Thursday, May 30, 2019

SERIES THURSDAY: Science Fair Crisis/Marvin & James Save the Day and Elaine helps!


ABOUT THE BOOK

Clark Kent (Superman), Bruce Wayne (Batman), and Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) are starting a new school year at Justice Prep. This semester, everyone is focusing on their science projects: Principal James Gordon announced that the winner of the upcoming science fair gets an all-inclusive trip to the new S.T.A.R. Laboratories space facility. Who wouldn't want to win a trip to outer space? All the kids want to try their best to win.

As the fair draws closer, the students receive a text message from a mysterious, untraceable number saying: "if you help me, I can help YOU win the science fair!" Just who is behind this mystery number, and what do they have to do with the science fair? It's up to Clark, Diana, and Bruce's Junior Detectives Club to find out! With appearances from fan favorites like Arthur Curry (Aquaman) and Lex Luthor, plus all-new characters including Black Manta and Professor Zoom, this hilarious newest chapter in the Secret Hero Society saga is not to be missed!

REVIEW

This fourth book in the series has Clark and his friends attending a revamped school.  They have a new principal, James Gordon, who seems serious about making the school a solid place to be.  This will allow the students to focus on the upcoming science fair.  But someone is up to mischief, making a mess of the school, attacking some of the teachers, and sabotaging the students science fair projects.  Can Clark and the Junior Detectives Club find the culprit or will accusations break up the group before they can stop the damage?  This combination of graphic novel, letters, texts, and files of information makes for a light, fun read for superhero fans who enjoy seeing their favorite superheros as students like themselves.  The black-and-white illustrations are appealing and easy to follow. A fun series for young superhero fans.


ABOUT THE BOOK

James's father, Karl, and Christina, his friend from the museum, are getting married! James is the ring bearer and he is excited but also nervous. He loves Christina yet he is worried about losing his dad to a different family and a different life. And what if, at the wedding, James drops the ring? His beetle best friend Marvin promises to help him, but Marvin ends up with an even more critical job when something goes wrong. Will the whole wedding be ruined? Not if Marvin and James and Elaine can help it.

This young chapter book for emergent readers captures the miniature world and friendship of Marvin the beetle and James. Complete with charming illustrations on every page by Kelly Murphy.

REVIEW

This fourth book in the early chapter book series sees James struggling to accept his father's remarriage.  It's up to Marvin and Elaine to help him adjust to the coming changes in his life.  And when the ring gets lost at the wedding, Marvin and Elaine step up to save the day.  This heavily illustrated series is a fun read for young readers who want a chapter book but still love their illustrations.  Marvin and James are great characters and their friendship is enjoyable to read about.  I especially enjoy seeing the details in the way Marvin and his family lives within James's much larger world.  A fun, early chapter book series involving some interesting adventures from the perspective of a much smaller Marvin, who proves that being small doesn't stop one from leaving a big mark on the world.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: The Perfect Horse: The Daring Rescue of Horses Kidnapped During World War II by Elizabeth Letts


ABOUT THE BOOK

In this young readers adaptation of Elizabeth Letts' New York Times bestseller, one American troop will save the world's most precious horses during the final stretch of World War II.

When a small troop of American soldiers capture a German spy, they uncover an unexpected secret: Hitler has kidnapped the world's finest purebred horses and hidden them in a secret Czechoslovakian breeding farm. But, starving Russian troops are drawing closer and the horses face the danger of being slaughtered for food. With little time to spare, Colonel Hank Reed and his soldiers cross enemy lines to heroically save some of the world's most treasured animals.

Elizabeth Letts details the truth of Hitler's eugenics program during World War II and shares the story of the courageous American troop dedicated to stopping it.

REVIEW

Letts presents young readers with a fascinating account of the rescue of some of world's most beautiful horses during the trying days of World War II.  Anyone who has seen the Disney movie (Miracle of the White Stallions) will be somewhat familiar with the story, but I loved discovering the details and reading about the men who risked a great deal to save the horses.  What was especially interesting to me was the way these men from different sides in the war cooperated to help the horses in the midst of horrific destruction.  Beauty from ashes in a manner of speaking.  This young reader's adaption focuses on the main people and events leading up to the horses being taken from their original homes and sent elsewhere as well as the efforts to send them home.  What I found kind of sad though was what happened to some of the horses after they came to the United States.  While a few found good homes, many were not accepted into the official breeding registries and little valued which led to their neglect.  I was happy to find brief descriptions at the end explaining what happened to some of the horses and men involved.  The photographs included added a lot to my appreciation of the men and horses at the heart of this story.  A great tale for horse lovers or those who like to see good things happen in the midst of war.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

PICTURE BOOK REVIEWS: A Piglet Named Mercy/Mr. Posey's New GLasses


ABOUT THE BOOK

Every porcine wonder was once a piglet! Celebrate the joy of a new arrival with this endearing picture-book prequel to the New York Times best-selling Mercy Watson series.

