Archive for November, 2020

Review of Knights vs. Monsters, by Matt Phelan

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

Knights vs. Monsters

by Matt Phelan

Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins), 168 pages.
Review written June 1, 2019, from a library book.

Knights vs. Monsters is a sequel to Knights vs. Dinosaurs, where a band of knights from King Arthur’s Round Table brag a little too much about fighting dragons, and Merlin sends them back in time to try their skills against terrible lizards – dinosaurs.

In this book, the same knights are feeling a little bored in Camelot and aren’t having much luck searching for the Grail – so when a magic boat appears on a river, they board it and end up on an adventure in the Orkney Isles.

There they find a sorceress, Queen Morgause. She’s heard of their exploits, and now conjures up monsters for them to fight every night. All as part of a grand plot that threatens Camelot itself. Can the knights survive against fearsome monsters?

You’ll enjoy this a bit more if you’ve read the first book and met our characters. This will help you appreciate the title of a song a minstrel wrote, “Melancholy the Erstwhile Squire Who Is Now an Accomplished Archer.”

This book is a light-hearted diversion taking off from the legends of Arthur. With lots of battling monsters.

mattphelan.com
harpercollinschildrens.com

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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 They Went Left, by Monica Hesse

Tuesday, November 17th, 2020

They Went Left

by Monica Hesse
read by Caitlin Davies

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020. 9 hours.
Review written July 13, 2020, from a library eaudiobook

They Went Left is a novel of the Holocaust – but takes place after World War II has ended. Zofia Lederman spent months in a hospital, and something’s still wrong with her mind. She still gets pulled into dark memories – and she’s not even sure the memories are real.

Zofia wants nothing more than to find her little brother, Abek. She’s obsessed with the promise she made to him to find him after the war. All the rest of her family is dead – they went left to the gas chambers when sorted at the camp.

First Zofia has a helpful Russian soldier take her to their home in Poland. But it’s empty and has been looted, and Abek isn’t there. It becomes clear she isn’t being welcomed back by her former neighbors, either.

Then Zofiya hears of a place for displaced persons in Germany. Others from the camp where she last saw Abek have gone there. She makes the journey there to find her brother. Once there, she’s surrounded by other people trying to figure out how to go on with their lives. It turns out not every displaced person was even in the camps. And all the while, she’s starting to wonder which of her memories she even dares to believe.

This powerful story will linger in your memory. It captures the exquisite pain of figuring out how to start your life over after seeing your whole family die and experiencing horrors.

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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 an eaudiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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 Water Land, by Christy Hale

Friday, November 13th, 2020

Water, Land

Land and Water Forms Around the World

by Christy Hale

A Neal Porter Book (Roaring Brook Press), 2018. 24 pages.
Starred Review
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#8 Children’s Nonfiction Picture Books

My coworker and I agree that the library copy of this book may not hold up well. Although they are extra-sturdy light cardboard pages, there are cut-out shapes on each one and a giant fold-out page at the end. But check this one out quickly while it lasts, because it’s wonderful!

I have never looked at water and land forms this way – but now I will never think of them any other way.

This book pairs a water form with a land form. You’ve got a cut-out on each set of pages. Here’s how it works:

The first spread has a big picture of an autumn scene with a brown background. There’s an oval cut-out on the right-hand page showing blue and a kid in a boat. The only word on the page says “lake.”

When you turn the page, the next spread has a blue background. The cut-out is now on the left side and shows brown. The only word on this page is “island.”

And so it goes. We’ve got the shapes of water forms matched up on the next page – using the exact same cut-out shapes – with land forms.

Other pairs are: bay and cape, strait and isthmus, system of lakes and archipelago, gulf and peninsula. In the back, there’s a fold-out page that includes two charts and a big world map, pointing out examples of each of the forms.

The idea is so simple – and it’s beautifully carried out. Those who read this book will have a clear understanding of these water and land forms forever after.

mackids.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/water_land.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 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 Three Little Kittens, by Barbara McClintock

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020

Three Little Kittens

by Barbara McClintock

Scholastic Press, 2020. 32 pages.
Review written June 12, 2020, from a library book

This book really made me smile. It’s from the song “The Three Little Kittens,” and I think I love the book because I had a record of the song when I was a little girl and played it over and over.

The book uses pictures with speech bubbles to tell the story in the song. You couldn’t exactly sing at the pace of the book – since there’s plenty of extras – but all the lines are there.

