Friday, December 30, 2016

George and the Unbreakable Code by Lucy and Stephen Hawking: Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.
Something mysterious has happened to the world's computers resulting in banks giving out free money, people getting free food because the supermarkets can't charge. Computer glitches resulting in free airplane tickets sounds great until the aircrafts are shut down too. Best friends and neighbors, George and Annie, set out on a cosmic space adventure to find out who is hacking computers and causing the strange events on earth.

With the help of a computer named Cosmos, Annie and George pass through a portal that will take them to space. Here they meet up with an army of space robots and a villian with a quantum computer dressed in a onesie. The seriousness of what is happening on earth is undercut by the silliness of the villain.

The budding scientist and computer wiz might love the non-fictional information dumps rampant throughout the book. However, many readers will find the information distracting from an already ho hum plot. The fiction and non-fictional information did not enhance one another as much as it should for a children's book. Best read by an older middle grade reader who loves scientific facts and has an open mind of what might happen when facts meet fiction.

Rating:  ★★★✬☆

Publishing Information

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers (9/6/16)
ISBN: 9781481466271
Ages: 8-12

This book can be purchased on Amazon.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Book Review: Lowriders to the Center of the Earth by Cathy Camper and Raúl the Third

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

As owners of an awesome garage and an"exquisitely detailed" lowrider car, Lupe Impala, Elirio Malaria the mosquito, and El Chavo Flapjack the octopus, couldn't ask for a better life. Earthquakes literally rock their world and Genie, their beloved cat, winds up missing. Following the cat's trail leads them on an exciting adventure through a corn field and ultimately through a trap that leads to the realm of the Aztec god of the Underworld, Miclantecuhlti.

After the three friends plunge into a cave, they meet up with the legendary La Llorona who thinks Flappy is her long lost child. She is the least of their worries. When they finally find the caged Genie, they come face to face with Miclantecuhlti. Will they be able to rescue their beloved cat from the god of the Underworld? It's not all "pun" and games but the jokes abound and with the endless Spanish vocabulary, the reader gets laughs and learning at the same time. The exquisite illustrations add to the fun. The reader will enjoy figuring out the puns and looking at the pictures so much that the cultural references and Aztec lore will come as a sneaky bonus. A playful graphic novel for the reluctant reader.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Publishing Information:

Publisher: Chronicle Books (July 5, 2016)
ISBN: 973-1452138367
Pages: 128
Ages: 8-12

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Book Review: The Marvelous Thing That Came From a Spring by Gilbert Ford

Book received at no charge for review purposes

When Richard James worked as an engineer for the United States Navy, he never thought he would stumble across an invention for a toy. His job was to create a device that would keep the ship equipment from vibrating. His mind raced after watching a torsion spring fall from a shelf and take a walk.

Richard's young son let go of the springs by the stairs and it walked all the way down. With the help of his wife, Betty, Richard named his new toy. The Slinky was born. The husband and wife team sold their first run of Slinky's in one day and built a machine to manufacture the Slinky to keep up with the greater demand.

What happens with the production of the Slinky will fascinate the young budding inventor or engineer. The dioramic illustrations add visual play worthy of one of the most beloved toys in American History. An informational book that feels more like fun that learning.

Rating ★★★★☆

Publishing Information

Atheneum Books for Young Readers (September 2016)
ISBN: 9781481450652
Pages: 32
Ages: 4-8 

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Nightsiders #2: Vault of Shadows by Jonathan Maberry: Book Review

Book received at no charge for book review consideration.
The leader of the Orphan Army, eleven-year-ol Milo Silk, has just escaped the evil Huntsman. Together with a Evangelyne the werewolf girl, Shark and his other friends, Milo faces the task of keeping the Heart of Darkness along with the Dissosterin crystal egg safe. The vengeful Huntsman, Queen Mab with her group of fairies, and the zombielike holo men could all destroy Milo and his friends.

After a rescue mission gone wrong in which many innocent lives are lost and the Heart is fractured, Milo and his group set out to find the Heir of Gadfellyn Hall .The quest makes them question the cost of war. Not only has Milo lost many of his friends, but he must face another boy in his troubling dreams. Plenty of action combined with aliens, zombies and magic make for a page turning novel the preteen and teen will have a hard time putting down. Along with the action, it will also leave the reader questioning the purpose of war. 

