Tuesday, September 19, 2017

GRAPHIC NOVEL SEQUELS: Cleopatra in Space: The Golden Lion/The Nameless City: The Stone Heart


ABOUT THE BOOK

Cleo is back at Yasiro Academy, recovering from the tragic events that occurred on planet Hykosis. She feels responsible for the death of her friend Zaid, and trains nonstop. And when she learns that the Golden Lion -- a star with immeasurable energy that could destroy them all if weaponized -- has been located, she goes alone to the snowy, icy planet Cada'duun to find it. There, she faces off with a new enemy who has been instructed to destroy the Golden Lion... and her.  
REVIEW

Each book in this series has gotten more intense than the last as Cleo struggles to live up to the prophecies about her.  After the tragedy of losing a friend in book 3, which Cleo blames herself for, Cleo isn't about to involve her friends in her latest escapade.  Especially since the council (most of them) didn't want her to seek out the Golden Lion (fallen star of great power) in the first place.  But this is Cleo, who acts first and thinks later, and she convinces her friend Brian to help her get to the planet where the Golden Lion is supposed to be.  But despite the warnings about snow, Cleo is not prepared for what she finds: blizzards, enormous snow spiders, and a thief (Antony) from her past. Forced to team up with Antony, Cleo fights to survive and stumbles into something unexpected.  And when the enemy shows up, she's forced to fight.  I have to admit, the ending of this one stunned me it was so unexpected.  In fact several things happen at the end that really surprised me, but which open up some rather interesting new questions about just who Cleo is and what she's supposed to do.

This is a fabulous series for young adventure readers who like a good dose of humor, courage, and the unexpected.  The relationships are fun as well as Cleo and Antony (who didn't see that coming) get to know each other better amid all the storm and strife.  Combining historical fiction and science fiction has turned out brilliantly in this thoroughly entertaining series.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Kaidu and Rat have only just recovered from the assassination attempt on the General of All Blades when more chaos breaks loose in the Nameless City: deep conflicts within the Dao nation are making it impossible to find a political solution for the disputed territory of the City itself.

To complicate things further, Kaidu is fairly certain he's stumbled on a formula for the lost weapon of the mysterious founders of the City. . . . But sharing it with the Dao military would be a complete betrayal of his friendship with Rat. Can Kai find the right solution before the Dao find themselves at war?
REVIEW
Having really liked the first book in The Nameless City trilogy, I was eager to read this second book.  And I was not disappointed. Kai and Rat are coming to terms with their changed circumstances and the changes that seem to be in store for the city.  But unfortunately, the politics involved in the running of an empire can change quickly, and when things take a turn for the worse, Kai, his father, and Rat are forced to flee.  As the fate of the city rests on a knife's edge, Kai and Rat wonder if the formula created by the cities' founders is the answer.  But keeping it out of the hands of the new found enemy may be more than they can handle.  Like second books in most trilogies, the book ends on a cliffhanger, with many questions still to be answered.  I'm truly anxious to get my hands on the third book.  My favorite part of this series are the gorgeous illustrations, depicting Kai and Rat, young people from different cultures who found the courage to look beyond appearances.  Now it's up to them to try to prevent all out war and save the city they both love.
 


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: This Book Stinks! by Sarah Wassner Flynn


ABOUT THE BOOK

Get up close and personal with a wonderful world of waste. From composting and recycling, to landfills and dumps, to how creative people are finding new ways to reuse rubbish. It's fun to talk trash when it's jam-packed with infographics, thematic spreads, wow-worthy photos, sidebars, serious stats, and fabulous facts. Also included are quizzes and activities to inspire kids to take action, be proactive, and rethink the things we throw away.

REVIEW

I had no idea garbage and recycling could be so fascinating.  The facts in the book are both intriguing and horrifying at the same time.  Just thinking of the amount of waste human beings produce is mind-boggling.  On the other hand, the efforts being made to lower the waste created through composting, recycling, and other programs gives hope.  The book is divided into seven chapters:

  1. The Bin and Beyond
  2. Trashing the Earth
  3. All about Recycling
  4. Food (Waste) for Thought
  5. Dirty Work
  6. The Future of Garbage
  7. Take Out the Trash
There are articles about people making a difference as well as creative uses of garbage. Infographics provide quick glimpses into junk in space, the most garbage producing nations, as well as facts about recycling and food waste.  Brief quizzes and suggestions for contributing to the effort to reduce waste are also included.  This is an important and eye-opening book for young readers.  It would also make a great text for environmental studies classes.  The illustrations are eye-catching if not always appealing (it is garbage after all).


