Monday, December 9, 2019

Book Review: Oh, Rats! by Tor Seidler

Book received at no charge to facilitate review
Phoenix loves his bushy red tail. It's his favorite part of being a squirrel. As he's admiring in reflection in the water, while trying to impress a girl, he's swooped up by a red-tailed hawk named Walter. Soaring over New Jersey, Phoenix gets an earful from the hawk who won't stop talking. He thinks his luck has turned when Walter loses his grip and drops Phoenix. Fate changes quickly when Phoenix lands on fresh tar on the streets of downtown Manhattan. The tar chars off his glorious fur, leaving him looking like a sewer rat.

Luckily, the brother and sister team of Lucy and Beckett rescue Phoenix and bring him to home, an abandoned pier, where he is nursed back to health amongst the wharf rats. When the rats learn of a plan to demolish the wharf to make room for a new development, they enlist Phoenix with his excellent climbing skills to sabotage the city's electrical grid. Will their plan work? And an even bigger question is the dilemma that Phoenix must face when Walter returns and offers to take him home.

A light-hearted look at the deeper concepts of cooperation, finding yourself, and creating belonging amongst strangers.


Publishing Information

Publisher: Atheneum/Caitly Dlouhy Books 
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
ISBN:  9781534426849
Ages: 8-12

**Review books are donated to my local Little Library. No payment received for posts though purchases through affiliate links help support this blog.**

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Jack Frost: The End Becomes the Beginning by William Joyce: Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

Since the guardians victory over the evil Pitch during Bright Night, most of them have settled into their public roles. However, Nightlight has become isolated from the other guardians as he transitions into Jackson Overland Frost or Jack Frost.

Jack's transformation has not been easy. He has keenly felt the force of evil as he transitioned to half human and half his former self. In order to stop the Nightmare King and bringing the Dark Ages to an end, Jack must tell the story of his past but will it be the end of him if does?

Those who have read every book in series may enjoy the long backstory but others may find it confusing and hard to follow. While Jack Frost's whimsical character is relatable and easy to connect with, his actions get lost in the storytelling.

Rating ★★★☆☆

Publishing Information

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Nov. 20, 2018)
Ages: 7-11
ISBN: 9781442430563

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Titans by Kate O'Hearn: Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

For the last fifteen years, the Titans and Olympians have learned to live in peace. The Olympians were resettled on Titus after the destruction of Olympus. When humans start arriving on Titus, it threatens to shatter the peace the Titans and Olympians have worked for.

To help ease tensions, the Titans and Olympians agree to open a shared school. Astraea and her best friend, Zephyr, manage to get detention on their first day after clashing with a centaur from Olympus. While serving detention in the nectar orchards they stumble on Jake, a human, who is one of many that have mysteriously shown up on Titus. Astraea and Zephyr enlist the help of the silver skinned friend, Tryn, to help Jake locate his missing sister. Together they uncover a plot to take down Titus and then move on to overtake the entire galaxy. It is up to these misfits to band together and try to stop the impending doom. Can they do alone or will they need to enlist help?

The climatic ending disappoints after such a carefully crafted story with interesting characters leaving the reader wondering why the story took so long only to end in such a rush. It leads to a must read of a second novel to find out the fate of the young heroes.


Publishing Information

Publisher:  Aladdin (July 9, 2019)
ISBN: 9781534417045
Ages: 8-12

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Book Review: Spy School British Invasion

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

Thirteen-year-old Benjamin Ripley and his friends find themselves regrouping while stranded in Mexico trying to catch the leaders of SPYDER. The plan: To go rogue from the CIA and team up with the British M16. Operation Tiger Shark takes the spies to Britain in search of the elusive Mr. E. But first, their new found key leads them to a storage space under the British Museum. Unfortunately, a mishap during their library search ends up with damage to priceless British artifacts which puts Ben and his group at the top of British enemy list.

