Archive for August, 2018

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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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 Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved, by Kate Bowler

Friday, August 17th, 2018

Everything Happens for a Reason

And Other Lies I’ve Loved

by Kate Bowler

Random House, 2018. 178 pages.

I approached this book with some trepidation. Although I do not, in fact, believe that “everything happens for a reason” – I do believe that “All things work for the good of those who love God.” I believe tthat God can and will bring good out of even terrible things. So would my faith be shaken by reading this book?

No, my faith was not shaken. But I got a lesson in what not to say to someone going through a terrible trial.

Kate Bowler wrote this book while undergoing treatments for stage IV colon cancer at thirty-five years old. She was supposed to die very soon after diagnosis – but ended up in the 3% who have a type that was being studied for a new treatment. (I checked – She is still alive in August 2018. Though she does say that the doctors were not expecting to cure her.)

Kate is a historian who studies the prosperity gospel in America. So she has a lot to say about getting cancer in that setting.

She takes the reader with her on her journey of trying to live with this. I liked the part where she explained that she took up swearing for Lent. She tells what various people say to her – most of it unhelpful but also about friends who come alongside.

I also liked the part where she explained that at the worst time, she felt God’s presence.

It seemed too odd and too simplistic to say what I knew to be true – that when I was sure I was going to die, I didn’t feel angry. I felt loved.

Reading this, I was struck that we each have our own story. Yes, we can find meaning in our story – but we’re being presumptuous to try to explain to someone else the meaning in their story.

Her two appendices in the back are especially helpful. The first is things not to say to people experiencing terrible times. The second is things you might try saying (such as, May I bring you a meal?). Here’s how she feels about being told, “Everything happens for a reason”:

The only thing worse than saying this is pretending that you know the reason. I’ve had hundreds of people tell me the reason for my cancer. Because of my sin. Because of my unfaithfulness. Because God is fair. Because God is unfair. Because of my aversion to Brussel sprouts. I mean, no one is short of reasons. So if people tell you this, make sure you are there when they go through the cruelest moments of their lives, and start offering your own. When someone is drowning, the only thing worse than failing to throw them a life preserver is handing them a reason.

katebowler.com
randomhousebooks.com

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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 Giant Jumperee, by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Thursday, August 16th, 2018

The Giant Jumperee

by Julia Donaldson
illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017. 32 pages.

This extra large picture book with warm and friendly pictures would be perfect for a Toddler Storytime. There aren’t too many words on a page, and the situation is a little tiny bit scary – with a happy payoff.

The beginning page shows Rabbit standing on his two hind legs and looking at his burrow with surprise.

Rabbit was hopping home one day when he heard a loud voice coming from inside his burrow.

“I’m the GIANT JUMPEREE and I’m scary as can be!”

Rabbit goes to Cat for help, who promises to slink inside and pounce on the Giant Jumperee.

But the Giant Jumperee shouts, “I’m the GIANT JUMPEREE and I’ll squash you like a flea!”

Next Bear and then Elephant are likewise frightened away by a loud voice making scary threats.

But Mama Frog is undaunted, even though all the animals warn her what the Giant Jumperee told them. Savvy readers will not be surprised that the Giant Jumperee is not so giant when he comes out.

The animals aren’t angry to be fooled. They’re all pictured laughing heartily. And Mama Frog tells the Giant Jumperee that now he’s coming home for tea.

And it looks like Rabbit, Cat, Bear, and Elephant will join them.

This is a happy book with just that little taste of a small critter trying for power. I wouldn’t be surprised if little ones would want to try acting this out themselves.

penguin.com/youngreaders

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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 Devil and the Bluebird, by Jennifer Mason-Black

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Devil and the Bluebird

by Jennifer Mason-Black

Amulet Books (Abrams), 2016. 327 pages.

Blue Riley goes to a crossroads at midnight to make a deal with the devil.

She wants to find her sister, who walked out two years ago. She’s pretty sure her sister made her own deal.

She meets there a lady in a red dress, who does make a deal.

Blue tries to trade her soul for her sister’s. But instead the lady offers her a game.

“You win, your sister comes home, safe and sound. I win, two souls for the price of one.”

The lady gives Blue six months to find Cass, and she even gives her a homing device — enchants her boots to tell her the right direction.

But after Blue accepts the deal, the lady changes the terms. Did Blue think it would be easy? The lady takes her voice, so she can’t make a sound. “You win the game, you get your sister and your voice back.”

