Wednesday, July 27

Wonder Woman at Super Hero High

Wonder Woman at Super Hero High
(DC Super Hero Girls)
Lisa Yee

My rating: ★★½

ISBN: 978-1101940594
Publisher: Random House
Date of publication: March 1, 2016
Age: Grades 4 - 7
Genre: Science Fiction
Format: library book

Themes: DC Superheroes, friendship, school, competition,

Wonder Woman has only ever known life on Paradise Island, but she wants fulfill her full potential as a superhero. Despite her mother's misgivings, Wonder Woman enrolls at the elite Super Hero High and eagerly studies hard to ace classes, embraces new friends, and juggles a variety of clubs and training. What she doesn't anticipate is a roommate documenting her every move on social media, anonymous threatening notes telling her to leave, and the ever never-before-seen boys. High school might be harder than she thought.

Kick-butt female superheroes and villains kicking back in high school? Sounds like an awesome idea! And...then I read the book. While it's a book that fills a void in the male-heavy superhero world, it could've been executed so much better. The story line was very repetitive and dragged quite a bit. The characters, while beloved, were pretty ditsy. Wonder Woman is, indeed, insatiably optimistic, slightly ignorant (life on a secluded island with only women might do that to you), and dedicated to justice—but in this book, that all came together to make her seem like an airhead. Especially when she earned the nickname "Wondy." Oh, Wondy...

I did enjoy some aspects, like the antics of Harley Quinn and Wondy's reaction to the dorky-but-cute Steve Trevor. Also, the research that went into it is impressive—every single character comes from the DC universe. So while I may not have loved the story, I still appreciate its helping girls to delve into the nerd culture.

Readalikes would include books like Goddess Girls or Grimmtastic Girls.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Tuesday, July 26

The Mixed-Up Truck

The Mixed-Up Truck
Written and illustrated by Stephen Savage

My rating: ★★★★½

ISBN: 978-1626721531
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Date of publication: July 5, 2016
Age: 2 - 6 years
Format: library book

Themes: construction vehicles, cement mixer, mistakes, fixes

When the cement mixer shows up for his first day on the job, he's eager to help. What should he do? The other trucks—busy digging, dumping, and lifting—tell him to get a load of powdery white cement to mix with water. But what the truck actually mixes up is not quite what anybody was expecting! Wanting to fix his mistake, the cement mixer tries and tries again, eventually discovering that some mistakes aren't always a bad thing.

This book is a companion to Savage's first truck book, Supertruck, which I briefly reviewed back here. That one was good, yes, but this one? This one is even better! First off, the word play in the title just starts it off right. The story? This little truck's mistakes make quite the fun surprises that will have any child thrilled. I was smiling throughout the whole thing, myself—it's just so awesome. The simple text, repetitious storyline, and bold illustrations make this perfect for the youngest of readers and an excellent storytime choice. Plus it involves elements that kids love, e.g. construction vehicles and (gah, I don't want to spoil it for you, just read it!).

Overall, definitely recommended. Kids will love it. Also, its a great segway into fun extension activities (get ready for lots of mixing and, hopefully, not too much of a mess, haha).

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Monday, July 25

The School is Alive!

The School is Alive!
(Eerie Elementary #1)
Written by Jack Chabert, illustrated by Sam Ricks

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-0545623926
Publisher: Scholastic
Date of publication: June 24, 2014
Age: Grades 1 - 4
Genre: Horror
Format: library book

Themes: elementary school, responsibility, monsters/haunting, friendship

Sam Graves is Eerie Elementary's newest hall moniter. And besides having to wear a horrible bright orange sash, he soon finds the role will earn him some enemies—the first and foremost being the school itself! Barely surviving the playground quicksand and the tentacle-like fire hose, Sam's not sure he can take on this monster of a school—especially when it seems no one else notices what's going on. Yet, with the help of the wise old caretaker and Sam's friends, Sam trains for the day the school will make its most dangerous attack. Will he be ready to fight?

I've been seeing books in this series pop up more and more and decided it was about time I gave it a try. And wow, this was creepier and more exciting than I expected! The high-action plot, bold onomatopoeia, and plentiful illustrations is sure to keep young readers engaged and excited. I really enjoyed some of the scares and thought the illustrations did a good job of balancing the scary with some cartoonish fun. The story, in the end however, was not my favorite. Such a high action plot leaves a lot to be desired in the characters. Sam has some key moments of bravery and humor, but that's about it. His two friends, Antonio and Lucy, are especially flat. I'm hoping the later books in the series do them more justice.

