Review: Mighty Moby

mighty mobyReview:

Mighty Moby

Author: Barbara DaCosta

Illustrator: Ed Young

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 2017

Source: Public Library

Mighty Moby starts out as a retelling of the classic tale, Moby Dick. With images daring and dark and dramatic (just check out the cover for a small sample), the reader gets pulled along as Captain Ahab begins his obsessive chase for the behemoth whale.

And then the story changes. No spoilers, but the unexpected ending draws us in to a place of security and safety. The illustrations evoke feelings of comfort and warmth.

Young’s illustrations are done in a series of wonderfully inspiring mixed-media collages. DaCosta uses language found in the original text of Moby Dick, much of which makes the reader feel like chanting a sea chantey.

Now as everybody knows, I especially love when there are activities and resources to go with books. And we are lucky in that there is a website that provides just that. Go to to learn about the book and find activities to make your own whale and more.

Review: Greenglass House

Greenglass HouseReview:

Greenglass House

Author: Kate Milford

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014

Source: Personal Purchase

It’s a cold winter night and the innkeepers of Greenglass House and their adopted son, Milo; are ready for a quiet holiday season. No one ever comes to stay at their inn at this time of year. Smugglers, like television programs, have their seasons.

Then, just as the snow begins to fall, the doorbell rings and an unexpected guest arrives. Then another. And another. Until the inn is full of people. Not only are there five mysterious guests (all deciding to stay for an undetermined length of time), but extra help has been called in. Mrs. Caraway, the cook, comes to help, bringing her two daughters along. Meddy, the younger daughter, is just about Milo’s age and together they begin a role-playing game called Odd Trails.

Ensconced in this unique home, it soon becomes apparent that this group has not come together by accident. As snow turns to ice, the travelers find ways to entertain each other by telling stories. Thefts begin to occur. Using the game as a way to help solve the clues, Milo and Meddy begin to unravel the mystery: who are these people and why are they really here?

This lovely, atmospheric tale is just the kind of book to cozy up to on a snowy winter night. Even if you are not into role-playing games, Odd Trails is a fun and unique way to delve not only into the mystery of the visitors of the house (and more arrive even after the original character list), but into Milo’s ancestry.

Review: Bertie and the Lost Treasure of Skull Island

Bertie 2Review:

Bertie and the Lost Treasure of Skull Island

Author/Illustrator: John Hutchinson

Publisher: Hummingbird Publishing, 2018

Source: ARC

Our friend Bertie is off on a new adventure! This time he’s found a sloop beached by a storm. While making repairs, Bertie finds a book, Bloody Pirates and Lost Treasure, filled with the sordid – and exciting! – stories of captured merchant ships, marooned sailors, and terrible storms at sea. Particularly featured within the pages of this wonderful book are stories about Ralph the Rover, a fierce rat buccaneer who plundered many a fortune of gold and gems. This volume contains more: a map which Bertie is certain gives the location of Ralph’s hidden treasure.

Bertie decides to head off to explore for the treasure. His cover story for his parents is that he will make a small trip to bring some goods to his aunt and uncle, about a day’s sail away. While there, he meets his cousin, Benjamin, who proves to be a mouse after his own heart. Benjamin is eager to join Bertie on his quest. The two young mice go in search of treasure and adventure.

They certainly find adventure. With perilous escapes from hungry wildcats to run-ins with equally hungry snakes, owls, and sharks, Bertie and Benjamin never have a moment when they are not in danger. They meet a new character, a helpful chipmunk friend named Daphne, who helps keep them out of trouble as they try to find the way to Ralph’s loot.

Bertie and the Lost Treasure of Skull Island offers us plenty of fun, but once again Hutchinson gives the reader more. Slipped within these pages is plenty of real information. There is a rich vocabulary, facts concerning nautical lore, and an afterward about pond models and miniature yachts. Along with lovable characters and the zest of a real adventure, the story of Bertie and company keeps us wanting for more.


Note: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


Review: There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather

there's no such thing as bad weatherReview:

There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather – A Scandinavian Mom’s Secrets for Raising Healthy, Resilient, and Confident Kids

Author: Linda Åkeson McGurk

Publisher: Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2017

Source: Personal Purchase

Remember the last time you suggested to your kids to go out and play? I’ll bet that suggestion met with plenty of resistance. “It’s too cold (or hot).” “It’s snowing (or raining).” “There is nothing to do outside.” Or maybe you simply heard, “I don’t want to.”

