Monday, October 24

Reviews of the Week 10/24

Sometimes I feel like a bit of an idiot. Like when I ask for comments on a blog post as a way to enter a certain giveaway and then forget that I had turned off the comments option. And then no one told me until like a week later. Ha! Well, live and learn, right? Perhaps I was distracted by the awesome reads this week. I finally have a five-star again! And technically, one is written for adults, but it's got such a great story (that is also cleaner than most YAs) that I'm sharing it here. Plus, it carries the ghost theme that I've had the past few weeks (i.e. Raina's Telgemeier's newest and Jonathan Stroud's newest). Enjoy!


The Cookie Fiasco
(Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!)
Written and illustrated by Dan Santat & Mo Willems

My rating: ★★★★★

ISBN: 978-1484726365
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Date of publication: September 20, 2016
Age: Grades 1 - 3
Format: library book

Themes: sharing, division, cookies, friendship, disaster averted

"Four friends. Three cookies. One problem. Hippo, Croc, and the Squirrels are determined to have equal cookies for all! But how? There are only three cookies...and four of them! They need to act fast before nervous Hippo breaks all the cookies into crumbs!"

Um, first of all, make sure you have some cookies nearby after you finish reading this book because it's nearly impossible to not want some upon completion. Other than that? Pure GENIUS. Yes, I know, I'm already a huge fan of both Mo Willems and Dan Santat so I'm extremely biased but really that just means I had higher expectations so when it totally and completely met those expectations then you better bet your socks I'm going to say it's GENIUS. Like, run-on-sentences-excited genius. The illustrations are hilarious, mainly in part because of the extreme emotions of the animals who are eagerly awaiting a bite of cookie. Then the text just adds to the extreme excitement. And the ending is perfect. Hippo is my favorite. Really, just altogether, it's such a fun book.

The math and text do, however, lend itself to a bit of an older audience than one would expect with an early reader. Obviously, it's a fun read aloud, but it may be a bit tougher for first-time readers. Not a mark against it, by any means, just something to keep in mind. I still recommend it with all my love. Yeah, go read it.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Tales from the Arabian Nights: 
Stories of Adventure, Magic, Love, and Betrayal
Written by Donna Jo Napoli, Illustrated by Christina Balit

My rating: ★★★★½

ISBN: 978-1426325403v
Publisher: National Geographic
Date of publication: October 25, 2016 (Happy Book Birthday!!)
Age: Grades 3 - 8
Genre: Mythology (nonfiction)
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: folklore, Middle Eastern culture, magic, adventure, short stories

"Classic stories of kings, sailors, and genies come to life in a stunning retelling of the Arabian folk tales from One Thousand and One Nights and other collections, including those of Aladdin, Sinbad the Sailor, and Al Baba and the Forty Thieves. Discover the thrilling stories of royalty, sages, monsters, and magicians--and whether Scheherazade can save her life every morning by telling wondrous tales at night."

Wow. You know when you kinda just want to stroke pages because it's so beautiful? Writing and illustrations both? This. This is one of those books. It's traditional folktales from the Middle East, but are written in such a way that you can sit and a read a full story front to back (One Thousand and One Nights), or flip to different chapters and read a story in and of itself--the organization is really phenomenal. But being traditional, just be aware that these are dramatic, exciting tales--and can sometimes include incest, or murder. It's not overt, and of course, it's being true to the original tales, so it's to be expected. There is an introduction that helps set the stage and helpful side notes, too. It can be a bit long, even intimidating to kids, but with some encouragement, I think they'll enjoy it.

The illustrations are bold, intricate, and really quite phenomenal. They add some real beauty to the tales. Overall, it's a great reference to have on hand and a wonderful cultural study. In conjunction with the other books from this series (Treasuries of Greek, Norse, and Egyptian Mythology) it's a very worthy addition.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Ghost Talkers
Mary Robinette Kowal

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-0765378255
Publisher: Tor Books
Date of publication: August 16, 2016
Age: Grades 9 and up
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Format: library ebook

Themes: mediums, ghosts, espionage, WWI, military tactics, feminism, racism

"Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress living in London during World War I, is engaged to Captain Benjamin Harford, an intelligence officer. Ginger is a medium for the Spirit Corps, a special Spiritualist force.

"Each soldier heading for the front is conditioned to report to the mediums of the Spirit Corps when they die so the Corps can pass instant information about troop movements to military intelligence.

"Ginger and her fellow mediums contribute a great deal to the war efforts, so long as they pass the information through appropriate channels. While Ben is away at the front, Ginger discovers the presence of a traitor. Without the presence of her fiance to validate her findings, the top brass thinks she's just imagining things. Even worse, it is clear that the Spirit Corps is now being directly targeted by the German war effort. Left to her own devices, Ginger has to find out how the Germans are targeting the Spirit Corps and stop them. This is a difficult and dangerous task for a woman of that era, but this time both the spirit and the flesh are willing..."

Really, an original idea and storyline that felt so well-researched and thought out, that it seemed almost plausible; I love an author that puts that much effort into their world-building and manages to make the reader believe in something they might not otherwise. Perhaps, though, (my small complaint) is that there wasn't enough time left for the characters. I'm still not exactly sure why the exposed traitor chose to betray his country, or what the main couples' history entails. I did still enjoy it and appreciated at least some tiny insights into various characters (Ginger's love of brussel sprouts turned out to be a particularly endearing scene--who knew).

Overall, I just loved the idea. The historical aspects are easy to appreciate and the mystical aspects come off wonderfully. Plus the cover is fantastic. Judge it by its cover and try it out!

Find it at your library or on Amazon

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