Publishing Information
Simon & Schuster Book for Young Readers (August 30, 2016)
Author: Jonathan Maberry
ISBN 9781481415781
Ages 8-12

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Picture Book Review: Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

Ashram life seems easy enough when the purpose is to live simply and nonviolently. While Arun has no trouble with most of the eleven vows of ashram living, he has a hard time with the vow not to waste. He can't understand how throwing away a worn-down pencil can hurt anyone, let alone lead to violence.

As Arun follows his grandfather and hears him speak about passive nonviolence, he struggles to understand the meaning behind it and how a worn-down pencil applies. In time, learns that every act affects others and the world around him in small ways. His grandfather tells him, "Be the change you wish to see in the world, Arun." These words remind him to think always about his actions and how they can bring about peace.

The mixed media illustrations with striking colors may catch the attention of the young reader while the concepts explored may teach a better lesson with the guidance of an adult. A great story for the child and parent to experience together.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Publishing Information:
Publisher: Atheneum (August 30, 2016)
By Arun Gandhi and Bethany Heeds
Illustrated by Evan Turk
ISBN: 978-1481442657
Ages: 4-8

Monday, October 31, 2016

Book Review: Charlie Bumpers Vs. the Puny Pirates

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

Charlie Bumpers joins forces with his best friends, Tommy and Hector, on what he's sure will be his best soccer team ever. With the three of them on offense, Charlie figures they can win every game.

That is until he meets the other players.

To Charlie's dismay, his other teammates not only have no experience with the soccer ball but they lack size and speed as well. As if the team isn't dismal enough, their coach won't even put the terrific trio together at the same time. Instead the coach opts to have the players learn each position. Though the league doesn't keep score, Charlie can't help but count every loss.

To add insult to an already frustrating season, Charlie and his friends have to sell candy bars for the team but end up creating another disaster instead. To top it off, Charlie's brother films every bad play.

While Charlie learns life doesn't always work out the way he wants, he does find out what growing up really feels like. He also discovers his brother isn't as bad as he thought.  As always, Harley offers a touching glimpse into friendship and family life while creating a relatable story line.

Rating ★★★★☆

Publishing Information
Peachtree Publishers (September 1, 2016)
ISBN-13: 978-1561459391
Hardcover: 160 pages
Grade: 3-7
Ages: 8-12

Monday, October 24, 2016

Middle Grade Book Review: The Thief's Apprentice (Master Duplexito and Mr. Scant #1) by Bryan Methods

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.
A stunning discovery about his father's butler, leaves Oliver Diplexito fearing for his safety. The butler, Mr. Scant is the infamous thief known as the Ruminating Claw and to Oliver's dismay, he wants to enlist him as his apprentice in his notorious crime sprees. In a surprising twist, Oliver learns that Scant doesn't want the museum artifacts that disappear but rather has desires to find and return them to their proper place. With nighttime jaunts to the British Museum and other places where valuable art has disappeared, Oliver encounters members of an elitist society who want the priceless artifacts and will fight to get them.

A thrilling plot with lots of action make this a promising series. A few of the fight scenes are a little far fetched but easy to overlook in Method's debut novel. A fun adventure sure to appeal to those who love secret missions.
Rating ★★★

Publishing Information

Publisher: Carolhoda Books (10/1/2016)
ISBN: 978-1512405798
Hardcover: 272 pages
Ages: 8-12

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Picture Book Review: Never Follow a Dinosaur by Alex Latimer

Book received at no charge to facilitate review

A puzzling set of footprints lead Joe and his sister Sally on a quest to find out where they came from. They most certainly had to come from a dinosaur and not just any dinosaur but a hungry, heavy dinosaur with very tiny feet.

As Joe and Sally follow the clues, they discover that besides being hungry, the dinosaur loves swimming and dancing but also has a headache and a sore foot. Joe and Sally must prove to their dad that the dinosaur is not extinct so they build the perfect dinosaur trap. Latimer's hilarious penciled illustrations of the dinosaur trap adds fun to the craziness of their quest. The lovable dinosaur wins the hearts of the determined siblings in such an absurd way that the young reader will be looking all over for tracks so he can find a lovable dinosaur too.


Publishing Information

Never Follow A Dinosaur
Written and Illustrated by Alex Latimer
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (September 2016)
ISBN: 978-1-56145-704-5
Ages: 4-8

This book can be purchased on Amazon

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Board Books Review: Stanley's Colors and Stanley's Shapes by williambee

Books received at no charge in exchange for an honest review.

