Thursday, October 19, 2017

Book tour promotion - Wolves & Roses


RSVP for the WOLVES & ROSES Tour now… Get a T-Shirt Later

WOLVES AND ROSES is the new young adult shifter fairy tale by best-selling author Christina Bauer which “blends magical fantasy, swooning romance, and a bucketful of teenage sass” (Booklist) and is “a fun romp for Twilight fans” (School Library Journal).

And now they’re having a bookstore tour where you can get your copy of WOLVES AND ROSES signed, meet characters from the novel, and even take home a swag bag full of goodies… including a themed t-shirt! Bottom line? You don’t want to miss the WOLVES AND ROSES book launch tour.

Be sure to RSVP today and arrive early to the event (links down below) — there’s only a limited amount of swag bags given out on a first-come, first served basis to folks who purchase a new copy of WOLVES AND ROSES.

BOSTON, MA AREA


Barnes & Noble, Prudential Center, Boston MA
Wednesday, November 1st, 5:00 PM EST
REGISTER NOW

Barnes & Noble, Framingham, MA
Thursday, November 2nd, 7:00 PM EST
REGISTER NOW

NEW YORK CITY, NY

Bluestockings, Manhattan
Friday, November 3rd, 7:00 PM EST
REGISTER NOW

SAN FRANCISCO, CA AREA

Barnes & Noble, Corte Madera, CA
Saturday, November 4th, 12:00 NOON PST
REGISTER NOW

COMING SOON: San Jose, CA

CHICAGO, IL AREA

Barnes & Noble, Oakbrook IL
Wednesday, November 7th, 7:00 PM
REGISTER NOW

The Book Cellar, Chicago, IL
Wednesday, November 8th, 7:00 PM CST
REGISTER NOW

Graphic novel spotlight - Zen Pencils

Zen Pencils - Inspirational Quotes for Kids by Gavin Aung Than

Getting kids to appreciate inspirational quotes is a pretty tall order, so illustrating them comic book style is a genius move. The illustrations in this book are clean and tight but pretty cartoony, very appealing. They illustrate the themes of the quotes well. And the themes are repeated when appropriate. We get the female wrestler and the warrior monk several times, tying lessons together. The style and quotes are appropriate for all ages. This would be a great book to use in a classroom, either to introduce a moral lesson or in an art classroom, to inspire them to illustrate a quote on their own.



Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Non-fiction book review - The Comic Book Story of Video Games

The Comic Book Story of Video Games by Jonathan Hennessey

When Hennessey set out to explore the evolution of video games he doesn't mess around. Games, commercial entertainment, computers, it all gets explained. There are a lot of stages touched on, at least briefly, so there is a lot of information packed into these pages. Perhaps to much information. Serious potential for overload here. Visually its rather dense and cluttered. This is not a book to pick up for casual entertainment. If you're seriously into video games history, though, this might be the book for you.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Book review - Cucumber Quest: The Doughnut Kingdom

Title: The Doughnut Kingdom
Author: Gigi D.G.
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: Astronaut Academy by Dave Roman
                      Luna the Vampire by Yasmin Sheikh
Rating:
a quirky romp

Summary (provided by publisher): What happens when an evil queen gets her hands on an ancient force of destruction?
World domination, obviously.
The seven kingdoms of Dreamside need a legendary hero. Instead, they'll have to settle for Cucumber, a nerdy magician who just wants to go to school. As destiny would have it, he and his way more heroic sister, Almond, must now seek the Dream Sword, the only weapon powerful enough to defeat Queen Cordelia’s Nightmare Knight.
Can these bunny siblings really save the world in its darkest hour?
Sure, why not?


My opinion: This is a book that doesn't take itself too seriously. It's a little bit snarky, a little bit silly. The author takes traditional themes from novels and graphic novels alike and points out their foibles, their inherent foolishness. It's not laugh out loud funny, just clever and quirky. It has a lot of potential, though. I don't love it right now but a second volume could easily tip it into the category of "must reads'.
 