Thursday, September 7, 2017

YA REVIEW: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco


ABOUT THE BOOK

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord's daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father's wishes and society's expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle's laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.


REVIEW

Jack the Ripper is of course a well-known serial killer, but one who to this day remains a mystery in terms of who he was and why he did what he did.  That makes his story perfect for fictionalizing.  And Maniscalco does a fabulous job of it.  Combining the mystery of Jack the Ripper with her own interests in forensic science, Maniscalco has created a powerful tale of science, madness, and relationships gone awry.

Ever since her mother's death which lead Audrey Rose to abandon her faith in God, her curiosity has lead her to an interest in her uncle's work as a forensic scientist (an early version of a medical examiner).  But her father's rather paranoid need to protect her from every germ known to man (her mother died of scarlet fever which she caught tending Audrey Rose) means that Audrey Rose has to sneak around behind her father's back.  Things become more complicated when Audrey meets her uncle's assistant, Thomas, who she finds to be attractive but also amazingly obnoxious.  Dealing with her own complicated feelings for Thomas while avoiding detection by her father makes her efforts to help her uncle difficult.  But after Jack the Ripper's first victim is found, Audrey finds herself drawn in, compelled to help stop the monster responsible for such destruction. But a connection to her own family leaves Audrey wondering if she really wants to know the answer to the question: Who is Jack the Ripper?

The incredible details related both to the historical time period as well as early forensic science creates a book that I had a hard time putting down.  The relationships between characters also left a lot of questions about who is interested in who and who can be trusted.  And the shocking truth about Jack the Ripper's identity (the fictionalized Jack the Ripper of course) leaves both Audrey and the reader stunned to say the least. I will say that the choice of villain and the focus on forensic science means the book is quite gruesome.  I wouldn't recommend this for someone who doesn't have a strong stomach.  But those readers who enjoy a well-written mystery and enjoy shows such as CSI or NCIS, this one is a must.

I also appreciated the author's note at the end where the author explains what she fictionalized.  I learned things about the real Jack the Ripper I didn't know that make it clear that the man was very, very sick in his head.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

MIDDLE GRADE BOOK REVIEW: Things That Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari

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ABOUT THE BOOK

Emily Murphy is about to enter middle school. She’s sort of excited… though not nearly as much as her best friend Hazel, who is ready for everything to be new. Emily wishes she and Hazel could just continue on as they always have, being the biggest fans ever of the Unicorn Chronicles, making up dance moves, and getting their regular order at The Slice.

But things are changing. At home, Emily and her mom are learning to move on after her parents’ divorce. Hardest of all, her beloved sister Mina has been in a treatment facility to deal with her anorexia. Emily is eager to have her back, but anxious about her sister getting sick again.

Hazel is changing too. She has new friends from the field hockey team, is starting to wear makeup, and have crushes on boys. Emily is trying to keep up, but she keeps doing and saying the wrong thing. She want to be the perfect new Emily. But who is that really?

Things That Surprise You is a beautifully layered novel about navigating the often shifting bonds of family and friendship, and learning how to put the pieces back together when things fall apart.


REVIEW

Growing up is an experience that I wouldn't want to have again.  Books like this one bring back so many of those memories, both good and bad.  While I didn't have a sibling with an eating disorder, I did have a friend that I lost during those years because of changing interests.  Emily doesn't want her life to change.  She doesn't like the fact that her sister had to go to an eating disorder treatment facility.  She doesn't like the fact that her father left and now has an Alice in his life. But most of all, she doesn't want her friendship with Hazel to change.  And yet all of those things are happening.  Middle school can be a very confusing time and Maschari has captured that very well.  Emily doesn't really know where she fits at home or at school and she doesn't feel like anyone listens to her.  Her efforts to fit in with Hazel's new friends fizzle every time and Emily resents the attention her sister gets when she comes home.  After ordering a set of self-help CDs, Emily sets out to become the girl she wants to be.  But who is that exactly?  

Maschari does a great job of creating a character that is easy to relate to, one who wants to be popular and fit in with Hazel and the other field hockey girls, but who also wants to be herself.  She finds herself clinging to the old while being drawn to the new; new friends, new interests, and shifting relationships.  Emily's relationships felt genuine and reminded me of some of the relationships I've had over the years.  I have no doubt that young readers will find much to relate to as well.  The underlying themes are presented well with relationships being at the heart of it all.  Recommended for young readers who enjoy seeing themselves in what they read or those who are looking for windows into the experiences of those who are different.

