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.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

PICTURE BOOK REVIEW: Moon! Earth's Best Friend by Stacy McAnulty


ABOUT THE BOOK

From writer Stacy McAnulty and illustrator Stevie Lewis, Moon! Earth's Best Friend is a light-hearted nonfiction picture book about the formation and history of the moon—told from the perspective of the moon itself.

Meet Moon! She's more than just a rock—she’s Earth’s rock, her best friend she can always count on. Moon never turns her back on her friend (literally: she's always facing Earth with the same side!). These two will stick together forever. With characteristic humor and charm, Stacy McAnulty channels the voice of Moon in this next celestial "autobiography" in the Our Universe series. Rich with kid-friendly facts and beautifully brought to life by Stevie Lewis, this is an equally charming and irresistible companion to Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years and Sun! One in a Billion.

REVIEW

Moon! Earth's Best Friend is an entertaining way to share facts about the moon with young readers/listeners. Moon is the narrator, telling us about her relationship to Earth as well as her personal characteristics.  Moon shares with readers facts about her size, being a natural satellite, and how she influences the earth through gravity. I especially enjoyed the part about Earth and Moon playing the 'game' of eclipse.  Lewis's adorable illustrations beautifully complement the light, informative text.  Earth and Moon truly look like pals who enjoy each other's company.  The two truths and a myth questions at the end of the book adds a fun interactive element and the additional information is intriguing (I had no idea the moon had so many different names).  A wonderful resource for teachers, and a fun book to read with young listeners.

Friday, June 7, 2019

FANTASY FRIDAY: The Revenge of Magic by James Riley


ABOUT THE BOOK

When long-dead magical creatures are discovered all around the world, each buried with a book of magic, only children can unlock the dangerous power of the books in this start to a thrilling new series from the author of the New York Times bestselling Story Thieves!

Thirteen years ago, books of magic were discovered in various sites around the world alongside the bones of dragons. Only those born after “Discovery Day” have the power to use the magic.

Now, on a vacation to Washington, DC, Fort Fitzgerald’s father is lost when a giant creature bursts through the earth, attacking the city. Fort is devastated, until an opportunity for justice arrives six months later, when a man named Dr. Opps invites Fort to a government run school, the Oppenheimer School, to learn magic from those same books.

But life’s no easier at the school, where secrets abound. What does Jia, Fort’s tutor, know about the attacks? Why does Rachel, master of destructive magic, think Fort is out to destroy the school? And why is Fort seeing memories of an expelled girl every time he goes to sleep? If Fort doesn’t find out what’s hiding within the Oppenheimer School, more attacks will come, and this time, nothing will stop them!

REVIEW

Fantasy novels remain perennially popular among young readers as well as older readers.  I have a special fondness for them myself.  At the same time, I've read enough of them that sometimes the plot lines tend to overlap and even blend.  It's always refreshing to come across a book that that is creatively different in terms of plot and characters.  James Riley's new The Revenge of Magic combines flawed characters with a refreshingly different plot line.  I'm more than eager to see where the story goes in the next volume.

Fort is heartbroken after his father is captured and taken underground by a giant creature.  He blames himself for not being able to save him.  But a voice in his head had told him to run and taken control of him, and after fighting it off the first time, he was unable to make it back to help his father.  When he is offered a chance to learn magic to defend against such creatures, he leaps at the chance to attend the Oppenheimer School.  But when he arrives at the campus, he's startled to realize that it's on a military base and the soldiers seem more on guard against him than ready to protect him.  He quickly realizes that their are many secrets floating around, including his own presence.  Learning magic turns out to be much harder than he expected and he isn't even learning the kind of magic he's interested in. When it becomes clear that there's a plot to send him away, he determines to fight to stay.  When he starts experiencing the memories of a girl that no one will speak of, he's puzzled by their connection and what she has to do with the original attacks. Eventually, he realizes that he needs to find this girl or he may never get answers to his questions.