Stanley the hamster is back with all of his cuteness to appeal to the youngest reader. He's got his red helmet on and is ready to fix his car while helping youngsters learn their colors. Watch out when Stanley puts on his green helmet, he might just buzz right over your head. The last page spread puts the colors together for a rainbow of fun.

If learning colors isn't enough, Stanley's got his rectangular suitcases packed to teach shapes. Imagine  the fun of camping in a triangle or riding a circle. With williambee's simple illustration style, Stanley moves seamlessly from picture books to board books with perfection for the eager toddler.

Rating ★★★★☆

Publishing Information

Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (September 2016)
Ages 2-6
ISBN (Stanley's Colors): 978-1-56145-948-3
ISBN (Stanley's Shapes): 978-1-56145-949-0

These books can be purchased through Amazon.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

My Grandparents Love Me by Claire Freedman and Judi Abbot: Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

"I'm off to Gran and Grandpa's house with a big smile on my face." So begins the tender look into the special bond between grandparents and their grandchild. With so many activities to do with Gran and Grandpa, it's no wonder the little zebra loves to go to their house. From building a rocket with Grandpa to eating Gran's cupcakes, every day with loving grandparents is a day to celebrate.

The use of brilliant colors and happy animals in the background by illustrator, Judi Abbot add to the sweet sentiments expressed in the text. Any grandparent would revel in a read aloud with their grandchild with this sweet book and any grandchild would savor the love they feel on their grandparent's lap.

Rating ★★★★☆

Publishing Information:

Publsiher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers (Aug. 30, 2016)
ISBN: 978-1-4814-7937-0
Pages: 32
Ages 4-8

Saturday, August 27, 2016

About Marine Mammals: A Guide for Children: Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

With about 125 species of marine mammals in oceans around the world, Catherine and John Sill introduce children to a select few. Meet seals and whales or the small sea otter who looks so cute floating on his back the reader might wish he could snuggle up with him.

Through detailed drawing and painted in watercolor, the mammals unique characteristics help in identification for the budding marine biologist or conservationist. A glimpse at different habitats help the reader determine what part of the world to find certain species. The simple text leaves plenty of room for the visual experience and the glossary provides a wealth of knowledge for the reader who wants to learn more. A reliable addition to the series and is sure to give the young reader an appreciation of marine life.
Rating ★★★★☆

Publishing Information:

Publishers: Peachtree Publishing (August 2016)
ISBN: 978-1-56145-906-3
Total Pages: 48
Ages: 3-7

Friday, August 12, 2016

Book Review: Seven and a Half Tons of Steel

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.
For those who experienced the shock and horror of the September 11 World Trade Center tragedy, it's hard to imagine that many young people have no clue to what happened. Just in time for the September 11 anniversary, Seven and a Half Tons of Steel introduces a whole new generation to the aftermath of the tragedy and what could rise from the ashes.

A beam of steal saved from the rubble is carried to a foundry in Louisiana to build a navy ship called the USS New York. In the midst of another catastrophe, Hurricane Katrina, the steal beam is fashioned into the bow of the navy ship. The solemn event is accentuated with muted illustrations by Thomas Gonzalez that give the young reader a sense of awe without overwhelming with sadness. Author Janet Nolan masterfully creates the mood and provides additional information about the USS New York for those readers who to learn more. A respectful way to introduce youngsters to a sad part of history.

Rating ★★★★☆

  Publishing Information

Written by Janet Nolan
Illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (August 2016)
ISBN: 9781561459124
Ages: 6-10

Book can be purchased from the following retailer:

Monday, August 8, 2016

A Tiger Tail (Or What Happened to Anya on Her First Day of School by Mike Boldt: Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

The first day of school is scary enough but for Anya it's about to get worse. Anya wakes up to and discovers, to her dismay, that she has grown a tiger's tail. No way will her new school let her in with a a tail, right? Her mother assures her it brings out her wild side and goes well with her hair. Her dad compares it to the time he got glasses. Either way, her parents are not going to let her miss school and Anya is about to find out that she will be allowed inside.

Anya does everything to hide her tail but a collision with another boy as she gets off the bus ruins her plans. However, it leads to a new discovery about the boy. One that helps make Anya's first day at school better than she had anticipated.

Young readers will delight in the situational humor Boldt masters with exaggerated digital images while learning to embrace uniqueness and diversity.

Rating ★★★★☆

Publishing Information

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers (July 5, 2016)
ISBN: 9781481448857
Ages 4-8

This book can be purchased at the following retailer:

Friday, July 22, 2016

Waiting for Augusta by Jessica Lawson: Book Review

Book received at no charge in exchange review.