 

Monday, August 28, 2017

YOUNG ADULT TRUE CRIME NONFICTION: Deep Water/The 57 Bus/One Cut


ABOUT THE BOOK

Real stories. Real teens. Real crimes.

A group of teens traffic drugs between Mexico and California in this start to the brand-new Simon True series.

It’s 1971 in Coronado, a small southern California beach town. For seventeen year-old Eddie Otero, a skilled waterman and avid surfer, life is simple. Then a buddy makes him an offer: Swim an illicit package across the border from Mexico. The intense workout is dangerous. Thrilling. Lucrative. And the beginning of a small business.

When the young entrepreneurs involve their former high school Spanish teacher, the smuggling adventure grows into a $100 million dollar global operation.

Soon they become fugitives. Living on the edge, they vow to return to their normal lives — right after one last run…


REVIEW

I've developed a interest in true crime stories so I was curious when this one was sent to me by the publisher.  This particular book revolves around the efforts of a group of teenagers and young adults who became drug smugglers.  Eddie Otero and Lance Weber started out small, with Eddie swimming packages of drugs from Mexico to the beaches just off their home town of Coronado, California.  At first Eddie does it mostly for the thrill, but as the money starts coming in they start recruiting others, including a former teacher, Louis Villar.  Villar uses his charm and language skills to quickly take over the operation.  Throughout the 1970, the group known as the Coronado company grows in both the amount of drugs smuggled and the amount of money coming in.  But excessive spending, hubris, and carelessness, eventually lead the Company into serious trouble and those involved are forced to decide just what they are willing to do stay above water.

Nichols has created a fascinating account of a group of people using their talents to make money without consideration for the effect their actions have on anyone else.  Millions of dollars are made and spent while tons of drugs are turned lose on the American public.  But as with most things in life, there are consequences to the choices being made.  The book covers a couple of decades of choices, made by the smugglers and the DEA agents hunting them.  The story of the Coronado Company is a compelling look at choices, accountability, friendship (or the lack thereof), and hubris as well as greed.

In terms of content, the book is definitely high school and above because of the following content: drugs and drinking (there is lots of this, although it isn't described in detail, the author focuses on the actions of the smugglers rather than their debauchery), sex and promiscuous behavior is mentioned throughout the story (Lou Villar is rather a ladies man) but not graphically described, and there is quite a bit of swearing and profanity.

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The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives 

ABOUT THE BOOK

One teenager in a skirt.
One teenager with a lighter.
One moment that changes both of their lives forever.

If it weren't for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. The case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight.


REVIEW

There are events in life that become gateways to the future in major ways. The fire that occurred on the 57 bus on November 4, 2013.  Two young people's lives would never be the same as a result of the decision that was made.  I appreciated the way that Slater gives a brief overview of the event before digging into the lives of Sasha and Richard (last names not shared in order to provide privacy).  By the time the author circles back to the fire and the consequences I felt like I knew and cared about both Sasha and Richard.  This depth gives the fire more meaning and makes it all the more tragic. Not only do we as readers follow the experiences of both Sasha, the one who got burned, but also Richard the one who committed the crime, but we see the event through the eyes of the media, the courts, and family and friends of both Sasha and Richard.  The author gives a nice background into Sasha's agender identity as well as a brief introduction to different sexual and gender identities, which was helpful in understanding Sasha (who the world tends to see as a young man) and why the skirt Sasha wore became a target of Richard and his two friends.

I found the story of Sasha and Richard and what happened to them (and where they are up to the publication of the book) rather compelling. The short chapters make this a good book for YA reluctant readers.  I think one of the most powerful aspects of the book is the author's ability to share both Sasha's experiences and Richard's.  It makes it hard to completely condemn Richard for a moment of sheer stupidity as he gives in to peer pressure as well as the unfairness of his two friends never getting charged, even though Richard wouldn't have done what he did without them egging him on.  The court system and its strengths and weaknesses play an important role in the story as does forgiveness, redemption, and second chances.  The nature of the story means that rough language, and mature content relating to gender, sexuality, and bullying all come into play, making this book most appropriate for high school and up.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Real stories. Real teens. Real crimes.

A backyard brawl turned media circus filled with gang accusations turns a small, quiet town upside down in this second book in the new Simon True series.