Mr. Watson and Mrs. Watson live ordinary lives. Sometimes their lives feel a bit too ordinary. Sometimes they wish something different would happen. And one day it does, when someone unpredictable finds her way to their front door. In a delightful origin story for the star of the Mercy Watson series, a tiny piglet brings love (and chaos) to Deckawoo Drive — and the Watsons’ lives will never be the same.

REVIEW

As a big fan of the original Mercy Watson early chapter book series, I was thrilled when I heard about a new book about Mercy.  And I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  It was enjoyable to find out how Mercy came to live with the Watsons.  And Van Dusen's illustrations are as delightfully bright and adorable as in the chapter book series.  Mercy is her cheerful, buttered-toast-loving self and the Watsons' love her immediately.  Eugenia is not pleased of course, since she doesn't like surprises or pigs, but Baby Lincoln is thrilled because she does.  A sweet introduction to a favorite character and a great lead-in to the early chapter book series.


ABOUT THE BOOK

In a charming tale of an elderly man and his obliging young friend, former poet laureate Ted Kooser and newcomer Daniel Duncan invite us to look at the world with fresh eyes.

Mr. Posey is feeling gloomy. Everything seems dull. Maybe he needs new glasses? Perhaps a trip to the Cheer Up Thrift Shop with his energetic young neighbor, Andy, will help. But when the duo try on the glasses in the shop's barrel, they're in for a big surprise. One pair with stars for frames shows only constellations in a night sky. Round frames reveal a world all aswirl, while a heart-shaped pair makes everything pink. And as soon as Mr. Posey puts on the cat-eye framed glasses, fierce dogs start chasing him. No, thank you! But when Andy makes a simple observation, Mr. Posey's view opens to a whole new world -- and finally everything is brighter, different, and exciting.

REVIEW

With a strong theme of learning to see things in a new way, Mr. Posey's New Glasses tells the story of an elderly gentleman who sets out to get a new set of glasses when he can't tolerate his old ones any longer.  He takes along his young friend, Andy to help him pick out a new pair.  As he tries on different pairs, he finds to his surprise that each pair shows the world in a distinct way.  The star glasses shows a midnight world of constellations.  The heart glasses show the world in pink.  And the cat glasses lead him to a bunch of dogs.  Finally, Andy helps Mr. Posey discover that cleaning the glasses he already has allows him to see the world differently and yet familiarly.  A fun way to discover the power of perspective, the book is rather long for a read-aloud but the illustrations are adorable.

Monday, May 27, 2019

MMGM: Lindsay's Joyride (Shred Girls #1) by Molly Hurford


ABOUT THE BOOK

An empowering new series from the cyclist who runs Shred-Girls.com is guaranteed to give readers an adrenaline rush--and the confidence girls gain from participating in sports!

It's time to ride and save the day!

Lindsay can't wait to spend her summer break reading comics and watching superhero movies--until she finds out she'll be moving in with her weird older cousin Phoebe instead. And Phoebe has big plans for Lindsay: a BMX class at her bike park with cool-girl Jen and perfectionist Ali.

Lindsay's summer of learning awesome BMX tricks with new friends and a new bike turns out to be more epic than any comic book--and it's all leading up to a jumping competition.

But some of the biker boys don't think girls should be allowed to compete in BMX. Now it's up to Lindsay, Jen, and Ali to win the competition and prove that anyone can be great at BMX.

REVIEW

 I don't read a lot of sports books.  Interestingly, while I love watching sports, I don't usually enjoy reading about them.  But when I heard this book involved girls and BMX bike riding, I was intrigued.  My library needs more sports books and this one sounded like a good choice.  While the book is hardly award-worthy literature, it is a fun story about a girl who dreams of being a superhero, only to discover an interest and passion in BMX riding thanks to her cousin.  Lindsay isn't comfortable with other kids her age, she prefers to dream of being a superhero, she even trains every day, and reading her beloved comic books.  But when she goes to stay with her cousin, Phoebe, she discovers a new world, one that she finds compelling. And finding a new passion also helps her find friends.  A decent choice for young readers who are really into bike riding, comics and superheros.