For a time, the group hides out in a secret room in the Tower Bridge until they break their way into the estate of the brilliant hacker, Orion, who helps them encrypt the information on a flash drive that gives them the coordinates of Mr. E's secret hideout. Erica's dad, Alexander, pilots Orion's helicopter as a back up plan while the rest of the crew, Erica, her mom, Catherine, Murray, Mike, Zoe and Ben set out through Britain to their final destination of Paris to bust the SPYDER spy ring.

The action never stops with the Spy School kids and grown ups. Be prepared for a wild ride through Britain and Paris as well as some double crossing antics. A fun addition to the Spy School Novels.


Publishing Information

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (April 30, 2019)
ISBN:  9781534424708
Ages 8-12

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Book Review: The Revenge of Magic by James Riley

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.
A vacation day visit to Washington, DC by Fort Fitzgerald and his father ends tragically with his father's kidnapping by a monstrous creature who breaks through the earth. 

Fort struggles to make sense of his father's disappearance and vows to avenge his father's death. Six months later, a man named Dr. Opps shows up to his aunt's house and invites him to the Oppenheimer School to learn magic. Fort jumps at the chance with visions of Hogwarts running through his mind. He quickly discovers the school is a government run military school and nothing like Hogwarts with guards everywhere.

The school is full of secrets and Fort wants to solve the mysteries laid at his feet, like why everyone thinks he's trying to destroy the school and who the girl he sees when he sleeps that seems to take over his mind. The only problem is that Fort is given three days to master three spells in three days or he will be sent home. He learns it's nearly an impossible task but is he up to it? Will he be able to find out what's hiding within his new school before attacks? And what is with the books of magic discovered around the world next to bones of dragons? Who will have the power to use the magic and will Fort's friends, Jia, Rachel and Cyrus be able to help Fort?

While the idea of military magic academy is an intriguing take, the book lacks the magic of a strong protagonist that we see in the Harry Potter novels. Since the novel mentions Hogwarts, it's fair to compare the two and the reader will probably not connect as much to Fort as they do Harry. However, older middle grade readers who don't mind wading through the length of the novel, will find some fascinating tidbits of magical information.


Publishing Information

Publisher: Aladdin (March 5, 2019)
ISBN: 978148148577
Ages: 8-12
Pages: 416

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Order of the Majestic by Matt Myklusch: Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.
Joey Kopecky didn't expect his test scores would cause an uproar at his school and home. Nobody suspected he would test at a genius level. At twelve-years-old, all Joey wants to do is escape into his comic books, not be sent to a special school where they don't even break for summer. However, his parents convince him he must jump at the opportunity for a full scholarship at the school for budding intellectuals.

His visit to the school requires one last test. To Joey's surprise, he lands mysteriously into an old theater where he meets Redondo the Magnificent, a magician from earlier decades whose last act included the disappearance of a child and a fire at the theater. Joey finds himself finding the truth means he must fight to keep magic alive. However, the dark forces of the Invisible Hand who want to use magic for evil try to thwart him.

What starts out as a gripping middle grade novel into the magic forces of good and evil gets bogged down in places by the length of the novel. However, the novel will strike a chord for Harry Houdini and magic fans for those who are patient enough to make it through.

Rating ★★★★☆

Publishing Information

Publisher: Aladdin (May 7, 2019)
Ages 8-12
ISBN: 978-1-534-42487-6

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Book Review: Charlie Hernández & The League of Shadows by Ryan Calejo

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

Charlie Hernández can't seem to catch a break. First his house burns down then his parents go missing. If that isn't bad enough, he grows horns and feathers. It goes from bizarre to creepy when he moves in with Mrs. Wilson and has to stare at her unusually odd doll collection.

A quick search of the lost and found gives Charlie a hilarious jacket to hide his new feathers. He can't seem to hide from Violet Rey, the girl he has a crush on. She discovers his secret and they become partners in mystery solving. Their first task leads them to a cemetery and introduces them to a shadowy world of Hispanic myths, full of mythical creatures like La Calaca and El Cadejo.