On May 22, 1995 at 7 p.m. sixteen-year-old Jimmy Farris and seventeen-year-old Mike McLoren were working out outside Mike’s backyard fort. Four boys hopped the fence, and a fight broke out inside the dark fort made of two-by-four planks and tarps. Within minutes, both Mike and Jimmy had been stabbed. Jimmy died a short time later.

While neighbors knew that the fort was a local hangout where drugs were available, the prosecution depicted the four defendants as gang members, and the crime as gang related. The accusations created a media circus, and added fuel to the growing belief that this affluent, safe, all-white neighborhood was in danger of a full-blown gang war.

Four boys stood trial. All four boys faced life sentences. Why? Because of California’s Felony Murder Rule. The law states that “a death is considered first degree murder when it is commissioned during one of the following felonies: Arson, Rape, Carjacking, Robbery, Burglary, Mayhem, Kidnapping.” In other words, if you—or somebody you are with—intends to commit a felony, and somebody accidentally dies in the process, all parties can be tried and convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life without parole, even if nobody had any intention of committing a murder.

What really happened that day? Was it a case of robbery gone wrong? Gang activity? Or was it something else?


REVIEW

I haven't had much contact with the United States Justice System and after reading this book, I am sincerely grateful. Justice isn't always just.  After the fight between six teenagers ends with one boy dead, the lives of everyone involved change forever.  As the author does a great job of showing, the intentions of the four boys who came to see stab victims Mike McLoren and Jimmy Farris are widely assumed to be that of robbery and murder.  The author goes through the series of events that occurred that day in May 1995 from the perspectives of both Mike McLoren and his friend, Jimmy, and the four boys who came to Mike's fort for drugs.  A major part of the debate that arose once the four boys were charged was did they come to buy marijuana or steal it.  If they came to buy, Jimmy's death looked like manslaughter, which would have had the four boys out of prison in 5-12 years.  If the incident was viewed as a robbery (which is how the prosecution saw it), the death became a murder, which could mean life in prison or even death.

A case like this results in a lot of strong emotions coming out and as a reader I felt some of those emotions.  The grief of Jimmy's family that lead them to condemn the four boys (Micah, Jason, Tony, and Brandon) and their driver (Chris) completely.  The sorrow of the boy's families as they watched their loved ones face complete condemnation and the assumptions and wrong information that went with it.  The major irritation I felt as the judge and jury took the word of an untrustworthy witness who'd changed his version of events over and over (Mike McLoren).  The anger I felt at the whole incident being connected to gang activity that scared the jury into requesting police protection, even though there was no proof of actual gang involvement.  A judge who showed no mercy, who let the verdict stand despite evidence of jury misconduct.

I found this to be both a fascinating book to read and a hard book to read.  To read about the tragic consequences of young people using drugs and alcohol about broke my heart.  To read about the awful punishment that the five boys received and to feel that it was not just punishment for what amounted to an accident in the heat of the moment in which all six boys participated.  What the book does supremely well though is demonstrate the power of seemingly small, insignificant choices and the power they have to change one's life forever.  One inch more or less and the knife would have missed Jimmy's heart and Jimmy Farris would still be alive, and four boys wouldn't be sitting in jail with little to no chance of every being free again. 

Note: Content wise it's pretty much what you would expect: swearing, teenage drinking and drug use, brief reference to sex, and the brief violence that lead to Jimmy Farris's death. 
 

Friday, August 25, 2017

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham


ABOUT THE BOOK

When best friends are not forever . . .

Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends ever since they were little. But one day, Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen, the most popular girl in class and the leader of a circle of friends called The Group. Everyone in The Group wants to be Jen's #1, and some girls would do anything to stay on top . . . even if it means bullying others.

Now every day is like a roller coaster for Shannon. Will she and Adrienne stay friends? Can she stand up for herself? And is she in The Group—or out?

Newbery Honor author Shannon Hale and New York Times bestselling illustrator LeUyen Pham join forces in this graphic memoir about how hard it is to find your real friends—and why it's worth the journey.


REVIEW

Shannon Hale is one of my favorite authors.  I've read most of what she's written.  I was definitely intrigued when I heard about this graphic novel based on her own childhood memories.  It's not entirely memoir as Shannon herself explains in the back of the book.  After all, human memory is certainly fallible and no two people experience the same situation in exactly the same way.  Plus, she's changed a lot of names.  But it's clear that the emotion behind the story is real. It certainly felt real to me, maybe because I could relate to some of the struggles that young Shannon has making, keeping, and losing friendships.  Friendship can be a tricky thing, especially when clicks get involved as they so often do in elementary/middle school.  

