Tuesday, June 20, 2017

FOUR FUN PICTURE BOOK REVIEWS!


ABOUT THE BOOK

A very little bulldozer learns that taking care of kittens is a very big job in this follow-up to Bulldozer’s Big Day .

The construction site bustled.
Cement Truck was stirring…stirring…stirring.
Digger Truck was scooping…scooping…scooping.
Crane Truck was lifting…lifting…lifting.
And Bulldozer was—watching…watching…watching.

Little Bulldozer wants to help, but all the bigger trucks say he is too small. So when Crane Truck says he can clear a bit of debris out of the way, Little Bulldozer is eager for the job. He can do it, yes he can. What he doesn’t expect is to find a family of newborn kittens living in the pile of debris! Can he take care of babies? Now that’s a tough job. A job that happens to be just the right size for Little Bulldozer.

REVIEW

I figured this book would be cute.  After all it's by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann.  And that smiling little bulldozer on the cover is pretty irresistible.  I thought going in that this was going to be a story about someone little being perfectly capable of helping out the bigger machines.  That isn't a particularly new story line for the preschool crowd.  But I was delightfully surprised to discover that this book took the little helping big storyline to a different place.  After little Bulldozer manages to convince the big construction machines that he can help out, he gets to work.  But the big machines are shocked when they discover that he hasn't done what they asked.  Did Bulldozer not follow through or did he find something more important?  Fleming and Rohmann have created a delightful book with gorgeous illustrations and a sweet story about priorities.  This is one I plan to use for story time.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Laurie Berkner, “the queen of children’s music,” (People) pairs the lyrics of her beloved hit with Ben Clanton’s whimsical illustrations in this winning, adorable picture book—a must-have for fans of Laurie, dinosaurs, and all things cute.

We are the dinosaurs
Marching, marching
We are the dinosaurs

Laurie Berkner’s chart-topping, beloved hit “We Are the Dinosaurs” is now a picture book! Featuring an adorable cast of characters and vibrant, playful art by Ben Clanton, We Are the Dinosaurs transports readers back in time to when the dinosaurs roamed the earth.

WHADDAYA THINK OF THAT?

REVIEW

This book is bound to be a favorite for all dinosaur loving preschoolers.  The illustrations are bright, colorful, and very engaging.  The adventure that the dinosaur friends go on is fun and exciting (picnic on a mountain--volcano).  The main text is made up of the words to Laurie Berkner's song, "We Are the Dinosaurs".  For a story time, it would work well to teach the students the words to the song by reading through the book first, then having the students chant (or sing with the recording) as you repeat the book a second time.  The commentary included with the art adds further opportunities to interact.  I could even see myself having the students (or children in the case of a public library) getting up and marching behind you as you lead them on an adventure.  Loads of fun to be had with this book.


ABOUT THE BOOK

After a trip to the museum, Max writes a letter to his favorite dinosaur, the mighty T. Rex - and the T. Rex writes back! As Max and T. Rex learn about each other's lives, a very unusual friendship develops in this funny and touching story from an award-winning duo. Dinosaur fans will love this interactive picture book with letters and cards to open, and dinosaur facts to discover along the way.

REVIEW

I found this to be a delightfully fun book.  Not only are the illustrations colorful and fun, but there are actual letters (and a postcard) for the reader to open and read (glued to the page).  I read this with my young nephew and he enjoyed it, in addition, his older brother came over and had a peak as we read (not to mention taking the book to read on his own afterwards).  Max is thrilled when he gets the chance to visit the dinosaur room at a museum, but is frustrated when there isn't time to ask as many questions as he wants. Dinosaur Dora, the museum guide, tells him to write letters to T. Rex, because she's sure that T. Rex will write back.  And so begins an amusing correspondence.  Not only is the book fun in and of itself but there are many opportunities here for extension activities (writing a letter, anyone?).


ABOUT THE BOOK

Enchanted prince or just a plain old frog? Pucker up, princesses! Theres only one way to find out.