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Christmas ornaments (don't be mad)

It's that time of year. The countdown to our annual craft fair has begun. And thus, I bring you today a few new Christmas ornament designs. 

 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Book review - The Notations of Cooper Cameron

Title: The Notations of Cooper Cameron
Author: Jane O'Reilly
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: All the Answers by Kate Messner
                      OCDaniel by Wesley King
Rating:
intensely emotional

Summary (provided by publisher): Eleven-year-old Cooper Cameron likes things to be in order. When he eats, he chews every bite three times on each side. Sometimes he washes his hands in the air with invisible water. He invented these rituals after the death of his beloved grandfather to protect others he loves from terrible harm.
But when Cooper's strange behavior drives a wedge between his parents, and his relationship with his older sister, Caddie, begins to fray, his mother's only solution is to take Cooper and Caddie to the family cabin for the summer.


My opinion: The thing about OCD is we all have an idea of what it looks like, usually involving an inexplicable need to wash one's hands. So most portrayals are essentially the same. This one stands out because of the emotions. In particular, desperation. All of Cooper's actions have a desperate air about them. He's terribly unhappy but that mental stumbling block won't let go of him. Now, I will say Cooper is the only character that has much in the way of depth but that's okay in this case because it also reflects Cooper's increasing distance from those around him. It's not a comfortable book, certainly not one I'd recommend to an emotionally fragile child. But if you're willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone you're in for a treat.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Pick 6: History

I'm a fan of historical fiction for all ages, but especially for middle grade readers. I've always found historical fiction to be a good way to make a personal connection with a history lesson. It personalizes dry facts. Here are six historical fiction books, mostly for middle grade readers, published in the last six months.

6 New Historical novels

1. Lemons by Melissa Savage

2. Elsie Mae Has Something to Say by Nancy J Cavanaugh

3. Glow by Megan E. Bryant

4. Gircott by Florenz Webbe Maxwell

5. Suspect Red by L M Elliot

6. Artie Connan Doyle and the Gravedigger's Club by Robert J Harris

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Non-fiction book review - 3D Printing

3D Printing by Melissa Koch

With 3D printing becoming more cost-effective and thus more prevalent, it was only a matter of time before we got a book like this one. I was thrilled to learn more about this technology. 3 things that I, an adult reader, learned from this book: 1) There are three distinct methods of 3d printing. I was particularly impressed by the "shooting lasers into a vat of powder" method. 2) Its been around for decades. Where it's only been a part of the public awareness in the new millennium, I was shocked to learn it was invented in the 80s. 3) It has surgical applications. I knew about printing prosthetics and skin, as well as the hopes for printing organs. I didn't know that they printed models to prepare for complicated surgeries. Koch explores these and a variety of other practical and legal issues involved in the 3d printing process. A great introduction for middle graders interested in the technology.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Book review - Beatrice Zinker Upside Down Thinker

Title: Beatrice Zinker Upside Down Thinker
Author: Shelley Johannes
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
                      Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park
Rating:
quirky fun
Summary (provided by publisher): Beatrice does her best thinking upside down.
Hanging from trees by her knees, doing handstands . . . for Beatrice Zinker, upside down works every time. She was definitely upside down when she and her best friend, Lenny, agreed to wear matching ninja suits on the first day of third grade. But when Beatrice shows up at school dressed in black, Lenny arrives with a cool new outfit and a cool new friend. Even worse, she seems to have forgotten all about the top-secret operation they planned!
Can Beatrice use her topsy-turvy way of thinking to save the mission, mend their friendship, and flip things sunny-side up?


