Archive for the ‘Starred Review’ Category

Review of The Great Leopard Rescue, by Sandra Markle

Saturday, September 1st, 2018

The Great Leopard Rescue

Saving the Amur Leopards

by Sandra Markle

Millbrook Press, Minneapolis, 2017. 48 pages.
Starred Review

This is an ideal elementary-level science book for kids. Lots of beautiful photographs of the striking Amur leopards, the history of these big cats, and a look at how scientists are trying to save them from extinction.

The story covers decades – Amur leopards have been endangered for a long time – but it’s also very immediate. This year – 2017 – there is a plan to ensure new leopard cubs are born on the taiga.

The plan is elaborate – the parents will be Amur leopards chosen from zoos. Two pairs of leopards will give birth in two huge pens, where they will stay for two years until the cubs are ready to hunt on their own. This is to establish a second wild population, in case any disaster should befall the remaining wild population living on the recently established Leopard Reserve.

It’s all very interesting and lavishly illustrated with photographs. Perfect for animal lovers and science lovers both.

lernerbooks.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 Prince Ribbit, by Jonathan Emmett

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

Prince Ribbit

written by Jonathan Emmett
illustrated by Poly Bernatene

Peachtree, 2016. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a fun twist on the Frog Prince fairy tale. Three princesses live in a castle. The two older ones love fairy tales and argue about who would treat a frog prince better.

Princess Martha rolled her eyes. She liked facts more than fairy tales and real frogs more than enchanted ones.

But a clever frog has been listening to the princesses talk. He figures out a clever scheme for getting the princesses to let him sleep in a soft bed and eat fine foods. Just tell them he’s a prince!

The two older princesses fall for it! They treat the frog like the prince he claims to be.

Martha has more insight. And she brings the story to a surprising conclusion that left me with a big smile.

A very fun story. And remember: Just because it’s in a book doesn’t mean it’s true!

scribblestreet.co.uk
polybernatene.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 The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat, by Julia Donaldson

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat

by Julia Donaldson
illustrated by Charlotte Voake

Candlewick Press, 2017. First published in the United Kingdom in 2013. 32 pages.
Starred Review

I’m a little perplexed how much I like this book. I don’t really consider myself a fan of The Owl and the Pussycat. And yet, just opening this book got the original poem singing in my brain.

And this one does the same thing – It sings inside your head. The story may be a little more slender. Rather than getting married, the owl and the pussycat are looking for their lost ring. But hey, it’s all nonsense. And it does end happily.

Juliet Donaldson works in some other Edward Lear characters, like the Pobble Who Has No Toes.

The story is not weighty at all – but it sings, with the very same lilt as The Owl and the Pussycat. I find I simply must read this book to a group of children – expect to hear it soon at a Storytime in Old Town Square.

And if you have a child who will listen to nonsense, try this out! The lilt of the language is a delight!

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/owl_and_the_pussycat.html

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 We Are the Ants, by Shaun David Hutchinson

Monday, August 20th, 2018

We Are the Ants

by Shaun David Hutchinson

Simon Pulse, 2016. 451 pages.
Starred Review

Henry Denton has been repeatedly abducted by aliens for years. They usually deposit him somewhere in his hometown of Calypso, Florida without his clothes. It was soon after the first time that his father left them. Who could handle having a kid who claimed he’d been abducted by aliens?

Now, as high school student, the aliens are giving him a choice. They showed him a button. If he doesn’t push the button, the world will blow up. If he pushes the button, he’ll save the world. And he knows when it will happen — in 144 days from when he was given the choice, on January 29, 2016. (I was wishing they set the book in the near future, to give a little more suspense. But that date is around the publication date of the book.)

Henry can’t figure out if the world is worth saving.

Henry is bullied relentlessly. The word got out that he claimed to have been abducted by aliens. In fact, his own older brother Charlie was the one who let that out.

The bullying didn’t matter when his boyfriend Jesse was alive. But Jesse committed suicide a year ago.

What’s wrong with Henry that people leave him like this? Even their good friend Audrey disappeared for months after Jesse’s death, when Henry needed her.

Since then, Henry’s been secretly hooking up with Marcus, who is one of the bullies in public. Maybe with Marcus, Henry can forget Jesse’s death.

But then a new kid comes to town. He seems to think the world is worth saving. But he’s got secrets in his past, and Henry isn’t good for people anyway.

There are a lot of reasons the world might as well end. Henry’s Mom is struggling. His grandma’s losing her memory. His brother’s girlfriend is pregnant. And the bullying has gotten much worse.

It’s hard to decide how to categorize this book. There’s the one science fiction element as Henry tells about what the aliens do to him. But the majority of the book is about coping with life and bullying and friendships and family and romance. And whether life is worth it.

I like the slightly morbid chapters sprinkled throughout the book that each relate a way that life on earth could end.

I also like that this is a book about romance with a gay boy as the main character, but the book isn’t about the fact that he’s gay. It’s about everything else he’s up against.

I didn’t expect to love a book where the first sentence is “Life is bullshit.” and the first chapter hammers home the absurdity of life. But I did love it. I want Henry to push the button. And I want him to want to push the button.

shaundavidhutchinson.com
simonandschuster.com/teens

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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 Which Is Round? Which Is Bigger? by Mineko Mamada

Sunday, August 19th, 2018

Which Is Round?
Which Is Bigger?

by Mineko Mamada

Kids Can Press, 2013. First published in Japan in 2010. 28 pages.
Starred Review

I thought this was going to be a ho-hum concept book. But it surprised me.

The first spread asks the question, “Which one is round?” We see an apple and an armadillo. The answer seems obvious.