Overall, the complaint about the characters is my own preference. Really, kids are going to enjoy this. And parents will appreciate the good vocabulary and page count. It's a great precursor to Goosebumps and other such horrors.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Friday, July 22

Flannel Friday: Going Back to School with 10 Little Crayons

School is starting next week for kids here in AZ (which is crazy to me, because I swear when I grew up school didn't start until September...). Either way, I've got school on the brain and I thought it'd be fun to do a Flannel that incorporates this theme.

Ten Little Crayons!

Thursday, July 21

A Laughing Librarian - Vol. 3

You know when you get home from vacation and have to get back to regular life but your brain is still in vacation mode? Well, even if you don't know...I've now described to you whats happened to my brain. Hopefully I can kick things back into full gear soon.

In the mean time, I'm going to distract myself further with some more hilarious library memes. (See volume 1 and volume 2 if you also want further distraction)

Because obviously, this is the best solution.

Tuesday, July 19

Click Here to Start

Click Here to Start
Denis Markell

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-1101931875
Publisher: Delacorte Books
Date of publication: July 19, 2016
Age: Grades 4 - 8
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Format: Netgalley eARC

Themes: puzzles, treasure hunt, friendship, video games, family history

What if playing video games was prepping you to solve an incredible real-world puzzle and locate a priceless treasure? Twelve-year-old Ted Gerson has spent most of his summer playing video games. So when his great-uncle dies and bequeaths him the all so-called treasure in his overstuffed junk shop of an apartment, Ted explores it like it’s another level to beat. And to his shock, he finds that eccentric Great-Uncle Ted actually has set the place up like a real-life escape-the-room game! Using his specially honed skills, Ted sets off to win the greatest game he's ever played, with help from his friends Caleb and Isabel. Together they discover that Uncle Ted’s "treasure" might be exactly that—real gold and jewels found by a Japanese American unit that served in World War II. With each puzzle Ted and his friends solve, they get closer to unraveling the mystery—but someone dangerous is hot on their heels, and he’s not about to let them get away with the fortune.

The first thing I did after finishing this book was try my hand at some escape-the-room games online—yep, this book definitely piqued my interest! I will say, up front, however, that there are a lot of far-fetched aspects of the story. But hey, it's a giant treasure hunt, so I'll let it slide. I was still engrossed in the story and think kids will definitely love it (video games, treasure...what more could you want?).

The main characters are awesome. The story is told from Ted's point of view, and he's hilarious ("her last sentence hung in the air, like a fart in the elevator"). He's got some depth, too, as he works out aspects of his identity (half-Japanese, half-Jewish, little brother of Harvard genius, video-gamer, etc.). Caleb and Isabel, while being wing-men (wing-woman?), still have elements of depth to make them interesting. The token bad guy, however, was a bit flat—a caricature of your standard villainous treasure hunter. But hey, I'll take it.

In the end, it's a good one. For the many fans of Mr. Lemoncello's Library or even books like Greenglass House and Book Scavenger (more play on the book, The Maltese Falcon!), this will be a surefire hit.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Monday, July 18

Ninja! Attack of the Clan

Oh hi there! Yes, it's been a while—I took myself on a nice, little vacation. Back to full steam ahead with lots of good stuff coming in the near future!

Ninja! Attack of the Clan
Written and illustrated by Arree Chung

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-0805099164
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co
Date of publication: June 7, 2016
Age: 4 - 8 years
Format: library book

Themes: ninjas, family relationships, play

A ninja must be ready for anything! Maxwell is a strong, courageous, silent ninja, but he also wants somebody to play with. Mama, Papa, and little sister Cassy are all too busy, leaving Maxwell disappointed and alone. When Maxwell gets called to dinner, he finds an empty dining room. Could his ninja clan be up to something?

This is a sequel (I only spotlighted the first book here in my Ninja Storytime—yes, I love ninja books) but I actually like it more than the first (reading the first book is not actually necessary, but they are fun together). It's super adorable and funny, with a huge emphasis on family. The illustrations are action-packed with lots of little details to look for or things to find.