The Hispanic myths and adventure combine for a thrilling tale with strong characters that will have the reader glued to the pages. A whole new world opens up for those not acquainted with the Hispanic culture. Hispanic and Latin children can stand proud at the thrilling look inside their mythical world.
Rating ★★★★★

Publishing Information

Publisher: Aladdin (Oct. 23, 2018)
Ages: 10-14
ISBN: 9781534426580

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Book Review: Rising Water by Marc Aronson

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

In June and July 2018, the world sat riveted to their television screens, grasping at every bit of news of the twelve members of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach trapped deep inside the Tham Luang Cave Complex. Families and strangers wept and cheered when news reached them that the boys had been found alive.

Author, Marc Aronson, puts the emotion aside to bring the engrossing back story about the initial cave exploration of the soccer team and the ensuing rescue. Detailed accounts of the rescue teams from different countries show just how well the international community worked together to save the lives of team. From the top cave divers who were flown in from around the world to the brave Thai Navy Seal who lost his life placing oxygen tanks along the way, the reader gets a glimpse into just how dangerous the rescue mission really was. The account of the three day rescue is truly spine chilling. Aronson's attention to detail from press releases, interviews, press conferences, and television from sources of many countries involved in the rescue, gives a complete and accurate account of the near disastrous rescue mission. 

Rising Water keeps the reader engrossed in what feels like a new story all over again. Kudos to Aronson for highlighting social issues of the stateless team members. A definite must read for those who love real life adventure.


Publishing Information:

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (March 19, 2019)
ISBN: 9781534444133
Ages: 10-14

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Book Review: Lowriders Blast from the Past by Cathy Camper and Raúl The Third

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

Lupé, Flapjack and Elirio travel back in time to when they first met and became friends. They bonded after being bullied by Las Matamoscas. The bullies pull every punch to keep the Lowriders out of the car show. They simply won't let girls into the show but Lupé, and her friends are determined to get her two mothers, Mamá Impala and Mamá Gazelle into the show. Will they be able to master the art of making sure no visible brush strokes are on their car or can they keep a 5-gallon jar of agua fresca from spilling around the track?

While it takes some time to get to the heart of the story, slap stick humor keeps the pages turning. In the end, a heartwarming lesson about standing up for what is right prevails. An amusing look into the lowrider culture with an easy way to learn some new Spanish words.


Sunday, May 26, 2019

Picture Book Review: Little Brown by Marla Frazee

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

Little Brown spends his time at the dog park cranky. Is he cranky because no one ever plays with him or does no one play with him because he is cranky? Little Brown doesn't really know he keeps getting crankier and decides to action. He nabs the ball and grabs the tassel toy. He even takes a blanket and stick. In fact, he amasses quite a collection of things from the other dogs. 

While he looks at his collection, Little Brown wonders if the other dogs will like him or play with him if he returns the belongings. His dilemma presents a great lesson in how to start conversation with others in the struggle to belong. Unfortunately, the story ends with no resolution leaving some disappointment but also room for open ended discussion.


Publishing Information

Publisher: Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster (Oct. 2, 2018)
ISBN: 9781481425223
Ages: 4-8

Monday, May 6, 2019

I'm Ok by Patti Kim: Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

Ever since Ok's dad died, he and his mom have struggled to make ends meet. As the man of the house, Ok feels a big responsibility to help her out. Though he would love to win the cash prize at his school's talent show, Ok realizes he lacks in the talent department. Instead he hatches a plan to start his own hair braiding business. With a few library books and a little practice, Ok is ready.

While he dreams of making big money, the reality is the girls at school can't pay Ok much. To make matters worse the strange girl, Mickey McDonald blackmails him and in doing so inserts herself into an unwitting friendship. The class bully, Asa, also gives OK unwanted attention. If that weren't bad enough, Deacon Koh of the First Korean Full Gospel Church starts dating Ok's mom.

It's enough to make OK want to get away. He hatches an escape plan but will it work?

Quirky humor helps lighten the load of heavy grief. Readers can't help but feel for Ok and will relate to the other characters as well.

