Monday, January 9

Reviews of the Week 1/9

I'm going to try to read more chapter books this year. There's so many excellent early readers and so many good middle-grade novels, that I often forget about all those readers in between. So here's a good way to kick that resolution off...


The Black and White Factory
Written by Eric Telchin, illustrated by Diego Funck (Illustrator)

My rating: ★★

ISBN: 978-1499802771
Publisher: Little Bee Books
Date of publication: August 30, 2016
Age: 3 - 6 years
Format: library book

Themes: rules, color, interactive, animals

"Welcome to the Black and White Factory! Penguin, zebra, and panda will take you on a top-secret tour to see some black and white products that are made here, like salt and pepper shakers, dice, half decks of playing cards (only spades and clubs!), chess pieces, and tuxedos, in addition to a few special experimental projects. There are a few rules, though: No messes. No colors. No surprises allowed. EVER."

Interactive books. They're genius. It gets both the reader and listener even more involved with a fun story. So in that sense, yeah, this book is awesome. It has a great feel, where the reader is taking this tour and interacting with these main characters. The illustrations, though, were not my favorite. It gets the job done, but I think a bit more realism would've served the story better.

Overall, I recommend it for the fun story that it is. Sure, all the rules get broken, but *sometimes* that's a good thing. Try it out! (Man, I need to make a booklist of all the good, interactive books there are...)

Find it at your library or on Amazon

The Infamous Ratsos
Written by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Matt Myers

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-0763676360
Publisher: August 2, 2017
Date of publication: Candlewick
Age: Grades 1 - 4
Format: library book

Themes: family relationships, bullying, good deeds/serving others, rats

"Louie and Ralphie Ratso’s dad, Big Lou, always says that there are two kinds of people: those who are tough and those who are soft. Louie and Ralphie are tough, tough, tough, just like Big Lou, and they’re going to prove it. But every time they try to show just how tough they are, the Ratso brothers end up accidentally doing good deeds instead. What’ll Big Lou do when he finds out they’ve been acting like softies all over the Big City?"

Loved it. This is genius. It totally feels like you're going to be reading about a bunch of meanies, some bullies that are trying to wreak havoc. And yet, the story works so seemlessly into the valuable lesson of serving others. I was worried it would feel forced, but I was genuinely surprised and pleased.

The illustrations added some nice support to the text. For a beginning chapter book, there is still some impressive vocabulary (I mean, "infamous" is right there in the title--great word to learn). So, really, it's a good book for a range of readers. Might've it gotten a bit too sappy there at the end? Maybe. But I still look forward to more books featuring the Ratso brothers. Totally recommended.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Home Sweet Motel
(Welcome to Wonderland #1)
Written by Chris Grabenstein, illustrations by Brooke Allen

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-0553536027
Publisher: Random House
Date of publication: October 4, 2016
Age: Grades 3 - 6
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Mystery
Format: library ebook

Themes: motels, businesses, detectives, friendship, fact vs. fiction

"Eleven-year-old P. T. Wilkie may be the greatest storyteller alive. But he knows one thing for a fact: the Wonderland Motel is the best place a kid could ever live! All-you-can-eat poolside ice cream! A snack machine in the living room! A frog slide! A giant rampaging alligator! (Okay, that last one may or may not be made up.) There’s only one thing the Wonderland doesn’t have, though—customers. And if the Wonderland doesn’t get them soon, P.T. and his friend Gloria may have to say goodbye to their beloved motel forever."

Grabenstein, in typical high-action, kid-fun fashion has created another colorful cast of characters who are partying it up in Florida. Will it appeal to the target audience? Yes. P.T. is a high-flying kid whose got it all figured out. Did I fully appreciate the story? Not so much. I admit the childishness wore on me a bit, and I didn't love that P.T.'s story weaving (cough-lying-cough) was actually what saved the day. I thought he'd have to own up to the truth at some point.

Still, the excitement drives the story and the mystery is sure to keep kids hooked. It may be a bit over the top in spots (okay, most of the time) but I still liked the friendships made and P.T.'s kick-butt mom (she's legit). Overall, a good book to recommend for those looking for more humorous excitement.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

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