There is plenty of research that tells us that yes, kids should go outside. (It’s good for adults, too, but we’re talking about kids here….) Åkeson McGurk cites many of excellent resources, but what I really like it that it is tempered with plenty of good, old-fashioned common sense. She has children herself, raised in the United States, so she understands the subject not only from a professional standpoint, but a personal one as well.

I’d like to share Åkeson McGurk’s Scandinavian mom’s “Get Up and Go Outside” manifesto:

  1. There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.

Scandinavians have found ways to deal with long, dark, and cold winters. “Snow happens. Sleet happens. Ice happens. Cold temperatures happen. Life goes on.” And it can go on without whining! (much, anyway) Not only are there ways to make your indoors comforting, (check out pg. 11 for ideas), but it’s no reason not to continue to embrace the outdoors – which brings us to….

  1. Dress for the weather.

This section gives plenty of suggestions for how to dress for the weather each season. I’ve got an additional idea: check out the L.L. Bean catalog.

  1. Fresh air is good for you.

More and more research is showing that outdoor time may be just the antidote we need for many of our current issues. It may help lessen symptoms of ADHD, anxiety, and depression. It also helps prevent obesity, lower risk of infections and help with Vitamin D deficiency. And as for the cost of treatment vs. the cost of outdoor time – let’s just say it is one of the biggest bargains you will ever find.

  1. Just let them play.

It doesn’t have to be like school (and shouldn’t be) – completely scheduled and regimented. Unstructured outdoor play helps a child’s development just as much, which again which brings us to the next point….

  1. A little dirt won’t hurt.

Don’t put the kibosh on mud pies. It really won’t hurt and as Åkeson McGurk’s research shows, it may even be helpful in resisting immunological disorders.

  1. Freedom with responsibility.

Although the great outdoors is wonderful for kids, as with everything else there needs to be a balance. Just because they are outside (and perhaps out of eyeshot some of that time, depending on the ages involved) they are not running wild. Not matter where you live, there are some risks and appropriate – but not overprotective – supervision is needed.

  1. Unplug to connect.

We can learn to live with a lot less technology. Yes, it is necessary to our modern lifestyle, but we can learn to do things like TALK and not TEXT each other. Truly, a break from the electronics is good and outdoor activities give us opportunities to make that change.

  1. It takes a village.

One parent (or a couple) alone probably can’t completely convince their kids that the outside is wonderful. Find some like-minded friends, or get involved with school programs and clubs that make outdoor time an integral part of their program.

  1. We are one with nature.

This is my favorite tip. As Åkeson McGurk says, “Children and nature make a really good fit” (pg. 258). However, I feel it is even more important than that. We all need to remember that we are one with nature. How we interact with nature affects all of us in so many ways. We would do well to remember it.



Review: Vincent Can’t Sleep

vincent can't sleepReview:

Vincent Can’t Sleep

Author: Barb Rosenstock

Illustrator: Mary Grandpré

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017

Source: Public Library

“It often seems to me that the night is much more alive and richly colored than the day.”

Vincent van Gogh

One of the most wonderful encounters during winter is a walk/snowshoe hike on a moonlit night. It’s like walking among diamonds and more colorful than you can imagine. When I saw this book sitting on the library shelf, I knew I had to read it. And it is more than just reading; it is experiencing.

Vincent Can’t Sleep gives some brief biographical information about van Gogh – an appropriate amount for picture book audiences. (The Author’s Note gives further information for those interested.) What the book does even better is help us explore the darkness, not as something black and frightening, but as simply a different world which is also filled with color and texture and light. “Is the night sky at rest? Or do eleven stars pulse like a beating heart?”

The illustrations are reminiscent of van Gogh’s work, but manage to portray his “many-colored moods” while at the same time giving reader’s, some of whom will not as yet have been introduced to the art of van Gogh, a taste of his technique.

What could have made this book better? Some ideas on projects to share with young readers. However, The Starry Night art ideas abound on the Internet, so perhaps this seemed redundant. I hope adult readers will check out some of these resources to combine the story with hands-on art.

Review: Speed of Life

speed of lifeReview:

Speed of Life

Author: Carol Weston

Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2017

Source: Personal Purchase

Since her mother’s sudden death in April, Sofia has been grieving. There’s so much she still needs to talk to her mom about, things like boys, dating, going to parties, personal issues. She’s got her dad and plenty of friends, but no one really understands.