My opinion: Beatrice Zinker is more than just the humorous aspects of the nontraditional thinker. She's an absolute celebration of the unusual. Does her way of thinking get her in trouble? Of course it does, but it also gets her out of it. The element that Johannes really explores, unlike others of this genre, is how a non-traditional thinker can struggle to relate to family members and peers, especially as they get older and the pressure to fit in increases. A sweet and funny story with little nuggets of social truth.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Sock beasts

Sometimes you have craft supplies that seem too useful to throw out but that you have no clear plans to use. (That happens to other people, right?) I've had the feet of some knee socks sitting in my craft bins for months. With a craft fair coming up I racked my brains to come up with a plan for these socks. And these little critters are what I came up with.
 


Friday, October 6, 2017

Book review - Landscape With Invisible Hand

Title: Landscape With Invisible Hand
Author: M.T. Anderson
Genre: dystopia
Similar books: Shattered Warrior by Sharon Shinn
                      And All the Stars by Andrea K Host
Rating:
a thinking person's book

Summary (provided by publisher): When the vuvv first landed, it came as a surprise to aspiring artist Adam and the rest of planet Earth—but not necessarily an unwelcome one. Can it really be called an invasion when the vuvv generously offered free advanced technology and cures for every illness imaginable? As it turns out, yes. With his parents' jobs replaced by alien tech and no money for food, clean water, or the vuvv's miraculous medicine, Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, have to get creative to survive. And since the vuvv crave anything they deem classic Earth culture (doo-wop music, still life paintings of fruit, true love), recording 1950s-style dates for the vuvv to watch in a pay-per-minute format seems like a brilliant idea. But it's hard for Adam and Chloe to sell true love when they ate each other more with every passing episode. Soon enough, Adam must decide how far he's willing to go—and what he's willing to sacrifice—to give the vuvv what they want.

My opinion: If a more bleak view of the future is you bag, Anderson is the author for you. There is no need to wrap up the book neatly with the promise of a better future. The humans in this book live in a generally desperate situation. Yet their desperation doesn't cause them to band together and start a rebellion. If anything they become more isolated and self-serving. And all of the issues that plague societies - uneven distribution of wealth, the collapse of the nuclear family, etc - are magnified. The plot is not entirely linear, framed instead around paintings, so it's a little strange and isn't likely to have a broad mainstream following. But if you're cool with something a little different this may be the book for you.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Picture books for everyone

ABCs of Physics by Chris Ferrie

Normally I wouldn't consider an alphabet book to be multi-age. Older kids, who read on their own, find "a is for apple, b is for bear" tiresome. And if this book were simply "a is for atom, b is for black hole" it would remain the domain of the very young. But it's so much more, my friends. It can be understood on three levels: identifying a word that starts with the letter in question, a brief description of the concept, and a more complex exploration. Everyone (apart from physics students and teachers, I suppose) will learn from this book. If you and your kids have even a passing interest in science, give this book a try.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Non-fiction book review - The Life and Times of Martin Luther

The Life and Times of Martin Luther by Meike Roth-Beck

How many of us can say we really know anything about the Reformation, beyond its simple existence, much less about the life of Martin Luther? Visually, this is an intriguing book. The illustrations and text blocks are styled on medieval manuscripts, using an old English typeface and woodblock style illustrations. The exploration of Luther's life isn't particularly deep. The focus is on the ways his life events influenced his eventual decision to challenge the Catholic church. Most importantly, the final pages summarized some of the major theses. It's a niche biography but a good introduction to a less known figure.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Book review - Odd & True

Title: Odd & True
Author: Cat Winters
Genre: fantasy
Similar books: Jackaby by William Ritter
                      The Diviners by Libba Bray
Rating:
it will keep you guessing

Summary (provided by publisher): Trudchen grew up hearing Odette’s stories of their monster-slaying mother and a magician’s curse. But now that Tru’s older, she’s starting to wonder if her older sister’s tales were just comforting lies, especially because there’s nothing fantastic about her own life—permanently disabled and in constant pain from childhood polio.
In 1909, after a two-year absence, Od reappears with a suitcase supposedly full of weapons and a promise to rescue Tru from the monsters on their way to attack her. But it’s Od who seems haunted by something. And when the sisters’ search for their mother leads them to a face-off with the Leeds Devil, a nightmarish beast that’s wreaking havoc in the Mid-Atlantic states, Tru discovers the peculiar possibility that she and her sister—despite their dark pasts and ordinary appearances—might, indeed, have magic after all.