Fairy tales are just stories, or so Princess Martha believes. But when her sisters meet a talking frog, they're convinced that giving him the royal treatment will turn him into Prince Charming. After all, that's what happens in their story books. Martha isn't so sure. The more she sees of Prince Ribbit, the more suspicious she becomes. Armed with the facts, Martha sets out to expose Prince Ribbit and prove to her sisters that just because it's in a book doesn't mean it's true. But before The End, Princess Martha might just learn that lesson for herself!

REVIEW

I've become a big fan of fractured fairy tales.  There seem to be more and more of them, which is not a bad thing, after all, fairy tales have been around for a long, long time.  But as with most things, some fractured fairy tales are better than others.  And I love this one.  Not only have Emmett and Bernatene created a delightful story in and of itself, the book also points out that 'just because it's in a book doesn't mean it's true" which is something that I struggle to help the children I teach understand (especially when it comes to the Internet).  In this story, a clever frog steps up and tricks Princess Martha's sisters into believing that he is a prince who's been cursed.  But as the two older princesses spoil the frog rotten, Princess Martha becomes suspicious.  She sets out to prove to her sisters that the frog is nothing more than a frog, but they refuse to believe the facts she presents them from her factual books.  But when she turns to fairy tales (which she has never read before) she finds enjoyment as well as the answer to her conundrum.  And the ending?  Well, I don't want to give it away, but it did make me laugh out loud. ;)

Monday, June 12, 2017

MMGM: FUNNY GIRL edited by Betsy Bird


ABOUT THE BOOK

Sharyn Novbember at Viking has acquired Funny Girl, a humor anthology for girls ages 9-12, curated by Betsy Bird and featuring short stories, personal essays, comics, and poetry from nearly 30 female writers, including Lisa Graff, Cece Bell, Jenni Holm, Shannon Hale, and Rita Williams-Garcia. A portion of the proceeds will support WriteGirl, a creative writing and mentoring organization for teen girls. 

REVIEW

As with most short story collections that I've read, the quality of the stories varied.  I enjoyed some of the stories a lot more than others.  Some I found rather odd such as A Most Serious Recitation of the Poem "Trees" by Joyce Kilmer, Rendered Most Seriously (and with the utmost care) By The Hand of Cece Bell with a pasted in picture of Benjamin Franklin debating with a pig, amusing but really odd.  There were several stories that were quite informative (sort of) such as How to Tell a Joke by Delaney Yeager and Mackenzie Yeager or Brown Girl Pop Quiz: All of the Above by Mitali Perkins.

My favorite stories were In Which Young Raina Learns a Lesson by Raina Telgemeier, which revolves around young Raina's unfortunate (but hilarious) encounter with a bee.  Also, Dear Grandpa: Give Me Money by Allison DeCamp and One Hot Mess by Carmen Agra Deedy left me with sore ribs from laughing so hard.  In the Dear Grandpa story, a young girl writes letters to her grandpa demanding money and her grandfather writes back.  In One Hot Mess, a young Cuban American girl explains why her mother always sets the tub on fire when they move into a new place.

A couple of stories may concern some adults/young readers because of the topics, but are funny because of the truth they contain.  The first such story is Over and Out by Lisa Graff which revolves around Riley's attempts to rescue her sister's fancy bra from a toilet tragedy which could result in her demise.  A Public Service Announcement About Your Period from Sarah T. Wrigley, Age 12 3/4 by Libby Bray presents the advice of a young person about getting one's period which is irreverent but funny.

Other stories include a brief appearance from Babymouse (Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm) as well as an amusing presentation of the Chinese Zodiac.  Some stories cover only a couple of pages, others a dozen pages.

The stories also vary in presentation, with most of the stories being regular prose, but others being in comic format, and still others combining text and illustration.  I think what I enjoyed most about the book was the clear message that girls can be funny and let their senses of humor shine.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

BLOG TOUR: Two Truths and a Lie by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson


ABOUT THE BOOK

Two Truths and a Lie is the first book in a fascinating new series that presents some of the most crazy-but-true stories about the living world as well as a handful of stories that are too crazy to be true—and asks readers to separate facts from the fakes!

