Archive for the ‘Children’s Fiction Review’ Category

Review of Unicorn on a Roll, by Dana Simpson

Thursday, October 18th, 2018

Unicorn on a Roll

Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure

by Dana Simpson

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015. 222 pages.

This is the second collection about a girl named Phoebe and her best friend, the unicorn Marigold Heavenly Nostrils. And I am officially a Phoebe and her Unicorn fan.

In this volume, Phoebe releases Marigold from the wish that made Marigold Phoebe’s best friend – and discovers Marigold wants to be her friend anyway.

Phoebe faces normal kid things – such as wanting a part in the school play and competing in the school spelling bee against the boy she has a crush on. But she also faces things unique to someone whose best friend is a unicorn who is convinced she’s the best thing in the universe.

One nice sequence is when Phoebe gets to go to the land of the unicorns for a party – when the unicorns decide to hold an intervention, trying to convince Marigold to stop being friends with an icky human. They are unsuccessful.

Oh, and we learn that Marigold Heavenly Nostrils is skilled at roller skating – though Phoebe can’t ride her when she does. (Hence the title.)

This comic strip is all that a comic strip should be – inventive, funny, true to life, and with insights about life that sneak up on you.

danasimpson.com
ampkids.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy, sent by the publisher.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Gallery, by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

Friday, October 12th, 2018

The Gallery

by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016. 321 pages.

Here’s a historical novel set in 1928 during election time. Martha O’Doyle is going to work as a maid in the home of a newspaper tycoon where her Ma is the housekeeper. Ma once worked for the tycoon’s wife, who was known then as “Wild Rose.” But now she’s gone mad and is kept locked up in the attic, with bland food sent to her by dumbwaiter, kept from any excitement.

But is Wild Rose really mad? She’s got a collection of paintings up in her attic room, and periodically she sends certain paintings down to the main gallery of the house. Martha thinks Rose may be trying to send a message.

This book holds a mystery, with clues found in paintings referring to mythology. (Martha researches the stories in the library, of course.) But as well as that, it pictures life in a wealthy home just before the stock market crash, a period I hadn’t read much historical fiction about.

The plot seemed slightly wild and far-fetched – but the author developed the story from old newspaper headlines, so that was probably appropriate. And it does give you a feeling for the time. And the fun of solving a mystery. An Author’s Note at the back tells more about the many historical details and the paintings she worked into the story.

lauramarxfitzgerald.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of My Pet Human Takes Center Stage, by Yasmine Surovec

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

My Pet Human Takes Center Stage

by Yasmine Surovec

Roaring Brook Press, 2017. 100 pages.

Oliver’s back! He’s the cat with the pet human, Freckles.

In this book, Freckles goes to school and Oliver decides to tag along. This gets Freckles to join the Fur-Ever Friends Club, where she decides to foster a kitten.

Oliver is not excited about sharing his human with a kitten! To make matters worse, Freckles has plans for Oliver and the kitten to participate in a pet talent show put on by the club.

This book has five chapters with pictures on every page. The dialog is all done with speech bubbles, but there is some narration from Oliver’s perspective as well, so it’s not quite a graphic novel.

But it is a delightful and funny chapter book for beginning readers. They will enjoy how the world looks from the perspective of a cat.

catversushuman.com
mackids.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Empty Grave, by Jonathan Stroud, read by Emily Bevan

Saturday, September 15th, 2018

The Empty Grave

by Jonathan Stroud
read by Emily Bevan

Listening Library, 2017. 12 hours, 41 minutes on 10 compact discs.
Starred Review

Ah! Another chance to enjoy the fifth and final book in the Lockwood & Co. series! Yes, listening to the book on CD is even more fun than reading it yourself.

Of course the reader’s accent helps you get into the mood of this alternate-reality London. And hearing it read slows you down so you can savor the story. (The books are hard to put down, but sometimes I had to simply turn off the car, shut off the CD, and go to work.)

I still say that these books make outstanding family listening – once your children are old enough to handle some seriously spooky events as well as people seriously trying to murder our heroes besides the incidental life-or-death danger they face routinely.

For the plot, I refer you to my review of the written book. I’m here to say that the audiobooks make them even more enjoyable – though it’s hard to believe that’s even possible, because they’re so good in the first place.

