Monday, August 12, 2019

MMGM: Skyjacked by Paul Griffin


ABOUT THE BOOK

Six friends who attend Manhattan's elite Hartwell Academy are returning from an end-of-summer camping trip together on a private plane. Everything seems normal... except one of the regular pilots is sick, so there's a replacement; Cassie is starting to get violently ill for no clear reason; and they realize the plane is flying west, not east. Soon it's clear: the plane has been hijacked. But by who, and why? Where are they going? What made Cassie so sick? And even if they somehow make it into the cockpit and overpower the hijacker, could they land the plane? Emotions are running high, and choosing who to trust is a matter of life or death. 
 
REVIEW
 
Skyjacked takes the reader on a thriller of a ride.  Five teenage friends who attend an elite private academy are finishing up a camping trip.  After hopping on Cassie's father's private jet, they are ready to head back to New York. But things are quite right.  Emily is dating Tim, but seems interested in Jay, who isn't quite comfortable at the school since he's on scholarship and not from a wealthy family like the others.  Cassie and Brandon are best friends, but Cassie's recklessness threatens their lives.  And Tim, despite his large size, is a confused scared kid.
 
Things take a strange turn when Jay notices the plane is heading west instead of east and the cockpit door is locked, which it isn't normally.  When Cassie gets violently ill, fear enters the cabin and the teenagers and Cassie's bodyguard have to decide what to do.  Meanwhile, Michelle is working as an intern at NATIC (National Air Traffic Investigation Center) in hopes of getting a recommendation to the Air Force Academy.  But after failing a simulation, she's not as confident as she once was.
 
When it becomes clear that the flight is deliberately off-course, Michelle struggles to find a way to help amidst all the chaos.  And on the flight, the friends frantically try to save Cassie's life while trying to decide what, if anything, they should attempt to do to get the plane back on course.  The hijacker seems obvious at first, after all the co-pilot is a fill-in and they know nothing about her.  But the bodyguard is new as well and Cassie doesn't like her.  As the situation becomes more dire so do the stakes and difficult decisions must be made.
 
I stayed up late finishing this one because I wanted to know what happened.  To me that's a sign the author did a good job with the plotting.  The story is front and center here, although enough details are given about various characters for them to seem real and unique.  Since the focus is on the tragedy the teens find themselves in there isn't any drugs or sex.  I was also impressed that their isn't any swearing either making this appropriate for middle grade readers.  Middle grade readers who enjoy thrillers that is.  Naturally, the situation doesn't resolve itself in an entirely happy way, there are deaths involved as one might expect in such a situation.  Probably not the best read though for middle graders who don't handle tragedy or tension very well.  But an enjoyable read for those who aren't as troubled by those things.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: Truth or Lie Dinosaurs!/Truth or Lie Sharks! by Erica S. Perl


ABOUT THE BOOK

Tyrannosaurus rex's closest living relative is the alligator, right? That's a LIE! The TRUTH is, the massive carnivore was actually more closely related to chickens!! Though this engaging early reader is 100% fun, 25% of it is FALSE! In a unique question-and-answer format, proficient readers are quizzed about dinosaurs to see if they can separate facts from "lies." The book's mascot--the Truth Sleuth--guides readers through this funny and fact-packed Step 3 Reader, which features photos and illustrations of dinosaurs and fossils, with funny, kid-appealing art by Michael Slack.

REVIEW

This new series for young beginning readers is not only informative but gives said readers a chance to play a game and test his/her knowledge of the chosen topic.  This first book in the series is about dinosaurs.  The book is narrated by a stamp called the Truth Sleuth who takes the reader through the book.  The reader is presented with a series of four facts but only three of the facts are true.  The reader is then encouraged to decide which one they think is false.  The next double page spread reveals which one is a lie and why.  The combination of illustrations and photos (as available) add to the fun.  Young readers who are fascinated with dinosaurs will enjoy testing their knowledge and learning new facts at the same time.  The book is also a great way for teachers or parents to teach children not to trust everything they see and hear or might be exposed to through friends or the media.  For me as a librarian, the book will be a great lead-in to lessons on find accurate, reliable information.  A great resource and fun read for young and old alike.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Baby sharks are toothless at first, right? That's a LIE! The TRUTH is, sharks are born with a mouthful of teeth to protect themselves and hunt right away. Though this engaging early reader is 100% fun, 25% of it is FALSE! In a unique question-and-answer format, proficient readers are quizzed about their favorite ocean predators to see if they can separate facts from "lies." The book's mascot--the Truth Sleuth--guides readers through this funny and fact-packed Step 3 Reader, filled with photos of sharks in action, as well as kid-appealing art and humor.