Did you know that there is a fungus that can control the mind of an ant and make it do its bidding? Would you believe there is such a thing as a corpse flower—a ten-foot-tall plant with a blossom that smells like a zombie? How about a species of octopus that doesn’t live in water but rather lurks in trees in the Pacific Northwest?

Every story in this book is strange and astounding. But not all of them are real. Just like the old game in this book’s title, two out of every three stories are completely true and one is an outright lie. Can you guess which? It’s not going to be easy. Some false stories are based on truth, and some of the true stories are just plain unbelievable. And they’re all accompanied by dozens of photos, maps, and illustrations. Amaze yourself and trick your friends as you sort out the fakes from the facts!

Acclaimed authors Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson have teamed up to create a series of sneaky stories about the natural world designed to amaze, disgust, and occasionally bamboozle you.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Ammi-Joan Paquette has traveled to twenty-four countries, has the ability to wake herself up at a given time without an alarm clock, and once climbed Mt. Everest. (Not all of these are true!) Joan is the author of the novels Rules for Ghosting, Paradox, and Nowhere Girl, as well as the picture books Petey and Pru and the Hullabaloo, Ghost in the House, The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Mermaids, and The Tiptoes Guide to Tracking Fairies. She lives outside Boston, Massachusetts, where she balances her own writing and her day job as a literary agent. You can visit her online at www.ajpaquette.com.

Laurie Ann Thompson has ridden a pig, gotten stuck in an elevator overnight, and jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. (One of these facts is not true; can you guess which?) She is the author of Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters, My Dog Is the Best, and Emmanuel's Dream, a picture book biography about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, which was the recipient of the Schneider Family Book Award and was named an ALA Notable Book, a CCBC Choice, and a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year, among dozens of other accolades. She lives outside Seattle with her family. You can visit her online at www.lauriethompson.com.

REVIEW

Two Truths and a Lie takes an interesting approach to presenting information.  The book is divided into three parts: plants, animals, and humans. Each part is then divided into chapters which are further divided into three sections.  Each section describes something related to the topic.  But there's a catch, one of the three sections in each chapter is false (a lie) while the other two are true.  To make things even trickier, the section that's a lie may still contain elements that are true.  (I'm not going to give specific examples because I don't want to spoil the fun.)  Not only are the pieces of information fascinating but it's very engaging to try to figure out what is true and what is not. And while the end of the book contains the answers as well as references and an index, it feels like cheating to peak before making an educated guess.  And the authors actively encourage readers to look for the answers themselves.  Not only is this a great book for pure entertainment, it's also a great resource for librarians/teachers/parents who want to help their children learn to verify information before accepting everything they see/hear/read as truth.

TOUR SCHEDULE

5-Jun
7-Jun
11-Jun
12-Jun
13-Jun
14-Jun
15-Jun
16-Jun
18-Jun
19-Jun
20-Jun
21-Jun
23-Jun
24-Jun


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

PICTURE BOOK REVIEWS: A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea/Skip through the Seasons


ABOUT THE BOOK

Discover amazing and fascinating sea creatures as you go on a madcap journey through the world of the hole in the bottom of the sea! Based on a traditional cumulative song, each verse introduces a new creature and its place in the food chain, as the shark chases the eel, who chases the squid, who chases the snail... Enhanced CD includes video animation and audio singalong.

REVIEW

I have used several of Barefoot Books book/CD combinations with my kindergartners and they've been a hit every time.  I used this one with a sea life theme and I had have the class singing along before the book was halfway done.  The illustrations are bright and colorful with large font text, perfect for using as a read-a-loud.  Not only is the song a fun, catchy one but it makes for a great introduction to topics related to the ocean and sea life.  At the back of the book, additional information is provided about the food chain that is depicted in the song as well as blue holes (real holes found at the bottom of the sea).  A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea makes for both a great learning experience and a delightfully entertaining one.


