Archive for August, 2018

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 Called to Create, by Jordan Raynor

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

Called to Create

A Biblical Invitation to Create, Innovate, and Risk

by Jordan Raynor

Baker Books, 2017. 234 pages.

I ordered this book after seeing an ad on Facebook, which said it looked at the life of C. S. Lewis and offered a Christian perspective on creating. Being a fan of C. S. Lewis and a writer at heart, I put a copy of the book in my Amazon shopping cart and bought it on my next order.

I was a little disappointed. Although the book is tangentially about creative arts like writing, the true subject of the book is entrepreneurship from a Christian perspective. Mind you, I do like thinking about entrepreneurship from a Christian perspective – and many of the insights about how our work should be our calling do apply. It’s just that I personally am not at all called to be an entrepreneur. (My calling is a librarian – and like Paul boasts in I Corinthians 9, I take pride in offering my services free of charge.)

The book is peppered with stories, though some of them I’d heard before as sermon illustrations. I certainly didn’t learn anything new about C. S. Lewis, either. But there were many stories of entrepreneurs I’d known nothing about.

And I do love the foundational insight behind this book: That our work can be a calling from God even if it is not full-time ministry. Like the author, I grew up in evangelical churches and absorbed the message (probably unintentional) that if you were really a follower of Jesus, you’d go into full-time ministry.

Given that I’m not in the intended audience, this book does talk about important topics for Christian entrepreneurs: The purpose behind creating, deciding what to create, and how to run a business with Christian values throughout. He also looks at questions like the balance between hustling, trusting, and rest, and the challenges of dealing with both failure and large profits.

Following Jesus should affect our entire lives. This book takes a look at how it should affect your business if you are among those called to create.

calledtocreate.org
JordanRaynor.com
bakerbooks.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, purchased via Amazon.com.

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 Metaltown, by Kristen Simmons

Monday, August 27th, 2018

Metaltown

by Kristen Simmons

Tom Doherty Associates, TOR Teen, 2016. 380 pages.

Metaltown is a gritty novel about a fight for justice in a futuristic factory town where kids are exploited.

We’ve got three narrators in the book. The first is Ty, a tough-as-nails, doesn’t-let-anybody-close girl who works in Small Parts, making the delicate parts of weapons.

Ty is the one who helped the second narrator, Colin, survive when his family came to Metaltown. Now Colin’s mother’s partner is sick with the dreaded corn flu, and as the book opens, he runs an errand for Jed, the boss of the Brotherhood. Ty doesn’t like it. Jed can’t be trusted.

The third narrator is from a whole different world. Lena is the daughter of the man who owns the factories. She lives in luxury while her brother pretends to be interested in the business. Lena wants to be involved in management. She wants to find out what’s going on. When she takes steps to do so, she finds more than she bargained for.

We’ve got kids struggling to survive here, and the code of the streets. When Lena stumbles among them, they’re already starting to hope for change. But the kids are up against very powerful forces.

This is a novel of good versus evil, of little folks versus big power, and of doing what’s right versus corruption. The story will keep you turning pages, rooting that somehow our protagonists can come through despite everything stacked against them.

The setting is some sort of bleak future world dominated by war, disease, and hunger. But people’s hearts are still the same.

Personally, I didn’t like the idea that this was set on future earth and humans would go back to child labor like this. But if you accept the setting — this is a powerful story, and kept me turning pages, rooting for the characters.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/metaltown.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.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Quilts of Gee’s Bend, by Susan Goldman Rubin

Sunday, August 26th, 2018

The Quilts of Gee’s Bend

by Susan Goldman Rubin

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2017. 56 pages.

The Quilts of Gee’s Bend tells about an African American community where for generations families taught their girls to quilt.

The book is filled with photos of quilts made by these women. There are common patterns, common themes, but every quilt is unique.

The book also tells of the history of the community and the way the quilts – when discovered as art – helped pull them through some hard times.