REVIEW

Sharks are a favorite topic for many young readers.  Combining a popular topic with this fun new interactive format makes for a winning read.  The book provides lots of interesting facts about sharks but only 75% are true.  The book is narrated by a LIE stamp named the Truth Sleuth, who presents the reader with four facts about sharks.  But only three of the four are true.  Readers are then encouraged to decide which one they think is false.  The following double page spread reveals which one is a lie and why it is a lie.  Even as an adult I enjoyed testing my knowledge of sharks.  I even learned some things I didn't know before.  In addition to being enjoyable for young readers who are passionate about sharks, the book would be great for teachers or parents who want to help their students/children understand that not everything they see or hear is true.  As a librarian, I plan to use the book to introduce the importance of verifying information and how to find accurate, reliable information.  I look forward to more books in this series.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

BACK-to-School Titles: School of Fish/My First Day of School/PJ Masks Save the School


ABOUT THE BOOK

From acclaimed, prolific author Jane Yolen comes a Level 1 Ready-to-Read story bursting with all the excitement and a little bit of the nervousness that color a fish’s first day at a new school.

I look around.
What do I see?
Another fish who’s just like me!
A little scared.
A little new.
All alone and feeling blue.

Starting at a new school is never easy, but it can also be really exciting. Beginning readers can follow along as one intrepid little fish goes through the many emotions associated with a new school experience!

REVIEW

School of Fish follows the adventures of a young fish attending school for the first time.  At first he's full of confidence, until the unexpected happens when he sees the head of a shark.  After making it on the bus, he finds himself alone and nervous.  He takes a moment to count to ten and calm down, but the day isn't over.  Fortunately, he remembers to calm himself down as he deals with homesickness, annoying classmates, and being alone. Things take a turn for the better when he decides to reach out to another who is also alone.  The simple text reads smoothly, which is always a great accomplishment when it comes to rhyming text.  But I would expect no less from Jane Yolen.  The illustrations are bright and colorful and very appealing.  This book provides a fun way to help children learn about facing the unexpected and dealing with what can often be overwhelming emotions.  A story that works on many levels, both in terms of fun and in terms of leading to some important conversations between parent/guardian and child or teacher and child.  I'll probably use this one with my kindergarten classes.


ABOUT THE BOOK

It’s the first day of school in this early reader by Biscuit creator Alyssa Satin Capucilli. What will it be like? At school, students will meet the teacher, make new friends, sing songs, play, learn, and so much more! Young readers will love seeing kids their age go to school in this adorable introduction to the classroom.

Includes a special section in the back with more information about what happens at school!

REVIEW

My First Day of School tells of the activities that children might encounter at school.  Reading this reminded me a lot of my own kindergarten experience.  However, in my experience, kindergarten isn't like this anymore -- no snacks, no dress up time, no sand piles, block building, or painting.  There just isn't time within the to-the-minute schedule.  However, I am aware that this could be referring to pre-school or kindergarten classes that have maintained some of the old traditions.  I did enjoy the book.  The photographs are adorable and the text is clear and to the point.  The author has also taken the time to add additional information about various activities that children may experience.  Just be aware that if you read this with your child, the activities they will experience aren't likely to follow the ones documented here exactly.  But the book is cute and could give a nervous child an idea of what to expect.


ABOUT THE BOOK
The school supplies have gone missing, and because of Romeo’s wacky invention, Catboy and Gekko now have Owlette’s powers! But Owlette doesn’t want to share her powers. Will the PJ Masks be able to work together and save the school?

REVIEW

PJ MASKS Save the School! can't be called great literature.  But this sort of licensed book isn't really intended to be.  This book is intended to appeal to children who are fans of the show who want to read about the characters.  The book itself is based on a TV episode, although, I'm sure the story has been adapted to work in a book format.  The story is cute enough with the three children becoming their superhero selves to combat a thief.  But it turns out to have been a trap, and the three must work together to defeat their foe.  While not great literature, if you have a child who enjoys the show, they will probably enjoy the book.

Monday, August 5, 2019

MMGM: Order of the Majestic by Matt Myklusch


ABOUT THE BOOK

Twelve-year-old daydreamer Joey Kopecky’s life has been turned upside down. After acing a series of tests, he’s declared a genius and awarded a full scholarship at a special (year-round!) school. He’s understandably devastated, until he takes one last test, and the room around him disappears, replaced by the interior of an old theater.

There, Joey meets the washed-up magician, Redondo the Magnificent, and makes a shocking discovery…magic is real, but sadly, there isn’t much left in the world. It may be too late to save what little remains, but for the first time in his life Joey wants to try—really try—to do something big. Soon he’s swept up into a centuries-old conflict between two rival societies of magicians—the Order of the Majestic, who fights to keep magic alive and free for all, and the dark magicians of the Invisible Hand, who hoard magic for their own evil ends.