Rating ★★★★☆

Publishing Information:

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster (Oct. 9, 2018)
ISBN: 9781534419292
Ages 10 & up

Monday, February 25, 2019

Book Review: Bounce Back Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream by Hena Khad

Book received at no charge to facilitate review.

Zayd can't wait to take over as captain of the Gold Team. What he didn't plan was getting injured and watching his team from the bench.

With his family focused on his uncle's wedding, Zayd can't get sympathy from home. Instead he must find a way to lead on his own from the bench. But maybe the wedding is the diversion he needs to get his mind off how much he hates his crutches.

Will Zayd get back into the game before the season ends? Will he become the leader his team needs? Basketball fans will love following Zayd on the court while others will relate to the strong family ties off the court. Relatable characters make for a solid story in the series.

Rating ★★★★☆

Publishing Information:

Publisher: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date:  October 2, 2018
ISBN:  9781534412047
Pages: 144
Ages: 7-10

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Lu by Jason Reynolds Book Review

Book received at no charge to facilitate review

As co-captain of the Defenders, Lu shoulders the responsibility of leading the track team to their upcoming championship. But Lu faces his own hurdles before he can lead the team to a win.

Just before the big week, Lu finds out his mom is expecting a baby. While his mom struggles with morning sickness that lasts all day, Lu tries to help her with her business, stepping up as delivery boy. He faces inner turmoil at the discovery that his dad acquired his coach's Olympic gold in a less than moral way. Will he be able to convince his dad to return it?

Not only does Lu face hurdles with his parents but with himself as well. He can't seem to get over  the real hurdles on the track. Lu has poor eyesight caused by being an albino. When he loses a contact, the coach discovers he can barely see. The coach comes up with a brilliant idea to teach Lu how to get over the hurdles without the contacts.

In one of life's great lessons, Lu learns winning gold in life doesn't always mean on the track. Relatable characters mixed with a realistic look into middle class family life make a dazzling gold medal ending to Reynolds Track series.

Rating ★★★★☆

Publishing Information

Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books (October 23, 2018)
Series: Track (Book #4)
Pages 224
ISBN: 978-1481450249
Ages: 10 and up

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Book Review: Bear Can't Sleep by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman

Book received at no charge to facilitate review

Deep in the forest the cold wind blows while bear cuddles under his warm quilt in for his long winter nap. He closes his eyes, and tosses and turns but sleep eludes him. 

His friends become alarmed and rally around to help get him to sleep. Mouse serves mint tea. Hare offers warm milk and Badger builds a toasyt fire but "Bear can't sleep." Perhaps Gopher and Mole can something that will get bear to sleep. Wren, Owl and Raven join the others to no avail. That is until they put their minds together. Will they formulate a successful plan to get Bear sleeping through the winter.

The darling illustrations make it too irresistible not to pause on each page. The lolling rhyme will have the young reader drowsing off as soon as Bear finds a solution. A delightful read aloud that even parents will love reading over and over again.

Rating ★★★★☆

Publishing Information


Thursday, January 17, 2019

Book Review: The Boy, the Boat and the Beast by Samantha M. Clark

Book received at no charge to facilitate review
What wonders would the world hold if one day you woke up not knowing who you are? When a boy wakes up on the beach in a world he doesn't recognize, he struggles to discover why he's there and who he is. Food and water comes easily to him but his bigger desire to know his place in the world doesn't come easy. An eerie feeling for a young boy.

It doesn't help that an unknown voice occupies his mind. A voice he nicknames "the bully" because of the negative thoughts it fills his brain. As if the bully isn't bad enough, a monstrous beast sits ready to devour him if the water doesn't pull him under first.

The boy focuses his energy into building a boat in an attempt to get back to his parents. The boy's adventure captivates the reader though the melancholy tone makes for slower reading. Perhaps slowing down is a good thing as it helps the reader catch the allegories of the story and appreciate the lyrical writing. A solid fantasy for those who love solving mysteries.

Rating ★★★★☆

Publishing Information

Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books (June 26, 2018)
                                                                              ISBN:  978-1-5344-1255-2
Pages: 256
Ages: 8-12