When Shannon's dear friend, Adrienne, becomes part of "The Group", she tags along, hoping that she isn't going to lose her one and only friend.  And she doesn't, not exactly, but she's not fully welcomed into "The Group" either.  As Shannon's relationships with her friends fluctuate, she struggles with the unkindness that occurs as well as her own anxieties and frequent illnesses.  In addition to her confusion about her friends, she struggles to get along with her older sister, Wendy.  Shannon's dream of being a writer slowly develops as she works hard to figure out how to handle her relationship difficulties.

LeUyen Pham does a phenomenal job illustrating Shannon's experiences.  Not only does each person shine through in personality and appearance but Pham uses her own imagination to show the imaginative play that Shannon so enjoyed with her friends (I loved how Shannon always imagined her self as a strong female superhero of sorts, this so reminded me of the games I loved to play as a kid).  In addition, demonstrating in a sometimes amusing, but often sad way the challenging relationship that Shannon had with her sister, Wendy is sometimes depicted as a giant, rather intimidating bear.  

This is a book that is bound to be loved just like Rain Telgemeier's Smile and Sisters, simply because young readers will be able to relate to it so well.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: 100 Things to be When You Grow Up/Ultimate Explorer Guide by National Geographic Kids


ABOUT THE BOOK

Who says adults can't have fun? This book explores 100 of the coolest, wackiest, and most amazing jobs and careers out there, from astronaut to zookeeper, ice cream taster to game maker.

Jam-packed with inspiration, hands-on projects, advice from National Geographic explorers, interviews with experts, weird-but-true facts, and more, this new book in the popular -100 Things- series is a great way to get kids thinking creatively about career paths and excited about their futures!

REVIEW

What an utterly delightful book!  I loved the way that the author presented each of the 100 careers in this book.  With National Geographic's typical gorgeous photographs and bright, fun, appealing design, each of 100 different careers are presented.  The book is not intended to offer detailed descriptions, but merely a brief introduction to the possibilities that exist.  Including brief suggestions for ways to explore one's interests (called Inspiration Station), the book focuses on primarily unusual careers such as astronaut, party planner, tree house builder, professional line waiter, and snake milker. This book is bound to be enjoyed by young readers who are curious about the world around them and what the possibilities are for their future.  I especially enjoyed the brief interviews with people who currently work in some of the jobs presented. It's especially interesting to see what led these folks to the careers they work in.


ABOUT THE BOOK

National Geographic has inspired generations of explorers. Now it's your turn! Learn what it takes to be a real-life explorer in this fun and action-packed guide to discovering the world around us. Unearth ancient mummies and lost treasures, encounter wild animals and learn how to protect their habitats, and shoot for the stars with the latest technologies in space travel. Amazing stories, fantastic photos, and hands-on-activities inspire curious kids to start discovering on land, air, and sea. Profiles feature National Geographic explorers of all kinds: paleontologists, biologists, photographers, artists, writers, activists, conservationists, and more. Kids are inspired to follow their passions into careers and introduced to the first steps to take to achieve their dream.

REVIEW

Providing interviews with explorers, experiments, and descriptions of a variety of jobs related to exploration, National Geographic's Ultimate Explorer Guide presents a great overview of exploration.  The book covers topics related to land, sea and sky.  Each section contains basic information about exploration as well as about jobs related to it such as marine biology, volcanology, and geology.  Fun factoids are shared related to different animals and features of each environment.  The experiments give the reader a chance to see what aspects of exploration he/she might enjoy the most.  I myself especially enjoyed the interviews with current explorers and finding out what they do in their jobs.  This makes a great browsing book for young readers fascinated by the world in which we live.


Monday, August 21, 2017

BLOG TOUR w/ GIVEAWAY: Duck and Hippo, Lost and Found by Jonathan London


ABOUT THE BOOK

Duck and Hippo have a picnic and a new adventure!

Duck and Hippo invite their friends Turtle, Elephant, and Pig to a picnic at their favorite pond. Yippee! It’s time to dance and sing, swim and eat. Everyone brings goodies to share…except Hippo. He didn’t bring ANYTHING. So Hippo sets off into the forest to find some berries. But he is gone a long time, and Duck begins to worry that Hippo is lost. What should his friends do to find him? Join Duck and Hippo on another fun adventure!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR

Jonathan London has written more than one hundred children’s books, including the bestselling Froggy series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. He is the author of the popular Duck and Hippo series, illustrated by Andrew Joyner. Many of his books explore nature, among them Flamingo Sunset, illustrated by Kristina Rodanas, and Little Penguin: The Emperor of Antarctica, illustrated by Julie Olson. He is also author of the Aaron’s Wilderness middle-grade series, illustrated by his son Sean London. Jonathan lives in Graton, California. Learn more online at www.jonathan-london.net.