I have liked my approach to the whole series – devour each book as quickly as possible as soon as it comes out. Then, when I can get my hands on the audiobook, enjoy it again, savoring it a bit more slowly and catching some details I didn’t notice the first time.

(And that reminds me! I noticed a tiny, tiny flaw while I was listening! At the end, there’s a rapier fight between Lucy and the powerful woman who’s been running London. Well, the woman kicks off her heels when she starts fighting – but we’d already been told there were shards of glass all over the floor. If she had done that – then as the two move around the room fighting, she would have cut her feet and given Lucy a big advantage. But that’s the very first quibble I’ve found in these books.)

jonathanstroud.com
booksontape.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Snow White, by Matt Phelan

Friday, September 7th, 2018

Snow White

by Matt Phelan

Candlewick Press, 2016. 216 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s another amazing graphic novel by Matt Phelan. I’ve loved his art ever since I saw it in The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron.

This is a retelling of “Snow White,” set during the 1920s and 30s in New York City. Who knew you could fit Snow White into such a setting?

And it’s beautifully done. Samantha’s mother gets drops of blood on the snow not from pricking her finger on a needle, but from her cough with drops of blood. Ten years later, her father meets the “Queen” of the Ziegfeld Follies. Instead of running into the woods, Samantha runs into Hooverville, where she’s helped by seven boys who won’t tell her their real names.

The stepmother seems to have some sort of magic. And she’s very good with poison.

The story is told with very few words – in fact, at times I would have liked more to tell me exactly what was going on. It’s possible I was being lazy and not paying enough attention.

But whether or not I caught every detail – this story is striking and wonderful. Now here’s a twist on the fairy tale that I’ve never seen before.

candlewick.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Sofia Martinez: My Fantástica Family, by Jacqueline Jules

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

Sofia Martinez

My Fantástica Family

by Jacqueline Jules
illustrated by Kim Smith

Picture Window Books (Capstone), 2017. 96 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a lovely beginning chapter book. There are three stories with three chapters each. There are full color beautiful pictures throughout.

I like the story because it’s about a great big family. I have a great big family, and these are rare in children’s books. This particular family is Hispanic and they have brown skin. Their speech is peppered with Spanish words (printed in red and defined in the back), but otherwise these are simply fun family stories.

In the first story, the whole big family is going to spend a week at the beach. Sofia decides to pack games instead of very many changes of clothes. (This won my heart right from the start.) When they get a rainy day, Sofia’s a hero.

The next story deals with making a Time Capsule for the family – and Sofia’s curiosity about it. (I was a little confused and didn’t realize they were back home from their trip. But I eventually figured out about there being three separate stories. There’s a big title page for each story, so I could have paid more attention to clues like that.)

The final story is about the whole family going shopping for school supplies and the preschool-age cousin getting lost in the store.

Again, this is all done with big colorful pictures, simple language, short chapters, and Sofia’s personality shining through. This is a great new heroine for kids ready for chapters.

capstonekids.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Creeping Shadow audiobook, by Jonathan Stroud, read by Emily Bevan

Saturday, August 25th, 2018

The Creeping Shadow

Lockwood & Co., Book Four

by Jonathan Stroud
read by Emily Bevan

Listening Library, 2016. 12 hours, 58 minutes on 11 compact discs.
Starred Review
Review written in 2016

I do so love the Lockwood & Co. books! Listening to them in audio form is an even greater treat. It’s a wonderful excuse to hear the story again, this time with accents. I’d forgotten how very thrilling this story is – there’s not a disc that isn’t full of tension, and in several places, Lucy is barely escaping with her life.

As I said with the print version of the book, you definitely need to read these in order, and this is book four. If you’ve come this far, you won’t need any urging from me to read on.

The scenario is an alternate reality England where “visitors” – ghosts of various types – are walking among the living – and trying to kill them. Only children can see them, so children work in agencies to deal with ghosts for people, to find the source of trouble and neutralize it. Lockwood & Co. is the smallest such agency, and it’s run by the teens themselves.

In this book, Lucy and the folks of Lockwood & Co. are up against powerful human forces as well, and they seem to be getting more information about the source of the Problem itself.