ABOUT THE BOOK

This action-packed seek-and-find book takes young readers on an outdoor adventure through the changing months of the year. Each month is presented with a detailed, full-color scene with an exciting array of seasonal items to look for.

REVIEW

Not only does Skip through the Seasons introduce the seasons and the months, but it's also a search and find book with a list of things for children to look for in the illustrations.  This is a great way for children to practice their visual literacy skills, and its fun to see what you can find.  Somehow it's quite satisfying to find everything on the list.  Each list focuses on items specific to the season and the month which helps create connections in children's minds.  At the end of the book is additional information about different calendars, where the month names came from, the source of the seasons, and the days of the week in six different languages. This book is both fun and educational.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

SERIES THURSDAY: Ballet Cat by Bob Shea


ABOUT THE BOOK

Ballet Cat and Sparkles the Pony are trying to decide what to play today. Nothing that Sparkles suggests--making crafts, playing checkers, and selling lemonade--goes well with the leaping, spinning, and twirling that Ballet Cat likes to do. When Sparkles's leaps, spins, and twirls seem halfhearted, Ballet Cat asks him what's wrong. Sparkles doesn't want to say. He has a secret that Ballet Cat won't want to hear. What Sparkles doesn't know is that Ballet Cat has a secret of her own, a totally secret secret. Once their secrets are shared, will their friendship end, or be stronger than ever?

REVIEW

As in Mo Willems Elephant and Piggie books, Bob Shea presents the reader with the trials and tribulations of friendship.  In this first book,  Sparkle suggest several different things they could play, but each time Ballet Cat points out that that activity will not work with what she wants to do (crafts, leaping, spinning).  Thus the pair ends up playing ballet, as usual.  But eventually Ballet Cat becomes away that Sparkle isn't feeling very sparkly and she asks why. Sparkle is reluctant to share his secret because he's afraid Ballet Cat won't like him any more when he does.  In addition to the delightfully spare illustrations where the pair and their movements and feelings are the focus, the relationship between the friends is clearly portrayed.  Not only is this a fun book to read but it's also a great book that leads right into some fun activities such as 'practice ballet'  or crafts as well as helping children learn that friendship requires give and take on both sides.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Ballet Cat is getting her friend Butter Bear ready for her big ballet debut. "Leap, Butter Bear, leap!" Ballet Cat prompts. But Butter Bear would prefer to just point her toe. When Ballet Cat keeps pushing, Butter Bear gets hungry, then thirsty, then sleepy . . . The bottom line is that Butter Bear would rather do almost anything to avoid making a big leap. Why? Because her bottom is covered in silly underpants! This second entry in the Ballet Cat series will have beginning readers rolling on the floor with laughter.

REVIEW

Working as an elementary librarian I have learned that certain words produce giggles regardless of the context in which they are used. One such word is "underpants".  So I can pretty much guarantee that this book will elicit giggles from its intended audience.  Ballet Cat and Butter Bear are practicing ballet together.  Ballet Cat wants Butter Bear to do a super high leap, but Butter Bear keeps coming up with excuses for avoiding that particular activity.  Ballet Cat gets more and more frustrated as Butter Bear's excuses keep coming.  Finally, she breaks down and asks Butter Bear why she won't just do a super high leap.  It turns out she's afraid the audience will laugh at her underpants.  Ballet Cat sympathizes but explains that if she puts her whole heart into doing the best leap she can, the audience won't even notice her underpants (luckily she turns out to be right).  But the sight of Butter Bear's underpants is bound to pull giggles from young listeners however.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Ballet Cat and her cousin Goat are preparing a show for Grandma. Each is trying to outdo the other--Ballet Cat with an elaborate dance routine (of course), and Goat with his amazing (amazingly lame, that is) magic tricks. Neither act goes off quite as planned, but it doesn't matter . . . because Grandma falls asleep during the performance! Oh well, at least Ballet Cat and Goat learn how to cooperate. (But Ballet Cat cooperates better!)