My opinion: Initially, I was on the fence about this book. As I read, though, my appreciation increased. I started out certain that their link to the supernatural was pure fiction, the product of covering up their pain. As the plot progressed, though that certainty was weakened. And that's the brilliance of this novel. Winters is quite skilled at making us question everything that the characters experience. While the closing chapters were a touch tidier than I generally prefer, the bulk of the novel was thrilling and well paced, exploring the influence of both the supernatural and the mundane on the lives of two sisters.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Book review - The Exact Location of Home

Title: The Exact Location of Home
Author: Kate Messner
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen
                      Hold Fast by Blue Balliett
Rating:
an emotional journey


Summary (provided by publisher): Kirby "Zig" Zigonski lives for the world of simple circuits, light bulbs, buzzers, and motors. Electronics are, after all, much more predictable than most people—especially his father, who he hasn't seen in over a year. When his dad's latest visit is canceled with no explanation and his mom seems to be hiding something, Zig turns to his best friend Gianna and a new gizmo—a garage sale GPS unit—for help. Convinced that his dad is leaving clues around town to explain his absence, Zig sets out to find him. Following one clue after another, logging mile after mile, Zig soon discovers that people aren't always what they seem . . . and sometimes, there's more than one set of coordinates for home.
An important story of love and hope that will capture readers' hearts, The Exact Location of Home is another must read from beloved author Kate Messner.


My opinion: While geocaching is an unusual focus for a middle grade novel, homelessness is the more interesting element. Messner really puts us Zig's place. We feel what he feels, his shame and desperation. I loved how being forced into all of these situations opened his eyes to the complexity of his peers and of the world in general. There are subtle messages about judgement and the value of hard work. A few of the plot twist were rather obvious, but overall its a pretty complex and enjoyable book.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Non-fiction book review - The Book of Massively Epic Engineering Disasters

The Book of Massively Epic Engineering Disasters by Sean Connolly

Each section of this book follows a pretty simple formula: introduce the events of the disaster, give history of the structure/area, explore what caused the failure and how it could have been prevented, one or two experiments that illustrate the principles at work. In this case, repetition is a strength. Its pleasantly predictable. And while many of the disasters in this book were of passing familiarity, a few were brand new to me.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Book review - Under the Bottle Bridge

Title: Under the Bottle Bridge
Author: Jessica Lawson
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh
                      Finding Fortune by Delia Ray

Rating:
likeable


Summary (provided by publisher): In the tradition of Rooftoppers and Three Times Lucky, critically acclaimed author Jessica Lawson returns with her fourth whimsical, lyrical, and heartfelt middle grade novel about a girl who’s desperately trying to keep her life together, when everything seems to be falling apart.
In the weeks leading up to Gilbreth, New York’s annual AutumnFest, twelve-year-old woodcraft legacy Minna Treat is struggling with looming deadlines, an uncle trying to hide Very Bad News, and a secret personal quest. When she discovers mysterious bottle messages under one of the village’s 300-year-old bridges, she can’t help but wonder who’s leaving them, what they mean, and, most importantly…could the messages be for her?
Along with best friend Crash and a mystery-loving newcomer full of suspicious theories, Minna is determined to discover whether the bottles are miraculously leading her toward long-lost answers she’s been looking for, or drawing her into a disaster of historic proportions.