My one complaint is that it's not actually written as a story so much as just speech bubbles and a comic-style narrative. That's normally not a problem except there were a few times it was hard to follow; the story panels were sometimes page by page, and other times went across the whole two-page-spread (if that makes sense). Still, cute story and I'm sure kids will have fun with it.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Thursday, July 7

Wolf by Wolf

Wolf by Wolf
Ryan Graudin

My rating: ★★★★½

ISBN: 978-0316405126
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Date of publication: October 20, 2015
Age: Grades 8 and up
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: library book

Themes: motorcycle racing, alternate history, Nazi Germany, genetic mutations, resistance, identity

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, they host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The prize? An audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor's ball in Tokyo. Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year's only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele's twin brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael's every move. But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and stay true to her mission?

While my YA reviews are scarce, they're usually for something good. And this was definitely good. My penchant for WWII novels may make me biased, but the expert writing, world building, and characters definitely carry this book well past any personal preference. I haven't ever read an alternate WWII history novel (though there are a few, I'm sure, that deal with the what-if-Hitler-won possibility) so this was an excellent introduction into the idea. Granted, there's a dose of sci-fi thrown in with the human experimentation done resulting in Yael's ability to skinshift. While it's true that Nazis tried to find "cures" for genetic "abnormalities" (anything from brown eyes to homosexuality), it's a pretty big stretch to get a human chameleon. And yet, I didn't think it detracted from the premise.

Indeed, this story was excellent. Excellently researched, laid out, and written. It flashes between the present and Yael's past, which provides heart-rending insight into her motivations for working with the resistance. Yael, herself, is an incredibly complex character for a YA book, since not only is she dealing with the cruelties of her government and loss of loved ones, but also the loss of her own identity. The theme of identity really grounds the high-action story with some thought-provoking aspects (which Graudin addresses in a note at the end). Even the other characters, while not the stars, still have elements to appreciate. For instance, the pressure on the Japanese racers to win and bring home honor. Or Felix's love of family, and wanting to protect his sister. It's all good stuff.

Yet, I wish I could give it the full five stars, but something holds me back. Maybe, it's the bit of the cliffhanger ending (WOW the ending! Luckily, it's just a duology, so I only have to wait for one more book). Or it may also be some of the writing—yes, it was excellent, but some of the more flowery metaphors and parts of speech (while beautiful) were too much, pulling me out of the story. Or it ma be Luka—I wish Graudin delved more into why he was so desperate to win (but apparently there's a novella that goes into that a bit). Overall, really, really small complaints. Depending on the second book, this series just may pull out with a five-star rating.

I'd definitely recommend it. It's exciting, minimally romantic (it would've proved such a distraction in this case), though-provoking, and well done (plus all the swearing is in German! Ha). Give it a try!

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Wednesday, July 6

This is Not a Picture Book

This is Not a Picture Book
Written and illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-1452129075
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Date of publication: May 3, 2016
Age: 3 - 6 years
Format: library book

Themes: reading, imagination, books, ducks, bookworm

Duck finds a book and is upset that there's no pictures. How is he supposed to understand the story? While he and his friend Bug may struggle at first to decipher their book, they stick with it, and before long they discover that not only can they read it, but it deserves a place on the shelf with all their favorite picture books.

Quirky, fanciful, and endearing are my words for this book. I think I was hoping for something a bit more humorous, but this is, in fact, rather poetic and thought-provoking. I didn't love it, but it's another great readaloud for storytime when one needs a book about books. Or, if you're just trying to promote a love of reading with your kids.

The illustrations are not my favorite; they're slightly odd. They have a bit of a Dr.-Seuss-vibe, though, so some may come to enjoy it. I did appreciate having Bug, the book worm, come out of the gutter of the book—a nice detail added. Also, the end pages are really fascinating additions to the story—expertly done. Overall, it's something to have on your radar.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Monday, July 4

10 Nonfiction Books for Kids About the United States of America (with giveaway!)

Happy 4th of July! Being in a thoroughly patriotic mood and with the opportunity for a fun little giveaway, I decided to compile a list of some of my favorite nonfiction books involving the USA and its history. These are ten books for kids of all ages, ranging from picture books to in-depth accounts. See if one strikes your fancy! And see below for the giveaway of Awesome America, a book that just about sums itself up with just the title.

Friday, July 1

Bookface Friday in the Library

Oh, the #bookface movement. It's genius, really. Recognized in an awesome article in the New York Times (and here's a campaign done by The Guardian), it's a hashtag that's taking book lovers by storm. And it was only a matter of time before I jumped on the bandwagon!

But first, let's look at some of the different applications with which a library or school or any ol' person could use bookface...

Social Media

I mean obviously, it's a hashtag. It's meant to be shared on social media. So here are some library's instagram/twitter finds...

East Baton Rouge Parish Library