REVIEW

Grandma ends up in quite the pickle when her two grandchildren, Goat and Ballet Cat (don't ask me how that works, a dog related to a goat and a cat, this is children's literature after all, such things happen) compete for her attention.  Goat thinks his magic tricks will most impress grandma, and Ballet Cat thinks her dancing will.  But when they're acts mix together things don't go quite the way they expected and grandma has to save the day.  Shea has put together an amusing story of one-up-manship that anyone who has spent time around children should be able to appreciate.  Children will enjoy cheering for both characters and everyone should appreciate Grandma's quick thinking.  A delightful ode to family relationships.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: Here to There and Me to You: A Book of Bridges by Cheryl Keely


ABOUT THE BOOK

Bridges are some of the most fascinating structures in our landscape, and they come in all forms. From towering suspension bridges to humble stone crossings, this book visits them all in sweet, bouncing text with expository sidebars. But while bridges can be quite grand, this reminds us that their main purpose is bringing people together. This is perfect for budding architects, as well as readers who can relate to having loved ones who live far away.

REVIEW

With a growing emphasis on STEM books and learning books like this one become very valuable.  Not only does this book introduce an important engineering concept--connecting things together--but it also compares building a physical bridge to building relationship bridges.  There are two kinds of text.  The shorter, larger text provides generic information perfect for sharing with younger readers/listeners (say 1st or 2nd grade).  For use with older children, there is additional information about specific bridges that match the type being discussed on the page.    The illustrations are bright and colorful and give the reader a nice view of the bridges and the differences in their designs.  I especially liked the page showing children doing back bends that make them look like bridges.  This book makes for a fun read and makes for a great lead in on a number of different activities--everything from yoga or physical posing to drawing and designing a bridge, to using a variety of materials to actually build a bridge.  This book would be a great addition to school libraries.

 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

BLOG TOUR: The Sand Warrior by Mark Siegel, et.al.


ABOUT THE BOOK

The #1 New York Times bestselling creator of Amulet, Kazu Kibuishi, hails this first book in this groundbreaking sci-fi/fantasy adventure series as “a magical journey, as fun as it is beautiful!” Think Star Wars meets Avatar: The Last Airbender!
 
The Five Worlds are on the brink of extinction unless five ancient and mysterious beacons are lit. When war erupts, three unlikely heroes will discover there’s more to themselves—and more to their worlds—than meets the eye. . . .
  • The clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy, Oona Lee is a fighter with a destiny bigger than she could ever imagine.
     
  • A boy from the poorest slums, An Tzu has a surprising gift and a knack for getting out of sticky situations.
     
  • Star athlete Jax Amboy is beloved by an entire galaxy, but what good is that when he has no real friends?
     
When these three kids are forced to team up on an epic quest, it will take not one, not two, but 5 WORLDS to contain all the magic and adventure!

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

MARK SIEGEL has written and illustrated several award-winning picture books and graphic novels, including the New York Times bestseller Sailor Twain, or the Mermaid in the Hudson. He is also the founder and editorial director of First Second Books. He lives with his family in New York. Follow Mark on Tumblr at @marksiegel and the 5 Worlds team on Twitter at @5WorldsTeam.

ALEXIS SIEGEL is a writer and translator based in London, England. He has translated a number of bestselling graphic novels, including Joann Sfar’s The Rabbi’s Cat, Pénélope Bagleu’s Exquisite Corpse, and Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese (into French).

XANTHE BOUMA is an illustrator based in Southern California. When not working on picture books, fashion illustration, and comics, Xanthe enjoys soaking up the beachside sun. Follow Xanthe on Tumblr at @yumbles and on Twitter at @xoxobouma.

MATT ROCKEFELLER is an illustrator and comic book artist from Tucson, Arizona. His work has appeared in a variety of formats, including book covers, picture books, and animation. Matt lives in New York City. Follow him on Tumblr at @mrockefeller and on Twitter at @mcrockefeller.