It's been a month since Benjamin Putter's father passed away. It's hard for an eleven-year-old to describe what it feels like to lose a loved one but Benjamin is convinced the lump he feels in his throat is a golf ball caused by his loss. If that isn't enough, he hears his father's voice coming from his urn imploring him to scatter his ashes on the 18th hole of the famous Augusta National golf course. He has no idea how he's going to get there but he knows he must.

As he begins his journey, Benjamin meets up with a spunky girl named Noni who is determined to travel with him. Together they face obstacles that seem insurmountable. They also face the ugly inner demons of lingering racism and have to come to terms with what they see and hear as opposed to how they feel.

Strong writing and plot pacing make for a poignant and heart warming story. However, young readers may be turned off by the heart breaking subject matter. While it's written for middle grade, it may be too deep and unsettling for the younger end age group.

Rating ★★★★☆

Publishing Information:

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers (May 10, 2016)
Pages: 336 hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-1481448390
Ages: 8-12

This book can be purchase from the following retailer:

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Sound of All Things: Book Review

Book received at no charge in exchange for an honest review.

On a summer day in 1930 the sounds of Brooklyn surround a boy from the clatter of the Coney Island roller coaster to the crash of the ocean waves. His deaf father reaches into his son's world and asks him to sign the sounds he hears. It's hard for the boy to find different words to describe loud noises.

 A trip to the library helps him feel the words so he can share with his father and mother who is also deaf. Though he envies the children around him who parents who can hear, the boy manages to find joy in sharing his gift with his parents.

Author Myron Ahlberg treats the family's relationships with respect as he draws on his own experience of growing up with deaf parents. He tenderly shows how love can soften resentment. Papoulas period details in the illustrations transform the reader flawlessly into a different era. A poignant reminder of the importance of treating each other with love and respect.

Rating  ★★★★★

Publishing Information:

Peachtree Publishers (March 2016)
ISBN: 978-1-561-45-833-2
Ages 6-10

This book can be purchased from the following retailers:

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Friday, April 1, 2016

The Somewhat True Adventures of Sammy Shine by Henri Cole: BOOK REVIEW

Book received at no charge in exchange for an honest review.

Sammy Shine is perfectly content living in a shoebox in Hank's room. All of that changes when Hanks' brother sends Sammy on an accidental adventure in a remote control airplane.

No matter how hard he tries, Sammy can't avoid crashing into the Great Woods. He's totally unprepared to face life in the wilderness and he has no idea how to get home. To top it off, his plane disappears. Luckily, he meets some new friends, including a mouse named Phoebe, who agree to help him find his plane. The evil weasel, Mustela, and his band of rats try to thwart their plan.

It's hard to resist Sammy, the adorable mouse from the black and white illustrations. They convey so much more than the lacking in suspense plot. Though the character development falls short at times, young readers will still manage to fall in love with the adorable Sammy
even if they have to slowly skip along instead anxiously running ahead.

Ample illustrations and short chapters lend itself to a great read aloud book or a step up from the first chapter book for the early reader. I'm splitting my review on this one for a 5 star on the illustrations to a 3 star on the story.

Rating ★★★★☆

Publishing Information:

Publisher: Peachtree Publishers
ISBN 978--56145-866-0
Ages 8-12

This book can be purchased from the following retailers: 

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Book Review: Claude in the Country by Alex T. Smith

Book received at no charge to facilitate my review.
Get ready for a wild ride. Claude and Sir Bobblysocks have arrived at the farm with all of their quirky humor intact.

Boredom builds when Claude is cooped up indoors until he can stand it no longer. He sets out for a walk in the countryside on a quest for fresh air with his best friend, Sir Bobblysocks. Before long they come across Mrs. Cowpat, the farmer, at Woolybottom Farm and hilarity ensues when they are invited to help her with the farm chores. Claude tries his hand at gathering eggs, acting as a sheepdog and riding a horse but getting the pigs ready for the county farm brings out the fun and charm that young readers have come to expect with Claude.

It never ceases to amaze what what is expressed in the simple hues of black, white, and red like the soft pink of a pretty pig to the angry red of a blazing bull. All while the reader cheer on Claude in his new adventure. Is it enough to get Claude to move to the countryside forever? Another fabulous rendition of an endearing character perfect for the early reader.


