've often found myself tutoring kids and adults who have math problems. I was very curious to see how Matsen-Nieves would approach these numbers concepts and was very impressed by her approach. The rhythm and energy of her lyrics work beautifully to disarm those number fears, and Mikle's illustrations are perfect accompaniments. Add & Subtract With Hairy Hank is highly recommended.

Review Rating: 5 Stars! 
Reviewed By: Sarah Scheele for Readers’ Favorite 

Review Rating: 5 Stars!
Reviewed By: Rosie Malezer for Readers’ Favorite 

Written very much in Dr. Seuss style, Add & Subtract with Hairy Hank (a hairy hippo) teaches how easy it is to learn how to count. With the simple use of jumping jacks, Hairy Hank not only teaches how to count to ten, but also how to add and subtract, utilizing the jumping jacks as teaching tools. Read along with your young child, teaching them how easy it can be. 

The simplicity and style of Cheryl A. Matsen-Nieves’ educational book for children, accompanied by the clever illustrations of Toby Mikle are a sheer delight. Written in an easy-to-read format, any child will not only be entertained by Hairy Hank’s teaching method, but will cheer along with Hairy Hank as they answer his questions in turn. The repetition of the phrasing used enables even the youngest of budding mathematicians to learn how to count forwards and backwards, reaching into the memory with rhyme. After a while, I was able to find a rhythm to the rhyme, making each sentence much easier to say, as it seemed to effortlessly flow off my tongue. If you do not have jumping jacks handy, improvisation can be made with any small item, such as spoons. I quite enjoyed reading Add & Subtract with Hairy Hank, and recommend it to be read to all young children (or to be read by early readers, with their parents), enabling learning and fun to go hand in hand.

The Journey Beyond Seven Values of the Kingdom by Cheryl A. Matsen-Nieves is the story of an amazing journey through many crystal geodes by a young prince named Raphael. He is accompanied by his friends; Skylar, a pony, his sister, the beautiful and gracious Haniel, Wolvarith, a white shaman wolf with many lives, Wise Old Owl, and the courageous and delightful Frog Prince, Frogeye, whose identity and destiny is yet to unfold. Sister Seven, who is a tree, cannot be forgotten as she has incredible powers that mother earth and the universe have granted her. The story starts with a prayer that sets the tone: “One should always believe in oneself and the universe will be one with you always.” The adventurers start their journey by going through a crystal geodesic into a timeless tunnel and finally reach Raphael’s father's throne. Knowing he is in tune with the universe, Raphael calls out to his father to guide him. His father speaks to him from across dimensions and describes how the evil came from all over the land in different forms, shapes, and sizes. Although he, men and women fought bravely, he was caught off guard, distraught, and killed by a powerful warrior. He explains that the power of evil tears at all beings with good hearts, minds, and intentions and that evil tries to divide and conquer all. He exhorts Raphael to stand strong, no matter what! 

The little band of warriors continue their incredible journey, traveling across time and space through many geodes of many colors, across many dimensions. They encounter the many gifts of the universe - meats and fruits, human values of courage and kindness, precious metals and stones of great value, the abundance of nature in beautiful forests and marvelous flowers that the universe gives us selflessly. They encounter evil in the form of a powerful scorpion whom Raphael vanquishes in battle, but does not destroy once he realizes that the evil in the scorpion has been dissipated, a lesson in nobility to readers. Cheryl A. Matsen-Nieves has written a memorable tale full of human values. The chapters flow seamlessly into each other, formatting is excellent, and the pictures of beautiful crystals that make up the geodes are superb. The ending is charming. This is a 5 star book and should be read if one wants to be in tune with the universe!

The Journey Beyond Seven Values of the Kingdom by Cheryl A. Matsen-Nieves is an inventive middle-grade fantasy story. Brother and sister Raphael and Haniel travel through a sequence of symbolic geodes accompanied by their awkward, insecure friend, Frogeye, and their companions—a hilarious talking tree, a mystical wolf, a regal horse, and an owl. At each geode, they learn important personal lessons tailored for them as their journey to understand the universe continues. I gradually fell in love with the story and the characters, until the climactic end with the rebuilding of the castle filled me with deep satisfaction. As an adult reader, I see how much this story would appeal to children, but the themes and ideas would make many adults feel equally at home. 

Cheryl A. Matsen-Nieves has a poetic, visionary quality as an author, and the story uses the simplest language to depict deep themes in a really special way. The imagery is thoughtful and quietly beautiful. Each “stone” the characters travel through—stones are portals to the next step of their quest—was individualized and lovely, and the geodes were all different colors with different properties. I loved the pictures of actual gemstones that accompanied the descriptions. Reading this book was like an imaginative extrapolation of real life, envisioning walking through different jewels. Frogeye’s conclusion surprised me, but I was very pleased with it. This is the kind of book parents should be giving their kids. Recommended for anyone who likes middle-grade fantasy with a wholesome message. 

Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Reader's Favorite
Review Rating: 4 Stars!
Reviewed By: Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers’ Favorite 

Life is a difficult journey for all of us. There are hidden dangers everywhere and evil lurks behind every corner. But, with the power of friendship, courage and determination, the dangers and the evils can be overcome and the universe can, once again, be the oasis we all seek. For an unlikely group of friends, Raphael, Frogeye, Sister Seven, Wolvarith, Wise Old Owl, and Skylar, each name describing what these friends are, their journey is one that takes them into many challenging alternate dimensions, seeking to rid the world of the evil that threatens to obliterate all that is good. It begins with Raphael’s quest to regain his parents' kingdom. Aided by magical crystal beans, the group works together to find a way to restore order in their Kingdom, journeying through multiple magical geodes to find the truth.

Cheryl A. Matsen-Nieves young people’s fantasy novel, The Journey Beyond Seven Values of the Kingdom, is a story to spark the imagination of many young readers as they are invited to journey with these unlikely friends and learn what all young people must learn; the true power behind the universe, the true power that assures good prevails over evil. The journey leads to the lesson of the seven values. The story is told primarily through dialogue between the characters and it is accompanied with some interesting illustrations. It makes a good early chapter book for Middle Graders; the elements of adventure and the illustrations certainly carry this story along.