BOYA SUN is an illustrator and co-author of the graphic novel Chasma Knights. Originally from China, Boya has traveled from Canada to the United States and now resides in the charming city of Baltimore. Follow Boya on Tumblr at @boyasun and on Twitter at @boyaboyasun.


REVIEW

Graphic novels are popular these days, not just with kids either.  I myself quite enjoy them.  So it's always fun to get my hands on a new series that has the potential to fill a growing need.  This new series definitely has a lot of potential.  I like the fact that there are three main characters and they are all as different as can be. Oona is training to be a sand dancer and despite being an orphan and having a sister who is considered a coward, lives the good life.  An Tzu lives in the slums down below the Sand Castle where Oona trains and uses his trading and evading skills to help not only himself but his neighbors, unfortunately, his future looks dim.  And Jax Amboy a popular athlete who is known by all, and yet, really, by no one. When the three are brought together by an invading force, they are forced to rely on each other in order to find hope for their devastated homeland.  And along the way they must find a way to survive if they hope to light the Beacons that provide the only hope of victory.  

It can be hard to establish a solid background in a story that focuses so much on action and movement.  And yet here there is a surprisingly solid back story for each of the characters as well as the 5 Worlds.  The art is fantastic and eye-catching and the coloring (what there is of it in the ARC) pops nicely.  A great new middle grade graphic novel series that is bound to be popular.

Friday, May 19, 2017

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: Brightwood by Tania Unsworth


ABOUT THE BOOK

Daisy Fitzjohn knows there are two worlds: the outside world and the world of Brightwood Hall, her home--and the only place she’s ever been. Daisy and her mother have everything they need within its magnificent, half-ruined walls. They may not have a computer or phone, but Daisy has all the friends she could want, including a mischievous talking rat named Tar and the ghostly presence of a long-ago explorer who calls herself Frank.

When Daisy’s mother leaves one morning, a strange visitor arrives on the estate, claiming to be a distant cousin, James Gritting. But as the days tick by and Daisy’s mother doesn’t return, Gritting becomes more and more menacing. He wants Brightwood for himself, and he will do anything to get it, unless Daisy, with only her imaginary companions to help her, can stop him.

REVIEW

I'm not sure quite what I expected this book to be, but I found it a rather surprising sort of read.  For one thing, there are only two human characters for most of the story, and secondly, the house, Brightwood Hall, is such an integral part of the story that it almost feels like a character itself.  Daisy's mother, Caroline Fitzjohn is the first person we meet in the story, just as she and her family set off on their yacht.  But Caroline leaves to ship to go looking for her doll's lost shoe and thus is the only family member to survive a terrible accident.  Unfortunately, the trauma of losing her whole family leads Caroline to start hoarding things in what she calls "day boxes".  Each day box contains miscellaneous items that represent the events of the day.  The problem is that over the years, Caroline accumulates thousands of these boxes and ends up having major shelving installed throughout the mansion.

Daisy, of course, grows up surrounded by her mother's boxes and her hoarding of food and other supplies, so none of it strikes her as unusual, not at first anyway.  But Daisy has never left Brightwood Hall, so the outside world is unknown to her except for what she has read about in her studies with her mother.  When her mother leaves to go to town one day and doesn't return, Daisy is left to care for herself and wonder what happened to her.  But her rather unusual friends, a rat named Tar, and a ghostly, imaginary explorer girl named Frank, help her cope.  But when a stranger shows up who seems to know the place, but who is surprised to see her, Daisy's feelings of unease grow.  Daisy's suspicions grow bigger as it becomes evident that this man has a rather uncomfortable connection to her mother.  When Daisy is forced to confront the man her life really, truly becomes endangered.

This is definitely one of the most unusual thriller/mysteries that I've read for the middle grade crowd.  Maybe because the only real help Daisy has is an imaginary/ghost girl who comes and goes at awkward moments.  Daisy really is pretty much on her own.  And since she has no real experience with anyone other than her mother, it creates a lot of tension when the stranger shows up and she doesn't know how to handle it.  But Daisy is a character that it is very easy to root for and she has loads of courage and good sense.  But it's going to take all she has to save her home, herself, and find out what happened to her mother.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: The Book of Heroes by Crispin Boyer


ABOUT THE BOOK

Everybody needs a role model! Discover the true stories of superheroes, rebels, world leaders, action heroes, sports legends, and many more daring dudes, all of whom played their part to make their mark, make a contribution, and make the world a better place.