The endless battle for control of magic itself has reached a tipping point. For Redondo and the Order to survive, Joey must inherit the lost legacy of Harry Houdini. Will he prove himself worthy, or will the Invisible Hand strike him down? The answer will depend on Joey’s ability to believe, not just in magic, but in himself.

REVIEW

Order of the Majestic takes the reader into the heart of a world where magic is mostly controlled by an evil organization called the Invisible Hand.  A young boy named Joey, has no idea that magic is real, for him, he's stressed about his parents wanting him to take some special tests and attend a special private school for geniuses.  Just because he aced a few standardized test.  But he doesn't see himself as anything special, even after being asked to take a strange test that lands him inside the phantom remains of an old theater.  Here he meets Redondo the Magnificent, a talented magician that disappeared twenty years ago.  Redondo used to be the head of an organizer called the Order of the Majestic (named after the Majestic Theater in which Redondo now hides).  This organization used to oppose the Invisible Hand and worked to spread magic among the masses.

Joey is fascinated by magic's existence, but as he quickly becomes involved in the conflict between the Invisible Hand and Redondo, he's not at all sure that he wants to be involved at all.  But something keeps drawing him back.  A competition between him and two other young people for the powerful wand that Redondo possesses is something that leaves Joey struggling.  He doesn't have the skills to compete against Leonora and Shazad, but he can't bring himself to quit.  But when his doubts about himself and about Redondo leave his new-found friends and Redondo in danger of destruction, Joey has to decide if he can find the courage and belief to step up.

The idea of magicians having real magic and Harry Houdini having a powerful wand is a great one for a middle grade fantasy novel.  Joey also makes for a great main character as he struggles with self-belief and his reluctance to get involved in the whole evil vs. good use of magic war.  It's a valid fear that holds him back after all, he doesn't know Redondo very well, and Redondo is rather a jerk through most of the book.  He also knows little about magic and how it works and he's immediately thrown into some difficult situations.  And of course, his self-esteem struggles make it hard to believe in anything else and magic requires belief.

I enjoyed the story for the most part, the plot points are rather creative and I loved the phantom theater as a setting.  And as I said above, Joey is a sympathetic character.  The villains are very villainous and the school Joey might attend is intriguing.  What I had a hard time with is Redondo himself.  He took himself out of the fight twenty years earlier after an unfortunate series of events and then has the gall to blame Joey when he's tricked and manipulated by the enemy.  I really wanted to shake him at that point.  Luckily, he redeems himself later on.  Overall, Order of the Majestic works as a fantasy involving themes of belief, friendship, and power.

Friday, August 2, 2019

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: A Small Zombie Problem/The Haunting of Henry Davis


ABOUT THE BOOK

In his fiction debut--and the start of a new series--celebrated illustrator K.G. Campbell brings a touch of Tim Burton to this singularly strange and wonderful story about a lonely boy whose life is about to get a whole lot more complicated when a zombie follows him home.

August DuPont has spent his whole life inside a dilapidated house with his aunt Hydrangea. His lonely existence ends abruptly with the arrival of an invitation to meet an aunt--and cousins--he didn't even know existed. When Aunt Orchid suggests that August attend school with his cousins, it's a dream come true. But August has scarcely begun to celebrate his reversal of fortune when he is confronted by a small problem on his way home. So begins an adventure filled with a wild child, a zombie, a fabled white alligator, and an unimaginable family secret.

REVIEW

I have rather mixed feelings about this book.  I did immediately feel empathy for August, who as the story opens has been stuck inside his aunt's house his entire life because of a rather weird phenomenon.  And yet, the characters were rather too odd for my taste, and the zombie details were rather gross (an eyeball kept getting thrown around).  The story is certainly a unique one, with August eventually befriending the zombie girl following him around.  It's clear though from the moment that August meets his other aunt, Aunt Orchid, that she's trying to use him to get something she wants from his home and I felt bad for him that he didn't know enough about people to see it.  And his cousins aren't exactly likable.  And the white alligator is just puzzling as it doesn't really play much of a role as of yet.  I'm assuming that it probably will late in the series.  I think what it comes down to is that this isn't really my kind of story.  The description above mentions Tim Burton and I am not a fan of his work either, so maybe that explains why I didn't like this as much as I'd hoped when I picked it up.  But if you know a reader who enjoys Tim Burton kinds of strange stories, they may very well like this one.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Ghosts only haunt when they've left something behind...
When Henry Davis moves into the neighborhood, Barbara Anne and her classmates at Washington Carver Elementary don't know what to make of him. He's pale, small, odd. For curious Barbara Anne, Henry's also a riddle--a boy who sits alone at recess sketching in a mysterious notebook, a boy, she soon learns, who's being haunted by a ghost named Edgar.

With the help of some new friends, this unlikely duo is off on an adventure to discover who Edgar was while alive and why he's haunting Henry now. Together, they might just help Edgar find what he needs to finally be at peace.