A fascinating concept and world well-developed into a compelling story of secrets, magic, and revenge.  Riley's created a fascinating new magical story that middle grade readers are bound to enjoy reading.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

SERIES THURSDAY: The Chupacabras of the Rio Grande by Adam Gidwitz & David Bowles


ABOUT THE BOOK

Elliot and Uchennna have only just returned from their most recent Unicorn Rescue Society mission when they (along with Jersey!) are whisked away on their next exciting adventure with Professor Fauna. This time, they’re headed to the Mexican border to help another mythical creature in need: the chupacabras!

The Chupacabras of the Río Grande is co-written with David Bowles, author of the Pura Belpré Honor-winning book, The Smoking Mirror!

REVIEW

Elliot and Uchenna, along with Professor Fauna, are off on another adventure.  This time they are investigating reports of a rogue chupacabras.  Meeting a former colleague of the professor's complicates things a bit, but the Unicorn Rescue Society needs all the help they can get. Especially when their efforts to rescue a juvenile chupacabras collide with business interests of their foes, the Schmoke brothers.  An entertaining, and informative series revolving around a wide variety of cryptids and the people trying to save them.  This is a fun and funny, speculative fiction series perfect for young readers who enjoy fantastic adventures but aren't ready for big, long fantasy tomes.  One of the things I especially appreciate about this series is how authentic Gidwitz tries to be regarding the stories and locations he features in his stories.  He is so serious about this that each book is co-authored with an expert on that particular location and folklore.  A great combination to my way of thinking, and combined with a fun story makes for a fabulous read.

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: History's Mysteries: Freaky Phenomena


ABOUT THE BOOK

Curious kids itching for real-life Indiana Jones-like intrigue will get swept away with the next book in this spine-tingling series about solving puzzles of the past--from whole civilizations that have vanished to mystifying monuments and urban legends.

Fans of Night at the Museum and the Indiana Jones saga will be fascinated by these real-life mysteries: Is there any truth to the legend of Bigfoot? Why have planes and ships suddenly disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle? Is there really a lost city of gold in the jungle of Central America? The next book in this exciting new series will cover even more of history's most fascinating head-scratching conundrums, including the curse of the Hope Diamond, King Tut's tomb, black holes, the puzzling disappearance of ancient civilizations, cryptic creatures of myth and legend, long-lost treasure, and so much more. Kids can dig into these mysteries, uncover clues, and ponder leading scientific theories to help decipher what really happened. Chock-full of cool photos, fun facts, and spooky fun, this book is sure to keep curious kids engaged as they try to piece together these puzzles of the past!

REVIEW

The world is full of fascinating mysteries, some of which people have found answers to and some where the answers remain elusive.  I, for one, enjoy reading and thinking about some of these mysteries.  Since history is a topic that many children consider 'boring,' I'm always happy to find books like this one that demonstrate beautifully that history can be fascinating and mysterious.  The book is divided into seven chapters: Creepy Creatures, Vanishing Acts, Unexplained Occurrences, Strange Sites, Unusual Objects, Curious Curses, and Unnatural Nature.  Each chapter than addresses two or three specific mysteries including creatures such as bigfoot and mothman, or lost cities or strange physical creations.  The book presents evidence and photographs to explain each mystery and the clues available, but leaves the reader to decide what to believe about it.  A fascinating book perfect for young readers who love to read about real-life mysteries.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

PICTURE BOOK REVIEW: I'll Show You, Blue Kangaroo!/B is for Baby


ABOUT THE BOOK

Lily and Blue Kangaroo are inseparable. Whatever Lily does, Blue Kangaroo is there to see. But sometimes he wishes he wasn't, because Lily has started to show off. Will she ever learn to do as she is told?