The kittens are adorable and full of energy, and some mysteries are solved. Why did the kittens soil their mittens? Because the pie was hot, and they used the mittens to eat it and made a mess. When they wash the mittens, they also make a mess, but do clean it up.

And at the end when they smell a mouse close by? It turns out there’s plenty of pie for all, so they invite him to join them.

Maybe I mostly enjoyed this book because it makes me nostalgic, but the happy, exuberant kittens (and their messily eating pie with mittens) and their forbearing mother made me smile.

scholastic.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 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 Know My Name, by Chanel Miller

Monday, November 9th, 2020

Know My Name

by Chanel Miller

Viking, 2019. 357 pages.
Review written October 3, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

Know My Name is a memoir by the victim in the famous case where she was raped while she was unconscious on Stanford campus by a member of the swim team. He was found guilty and then given a light slap-on-the-wrist sentence. Chanel wrote a letter as Emily Doe to her rapist that was published on BuzzFeed and went viral and touched hearts and lives across the world. (I love the little detail that Joe Biden wrote to her after reading it and said, “I see the limitless potential of an incredibly talented young woman – full of possibility. I see the shoulders on which our dreams for the future rest.”)

Chanel Miller is an incredibly skilled writer. She takes the story of her own rape and explains its terrible impact on her life. She doesn’t excuse it. She doesn’t take it lightly ever. She explains that it impacted her life every single day since the event and will continue to impact it. She points out the many, many failures in the system that made things worse for her. She explains how wonderful it was that her life was saved by two Swedes who happened to bicycle past and took the time to save her. But she gets all her readers wondering what would have happened if they hadn’t come along. You’d think with such witnesses, it would be an easy conviction, but it wasn’t. Not easy in any sense at all.

And yet she leaves us with hope. Her letter, which is included at the end of the book, touched lives across the world. Her book cover design represents the Japanese art of kintsugi, “in which pieces of broken pottery are mended with powdered gold and lacquer, rather than treating the breaks as blemishes to conceal. The technique shows us that although an object cannot be returned to its original state, fragments can be made whole again.”

I checked out this book after I’d already learned I was going to be a panelist for Young Adult Fiction and Speculative Fiction for the Cybils Awards, but I thought I’d read it slowly, a chapter at a time and just draw it out. Instead, I ended up binge-reading it to finish it the night before Cybils nominations opened. Even though I knew what happened, the book ended up being impossible to put down. She makes you understand how it felt to be violated in this way and how difficult it was to put her life back together and go on.

I’m going to finish this review by quoting her final paragraphs. I’m not giving anything away. Most of you will have heard of her story. But I’m quoting her to show how powerfully she brings hope to victims everywhere, and to people everywhere who ever wonder what their own lives are worth.

I began this story alone as a half-naked body. I remembered nothing. There was so much I did not know. I was forced to fight, in a legal system I did not understand, the bald judge in the black robe, the defense attorney with narrow glasses. Brock with his lowered chin, his unsmiling father, the appellate attorney. The obstacles became harder, I was up against men more educated, more powerful than me, the game rougher, more graphic, serious. I read comments that laughed at my pain. I remember feeling helpless, terrified, humiliated, I cried like I’ve never cried before. But I remember the attorney’s still shoulders as guilty was read. I know Brock slept ninety days in a stiff cot in a jail cell. The judge will never step foot in a courtroom again. The appellate attorney’s claims were shut down. One by one, they became powerless, fell away, and when the dust settled, I looked around to see who was left.

Only Emily Doe. I survived because I remained soft, because I listened, because I wrote. Because I huddled close to my truth, protected it like a tiny flame in a terrible storm. Hold up your head when the tears come, when you are mocked, insulted, questioned, threatened, when they tell you you are nothing, when your body is reduced to openings. The journey will be longer than you imagined, trauma will find you again and again. Do not become the ones who hurt you. Stay tender with your power. Never fight to injure, fight to uplift. Fight because you know that in this life, you deserve safety, joy, and freedom. Fight because it is your life. Not anyone else’s. I did it, I am here. Looking back, all the ones who doubted or hurt or nearly conquered me faded away, and I am the only one standing. So now, the time has come. I dust myself off, and go on.

I recommend many books. Let me urge you to read this one. It will leave you with more compassion than you had before, and with more power, and more hope.

chanel-miller.com
penguinrandomhouse.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/know_my_name.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.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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?