REVIEW

The Haunting of Henry Davis ended up going in a direction that I didn't expect.  I guess I was expecting it to be scarier than it ended up being.  While the book didn't end up being too scary, I did find it an interesting read.  Barbara Anne as a narrator was amusing with her bossy tendencies.  I enjoyed the characters, Barbara Anne, Henry, Zack, and Renee.  It was also interesting to have a secondary character be the one being haunted instead of the main character (Barbara Anne in this case).  But it made Barbara Anne's bossiness stand out all the more as she pushed Henry to follow her lead in trying to figure out why Edgar is haunting him.  Unfortunately for all four kids, Barbara Anne's ideas were often rather disastrous.  But the inclusion of the historical elements created a bit of a mystery that I found interesting.  I'm not sure how interesting young readers will find it, but I enjoyed it.  The pranks that Edgar kept pulling on poor Henry as well as the sickness that Henry struggled with led me to think that things were heading in a different direction than they ended up going.  That was a nice surprise because I figured out a lot of things fairly early in the story (although young readers without a strong history background probably won't).  However, that surprising turn at the end makes the ending less exciting than it could have been.  The story, rather than being scary, turns out to focus on the ups and downs of friendship, which makes for an interesting read but not a scary one.  I wasn't real comfortable with all the things that Barbara Anne did, such as using a ouija board, but the author doesn't make a big deal out of it.  A fun read for students who like ghost stories that aren't so scary.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

SERIES THURSDAY: Scout trilogy by Jennifer Li Shotz


ABOUT THE BOOK

Scout, once a stray puppy with a troubled past, has grown into one of the best search-and-rescue dogs in Mississippi. And now he’s ready for bigger and better things: Scout is joining the National Guard. But Scout’s new life as a K9 recruit is far from easy as he adjusts to his challenging training and a brand-new family.

Twelve-year-old Matt is determined to help Scout feel at home in Nevada, but when a terrifying flash flood hits town, the pair must save the day and prove their worth.

As Scout and Matt team up to survive treacherous rising water, lead victims to safety, and attempt to rescue Matt’s sister, they quickly learn that bravery is just the first ingredient in the making of a hero. Does the duo have what it takes to protect their town from the fallout of this devastating disaster?


ABOUT THE BOOK

It’s official: Scout is now a K9 in the National Guard. But being a certified hero means Scout has his job cut out for him. He needs to work even harder to protect his country and his human best friend, Matt.

When Matt’s classmates get trapped in a raging wildfire, Matt knows that only Scout can track them down and bring them back safely. But when Matt’s dad, a First Sergeant home on leave, gets wind of their plan, he insists on joining the rescue mission.

Can the heroic team save Matt’s friends from the dangerous fires before time runs out?


ABOUT THE BOOK

Scout, a National Guard dog, was born to be a hero. When Scout and his 12-year-old owner, Matt, land in Puerto Rico after a devastating hurricane, they want to help. The pair befriend Luisa, who knows all about the Sato dogs—abandoned pups who need food and shelter.

Scout and Matt decide to foster an injured dog named Pepita. But Pepita is clearly searching for something and runs off into the rainforest. Now it’s up to Scout, Matt and Luisa to find the missing dog and bring her back safely.

Surviving the dangers of the wilderness will be far from easy, but Scout and Matt make an excellent team.


SERIES REVIEW

For the sake of expediency, I'm going to write a review of the series as a whole.  I thoroughly enjoyed all three books, and I would not be disappointed if their happened to be more of them.  Matt and Scout are a great pair and I liked them immediately.  That's not to say that both the boy and the dog don't make mistakes because they do, which is appropriate as it makes the books more realistic.  I especially loved how readable each book was and how compelling the stories were in terms of adventure and excitement. Middle grade readers who enjoy adventurous stories revolving around dogs are bound to enjoy this series.  That's undoubtedly why Shotz is a bestselling author.

In the first book, Matt takes risks that he shouldn't and he borrows Scout from the dog training center on the military base without permission.  But that turns out to be a good thing when Matt sets out to find his sister after the dam breaks and floods the town.  Scout's search-and rescue training isn't firmly established in book one, but it's strong enough to allow Matt to use him to search for his sister while his mother is in charge of the National Guard's efforts to help.

Book two revolves around Matt's reuniting with his father who has recently returned from a tour of duty.  As Matt enjoys having his father back, he worries about his friends who have taken off on a dangerous hike and rock climbing trip without telling any adults about it.  He wrestles with whether he should say anything when a wildfire begins and threatens his friends lives.  Things get hairy when he and his father set off with Scout to find his friends and find themselves trapped by the fire. 