Monday, May 13, 2019

MMGM: A Circle of Elephants by Eric Dinerstein


ABOUT THE BOOK

From the author of What Elephants Know, a 2017 ALA Notable Children's Book and winner of the 2017 South Asia Book Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature, comes this stunning companion novel about the complex relationship between people and nature coexisting in the Borderlands of 1970s Nepal.

Thirteen-year-old Nandu lives in the newly established Royal Elephant Breeding Center on the edge of the jungle. Here, the King's elephants are to be raised under the protective watch of the stable. Nandu-along with his adoptive father Subba-sahib, his mentors, friends, and the rest of the elephant drivers-is tested by man and nature as earthquakes, drought, wild herds, and rumors of poachers threaten the Center.

When Nandu's world is thrown into turmoil, so, too, is the world of Hira Prasad, the Center's powerful bull elephant. An unbreakable bond of brotherhood drives Nandu and Hira Prasad together as they struggle to maintain the delicate natural order of life in the Borderlands.

Dinerstein's poetic prose and scientific expertise come together in this breathtaking tale that transports the reader to the center of dangerous conflicts and heartbreaking friendships.


REVIEW

I really enjoyed Dinerstein's first book about Nandu.  When I heard there would be another book about Nandu I was excited to return to the setting and characters I'd grown to care about.  This book is just as fascinating and important as the first one.  I love books like this one for several reasons.  First, they give me a glimpse into a way of life and a culture very different than my own, something I enjoy reading about.  Second, I'm a big believer in the need to take better care of the environment and the animals around us.  And third, I just love a good story.  This story revolves around the live of a young Tibetan boy named Nandu, who was adopted by Subba Sahib, the man who runs the elephant breeding stable Nandu calls home.  Nandu's love for his home and the elephants shines through, which I credit the author for, his own passion for his subject is clear.  But he does struggle with the tradition of chaining the elephants up, especially in the face of his growing desire to protect the animals that live in the surrounding jungle.  When poachers arrive and start killing the rhinos, Nandu is infuriated and desperately wants to help stop them, but to do so would be very risky.  But Nandu's heart is tender and he can't just sit back and let the animals die, so with the help of some friends he sets out to do something about it.  I enjoyed reading about Nandu's journey as he wrestles with the circumstances in which he finds himself as well as his own conscience.  A fabulously told story for those interested in reading about other cultures and the importance of the environment. 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

NEW EARLY CHAPTER BOOK SERIES: Unicorn and Yeti #1: Sparkly New Friends/Hello Hedgehog! Do You Like My Bike?


ABOUT THE BOOK

This series is part of Scholastic's early reader line, Acorn, aimed at children who are learning to read. With easy-to-read text, a short-story format, plenty of humor, and full-color artwork on every page, these books will boost reading confidence and fluency. Acorn books plant a love of reading and help readers grow!

Unicorn has a horn and can do magic.
Yeti is big and furry and cannot do magic.

Yeti likes snowball fights.
Unicorn does not like snowball fights.

But Unicorn and Yeti both love sparkly things, magic rainbows, and -- most of all -- being best friends! These laugh-out-loud stories with full-color artwork and easy-to-read text throughout are perfect for new readers!


REVIEW

Unicorns are really popular these days which caught my attention when I first heard about this book.  So I was eager to read it when it came out.  And I found it delightful.  Not only are the illustrations really appealing with their bright, colorful, expressive nature, but the text, mostly dialogue, is a winner as well.  The title is really appropriate in its reference to sparkly things as Yeti and Unicorn argue over sparkly snow when they meet.  Unicorn finds the snow sparkly and Yeti does not.  After gently arguing for a few pages, Unicorn offers to show Yeti what she means and gives Yeti a ride into the sky.  This creates a funny picture of the large Yeti on the small unicorn's back.   The second story revolves around Yeti's desire to be as fancy as his friend who has a horn and sparkles.   After Unicorn uses her magic to try a variety of different ways of making Yeti fancy, they finally come to a compromise that works for them both.  And the last story has Yeti introducing Unicorn to the joys of snowball fights.  Unicorn struggles to figure it out at first, until she finds a way to do it that works for her.  The themes of friendship, compromise, and trying new things shine through but not in a didactic way.  A delightful beginning to what is sure to be a well loved series. 


ABOUT THE BOOK
 

This series is part of Scholastic's early reader line, Acorn, aimed at children who are learning to read. With easy-to-read text, a short-story format, plenty of humor, and full-color artwork on every page, these books will boost reading confidence and fluency. Acorn books plant a love of reading and help readers grow!