From Abraham Lincoln to Sitting Bull, Stephen Hawking to Galileo, these cool guys had the boldness, bravery, and brains to meet the challenges of their day. With a fun design, engaging text, and high-quality photographs, this is ultimate hero guide and keepsake for 21st century kids.

REVIEW

I was intrigued by this book the moment I heard about it.  I mean heroes are what most stories are made of, right?   I was expecting the book to focus on real-life heroics and those are included.  But the book also includes fictional heroes such as Hercules, Robin Hood, and King Arthur.  In addition, there are individuals named that I, in my humble opinion, wouldn't necessarily call heroes.  I mean, King Tut? Alexander the Great?  King Tut didn't live to full adulthood, and while Alexander the Great did some remarkable things, I'm not sure I'd call conquering people and building an empire are exactly heroic.  But what I can say is that the book is put together beautifully with bright, colors and appealing designs.  The book works best for browsing since none of the articles are over a page or two in length.  And there were a lot of stories about people that I didn't know.  I especially appreciated the inclusion of ordinary people as well as famous ones, including children.  There's even a section on heroic animals.  In addition, there are sidebars highlighting remarkable women as well.  This book combined with the one on heroines would be a great addition to any library.


Monday, May 15, 2017

MMGM: A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold


ABOUT THE BOOK

For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life tends to be full of surprises—some of them good, some not so good. Today, though, is a good-surprise day. Bat’s mom, a veterinarian, has brought home a baby skunk, which she needs to take care of until she can hand him over to a wild-animal shelter.

But the minute Bat meets the kit, he knows they belong together. And he’s got one month to show his mom that a baby skunk might just make a pretty terrific pet.

REVIEW

Elana K. Arnold has written a delightful book that I really enjoyed reading.  But I also found it an important book because the main character is what many would call neurodiverse or to be more specific: autistic.  While that is not stated specifically, it becomes clear in Bat's behavior that communicating with others is difficult for him.  One thing that I especially appreciated is that Bat's difficulties are portrayed as just a natural part of him that he and his family live and work with. Bat's challenges aren't made out to be all there is to him.  Bat's love for and fascination with animals shines through loud and clear as Bat tries to persuade his mom to let him care for an orphaned baby skunk until it's time to return it to the wild.  The interactions between Bat and his classmates (he does go to a private school) and Bat and his sister Janie feel natural and real both the good and the bad.

In addition to having realistic characters and believable situations in regard to Bat, there is also the fact that Bat's parents are divorced and he spends every other weekend with his Dad.  I loved how real this whole story felt and the way the animal facts and Bat's challenges are so beautifully woven together.  This is a book that I think ALL elementary libraries should have and a great one for personal collections as well.  Definitely going on my shelf of favorites.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

SERIES THURSDAY: Wells & Wong Mystery series by Robin Stevens


ABOUT THE BOOK

Deepdean School for Girls, 1934. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia's missing tie. Which they don't, really.)

But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident - but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place . . . and there's more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.

Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?

REVIEW

When I first started reading Murder is Bad Manners wondered why the book was being narrated by the character of Hazel Wong, the 'sidekick' so to speak.  But as I got into the book I quickly realized that Hazel is the Watson to Daisy's Holmes.  Hazel is the one with a caring heart, who looks beyond the logical, while Daisy is very much the logically-based intensively focused lead.  But as the two girls investigate the death and disappearance of one of their boarding school teachers, things get tense between the two.  Daisy is so focused on her own theories and beliefs that she dismisses Hazel's theories rather briskly, which I found irritating, as does Hazel.  But despite their differences, the girls manage to salvage their relationship and solve the mystery.  I loved the way the girls methodically investigate the mystery.  They start by considering suspects and motives and alibis.  But when one of their top suspects dies unexpectedly, the girls realize there is more to this case then they ever thought.  I thoroughly enjoyed this historical mystery and ready to dive into the next case.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Schoolgirl detectives Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are at Daisy's home, Fallingford, for the holidays. Daisy's glamorous mother is throwing a tea party for Daisy's birthday, and the whole family is invited, from eccentric Aunt Saskia to dashing Uncle Felix. But it soon becomes clear that this party isn't really about Daisy at all. Naturally, Daisy is furious.