Book three takes a different turn when Matt goes with his colonel mother to help in Puerto Rico after a hurricane.  He becomes involved with the daughter of the Puerto Rican base commander and her efforts to help the satos (stray dogs) who've been injured in the storm.  A particular dog has won the girl's affections but he continuing efforts to escape make it clear that she had a home before the storm that she's trying to get back to.  Matt, Scout, and Luisa follow the little dog in order to help her find her way home, but find themselves in the middle of a rain forest during a downpour facing hunger and wild dogs.

Overall, I'd rate this series very highly.  The books are well-written and plotted with likable characters and compelling stories.  Now it would be easy for a series like this to be rather focused on the plot with the characters getting the short-end of the stick.  But that doesn't happen hear.  Themes related to friendship, family, sacrifice, making good decisions, and kindness all radiate from these stories.  This series is definitely going on my favorites shelf.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

MY LITTLE FARM: Interactive Felt Playset


ABOUT THE ITEM

  • My Little Farm has 8 colorful panels and is fully reversible - a red barn exterior can be reversed to reveal a barn interior and colorful outdoor farm settings
  • Comes with 32 matching felt pieces that can stick to the barn, specifically designed to teach concepts such as quantity, colors, shapes, and sizes - included pamphlet explains key early language concepts, and suggests strengthening activities
  • Collapses flat, like a four panel felt board book, and easily transforms into a reversible 3D barn and farm. Measures Flat: 52" x 15", Assembled: 13" x 13" x 15"
  • My Little Farm takes kids on a creative adventure and promotes developmental language skills and abstract thinking concepts, while having fun along the way
  • Designed by the speech therapist behind the award winning My Little House, endorsed by the Center for Autism Related Disorders and Autism Live
REVIEW

The My Little Farm playset is intended to help young children develop their expressive language skills as well as their ability to imagine and create their own stories.  The kit comes with the items mentioned above, including the paneled barn with 8 reversible sides, 32 felt pieces, and a pamphlet with a description of the purposes of the kit as well as a story for parents or teachers to use with their children/students to encourage interaction.  I'm a big fan of activities that encourage children to tell stories.  These type of activities help children develop their imaginations and also learn to express what they are imagining.  I believe this kit could be used in a multitude of ways.  Children could use it as a storytelling kit, playing with the pieces and making things happen.  Parents could use it to help children learn about shapes, animals, numbers, and farms as well as encouraging them to learn to tell stories, so basically as a learning activity.  And teachers could also use it with students who need visual tools to help them develop their skills.  The kit is of high quality, with the barn big enough to use with a table full of children.  There are enough pieces to involve multiple children as well.  A great product that is well worth the investment.



Tuesday, July 30, 2019

PICTURE BOOK REVIEWS: Is 2 a Lot?/Angry Cookie/Noah Builds an Ark


ABOUT THE BOOK

While Joey’s mom explains the context of numbers in vivid ways, Joey’s imagination transforms their ordinary car ride into a magical odyssey through a land of make-believe. 

Is 2 a Lot? is a wonderfully charming and authentic exchange between mother and child. Annie Watson’s story makes numbers tangible, and Rebecca Evans’s illustrations bring them to life.

REVIEW

Is 2 a Lot? takes the reader on a journey through the relative value of numbers as imagined by a mother and her little boy.  I quite enjoyed reading this as the comparisons the mother makes are amusing.  For example, when Joey asks if 2 is a lot, his mother tells him that 2 isn't a lot of pennies, but it is a lot of smelly skunks.  At this point, the mother turns the car down a path with a sign that says, "Fasten safety belt before time travel".  Joey continues by asking about 3, 4, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 1000.  As the mother shares various amusing comparisons with her son, the various items and animals start to interact and build up in the illustrations creating an amusing conglomeration of chaos amidst the orderly nature of numbers.  Numbers have never been so fun!  A great book for sheer enjoyment, but even better for teaching children about a rather abstract concept. 


ABOUT THE BOOK

Famed spoken-word poet Laura Dockrill's hilarious read-aloud about an outraged baked good!

Oooohhh . . . not you again!
AGGGHH It's so bright! . . . Close this book this very second, you nosy noodle!

Cookie has woken up on the wrong side of the bed and is very angry. You want to know why? Well, you'd have to keep reading to find out, but now Cookie's calling you annoying and telling you to mind your own business. If by chance you do stick around, you might hear about a certain roommate's terrible musical skills, why you should never let your barber try out a "new look," how it's impossible to find a hat that fits a cookie, and why an ice-cream parlor that's out of your favorite treat can be a source of desolation. Then there's the matter of a hungry bird who tries to snack on you. . . . Propelled by quirky humor and woes that every young child can relate to, Angry Cookie suggests that sometimes the best way to cheer up a grumpy lump is simply by being there -- and lending your ears.