This book can be purchased from the following retailers: 

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Dirt by Teffanie Thompson BOOK REVIEW

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.
Washington can think of no better way of spending his summer vacation than at a basketball tournament performing as a star in the sport he loves. When his parents inform him he must give up his spot in the tournament to focus on his reading skills, Washington feels as if his life is ruined. It gets worse when his parents insist he accompany them on a family reunion to East Texas with extended family he barely knows.

While reading under a tree and with the help of red dirt, Washington travels back in time to witness the horrors of slavery through the lives of his predecessors. The cruel treatment a slave receives for merely reading a book shocks Washington. Will his life ever be the same after what he sees and will he recognize literacy is a gift? 

Dirt expounds not only on the importance of family but also the importance of education. A must read for the young adult reader who might need to be reminded of the importance of literacy. An inspiration to African American community of what education can accomplish and a sober reminder to others of the dark past we sometimes forget.

Rating ★★★

This book can be purchased from the following retailers:

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Book Review: Walter Plume and the Dehydrated Imagination by Rebecca Lynn Morales

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

When Walter discovers he has a super power of bringing dead grass and plants to life, he can't help but wonder what kind of world he has stumbled upon that gives him his magic. He's not prepared to find an elf named Aimee and a bunch of other unhappy elves who think his purpose for entering their world is to save them.

After meeting the evil Ickabod Von Snot (one of the funniest antagonists names I've ever seen), Walter understands why everybody seems so sad. Ichabod's rules are so restrictive that they squash the fun and imagination of the residents in the newly discovered world. Walter must make it to the Fountain of Whimsy to save the elves and bring life back but Ickabod tries to thwart him at every turn.

Beautiful imagery leads to spectacular world building in this fantasy that will leave the young reader glued to to pages. Relatable characters add to the magic of the story with never a dull moment.
Rating: ★★★★☆

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Stanley The Mailman by William Bee: Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

Stanley knows what it's like to work hard and he's at it again. He's getting up before the sun to sort through letters and packages. He drives off on his scooter to get the mail delivered. First stop is Myrtle's house to drop off her order from Paris. Little Woo gets a present from his grandparents Stanley delivers a lot of love letters to Charlie. You go Charlie!  But not everyone is happy with what Stanley brings.

Through bright illustrations and cartoon like characters, toddlers will delight in learning what it takes to be a mailman. Read it aloud enough and those toddlers will be waiting on the porch for their very own package from their mailman. A charming look at what comes in the mail along with what it takes to get it there.
Rating: ★★★★☆

This book can be purchased from the following retailer:

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Brownstone by Paula Scher with Pictures by Stan Mack BOOK REVIEW

Book received at no charge to facilitate review

With winter coming, Mr. Bear and his family must prepare for their long winter nap. Just when they turn off the light they hear, "DO-RE-MEOW" from across the hall. With Miss Cat across the hall, the Pigs and Mice on the second floor and Mr. Owl and the Kangaroos on the top floor, it's nearly impossible for the Bear family to sleep at all.

Faced with a plethora of problem neighbors, the Bear family realize moving away isn't an option. Instead the neighbors try compromising by changing places in the Brownstone. It takes a lot of tries to get it right.

Keeping track of  humorous scenarios and constant reshuffling feels like putting together a puzzle. The cartoon like illustrations adds to the zaniness. Besides creating plenty of snickers, The Brownstone perfects the importance of compromise.

Rating: ★★★★

This book can be purchased on Amazon:

Monday, February 8, 2016

This Side of Wild: Mutts, Mares and Laughing Dinosaurs by Gary Paulsen: Book Review

ARC received at no charge to facilitate review.

When author, Gary Paulsen, rescues an elderly poodle named Corky from animal shelter, he discovers a spunk and lack of fear that makes the dog an amazing guard dog who returns the favor of saving a life. Gretchen, a dog who drinks from a mug, convinces the author that animals have an understanding and way of communicating that goes beyond what our minds can fathom. Who knew a mare would actually have the capability of protecting a jackrabbit from coyotes or that a bird could not only mimic a president but maybe even feel lonely? Some fascinating insights into the relationships animals have with humans.

Overall, the book felt like a compilation of notes about animals that didn't quite make it into Paulsen's adventure novels. While not Paulsen's best work, the reluctant reader may love the different anecdotes on animals relation to man. With each chapter being a different experience, the older middle grade reader can merely enjoy the short stories rather than think through a plot.


This book can be purchased from the following retailer: