Monday, November 21

Reviews of the Week 11/21

Thanksgiving this week! So yes, my mind is already on time with family eating delicious food. But there's always still time for books. The ones this week were pretty good, especially a certain picture book that's been garnering some Caldecott buzz...


They All Saw a Cat
Brendan Wenzel

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-1452150130
Publisher: Chronicle
Date of publication: August 30, 2016
Age: 3 - 6 years
Format: library book

Themes: cats, perspective, animals, identity

"The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws . . . and who saw the cat? The dog, the child, the bat each see the cat in their own way. In this celebration of observation, curiosity, and imagination, Brendan Wenzel shows us the many lives of one cat, and how perspective shapes what we see. When you see a cat, what do you see?"

This book has been getting a lot of buzz and now I can see why—it's fascinating. It's not so much a story as it is a reflection on perspective. Wenzel exercises his creative ability in imagining how different animals see a cat. Really, it's an exercise in illustration—all sorts of styles and media. It even says in the book: "The illustrations in this book were rendered in almost everything imaginable, including colored pencil, oil pastels, acrylic paint, watercolor, charcoal, Magic Marker, good old number 2 pencils, and even an iBook."

Basically, I see this book as incredibly useful. As a readaloud, it's pretty brilliant; there's not a lot of words, but you do need to be sure to spend time looking at the pictures. In the classroom, this could be used for days whether as an inspiration for your next art project or to simply examine why each animal would see the cat in such a way. It inspires so, so many questions! Overall, I didn't love every illustraion of the cat, (some didn't quite make sense to me, like the fox) which hinders my perfect love for the book, and I wonder how much research/science went into the making of it (do snakes really see like that?). But I still highly recommend it.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Juana and Lucas
Juana Medina

My rating: ★★★

ISBN: 978-0763672089
Publisher: Candlewick
Date of publication: September 27, 2016
Age: Grades 1 - 4
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Format: library book

Themes: school, English language, Bogotá (Colombia), family, hard work

"Juana loves many things—drawing, eating Brussels sprouts, living in Bogotá, Colombia, and especially her dog, Lucas, the best amigo ever. She does not love wearing her itchy school uniform, solving math problems, or going to dance class. And she especially does not love learning the English. Why is it so important to learn a language that makes so little sense? But when Juana’s abuelos tell her about a special trip they are planning—one that Juana will need to speak English to go on—Juana begins to wonder whether learning the English might be a good use of her time after all. Hilarious, energetic, and utterly relatable, Juana will win over los corazones—the hearts—of readers everywhere in her first adventure, presented by namesake Juana Medina."

This felt more like an autobiography than anything else, with a detailed story on day to day life of a girl in Colombia, trying to learn English. It is, in fact, fiction (or at least is cataloged that way). I don't know... There isn't really the conflict-climax-resolution storyline; it actually was a bit boring at parts. I think, as an autobiography, it would've made more sense. There was also a lot of varied, difficult vocabulary that may challenge the beginning-chapter-book reader.

Still, I appreciate the look into a different culture and the love Juana has as the main character—she has such spunk and zeal. I'm a fan of Juana. The illustrations are cartoonish and fun, adding a bit of spice to a somewhat drab story. Overall, I'm not in a rush to recommend it, and I'm not sure if kids will love it. To the right person, though, this is a great book.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Death Weavers
(Five Kingdoms #4)
Brandon Mull

My rating: ★★★★

ISBN: 978-1442497092
Publisher: Aladdin
Date of publication: March 15, 2016
Age: Grades 5 - 8
Genre: Fantasy
Format: library e-audiobook

Themes: adventure, friendship, afterlife, good vs. evil

"Since arriving in the Outskirts, Cole and his friends have fought monsters, challenged knights, and battled rampaging robots. But none of that has prepared them for Necronum.

"In this haunting kingdom, it’s hard to tell the living from the dead, and secret pacts carry terrifying risks. Within Necronum lies the echolands, a waystation for the departed where the living seldom venture.

"Still separated from his power, Cole must cross to the echolands and rely on his instincts to help rescue his friends. With enemies closing in, Cole risks losing everything to find the one thing that might save them."

Ah, book four. Another cliffhanger. Sigh. I've loved this series, but this is the first time that I felt the adventure was growing a little tedious. Cole is stuck following clue after clue with no real resolution for a great majority of the book. Oh, but then it starts building up to the climax! Oh, and it gets really exciting! And then...*pop*. It falls a bit flat. Granted, I know Mull is setting up the reader for the next and final book in the series, but man. That was a bit of a hollow victory.

Yes, I'm being very vague, because I don't want to spoil anything. In the end, the high adventure and excitement is still there, the characters still growing, and the threat of evil still on the horizon. Mull knows how to get readers excited. In the end, not my favorite in the series, but is sure to still please the target audience. Great series for kids, and I recommend it. (See all books by Mull reviewed here)

Find it at your library or on Amazon

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