REVIEW

Angry Cookie tells the story of a cookie that wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, annoyed with the reader for intruding on his privacy.  It turns out that he has an underlying reason for his anger that led him to take out those feelings on the reader.  As the reader listens to Cookie's frustrations (an annoying song, a bad haircut, a dangerous bird), Cookie starts to feel better.  The story shares the idea that simply being listened to by a friend can help one work through bad feelings.  I liked the theme.  Feelings are a topic that young children are still learning about and learning to deal with and manage so a fun book like this one that shares the importance of managing one's emotions is great.  The illustrations are cute too for the most part.  But there was one thing that I didn't like and it lowered my rating of the book.  In two illustrations, the cookie's 'bum crack' is showing.  I do not enjoy seeing this when I read a book, especially since it is so totally unnecessary to the story.  Of course this won't bother every reader and if it doesn't bother you than this is a fun story to read and share.  As it is, it's not one I would feel comfortable sharing with a class because I can guarantee that some student will point out this detail and I'll lose the class to giggles and wisecracks.


ABOUT THE BOOK

A storm is coming -- a big one. How does a young urban boy prepare? A lovely allegorical story about ecology and caring inspired by the ancient tale of stewardship.

While his family readies his townhouse for an approaching storm, boarding up windows and laying in groceries, Noah heads to the back garden, where beetles are burrowing deeper into the bark and mice are stuffing their hole with moss. Quickly and efficiently, Noah sets to work building an ark for them and other backyard creatures -- salamanders and toads, snakes and spiders, even brightly colored hummingbirds. Setting out fistfuls of nuts and leaves, berries and seeds, the boy props a flashlight inside and arranges some miniature furniture for the animals to sit or sleep on. "Come," Noah whispers to his friends just as his mother calls him inside and the dark storm roars in. From an award-winning author and a Caldecott Honoree comes a quietly inspiring story about how taking action on behalf of our fellow earth travelers can help us face fearsome events.

REVIEW

Noah Builds an Ark does as one would expect follow the biblical story.  In this version, a young boy decides to build a shelter for the animals that live in his backyard to protect them from a coming storm.  Now, in real life, these animals aren't likely to seek shelter together, and the illustrations show problems with the durability of the shelter, which is understandable since it's built by a young boy.  But the boy's efforts to take stewardship for the animals he cares about makes for a tender story.  My favorite part of the book though are Rocco's luminous illustrations.  They are absolutely stunning.  The animals with the tiny furniture huddled against the rain compare interestingly with the illustrations of the boy sheltering with his family in their home.  The theme of human environmental stewardship shines through loud and clear.  The religious parts of the original biblical story are not to be found here, the story revolves around the boy's efforts to save the animals.  An enjoyable tale of environmental care.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

BLOG TOUR: The Missing Money by Okeoma Moronu Schreiner


ABOUT THE BOOK

The Missing Money is the first picture book in a new series aimed at inspiring young children to learn basic financial terms in a fun and age-appropriate way. The book follows Kai, a young boy on his way to the bank to deposit his newly earned money. While at the bank, a big scary ATM machine eats all of his money! Kai struggles to understand where his money went and creates an elaborate plan to get it back.

Just before attempting to break his money out, his parents sit him down to explain this confusing turn of events and help put his mind at ease. He discovers the basics of modern saving, such as how money goes from dollar bills to numbers on a banking app. Finances can be a difficult task to navigate, even as an adult, so these books are meant to aid young children through the puzzling world of money.

The series, all first three of which are set to publish within the year, emphasizes the idea that you are never too young to tackle your money fears head on!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Okeoma Moronu Schreiner is an attorney, wife, mother, and host of the nationally recognized, Happy Lawyer Project podcast. Now as an author, her goal is to guide parents in helping their children navigate the seemingly stressful wide world of money. The inspiration for her new children’s series, Money Monsters, stems from her own experience as a struggling young lawyer who had seen first-hand the difficult situations created by financial problems. Schreiner is an advocate for early education of finances and wants parents to instill comfort and confidence in their children regarding money issues.

LINKS

Author's Instagram: @finkidlit
Amazon: Link


REVIEW

Concepts surrounding money can be difficult for children to understand.  Just learning the different types of money and ways to spend it can be confusing for children.  The Missing Money is intended to help young children begin to develop their financial literacy skills.  But it's also a cute story in it's own right, which for me is vitally important.  There are too many books out there whose whole purpose is to teach a lesson, which is fine, although often the stories and/or illustrations are lacking because the focus is on the lesson and not the quality of the story.  I was very pleased to find that this book doesn't fall in that category.  While it does teach about banks and ATMS, the story is one that kids can relate to which young Kai confusing an ATM for a monster that steals his Chinese New Year money.  As a worrier, he can't help worrying about what happened to his money, and wanting to get it back.  He even makes plans to go after the monster and get his money back.  Fortunately for him, he decides to consult his parents first and they help calm his worries.  Worrying is a problem for all to many people, not just children either, and makes for a solid base for the story.  The illustrations are adorable as well as bright and appealing.  And having the ATM appear as a monster who eats money is a rather amusing concept (for a slightly older audience 4-6 years-old).  I recommend this book for parents who are looking for ways to start teaching their children about money and related concepts.

INTERIOR SPREAD



Monday, July 22, 2019

MMGM: Piper Cooks Up A Plan by Erin Soderberg


ABOUT THE BOOK

When you follow your dreams, the possibilities are endless!

Nobody knows how to follow her dreams better than a Disney Princess. And that's what the Daring Dreamers Club knows through and through. Diverse, talented, and smart, these five girls became friends because they all had one thing in common: big dreams. Touching on everyday dramas and the ups and downs of friendship, this series will enchant all readers who are princesses at heart.

The second book in the Daring Dreamers Club series will focus on Piper, who is an aspiring food scientist and inventor. She hopes to open her own business someday, just like Tiana!

REVIEW

Comparing the lives of real girls with those of Disney princesses seems like a funny idea on the face of it, but after reading this book, I'd say it works surprisingly well.  The stories revolve around a group of five diverse girls who've formed a group they've entitled the Daring Dreamers Club.  With the help of a teacher advisor the girls help each other with their struggles both school and personal.  Each book focuses on one of the girls and their chosen Disney princess.  This second volume focuses on Piper.  Piper loves to cook, experimenting and creating her own recipes.  But her struggles with her learning disability makes it difficult to spend as much time doing it as she would like.  After sending in an application to appear on the television show The Future of Food, Piper is thrilled to be informed of her chance to appear on the show.  But some poor school assignment scores threaten to derail her dream as do her father's efforts to find a full time job.  My favorite part is Piper's time on the show.  It was fun to read about the kid's efforts to make food based on a zombie theme.  The underlying themes revolve around persistence and overcoming obstacles in pursuit of one's dreams which come across loud and clear without being didactic.  The comparisons to the Disney princesses that the girls' make in their journal entries are a fun touch and are likely to inspire young readers to compare their own lives to their favorite princess.  A fun series that's bound to be popular with middle grade princess lovers.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

SERIES THURSDAY: Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters/Ada Twist and the Perilous Pants by Andrea Beaty


ABOUT THE BOOK

Rosie Revere is no stranger to flops and fails, kerfuffles and catastrophes. After all, engineering is all about perseverance! But this time, Rosie has a really important project to tackle—one that feels much bigger than herself.

Rosie’s beloved Aunt Rose and her friends, the Raucous Riveters—a group of fun-loving gals who built airplanes during World War II—need help inventing something new. And Rosie is just the engineer for the job!

After one flop . . . then another . . . and another . . . Rosie starts to lose hope. But thanks to some help from her fellow Questioneers Iggy Peck and Ada Twist, Rosie gets the job done. And, along with the Riveters, she rediscovers the meaning of home.

REVIEW

There were things about this book that I liked and things that I didn't.  I liked Rosie and her friends and their persistence in the face of failure.  Rosie kept experimenting even when her experiments didn't work.  Although it did take the addition of her friends to help her when she got discouraged. I'm not sure the final solution would work in real life but it makes for an amusing solution in the book.  I did enjoy the interactions between Rosie and the Riveters, a group of older ladies who worked on airplanes during World War II.  I thought it was fun to combine some history and engineering this way.  This book would be fun to use with STEM activities.  Roberts illustrations added a nice touch, especially the chapter beginnings.  I wasn't such a fan of the solution that was presented, it seemed rather outlandish, I would have preferred something rather more realistic.  The book had a touch more silliness to it than I would have liked for a STEM book.  However, this won't bother a lot of young readers.  In fact, they may actually enjoy the silliness and touch of absurdity.  In fact it may inspire them to do some engineering of their own.  In that regard the book is definitely a success. 


ABOUT THE BOOK

Ada Twist is full of questions. A scientist to her very core, Ada asks why again and again. One question always leads to another until she’s off on a journey of discovery! When Rosie Revere’s Uncle Ned gets a little carried away wearing his famous helium pants, it’s up to Ada and friends to chase him down. As Uncle Ned floats farther and farther away, Ada starts asking lots of questions: How high can a balloon float? Is it possible for Uncle Ned to float into outer space? And what’s the best plan for getting him down?

REVIEW

I enjoyed this book more than the first book in the series, Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters, probably because I'm more into science than engineering.  But I still struggled with the absurd elements of the story.  I mean the problem that Ada is trying to solve involves Rosie's Uncle Ned whose pants are filled with helium, leading him to float off when his 'leash' is accidentally released.  Ada uses her science knowledge and skills to try to get Uncle Ned back to the ground, or at least close enough to the fire truck that he can be grabbed.  I enjoyed the actual science aspects of the story, the principles and ideas that Ada and her friends come up with as well as the experiments that Ada is working on at the beginning of the story.  I just rolled my eyes a bit at the idea of pants full of helium lifting anyone off the ground.  But young readers aren't likely to be as bothered by that as I am, this is a series that is specifically aimed at a young audience, combing STEM principles with some silliness to make for an enjoyable read.  I think the book could be used as an introduction to some STEM activities, but it isn't a real practical or realistic read other than the actual science included.

Monday, July 8, 2019

MMGM: Refugee/All the Greys on Greene Street


ABOUT THE BOOK

Three different kids.

One mission in common: ESCAPE.

Josef is a Jewish boy in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world…

Isabel is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety and freedom in America…

Mahmoud is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe…

All three young people will go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers–from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But for each of them, there is always the hope of tomorrow. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, surprising connections will tie their stories together in the end.

REVIEW

I knew going in that Refugee was likely to be a tearjerker just because of the themes involved.  But that didn't make some parts any easier to read.  Reading about the three children around whom this book revolves broke my heart.  And what made it worse was knowing that while this book is fiction, the stories are based on the experiences of real people, real refugees who had lost everything, often through no fault of their own.  Each of the three stories focuses on a different historical period.  Josef and his family are fleeing the Nazis in 1939.  Isabel is fleeing Castro's Cuba in 1994 with her family and neighbors.  And Mahmoud flees the Syrian War that continues to this day.  While each story focuses on some of the unique aspects of each situation, there are common elements and themes that cross the story boundaries, and the three children are connected to each other in surprising ways.  Josef faces severe prejudice and a father suffering severe PTSD as his family seeks refuge in Cuba, only to discover that Cuba doesn't want them.  Isabel and her family and neighbors set off in a boat that is barely seaworthy forced to face storms, other ships, and sharks, not to mention tensions within the group.  Mahmoud and his family flee after their apartment is destroyed by a bomb, seeking refuge in Europe, only to discover that people are more than willing to take advantage of their desperation.  Each character faces physical and emotional challenges including a devastating loss.  While I didn't find this the easiest book to read emotionally, I found it a powerful book in terms of understanding something I've never experienced.  Like most Alan Gratz books, I read this quickly because of the compelling nature of each of the stories, and I cried with each character as they faced unimaginable losses and heartbreaking decisions.  A great book for middle grade readers who are emotionally mature and ready for the emotional punch the book offers.


ABOUT THE BOOK

SoHo, 1981. Twelve-year-old Olympia is an artist—and in her neighborhood, that's normal. Her dad and his business partner Apollo bring antique paintings back to life, while her mother makes intricate sculptures in a corner of their loft, leaving Ollie to roam the streets of New York with her best friends Richard and Alex, drawing everything that catches her eye.

Then everything falls apart. Ollie's dad disappears in the middle of the night, leaving her only a cryptic note and instructions to destroy it. Her mom has gone to bed, and she's not getting up. Apollo is hiding something, Alex is acting strange, and Richard has questions about the mysterious stranger he saw outside. And someone keeps calling, looking for a missing piece of art. . . .

Olympia knows her dad is the key--but first, she has to find him, and time is running out.

REVIEW

There are more books being written for a middle grade audience revolving around mental illness.  This is one.  This one interestingly takes place in 1981 in SoHo, New York City.  I found the setting especially interesting since I knew little about SoHo in the 1980s.  That Olympia and her family lived in a large, open room in an old factory was fascinating to me.  The details about art and the creation of it were new to me as well.  The details about how different paint colors are made was especially fascinating to me.  However, the story is not a particularly happy one, which I didn't enjoy so much. 

Olympia finds herself in a pickle.  Her father has run off with his girlfriend to return a piece of art that doesn't belong to him (he stole it), leaving her and her depressed mother in the lurch.  With her mother unable to get out of bed, Olympia is left to take care of herself.  And she doesn't want to tell anyone because it feels like betraying her family.  But finally she tells one of her friends.  Eventually, her friend, Alex tells her father's business partner, Apollo, about her mother.  Olympia feels betrayed, even though she knows that her mother needs help.  Spending some time with Alex and his family on vacation helps her deal with some of her feelings.  But an additional tragedy leaves her reeling once again, wondering what's going to happen to her. 

The story is very well written and plotted, the characters are appealing and interesting in their differences.  Young readers who enjoy thoughtful, issue stories will likely enjoy this one.  It does have a hopeful ending despite the ongoing challenges in Olympia's life.  I picked up the book because it was billed as a bit of a mystery, but it isn't really.  The mystery of Olympia's father's disappearance is fairly easy to figure out fairly early in the story (at least for me).  The main story line focuses on Olympia and her mother's condition.  A thoughtful, historical story revolving around the challenges that come with mental illness and the power of having an outlet for one's fears.
 
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