REVIEW

I'll admit that I didn't love this book.  The characters are cute enough, especially the blue kangaroo.  But Lily's behavior is out of control.  As a teacher librarian I was shocked at the dangerous activities that her family let her get away with, at least at first.  She's showing off for her toy kangaroo, and of course, young children don't usually think about how risky things can be, so the behavior isn't too unusual.  And Lily's actions do eventually have consequences (she loses Blue Kangaroo and her mother won't let her have him back until she adjusts her behavior).  Although I've worked with children long enough to know that behavior like Lily's isn't likely to change as completely as it does here no matter what the incentive is.  The story and illustrations are cute, but I was not a big fan of the story.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Atinuke and Angela Brooksbank, creators of the award-winning Baby Goes to Market, pair up again for a bright and beautiful first book of words.

B is for Baby. B is for Brother. B is for going to see Baba!

One morning after breakfast, Baby's big brother is getting ready to take the basket of bananas all the way to Baba's bungalow in the next village. He'll have to go along the bumpy road, past the baobab trees, birds, and butterflies, and all the way over the bridge. But what he doesn't realize is that his very cute, very curious baby sibling has stowed away on his bicycle. Little ones learning about language will love sounding out the words in this playful, vibrantly illustrated story set in West Africa.

REVIEW

This adorable book is told entirely through B words such as baby, bananas, baboon, bicycle, and Baba.  It's quite a clever concept that is beautifully executed.  I've long been a fan of Atinuke and her stories of West Africa.  This one is just as good as all the others.  Not only are the illustrations adorable with the baby hidden in the basket of bananas but the use of only b-words to tell the story works surprisingly well.  The gorgeous two page spreads beautifully complement the simple word sentences and tell a large part of the story as Baby and her brother travel to Baba's house. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

MMGM: Grenade by Alan Gratz


ABOUT THE BOOK

It's 1945, and the world is in the grip of war.

Hideki lives on the island of Okinawa, near Japan. When WWII crashes onto his shores, Hideki is drafted into the Blood and Iron Student Corps to fight for the Japanese army. He is handed a grenade and a set of instructions: Don't come back until you've killed an American soldier.

Ray, a young American Marine, has just landed on Okinawa. He doesn't know what to expect -- or if he'll make it out alive. He just knows that the enemy is everywhere.

Hideki and Ray each fight their way across the island, surviving heart-pounding ambushes and dangerous traps. But when the two of them collide in the middle of the battle, the choices they make in that instant will change everything.

From the acclaimed author of Refugee comes this high-octane story of how fear can tear us apart, and how hope can tie us back together.

REVIEW

Fourteen-year-old Hideki is shocked when he is given two grenades and told to use one to kill American soldiers with it before killing himself with the other one.  With no training and scared out of his mind, Hideki hides with the other middle school boys after the Japanese soldiers send them off to fight.

Ray, an eighteen-year-old marine, is stunned by the horrors of combat, both the loss of teammates and how easily the others seem to kill, even those who aren't soldiers.  Before long though the shock and fear teach him the concept of kill or be killed.  But he can't let go of his morals so easily.  As he experiences the horrors of the battle, he begins to collect photographs that he comes across in buildings or on the bodies of the dead.  These remind him that all involved are human beings despite their efforts to destroy each other.

Hideki struggles to survive as he flees from battle to cave and eventually to his family's tomb where he watches his father die.  His father makes him promise to find his sister, Kimiko, the only remaining member of his family that lives and he sets off to find her.  But he can't avoid the fighting and his encounters with both American and Japanese soldiers as well as Okinawan civilians leave him wondering who the monsters really are.

When Ray and Hideki run into each other, only one survives, leaving the other to try to cope.

Alan Gratz has written a powerful story of the horrors of war, but also the resilience of the human soul.  The book is compelling and moves quickly from the very first page.  Despite the focus on the actions of the characters, Gratz manages to invest the story with powerful themes of humanity in the midst of war, and the incredible dangers of fear.  I was reminded once again that no one who experiences it is left untouched by war.  To be honest, the book is rather heartbreaking which means it isn't going to suit all readers.  Gratz, as usual, does not talk down to his readers, and he uses some of the actual language that would have been used at the time, and he doesn't hesitate to show just how horrific war can be.  A powerful war story about survival and hope in the midst of awful conditions that will leave it's mark on those who read it.

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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