Then one of their party falls seriously, mysteriously ill - and everything points to poison.

With wild storms preventing anyone from leaving, or the police from arriving, Fallingford suddenly feels like a very dangerous place to be. Not a single person present is what they seem - and everyone has a secret or two. And when someone very close to Daisy looks suspicious, the Detective Society must do everything they can to reveal the truth . . . no matter the consequences.

REVIEW

This fun follow-up to Murder is Bad Manners sets Daisy and Hazel up in a rather awkward situation.  Hazel has come to Daisy's home for vacation, but neither of them expects to have a murder to investigate.  But the horrid Mr. Curtis offended pretty much everyone as the personal guest of Lady Hastings.  But Daisy can't resist a mystery right under her nose, despite the challenge of suspecting her own family members. As the girls, including their visiting friends, Kitty and Beanie, gather evidence as well as eavesdropping on the strange goings-on, it becomes evident there is more going on than there appears.  It's fun to follow along with Hazel as she struggles with her own theories while trying to maintain her friendship with Daisy.  Daisy is brilliant after all, but like Sherlock Holmes, lacks the finer social sensitivities.  And Hazel struggles to balance her desire for comfort and good food with her curiosity and desire to find the answers.  And the addition of Kitty and Beanie complicates things.  Add in a mysterious governess, a frustrating Uncle, and an annoying brother and his best friend and the girls are bound to have an unforgettable holiday visit.  The question is whether the girls can find the answers with obstacles thrown in their way left and right, before someone else gets hurt. I'll admit the end did surprise me, which is a surprise in and of itself, since I've read so many middle grade mysteries that it's not usually difficult to predict where things are going to go.  So the ending was an interesting surprise, although not a happy one, the guilty party was someone that both Hazel and I liked.


ABOUT THE BOOK

A murdered heiress, a missing necklace, and a train full of shifty, unusual, and suspicious characters leaves Daisy and Hazel with a new mystery to solve in this third novel of the Wells & Wong Mystery series.

Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells are taking a vacation across Europe on world-famous passenger train, the Orient Express—and it’s clear that each of their fellow first-class travelers has something to hide. Even more intriguing: There’s rumor of a spy in their midst.

Then, during dinner, a bloodcurdling scream comes from inside one of the cabins. When the door is broken down, a passenger is found murdered—her stunning ruby necklace gone. But the killer has vanished, as if into thin air.

The Wells & Wong Detective Society is ready to crack the case—but this time, they’ve got competition.

REVIEW

This third book in the Wells & Wong mystery series is just as good as the previous two, if not better.  As the author herself admits in the author notes, it's a homage to a classic mystery by Agatha Christie called Murder on the Orient Express.  Not only is the mystery a great one but the tension between the different characters shines through clearly with Daisy and Hazel having to work around not only Hazel's father (who's forbidden them from doing any detecting), but an undercover police officer as well.  And then the tension between all the other characters shines through from the very beginning when two characters start screaming at each other.  Add in a former Russian aristocrat, a magician, and a medium and you have a recipe for disaster.  But what is a disaster for others is a thrill for Daisy and Hazel and they sneakily set to work trying to figure out who committed the murder while searching for a spy as well.  A thoroughly enjoyable read from my point of view, even though I had some of the mystery figured out before the girls did there were a couple of things I missed which added an element of surprise to the ending.  A great mystery series combining great sleuthing and a fantastic historical setting into overall enjoyable read.


 
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