Hedgehog loves his new bike. His best friend Harry says he likes it, too. But when Hedgehog asks Harry to go bike riding with him, Harry says he does not want to go. Does Harry not like his friend's new bike? Or could this all have something to do with training wheels? These reassuring, laugh-out-loud stories with full-color artwork and easy-to-read text throughout are perfect for new readers!


REVIEW

The first story in this book made me laugh out loud.  It's so typical of human behavior.  In the first story, Hedgehog is so excited to ride his new bike, but he can't find his bike helmet.  He searches throughout the house including the freezer and the flower pot.  But not until he looks out the window does he remember what he did with it.  (It's so typically human to put something somewhere specifically so you remember where it is, only to forget it's location anyway.)  The second story has Hedgehog introducing his bike to his guinea pig friend, Harry.  But Harry is really reluctant to ride the bike when Hedgehog offers him a try.  Luckily, Hedgehog is a great friend and reacts perfectly when he discovers why.  And the third story has Harry and Hedgehog sharing a bike ride together to Hedgehog's house to have some snacks (Harry is especially interested in snacks).  A delightful book any way you look at it.  The illustrations are bright and appealing, the characters are fun, and the stories are easy for both children and adults to relate to.  A great new series for early readers.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: Picturing America/Otis and Will Discover the Deep


ABOUT THE BOOK

This look at artist Thomas Cole's life takes readers from his humble beginnings to his development of a new painting style that became America's first formal art movement: the Hudson River school of painting.

Thomas Cole was always looking for something new to draw. Born in England during the Industrial Revolution, he was fascinated by tales of the American countryside, and was ecstatic to move there in 1818. The life of an artist was difficult at first, however Thomas kept his dream alive by drawing constantly and seeking out other artists. But everything changed for him when he was given a ticket for a boat trip up the Hudson River to see the wilderness of the Catskill Mountains. The haunting beauty of the landscape sparked his imagination and would inspire him for the rest of his life. The majestic paintings that followed struck a chord with the public and drew other artists to follow in his footsteps, in the first art movement born in America. His landscape paintings also started a conversation on how to protect the country's wild beauty. 


Hudson Talbott takes readers on a unique journey as he depicts the immigrant artist falling in love with--and fighting to preserve--his new country.


REVIEW

I'll admit I don't normally find books about artists and their art very appealing.  Probably because I'm not any kind of artist and can't relate to them very well.  But I saw some of the illustrations from this book and wanted to read/look at it.  That's probably because of the gorgeous landscapes.  I'm a nature lover and enjoy looking at beautiful depictions of the natural world.  So I picked up this book.  And I was not disappointed.  Thomas Cole's life is briefly described, as in most picture book biography's details are spare, but there is enough there to be interesting.  But my favorite parts involved Cole's trips that lead to his most famous landscape paintings.  The illustrations of some of Cole's most famous works are especially beautiful.  I truly enjoyed this book, especially the beautiful illustrations.  It would make a great teaching tool for an art class, but it can also be enjoyed solely on it's own merits as well.


ABOUT THE BOOK

The suspenseful, little-known true story of two determined pioneers who made the first dive into the deep ocean.
On June 6, 1930, engineer Otis Barton and explorer Will Beebe dove into the ocean inside a hollow metal ball of their own invention called the Bathysphere.

They knew dozens of things might go wrong. A tiny leak could shoot pressurized water straight through the men like bullets! A single spark could cause their oxygen tanks to explode! No one had ever dived lower than a few hundred feet...and come back. But Otis and Will were determined to become the first people to see what the deep ocean looks like.

This suspenseful story from acclaimed author Barb Rosenstock with mesmerizing watercolors by award-winning artist Katherine Roy will put you right in the middle of the spine-tingling, record-setting journey down, down into the deep.


REVIEW

Combining Rosenstock's great storytelling with Roy's fabulous artwork was a brilliant move on someone's part.  I've long enjoyed reading the picture book nonfiction that Rosenstock writes because it's always on an unusual interesting topic, told in an informative, easy to understand, yet accurate way.  And Roy has quickly become one of my favorite illustrators, her art is amazing.  Combining the work of the two makes for a fascinating told, beautifully illustrated book about an unusual subject.  I'd never heard of Otis Barton or Will Beebe before reading this book and yet both men played a significant role in helping move forward exploration of the natural world.  In this book, the focus is on the work the two men did together, creating one of the world's first submersible's which allowed them to take a dive into the deep ocean.  The additional information and photographs at the end were greatly appreciated by me in adding to what I learned reading the book.  A great book for both entertainment and educational purposes. 
 
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