Andrew Joyner is an illustrator, author, and cartoonist based in South Australia. He has illustrated a number of picture books, and he wrote and illustrated a chapter book series about a warthog named Boris. He is the illustrator of the popular Duck and Hippo series, written by Jonathan London. He has also illustrated for newspapers and magazines, including the Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, and Rolling Stone magazine, among others. Learn more online at www.andrewjoyner.com.au.

REVIEW

Jonathan London has written another delightful story about friendship.  As Duck and Hippo and their friends, Elephant, Pig, and Turtle prepare to celebrate the end of summer, Hippo leaves to find something to contribute to the picnic.  When Hippo doesn't come back, his friends go looking for him.  As it gets darker, Hippo's friends get scared that they won't be able to find him.  The illustrations are expressive and adorable. There is also a line that is repeated throughout the story that makes for a fun opportunity for children to respond as the story is read.  London and Joyner have created a great follow-up to the original Duck and Hippo in a Rainstorm that shines as a read a loud.

There’s more fun with Duck and Hippo in the free downloadable activity pages: https://www.andrewjoyner.com.au/activities/

GIVEAWAY

Two Lions is offering a set of the Duck and Hippo books--DUCK AND HIPPO IN THE RAINSTORM and DUCK AND HIPPO LOST AND FOUND--to one lucky winner (U.S. addresses).


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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

BLOG TOUR w/ GIVEAWAY: The World's Greatest Adventure Machine by Frank Cole


ABOUT THE BOOK

An adventure novel about four lucky kids and a mysterious, but thrilling ride for fans of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Jurassic Park!

CastleCorp and the famous Castleton brothers are unveiling the World's Greatest Adventure Machine! The roller coaster is an experience like no other, and four lucky kids have won the chance to be the first to ride it.

There's Trevor, whose latest stunt got him in trouble at school again. There's Devin, whose father is pushing him to be the next Internet sensation. Nika's wealthy grandfather isn't too pleased about her participation. And Cameron, he'll be the first to tell you, is a certified genius.

The whole world is watching. But as the kids set off on their journey, they begin to realize that there is perhaps more to their fellow contest winners than meets the eye. And the Adventure Machine? It might just have a mind of its own.

Join the contestants on their wild ride if you dare. Your adventure starts now!










Barnes and Noble

REVIEW

Unfortunately, with getting ready for school next week, I haven't finished this book yet.  However, what I have read, I've enjoyed.  The four kids are introduced in fantastic ways, leaving me eager to see what will happen when the four join forces.  And I'm eager to find out how the adventure machine works.  More soon.

GIVEAWAY

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TOUR SCHEDULE

August 17: Peggy Urry, Literary Time Out Rorie
August 18: Why Not? Because I Said So, Literary Time Out Tarah

EARLY READER REVIEWS: Duck, Duck, Porcupine!/My Kite is Stuck! And Other Stories by Salina Yoon


ABOUT THE BOOK

Big Duck likes to boss around her younger brother, Little Duck, and she fancies herself the leader of their trio--when joined by their gentle friend Porcupine. Little Duck doesn't speak yet, but through his expressions and his actions, he shows that he has a better grasp on any situation than his older sister. Told entirely through dialogue and visual storytelling with subtle humor throughout, Little Duck ends up getting the trio out of whatever jam they are in.

REVIEW

Every since I discovered the Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems, I've been keeping my eyes open for books with similar qualities.  Qualities such as delightful, expressive illustrations, short, funny stories, and great characters.  I'm delighted to say that I have found such a series in this new series by Salina Yoon.  I love the bright, colorful illustrations, they are very eye-catching and appealing.  The characters make me smile and even laugh.  And I have no doubt that young listeners/readers will love the fact that Little Duck is the one with all the good sense (in the first story, Little Duck is the only one who notices the dark clouds moving in as Big Duck and Porcupine plan a picnic).  Each book has three short stories in it.  In this first volume, the first story revolves around a planned picnic that goes wrong when rain clouds move in; the second story involves Big Duck trying desperately to remember something while Little Duck does his best to remind her what it is she's forgotten; and story three involves a camping trip that Big Duck makes way to complicated.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Loud and in-charge Big Duck, quiet and clever Little Duck, and friendly and gentle Porcupine return in another delightful trio of stories. First, Big Duck and Porcupine are so busy building her lemonade stand that they forget one very important ingredient. Next, when Porcupine and Little Duck make a new friend Big Duck feels left out. Can they find a way to include everyone? And lastly, after Big Duck gets her kite stuck in a tree, Little Duck's smart suggestion will save the day! These three friends may be different, but they always find a way to have lots of fun.

