Friday, January 19, 2018

Book review - Ellie, Engineer

Title: Ellie, Engineer
Author: Jackson Pearce
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: Secret Coders series by Gene Luen Yang
                      The Amazing Crafty Cat by Charise Mericle Harper
way to go, Pearce

Summary (provided by publisher): Ellie is an engineer. With a tool belt strapped over her favorite skirt (who says you can't wear a dress and have two kinds of screwdrivers handy, just in case?), she invents and builds amazing creations in her backyard workshop. Together with her best friend Kit, Ellie can make anything. As Kit's birthday nears, Ellie doesn't know what gift to make until the girls overhear Kit's mom talking about her present--the dog Kit always wanted! Ellie plans to make an amazing doghouse, but her plans grow so elaborate that she has to enlist help from the neighbor boys and crafty girls, even though the two groups don't get along. Will Ellie be able to pull off her biggest project yet, all while keeping a secret from Kit?
Illustrated with Ellie's sketches and plans, and including backmatter with a fun how-to guide to tools, this is a STEM- and friendship-powered story full of fun!

My opinion: This is a book with a clear agenda, but it's one I can fully support. It's a book about engineering, as one might imagine. We see Ellie's full process, from concept to  design, to the actual construction and accompanying troubleshooting. More important is the depiction of gender roles. Ellie loves to build things. She also loves pink, dresses, ballet, and glitter body wash. She can be an engineer and still be traditionally girly. Kit, on the other hand, love all things feminine. She doesn't like to be dirty and participates in beauty pageants. Neither is depicted as "right". We meet a neighborhood boy who loves bugs, soccer, pretty much all things traditionally masculine, but also adores tea parties. All of this along with messages about friendship, secrets, and control. A solid story for young readers.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Books on screen


Readers know, the difference between the book and the movie can be startling. It is delightful, then, to come across a film that remains true to the events and intent of the novel. And that's the case here. There are, of course, differences. It has been somewhat modernized and some changes were needed for the story to work in an American setting. Most of these changes, though, are superficial. The heart of the story, an extraordinary child finding ways to win out over despicable adults, remains. The real key to this movie is the casting. Mara Wilson is wonderful as Matilda of course, but who doesn't love DeVito and Perlman as the Wormwood parents and Pam Ferris blows us away as the Trunchbull. While I will always love the book, I can help but rewatch this underappreciated movie a couple of times a year.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Book review - Wolfie and Fly: Band on the Run

Title: Wolfie and Fly: Band on the Run
Author: Cary Fagan
Genre: early chapter book
Similar books: Captain Pug by Laura James
                      My Vida Loca by Jacqueline Jules

Summary (provided by publisher): A classic story of imagination, friendship, rock bands and high-speed helicopter chases. For fans of Ivy & Bean, Judy Moody or Nate the Great.
Everyone's favorite odd couple is back. Our heroine, Renata Wolfman (Wolfie) does everything by herself. Friends just get in the way, and she only has time for facts and reading. But friendship finds her in the form of Livingston Flott (Fly), the slightly weird and wordy boy from next door. This time, Fly has convinced Wolfie to join him in his one-man band. Before they know it, they're playing live onstage in front of a stadium of screaming fans. But these fans are about to get out of control--and Wolfie and Fly have to make a daring escape!
Even though Wolfie thinks she'd rather be at home reading by herself, playing the drums in a rock band is actually pretty fun. Maybe there is something to this friend thing...

My opinion: Band on the Run is a sequel, a fact I did not realize until I was nearly finished with the book. Characterization is a bit sparse, but I had attributed that to the age of the intended audience. Even with the short length of this novel, we get a pretty clear picture of the motivations and base personalities of these kids. It's a fun story of imagination and doing things outside your comfort zone.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Avengers canvas kit

Sometimes the house can feel a little bleak in the post-Christmas weeks, when all of the decorations have come down and the weather is still cold and snowy. Its the perfect excuse to craft new posters and other home decor.  

This Marvel canvas kit had stickers for the details, but I decided to do the whole thing with paint. You'll also notice that Captain America's face was an unsettling shade of pink, originally, so I altered that as well.


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Graphic novel spotlight - The Thrilling Adventure Hour

The Thrilling Adventure Hour by Ben Acker, Ben Blacker, et al.

Anyone who's ever listened to the Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast can attest to it's brilliance and sharp humor. Given that the show is designed to mimic old radio shows, one might not expect it to work as well in comic book form. Not only does the book maintain the tongue-in-cheek humor of the show (and includes the most popular characters) it takes on elements of classic comics. Namely, the inherent humor of the ads (in this case, psuedo ads for fake sponsors of the show). If you're a fan of spoofs and radio plays, give this book a try.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Non-fiction book review - Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army

Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army by Enigma Alberti

With all the books about World War II out there, you might think there's nothing left to learn. But how many of us have ever heard of the ghost army? The reader will learn about the origins of espionage, camouflage, code-breaking, and more. Framed as a narrative, this book is as readable as it is informative. And make no mistake: there's loads of information here.The language is fairly straightforward, making it accessible to even young readers.

More information: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army releases January 23.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Book review - As You Wish

Title: As You Wish
Author: Chelsea Sedoti
Genre: magical realism
Similar books: Fragments of the Lost by Megan Miranda
                      The Wendy Project by Melissa Jane Osborne
thought provoking

Summary (provided by publisher): What if you could ask for anything- and get it?
In the sandy Mojave Desert, Madison is a small town on the road between nothing and nowhere. But Eldon wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, because in Madison, everyone gets one wish—and that wish always comes true.
Some people wish for money, some people wish for love, but Eldon has seen how wishes have broken the people around him. And with the lives of his family and friends in chaos, he’s left with more questions than answers. Can he make their lives better? How can he be happy if the people around him aren’t? And what hope is there for any of them if happiness isn’t an achievable dream? Doubts build, leading Eldon to a more outlandish and scary thought: maybe you can’t wish for happiness…maybe, just maybe, you have to make it for yourself.

My opinion: A town with strict rules of wishing is a unique, if somewhat hard-to-sell, concept for a novel. Personally, I found the plot a bit hard to swallow, mostly because of all of the unknowns. There are very strict but arbitrary rules for the wishes, no reason given. Nobody really questions the rules or tests them for validity. And while Eldon and his friends do wonder about the system, their exploration of it's bounds is fairly tame and limited. There were a number of missed opportunities to explore their town's whole construction. There are a number of themes that come into play, though none of them ever get the novel's full focus. This results in plenty of topics for discussion but no clear takeaway.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.