Fortunately Dear Kate, advice columnist for Fifteen Magazine, makes a public appearance at Sofia’s school. It gives Sofia an idea. There is someone she can ask about all her most private and confusing issues.

However, having someone to talk to doesn’t stop Sofia’s life from becoming more complicated. It’s one thing to worry about her own dating problems. It’s another to have to worry about her dad starting to date. Although he hasn’t talked with her, she is sure there is a MW (Mystery Woman) in his life. Is it one of her closest friends’ mom or possibly someone else?

Speed of Life has a complicated, twisted plot and is so true to real-life that you will forget you are reading and think you’re talking with a close friend. The warning at the beginning of the book says this is a sad story. I’ll be honest. It’s not a tear-jerker. It’s sometimes poignant, sometimes juicy (think Judy Blume’s Forever) and always keeping the reader wondering what is going to happen next.


Review: The Storm Whale (in Winter)

storm whaleReview:

The Storm Whale (2013)

The Storm Whale in Winter (2016)

Author/Illustrator: Benji Davies

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

Source: Personal Purchase

Most people don’t think of visiting the beach in winter. Yes, it is a bit cold to think of swimming and sunbathing, but walking the beach in winter is beautiful. So when putting together my winter reading picture books I decided to include a couple of beachy selections. In these two companion books, we explore Noi’s relationship with a young whale.

In the first story, Noi is often lonely because his father, a fisherman, goes out to sea every day to catch fish. One day after a great storm, Noi finds a young whale washed ashore. Noi knows he must take action or the whale will die. He gives the whale some water, but realizes it will need much more. Noi piles the whale into his wagon and pulls him home. There he places the whale in the bathtub, where he plans to keep his friend. When Noi’s father returns, he finds the whale (pretty tough to hide, really) and together he and Noi save the young whale’s life. In the process, Noi and his father become closer.

In The Storm Whale in Winter, Noi’s father heads out for his last fishing trip of the season. The water turns to ice and at night his father does not return. Noi goes looking for his father and is successful in finding his boat which is stuck in the ice. But his father is not there. Noi is frightened on the boat in the cold darkness. Then he hears a BUMP. Looking over the side, he finds his friend, Storm Whale, ready and waiting to help Noi to safety.

In both books, water scenes are done in moody blues and grays, while the scenes on the beach are brighter, sunnier, and more colorful. Noi is adorable, as are his six cats and the whale. They all evoke feelings of friendship, comfort, and caring.



December 2017 Round-Up


Check out my reviews for the month of December! You can find links to all of these reviews in the Index!

Let me know in the comments below what books you want me to review next!

Discussion Questions: Restart

restartRestart Discussion Questions:

  1. Chase Ambrose has amnesia due to a fall from the roof. He can remember some things – like how to talk. He doesn’t remember other things – like his own name. He doesn’t recognize his parents. He has one memory of a girl in a blue dress, but no idea who she is. How would your feel if this (memory loss) happened to you?


  1. Shoshanna Weber’s brother has been sent to a boarding school because he was the target of school bullies. And the biggest bully of all was none other than Chase Ambrose. Yet when he sees Shoshanna after his accident, he actually smiles at her. How would you feel if you were Shoshanna?


  1. Chase discusses the yogurt-over-the-head incident with his mother (pgs. 20-21). Do you think his mother is being entirely honest with him?


  1. At school Chase meets his friends again. What do you think of them?


  1. Since his accident, what are the first indications of major changes in Chase?


  1. In the principal’s office Chase sees two framed photographs – one of himself and one of his father. In these pictures, both were captains of the state champion football team. How might have Chase felt about these photos before his accident? What do you think he feels now?


  1. What do you think about Dr. Fitzwallace’s conversation with Chase? Do you agree with him that the accident, while terrible, may also provide Chase with an opportunity?


  1. Brendan Esponoza was bullied by Chase and his gang almost as much as Shoshanna’s brother. What do you think makes him ask Chase to be the cameraman for his YouTube video stunt?


  1. At the park, Chase sees his half-sister, Helene. What do you think about her reaction to Chase? What do you think about his father’s comments?


  1. Chase realizes that he has been famous at Hiawassee Middle School, yet some students seem afraid of him. Chase can’t understand what he has done. Explain the difference in the explanations between Aaron and Bear and his mom. How would you feel if you learned that you had been arrested for your actions? Who should Chase believe?