But when we turn the page, the apple has been eaten down to the core, and the armadillo has curled into a circle. Now the page asks, “Which one is round? What do you think?”

We get similar questions – and shifts – with questions about which one is bigger, longer, faster, higher, and red (an apple versus a watermelon – outside and inside).

It’s a simple book, and very short. But I love the question after each shift, “What do you think?” What a wonderful opening for interesting conversations with your children! And what a lovely way to get them to think critically and look again.

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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 Can an Aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Steve Jenkins

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

Can an Aardvark Bark?

by Melissa Stewart
illustrated by Steve Jenkins

Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster), 2017. 32 pages.
Starred Review

I don’t need to keep on raving about Steve Jenkins’ ultra-realistic cut paper illustrations. In this book they’re paired with a text that invites young readers to wonder and to learn.

This book is in question-and-answer format, and all the questions are about animal sounds. The title question answers, “No, but it can grunt.” There’s also a paragraph on that page about when an aardvark might grunt. When we turn the page, we find out “Lots of other animals grunt too.” There are pictures and short explanations of the grunting that comes from river otters, Hamadryas baboons, white-tailed deer, and oyster toadfish.

The same format is used with six more types of animal noises: barking, squealing, whining, growling, bellowing, and laughing. All the questions asked rhyme (“Can a giraffe laugh?”), and one animal can actually make the rhyming sound! (A porcupine can whine. Who knew?)

The animals are not your typical animals seen in every animal book – and the pictures of them are varied and attention grabbing. I like the picture of the ostrich growling, across the page from other growlers like a platypus, a king cobra, and a coastal giant salamander.

This book has too much detail for preschool storytime, but it has exactly enough detail for a bright precocious preschooler who eats up information. This will carry easily through early elementary school students who will be fascinated enough to learn to read even the longer words.

This engaging format with striking illustrations and surprising animal facts puts a whole new spin on animal sounds. A brilliant early science book.

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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 Yaffa and Fatima, adapted by Fawzia Gilani-Williams

Friday, August 10th, 2018

Yaffa and Fatima

Shalom, Salaam

adapted by Fawzia Gilani-Williams
illustrations by Chiara Fedele

Kar-Ben Publishing (Lerner), 2017. 24 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a lovely tale about cross-cultural caring. The note at the front says it’s adapted from a tale with both Jewish and Arab origins about two brothers. The author has changed it to a story about two neighbor ladies, one Jewish and one Muslim.

The story is told simply and beautifully, fitting for a traditional tale.

Here’s how it begins:

In a beautiful land, called the Land of Milk and Honey, there lived two neighbors. One was named Yaffa and the other was named Fatima.

Yaffa and Fatima each owned a beautiful date grove. During the week they both worked very hard gathering their dates.

On most days Yaffa and Fatima sold all their dates at the market and were able to buy plenty of tasty food to eat – which they often shared.

Yaffa loved Fatima’s shwarma. And Fatima loved Yaffa’s schnitzel.

The book tells more about Yaffa and Fatima’s routines. Yaffa is highlighted in blue and Fatima in red, against a lovely brown background. They pray in different places. The read from a different book in the morning. They fast at different times. They celebrate different holidays. But this is still true:

They both loved God, and they both loved to follow God’s way.

They each wish the other “Peace,” but use a different word to do it.

When a drought hits the land, each of the neighbors lies awake at night worrying that the other neighbor doesn’t have enough to eat. So each one goes secretly to put some of her dates in the other’s basket.

Each one is surprised when they find more dates than they thought they had.

The next night, they go to do the same thing – but this time they spot each other. They hug, laugh, wish each other peace – and decide to share a meal of dates and tea.

Now, my summary doesn’t really communicate the charm and warmth of this lovely book. Children will readily understand the message that people can deeply care for one another despite external differences.

karben.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 Crown’s Game, by Evelyn Skye

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

The Crown’s Game

by Evelyn Skye

Balzer + Bray, 2016. 397 pages.
Starred Review

This book is about a magic duel in Imperial Russia.

Russia has always had magic, but over time it is hidden, and the people don’t believe in it. But the tsar needs an Imperial Enchanter, who draws on the magic of Russia. However, there can only be one, or they will dilute the magic. The magic needs to be concentrated.

The tsar explains the Crown’s Game to the two participants, Vika and Nikolai:

The Game is a display of skill and a demonstration of strategy and mettle. The goal is to show me your worthiness to become my Imperial Enchanter — my adviser for all things from war to peace and everything in between.

The Game will take place in Saint Petersburg, and you will take turns executing enchantments. There is no restriction on the form of magic you choose, only that you do not alarm or harm the people of the city….

Each enchanter will have five turns, at the most. As the judge, I may declare a winner at any point in the Game, or I may wait until all ten plays have been made. Remember, your moves will reveal not only your power but also your character and your suitability to serve the empire. Impress me.

So the two enchanters start the Crown’s Game. Besides impressing the tsar, they can end the game by killing the other enchanter. At the end of ten moves, if both are still alive, the tsar will declare a winner. The other will be incinerated by the brand placed on each enchanter at the start of the game.

So Nikolai and Vika begin the work they’ve trained for all their lives. Neither one expected to find a kindred soul in their opponent. It shouldn’t be a surprise, since never before has either one met someone who can work with magic like they can. But there is only room for one Imperial Enchanter.

The book gives the flavor of Imperial Russia. Nikolai has grown up in fashionable Saint Petersburg, a friend of the son of the tsar, mentored by harsh and power-hungry Galina. Vika grew up out in the country, learning how to manipulate nature from her kind mentor Sergei. For the first time, both are going to show their magic to the world.

evelynskye.com
epicreads.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?