I’ve said that these are good for family listening, and the back of the audiobook case recommends it for ages 8 to 12. But I was reminded when listening that this is scary stuff! There’s a particularly frightening ghost of a cannibal giant in this book – and several places Lucy has living humans trying to kill her.

I know, most kids can probably handle it. But I probably wouldn’t recommend it for kids younger than eight. I can say confidently, though, that this is family listening that will have adults wanting more as eagerly as the children. I’m still annoyed about the world-shaking revelation at the end of this book (as at the end of each book) – I wish the next book were already published! But rereading the book by listening was a nice way to tide me over while I’m waiting.

booksontape.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of A Case in Any Case, by Ulf Nilsson

Saturday, August 18th, 2018

A Case in Any Case

by Ulf Nilsson
illustrated by Gitte Spee

Gecko Press, 2017. Originally published in Sweden in 2016. 108 pages.

A Case in Any Case is part of the Detective Gordon series. It’s a gentle woodland mystery series for readers ready to begin chapter books. It’s got twelve short chapters with abundant colorful illustrations, and is very child-friendly.

Police Chief Gordon, a toad, is trying to retire. He has left Detective Buffy in charge of the woodland police station. She is a small mouse. She tries to be brave when she hears a mysterious scrabbler outside the station at night. But she thinks perhaps she should call in Detective Gordon.

Police Chief Gordon is not enjoying retirement. In fact, he finds himself drawn back to the police station….

But when the two meet up, they don’t get a chance to investigate the mysterious visitor, because two small children are missing! In the investigation that follows, the talents of both officers are needed to save the day.

This is a classic friendship early chapter book – with a mystery twist. It’s a gentle read, with subtle humor, but leaves you smiling when you’re done.

geckopress.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Short, by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Monday, August 13th, 2018

Short

by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017. 296 pages.

Julia Marks is short. She looks two years younger than she really is. The summer has started and her two best friends are away on vacation, and she misses her dog Ramon, who recently died. Then her mom makes her audition with her little brother Randy at the local university for a summer theater production of The Wizard of Oz.

Julia and Randy get to be Munchkins, and Julia’s summer changes. She makes friends with Olive, one of three little adults who are playing Munchkins along with the kids. And then Julia and Olive get chosen to play winged monkeys as well.

Down the street, Julia’s neighbor Mrs. Chang, turns out to have experience making costumes. She wants to help with the production – if they’ll let her be a winged monkey!

This book is full of the fun and energy of being in a show, with drama between actors and lessons learned and the difficulties of dealing with reviewers and fans. And Julia has a summer of growth. Maybe not on the outside, but on the inside, where it counts.

hollygoldbergsloan.com
penguin.com/youngreaders

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Waylon! Even More Awesome, by Sara Pennypacker

Monday, August 6th, 2018

Waylon!
Even More Awesome

by Sara Pennypacker
pictures by Marla Frazee

Disney Hyperion, 2017. 204 pages.
Starred Review
Review written in 2017

Here’s a second wonderful book about Waylon, a fourth grader who plans to be a scientist.

This book jumps right into the action. Dumpster Eddy, the stray dog that Waylon loves but can’t own because of his mother’s allergies, has been captured and is in the police station again.

Baxter is a police officer’s son, and he and Waylon usually break Dumpster Eddy out just before he has to go to a shelter. But this time there are some big obstacles. The first being that someone new is in charge of the animals at the station, so Dumpster Eddy doesn’t have as much time as usual.

Baxter’s helping Waylon, but Waylon’s still not sure he should associate with someone so obsessed with criminal behavior.

Also, it’s winter. The boys don’t want Eddy to be cold – so they build an igloo. But some more problems come up.

The way the obstacles and various subplots are resolved are all satisfying and lovely. Waylon learns about friendship and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and good collaboration. And the story’s engaging, funny, and realistic.

I do love Sara Pennypacker’s characters, children and adults both. They are always quirky, and come alive that way. Waylon’s dad, for example, has taken two years off from working with numbers in order to pursue his dream of making it as a writer, while Waylon’s mother is a scientist. Baxter is obsessed with criminology, and our friend Clementine makes some appearances, still giving her little brother the names of vegetables.

sarapennypacker.com
marlafrazee.com
DisneyBooks.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?