REVIEW

In this second volume of the Duck, Duck, Porcupine! series, there are three new stories about the three friends.  First, Big Duck's kite gets stuck in a tree and the three friends have to find a way to get it unstuck (the results are hilarious, I found myself laughing out loud while reading this one).  The second story introduces the idea of making new friends when Big Duck has a hard time accepting Porcupine's new friend, Bee, until she makes a new friend, but Little Duck isn't so sure about the creature that wants to be his new friend.  And story three involves a childhood ritual, the lemonade stand where Little Duck saves the day.  This book is funny and a sweet ode to the ups and downs of friendship and putting up with each other's weaknesses.

Monday, August 14, 2017

MMGM: The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya


ABOUT THE BOOK

Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL?

For Arturo, summertime in Miami means playing basketball until dark, sipping mango smoothies, and keeping cool under banyan trees. And maybe a few shifts as junior lunchtime dishwasher at Abuela's restaurant. Maybe. But this summer also includes Carmen, a cute poetry enthusiast who moves into Arturo's apartment complex and turns his stomach into a deep fryer. He almost doesn't notice the smarmy land developer who rolls into town and threatens to change it. Arturo refuses to let his family and community go down without a fight, and as he schemes with Carmen, Arturo discovers the power of poetry and protest through untold family stories and the work of Jose Marti.

REVIEW

I enjoyed this book for a bunch of reasons but I think the thing I liked the most is the sense of family that shines through so clearly.  Arturo makes for a great, sympathetic character as he struggles with a crush on a girl, a summer job, and the threat to his family's restaurant business.  Add to that his Abuela's illness, an introduction to poetry, and his best friends being away and Arturo has his hands full. Cartaya has written a story that's full of both humor and heart, giving the reader a glimpse into the ups and downs of one Cuban immigrant extended family. Some of my favorite parts though were the conversations that Arturo has with his best friends, Bren and Mop, they added humor to a book that could have taken itself too seriously.  And I found Arturo's struggles with Carmen, his first crush, to be easy to relate to, after all, who hasn't had an epic fail when it comes to relationships.  But thanks to his family, Arturo finds a way to deal with the challenges life deals him, even the chance that his family will lose their restaurant to a developer.  As Arturo and his family fight for their restaurant, they also fight for their family-based community at the same time.  The integration of the Spanish words and phrases, including the poetry works pretty well, although I would have done better if I'd known more Spanish, it's more than possible to read and enjoy this book without knowing any. Books like this one are important in meeting the needs of diverse students as well as opening student's eyes to different people and places.




Tuesday, August 8, 2017

EARLY CHAPTER BOOKS: Fergus and Zeke/Sydney & Simon To the Moon!


ABOUT THE BOOK

Meet Fergus and Zeke a lovable classroom mouse and his streetwise buddy in a brand-new series perfect for early readers.

Fergus loves being the class pet in Miss Maxwell s classroom. He does everything the students do, until the teacher plans a field trip to the museum without Fergus! He doesn t want to miss the fun, so he stows away in a backpack and sets off for an adventure. When he arrives at the museum, Fergus finds it a little overwhelming huge and full of exciting things to see. Luckily, he meets a new friend, Zeke, who knows the ropes, and together they explore everything from moon rocks to butterflies to a giant dinosaur skeleton ("A playground!" says Zeke). But when the time comes for the bus to leave, Fergus is worried that he ll be left behind. Will he make it back to school to take his place as class pet once more?"

REVIEW

I am delighted to review this early reader by one of my favorite writers, Kate Messner.  There are numerous books out there involving classroom pets as main characters, which isn't surprising since it's a fun idea, one that children enjoy.  But it takes something new to make the idea fresh.  Messner's done a nice job here creating a likable character, Fergus, who wants to learn with the class, in a lot of ways, he reminds me of Betty Birney's Humphrey, but for younger readers.  Fergus sneaks off with the class to visit a museum where he tries to follow the rules given by the teacher (which as a teacher I appreciated).  But when he meets Zeke, who starts showing him around and encouraging him to break the rules, it's so exciting that Fergus can't help but slide down dinosaurs and climb on the moon rocks.  But he gets so distracted that he loses track of his class and starts to panic a bit when he realizes he has lost his class.  This is a fun early chapter book with cute characters and some STEM concepts slipped into the story.

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ABOUT THE BOOK

The chance to meet astronaut Kris Kornfield is a dream come true for twins Sydney and Simon. But first they have to come up with the most creative project about the Earth’s moon. While Sydney’s work is all about the art, and Simon’s is all about the data, neither seems creative enough to win the prize. But when they put their heads to-gether, they incorporate S.T.E.A.M. thinking and come up with a winning idea. The third installment in the Sydney & Simon series, this kid-friendly story makes science concepts accessible and exciting.

REVIEW

S.T.E.A.M. concepts are becoming a major part of many school's curriculum.  And with good reason. Teaching children to combine subjects in thinking about problems helps them develop brain connections as well as integrating creativity.  In this third book in the Sydeny & Simon series, the Reynolds twins use their own S.T.E.A.M. skills to share the power in working together using science, technology, engineering, arts, and math to create something great.  This is clearly a book intended to teach but that doesn't make it less enjoyable, which is rare for a teaching book.  The darling illustrations compliment the fun word play and information in the text to create a story that's both fun and educational.  This would be a great book to use to introduce the S.T.E.A.M. ways of thinking and working to younger children, plus there are some great ideas for projects as well.  

Monday, August 7, 2017

MMGM: A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting by Joe Ballarini


ABOUT THE BOOK

The Last Kids on Earth meets Goosebumps in this hilarious new series about a secret society of babysitters who protect kids from the monsters that really do live under their beds!

When middle schooler Kelly Ferguson’s Halloween plans switch from party-going to babysitting, she thinks the scariest part of her night will be the death of her social life. But then Baby Jacob gets kidnapped by the Boogeyman’s minions and Kelly learns there’s a whole lot more to childcare than free snacks and Netflix. Like chasing shadow monsters, drop-kicking Toadies, and mastering monster-fighting moves like the Naptime Headlock and Playground Punch.

Now, with the help of an ancient handbook and a secret society of butt-kicking babysitters, Kelly sets out to destroy the Boogeyman before he brings Jacob’s nightmares to life. But when the monsters’ trail leads to her school’s big Halloween bash, Kelly will have to prove she can save the world—without totally embarrassing herself in front of her friends.

Packed with black-and-white illustrations and insider secrets from the world of monster hunting, A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting is full of tricks, treats, and terrifying twists!

REVIEW

Eighth-grader Kelly has a goal: make enough money to go to a fancy summer camp.  She's getting close to her goal but after working several jobs that she hasn't enjoyed, she's looking for something new to help her earn money.  When her friend suggests babysitting, Kelly isn't really excited about the idea, she doesn't like kids after all.  But anything for camp, so she agrees, and within the day her new status is posted on social media.  But when a job for her mother's 'ice queen' boss comes up that night, Kelly is reluctant to give up the chance to go to a 'real' party where her crush will be.  But she shows up to  babysit young Jacob having no idea that her life will forever change when she discovers that monsters are real.  Jacob gets stolen by monsters and Kelly teams up with a group of monster fighting babysitters to get him back before the night is over.  But the Grand Guignol has big plans for Jacob, plans that may be more than Kelly and the babysitters can handle.

The story moves along at a brisk pace once the monsters make an appearance (which they do in the prologue).  The story is over the top, exactly like you would expect for a story about teenagers fighting monsters.  Included with the story are bits and pieces of a written record called "A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting" that the characters use to fight the monsters.  The illustrations do a fabulous job of adding to the overall creepiness of the book.  A fun book for kids who enjoy horror and monster stories.

I get requests from students all the time for scary books.  Of course, children like differing levels of the kind of scariness they enjoy.  Because of that I tend to recommend a variety of books and then inform them to put the book down if it's too much for them.  A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting is a new book for me to recommend to students.  However, it's one that I would recommend with caveats, because I found it really creepy.  The action and adventure are pretty typical for this type of monster fighting story, that's not where I foresee some readers having problems.  The problem is that the big villain: the Grand Guignol, otherwise known as the Boogeyman, is really creepy, in fact I'd say that he pushes the book from scary to horror.  I do have readers who would enjoy this, but there are others who would not, so I'm adding this note to my review.

 
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