Here’s how the book begins, jumping right into the story of one of the quilters:

When Nettie Young was eleven years old, her mother gave her a pile of cloth strips and told her to make a quilt all by herself. Nettie had always sat with her mother and watched her quilting, picking up the scraps at her feet, but this time her mother walked away. She was testing her daughter to see if she was independent as well as talented. The cotton and corduroy scraps were in different colors and patterns: plaids, checks, dots, even a little yellow animal print. The odds and ends came from old work shirts, dress tails, and aprons. Looking back, at age eighty-nine, Nettie said, “When I was growing up, you threw nothing away. . . . You found every good spot for a quilt piece, and that’s how you made your quilts.”

Nettie arranged the strips to form squares in a brilliant geometric design. She called her finished quilt “Stacked Bricks.” From then on, she became known as one of the best quilters in Gee’s Bend, Alabama. “I always loved sewing,” she said. “Didn’t need a pattern . . . I just draw it out the way I want it.”

There’s a photo of that very quilt, which was created in 1928.

We get stories of many of the quilters, along with an abundance of color photos of the quilts. The women didn’t think of their quilts as art. Making them was a way to keep warm and work together.

Pieces of cloth that had been tucked away safely were brought out at night, when, at last, it was time for quilting. “We had no radio, no TV, no nothing,” recalled Mary Lee Randolph. “That’s the way we learned – sitting watching our mamas piecing the quilt. When the sun came down, you be in the house together, laughing and talking. We were more blessed then.

This book celebrates beautiful art created by a community of women in a practice passed down from mothers to daughters.

abramsyoungreaders.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 Footnotes from the World’s Great Bookstores, by Bob Eckstein

Friday, August 24th, 2018

Footnotes* from the World’s Greatest Bookstores

*True Tales and Lost Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers, and Book Lovers

by Bob Eckstein
Foreword by Garrison Keillor

Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2016. 176 pages.

Any book lover will enjoy this book. It’s quirky – even has the cover opening in a different direction from the way the pages turn.

The author is also an artist and has a painting of each featured bookstore – and they truly are from all over the world. If I had lots of money and time, it would be so much fun to buy a copy of this book and travel the world and try to visit all the bookstores.

Each bookstore has a brief description, usually including something notable about it. Then on top of the painting of the bookstore, there is a quotation from someone who works there, telling a story about something that happened at that store.

As an example, here’s what they’ve got for Books of Wonder (minus the painting), a store I ordered Wizard of Oz books from for my kids. I’ve never visited it, but I’ve got a warm spot in my heart for it.

Books of Wonder’s claim to fame is that it was the model for the bookstore in the 1997 film You’ve Got Mail. Nora and Delia Ephron, who wrote the film, were both longtime customers and friends of the store – and Meg Ryan spent a day working at the shop to prepare for her role in the film. In 1985, Books of Wonder established a joint imprint with William Morrow and Company, publishing its own children’s books. Its standing-room-only events have included celebrated authors like J. K. Rowling, Madeleine L’Engle, Maurice Sendak, and Eric Carle.

Here’s the quotation written over the “sidewalk” in the painting of the bookstore:

“My very first book signing was like a dream. Held at the famous Books of Wonder in Manhattan, I shared a table with the great Lane Smith. The first customer was an adorable little girl who, clutching her book very tightly, approached me with an angelic smile. As she gazed up at me with a look of adoration and pure love, her father bent down and said, ‘No, dear. Lane Smith is the other guy.’ The smile immediately devolved into a quick, hideous grimace as she zipped over to the other end of the table. I can still recall her face as if she was the only person to approach me that day, because she was.” – Mo Willems

There’s lots more where that came from! This book will make you smile and also make you want to go shopping for books.

bobeckstein.com
clarksonpotter.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/footnotes.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 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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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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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/we_are_the_ants.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 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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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/which_is_round.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.

What did you think of this book?