And the terms get harder as she goes on the road. If someone she meets learns her name, then Blue can only stay with them for three days — or it will be bad for them. If they don’t know her name, Blue can stay with them for three weeks.

Blue sets out with $900, her guitar, and a notebook and pencil for trying to communicate.

Magic realism is not my thing, so this story isn’t something I’m naturally drawn to. It ends up partly as a catalog of the dangers that homeless people face. Not that it comes across as dry like a catalog — you care deeply about each one.

But it’s also an exploration of family and music and success — and what people are willing to give up to find success. Or fake success. And what it means to be who you truly are.

jennifermasonblack.com
driftwoodgal.tumblr.com
amuletbooks.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 book sent to me 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 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 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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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 Going Into Town, by Roz Chast

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

Going into Town

A Love Letter to New York

by Roz Chast

Bloomsbury, 2017. 169 pages.

This book is an introduction to New York, which New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast created for her children, who did not grow up in New York City, like she did.

Here are some selected things she says about the book. You’ll have to imagine the entertaining cartoons that go with these words.

This is not a “definitive guide book” to Manhattan. In fact, it’s not really a guide book. There’s nothing in here about the Statue of Liberty, for example. Why? Because I’ve never been. I’d like to go. Someday. Just not today. Please don’t make me go today.

This is also definitely not one of those “insider’s guides” where I tell you about the hippest clubs, the swankiest restaurants, the edgiest neighborhoods, the coolest gyms, or the store where the best people buy the most exclusive shoes.

It’s not a history book. Do not imagine, even for a second, that I’m going to tell you a bunch of cool facts, like how Betsy Ross invented concrete, or that a thousand feet under Grand Central, somebody discovered an old Pilgrim restaurant, and look, here’s the menu: . . .

I feel about Manhattan the way I feel about a book, a TV series, a movie, a play, an artist, a song, a food, a whatever that I love. I want to tell you about it so that maybe you will love it too. I’m not worried about it being “ruined” by too many people “discovering” it. Manhattan’s been ruined since 1626, when Peter Minuit bought it from Native Americans for $24.00.

Now my kids are grown-ups. The city has changed since I was 23. Things have happened. Some good, some bad, some very bad. But I still love it more than anyplace else, and hope you will too.

She does communicate this affection in the pages that follow. And despite saying it’s not a guide book, the next time I go to New York City, I’m going to check out this book and carefully review her chapter on the basic layout of Manhattan – it makes it all very clear and logical and would be tremendously helpful.

And along the way, I’d get many ideas of things to do and places to visit. And on top of all that, the book has plenty of things that make you laugh. It’s fun to read even if you never have gone to New York City, but will certainly make you want to remedy that situation.

bloomsbury.com

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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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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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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 Malala: Activist for Girls’ Education, by Raphaël Frier, illustrated by Aurélia Fronty

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

Malala

Activist for Girls’ Education

by Raphaël Frier
illustrated by Aurélia Fronty

Charlesbridge, 2017. 45 pages.
Starred Review

This is a picture book biography of Malala. Her story is told simply, in a way that children can understand.

Malala was born in 1997 in Pakistan, the daughter of a teacher who had founded a school for girls. As the Taliban rose to power, Malala became an activist for girls’ education, even though she was still a child.

When she was eleven, she spoke against the Taliban trying to take away her education, in a speech covered by newspapers and television. After the Taliban did close down schools for girls, Malala was offered a chance to write a blog for the BBC about girls and education.

When she was still thirteen:

Malala is elected speaker of the child assembly associated with the Khpal Kor Foundation, which promotes the rights of children. In this leadership role, she begins as a children’s rights activist.

She wins the first-ever National Youth Peace Prize in Pakistan, and starts an educational foundation. But the Taliban does not like her work. Assassins come onto her school bus and shoot her three times. (This page is rendered symbolically with silhouetted figures in guns, but a bright light (like an explosion) coming off Malala. The faces of the girls are peaceful.)

Malala is flown to England, where she recovers. And then she begins a fresh wave of activism. Now she’s working for girls all over the world.

On Malala’s sixteenth birthday, July 12, 2013, hundreds of people from around the world hear her speak at the United Nations in New York City. Malala wears a shawl that belonged to Benazir Bhutto, a Pakistani prime minister who was assassinated.

The book includes quotations from that speech and tells us that the next year, at seventeen, Malala was the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

This book is packed with facts, but they are presented in a way children can understand. The illustrations are lovely, and tend toward symbolic depictions of ideas. There are 10 pages of back matter with photos and more information.

malala.org
charlesbridge.com

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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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