My opinion: At first, artisans seem an odd topic for a middle grade novel, even with artisanal products being trendy. That craftsman lifestyle lends a strangeness to the plot at first. But, these crafts and their roles in the town and in families are well explained so we quickly accept them as the normal of this world.And once we can accept that normal, its a surprisingly universal story of searching for the way you will define yourself, your understanding of family and parental and societal expectations. While the particulars are a little unusual, in the end we have the story of three kids facing parallel issues.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Miniatures

Since I started experimenting with polymer clay, I've grown familiar with miniatures. But after I got a good deal on some inch tall glass vials, I found myself trying out micro-miniatures. I've got a notion these might make good pendants for necklaces at my next craft fair.
 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Graphic novel spotlight - Castle in the Stars

Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869 by Alex Alice

If you're big on atmosphere, this is the graphic novel for you. Especially if you're also a fan of steampunk. The art style is fantastic, soft and incredibly detailed. Adding to the appeal is the highly innovative plot. It's a tad on the wordy side, relying heavily on narration even more than dialogue. With a little patience, though, it's a delight.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Non-fiction book review - The Booth Brothers

The Booth Brothers by Rebecca Langston-George

It can be challenging to present a familiar event in a fresh and engaging way. Langston-George accomplishes this feat. Most of us know quite a bit about the assassination itself. What makes this book interesting is its focus on the rivalry between John and his brother, the ideological differences that separated them all their lives, and the long term affect on the lives of those that knew him, involved in the plot or not. And she does all of this while keeping the book quick and easy to read. A great choice for young middle-graders.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Custom phone case

I tend to be thrifty, so when I decided I needed a case for my phone, I shopped at the dollar store. I found an understated black case with a textured back. Once I started using it, I discovered that the texture was actually a piece of adhesive backed fabric that started fraying almost immediately. So I pulled off the fabric, leaving me with a rather boring case.


I can't leave well enough alone, so I painted the back of the case. By painting it a solid color I had a canvas for customization with a Sharpie. 


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Pick 6: Art

Have you ever noticed that characters in novels tend to have the same hobbies. They're either athletes, aspiring writers, or musicians. For this list, I gathered titles where being an artist plays an important role in the plot. Here are six books published in the last six months focused in some way on art and artists.

6 new books about artists

1. Zenn Diagram by Vendy Brant

2. Love and Vandalism by Laurie Boyle Compton

3. It Started With Goodbye by Christina June

4. Antisocial by Jillian Blake

5. Glow by Megan E Bryant

6. The Mosaic by Nina Berkhout

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Non-fiction book review - Engineered!

Engineered! by Shannon Hunt

While each section of this book is brief, its packed with information. We're given a brief overview of each type of engineering and examples of how they are used in our daily lives. It's a great choice for young readers with any interest in math and science.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Book review - Mighty Jack and the Goblin King

Title: Mighty Jack and the Goblin King
Author: Ben Hatke
Genre: graphic novel/fantasy
Similar books: Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi
                      The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks
Rating:
delightful

Summary (provided by publisher): Like a bolt from the blue, Jack's little sister Maddy is gone—carried into another realm by an ogre.
When Jack and Lilly follow Maddy’s captor through the portal, they are ready for anything . . . except what they find waiting for them in the floating crossroads between worlds. Even the power of their magic plants may not be enough to get them back to earth alive.
Alone and injured, Jack and Lilly must each face their own monsters—as well as giants who grind the bones of human children to feed their “beast” and a fearsome goblin king in the sewers down below.
But when Jack finds himself in a tough spot, help comes from the most unlikely person: the goblin king!


My opinion: Hatke never disappoints. This is a great follow-up to what begain as an exiting series. Now, Mighty Jack has a slightly more mature look and feel than Zita the Spacegirl and as such it may not resonate with the same readers. Zita was more of an elementary series. Jack skews more towards middle grade. I was a little unsure of this series at first, in part because I so dearly loved Zita, but it has grown on me over time especially as I began to notice the thematic parallels. In this series, Hatke uses familiar stories as a broad framework but truly makes the plot his own. If you have even a slight interest in fantasy and fairy tales, give this series a look.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Fanstastic peg

In my continuing effort to celebrate female superheroes in peg doll form, I've created this Sue Storm peg. She provides a nice visual counterpoint to my other peg dolls.

 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Book review - Shadow Warrior

Title: Shadow Warrior
Author: Tanya Lloyd Kyi
Genre: historical fiction/creative non-fiction
Similar books: What Elephants Know by Eric Dinerstein
                      Arcady's Goal by Anton Yelchin
Rating:
educational

Summary (provided by publisher): It’s 1558, and warlords across Japan are battling for territory and control. Into this setting, award-winning author Tanya Lloyd Kyi weaves the stories of three people: Mochizuki Chiyome, a young woman determined to become a ninja whose plans are thwarted by an arranged marriage; Takeda Shingen (The Tiger), a fierce warlord seeking a new weapon to outsmart his enemies; and Aki, an orphaned tavern girl whose destiny is changed by a mysterious woman. As their stories intersect, the three characters become key players in an elaborate network of undercover female ninjas who will eventually shift the balance of power in Japan. Based on the true story of Mochizuki Chiyome and her all-female spy network, Shadow Warrior takes readers on a journey through feudal Japan, from villages to castles to battlefields. Stunning illustrations by Celia Krampien, interspersed with archival Japanese art, vividly depict the rigors of ninja training, the struggles of village life, the intensity of battle, and the thrill of accomplishing a secret mission.

My opinion: A quick, highly readable book with a compelling story. It has two major selling points: girl power and spies. Yes, it's an historical setting and is told with more formal language. In fact, stylistically it comes closer to creative non-fiction than a true novel. These might be significant barriers for young readers. But, its a relatively short and compelling read if you're willing to put in a little effort and could spark some good non-fiction reading as well.

More information: Shadow Warrior release September 12.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Picture books for everyone

Polly and Her Duck Costume by Leanne Louricelle

At first glance, this is a fairly niche book. It's a sweet little story with soft, almost pastel illustrations, about a goat who overcomes fear. In other words, a book for little kids. What makes it multi-age is the last few pages, which detail the true story of Polly and the other rescue goats.  

More information: Polly and Her Duck Costume releases September 12.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Non-fiction book review - Science Comics: Plagues

Science Comics: Plagues by Falynn Koch

This volume of the Science Comics series is a particularly good one. It uses a plot to convey scientific information but doesn't push that storyline too hard. It knows that it's intended to inform more than entertain. The plot is only intended to make the information easier to digest. Yet it is entertaining. The illustrations are fantastic - nuanced and entertaining. Readers will learn not only about plagues but also about a variety of infections, vectors, and the innerworkings of the immune system. A solid choice for fans of biology (but good for non-scientists too!).

Advanced Reader copy provided by NetGalley.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Book review - Genuine Fraud

Title: Genuine Fraud
Author: E. Lockhart
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: Little Monsters by Kara Thomas
                      One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
Rating:
good, though not what I'd anticipated

Summary (provided by publisher): From the author of the unforgettable New York Times bestseller We Were Liars comes a masterful new psychological suspense novel—the story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.
Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.


My opinion: I remember being blown away by We Were Liars. Lockhart was experimenting, pushing the boundaries of what can be done in teen fiction. And when I realized that this book, too, played with nontraditional formatting I got excited. Here's an author doing new and exciting things, I thought. The reality is less thrilling than I'd hoped. Yes, the story is told in reverse. And its easy enough to follow. In spite of knowing how it will ultimately end, there is interest and intrigue along the way, a few surprising twists. All of which tells me just how masterful a writer Lockhart truly is. I just didn't love this book the way I did Liars. It's clever and worth a read, just didn't connect with me in that real, visceral way.

Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Non-fiction book review - The Great Penguin Rescue

The Great Penguin Rescue by Sandra Markle

Personally, I'm a sucker for pretty much any penguin book. I knew very little about African penguins so this was right up my alley. It's a solid piece of non-fiction. Facts are relayed in a clear and concise manner, the perfect blend of readable vocabulary and conversational tone without ever becoming condescending. We've got history, animal biology, sociology, and ecology all in one book, entirely supported by engaging and well-framed photos. A great choice, even for very young readers.

More information: The Great Penguin Rescue releases September 1.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Book review - The Shakespeare Stories

Title: The Shakespeare Stories
Author: Andrew Matthews
Genre: classics
Similar books: Poe: Stories and Poems by Gareth Hinds
                      The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue presents Macbeth by Ian Lendler
Rating:
might help with comprehension

Summary (provided by publisher): Discover the literary world of Shakespeare with these fantastic kid-friendly retellings of his most famous works. From the ghostly adventures of Hamlet to the fairy-filled romp of A Midsummer Night's Dream, these stories come alive with illustrations throughout that capture the humor and drama from the original stories. This set is a perfect introduction to Shakespeare for young readers!
Plays:
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Henry V
The Merchant of Venice
Hamlet


My opinion: On it's own, this book is a little light on details. More of an overview than complete stories. It would be best used as a companion to reading the original text. Shakespeare can be overwhelming for young readers. The language can be a barrier. Once one understands the basics of the plot, though, one can better appreciate the artistry and humor of the original writing. That's the real value of a book like this one.

More information: The Shakespeare Stories releases September 1.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Book review - Elsie Mae Has Something to Say

Title: Elsie Mae Has Something to Say
Author: Nancy J. Cavanaugh
Genre: historical fiction
Similar books: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelley
                      Gentle's Holler by Kerry Madden
Rating:
good, not great

Summary (provided by publisher): Elsie Mae has long treasured summers with her grandparents in the Okefenokee Swamp, so she is devastated to hear that a shipping company plans to build a canal right through it. What will that mean for the people and animals that call the swamp home?
So she writes a letter directly to President Franklin Roosevelt himself and sets off to enjoy what may be her last happy summer there with her new dog, Huck. But when she arrives, she discovers a team of hog bandits who have been stealing from the swamper families.

When her cousin Henry James, who dreams of one day becoming a traveling preacher like his daddy, shows up, Elsie doesn’t think things could get worse. But she devises a plan to use Henry and his “Hallelujahs” to help stop the thieves—and maybe just make enough noise to gain Roosevelt’s attention…

My opinion: Elsie is a pretty standard example of the rough and tumble heroine, girls who would rather wander in nature and play with animals than be "proper" and "lady-like". This novel would sit nicely in a display with The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate or even To Kill a Mockingbird though it is somewhat less charming. All of the plot threads try to interweave into a cohesive fabric but instead become tangled up and confused. Each plot is a bit thin on supporing details. It's a decent way to explore a lesser known bit of history. Additionally, it's a quick and relatively engaging read with a spunky heroine.

More information: Elsie Mae Has Something to Say releases September 5.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Graphic novel spotlight - The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North

You may be under the impression that all superhero comics are the same - brooding and insanely muscular hero beats up on various oddly costumed psychopaths. They're just about violence and anger, you tell yourself. And most of the time you would be right. But then there's Squirrel Girl. Originally introduced in 1991, Squirrel Girl has never been meant to be taken overly seriously. Historically, she's a pretty quirky character. This modern iteration takes her quirks to the extreme. Doreen Green attempts to live a "normal" college life while fighting crime and protecting her identity (in ridiculous ways, of course). Yet she remains an incredibly effective hero. In this first volume she fights Kraven, Whiplash, and Galactus, using innovative and frankly ridiculous methods to win. Best of all, every page has hilarious footnotes that just add to the humor. This is a great series both for fans of traditional heroes and those who've always found the concept of superheroes over the top.