  1. At the car wash the manager immediately jumps to the conclusion that the stunt was Chase’s idea/fault until Brendan explains the truth. Is the manager’s conclusion justified?


  1. What do you think of Chase joining the video club?  What do you think of Shoshanna’s reaction to Chase becoming a member of the video club?


  1. Chase attends a football game but this time he is a member of the video club. What do you think about his interactions with his dad? With Helene? Watching the game, Chase’s memory about how to play begins to return. Do you think Helene has forgotten the teddy bear incident? Do you agree with Chase’s analysis: “Helene is perfectly happy now. No harm, no foul” (pg. 67).


  1. After the game, Chase goes to the locker room for interviews. Compare the reaction of the players to Chase’s questions to the answers they give Hugo.


  1. Chase was exempt from his community service at the Portland Street Assisted Living Residence due to his accident. So why does he go back to do it?


  1. After the pep rally incident, do you think that Chase has changed or, like Shoshanna, do you think he is still a “goon?”


  1. Do you think Kimberly Tooley’s reason for joining the video club is a good one?


  1. Aaron Hakimian asks the question: Is Chase Ambrose really the same person? What do you think?


  1. As more memories return, Chase remembers bringing his older brother Johnny to school. What do you think about this memory? “I am starting to wonder if that person is still inside me, emerging from the darkness, bit by bit, along with my memories” (pgs. 93-94). What do you think?


  1. Are Chase and Mr. Solway alike or different? How and why?


  1. “I hope I never hate anybody as much as that girl (Shoshanna) hates me” (pg. 101). Why does Chase say this and what does it show?


  1. Shoshanna goes to meet Mr. Solway about her video project. She doesn’t get far with him and is astonished at the change in Mr. Solway when Chase arrives. Chase and Shoshanna become partners on the project. Should Shoshanna tell her brother and parents?


  1. Ambrose tells Chase that he is taking Chase to a new doctor and then Chase will have his old life back. Should Chase agree to this plan? Is it a wise decision? Does Chase really want his old life back?


  1. Chase suspects Aaron and Bear of stealing Mr. Solway’s Medal of Honor. Do you think he is correct?


  1. The project with Mr. Solway and Chase has become the biggest thing in Shoshanna’s life – and yet she feels she can’t tell Joel. Do you agree with her? Do you agree with her new view of Chase or do you think her parents are correct?


  1. Chase’s friendship with Shoshanna is growing. Even her family is beginning to believe that Chase is someone different now. But what is happening to his relationships with his other friends?


  1. Bear and Aaron set up the incident to frame Chase. Why doesn’t Chase tell the truth to Dr. Fitzwallace? What do you think of his father’s attitude? Why does Chase regret his choices?


  1. Although Chase “gets away” with the fire extinguisher incident, what is the cost?


  1. When Chase gets the OK from the new doctor to play football again, does he have a choice? What are his choices?


  1. What do you think about the revelation about who stole Mr. Solway’s Medal of Honor?


  1. Brendan discovers the truth – with evidence – about Chase’s true actions in the fire extinguisher fiasco. What do you think will happen next?


  1. Chase discovers the girl in the blue dress with the lace collar and the full memory of what happened came back to him. How with this memory make you feel?


  1. What do you think of this statement made by Joel Weber just as Brendan shares the video evidence with him: “I’ve been victimized, but I don’t have to let that define me as a victim” (pg. 212).


  1. In the end Chase tries to do the right thing and return the Medal of Honor. What obstacles does he face? What help does he have?


  1. Chase takes full blame and ends up back in court. Does this seem fair? What do you think of the outcome?


  1. Do you believe that Chase has really changed? Do you think he can ever live down his reputation as a bully?

Review: Restart



Author: Gordon Korman

Publisher: Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc., 2017

Source: Personal Purchase

When Chase Ambrose –  the “apex predator” of Hiawassee Middle School –  falls from the roof of his home, he suffers a concussion and has amnesia. His memory is gone. He can remember things like how to talk, but he can’t remember his own name or recognize his family members.

When school begins, he sidelined from football. He was the captain and hero of every sports team at school and the son of a former HMS football champion. He knows he was popular because of how his teammates act toward him. The funny thing is, there is a whole other segment of the student population that seems to cringe whenever he walks by them. He can’t understand why. Could he really have been that bad?

As it turns out, he was. The question is: if one boy fell from the roof, is it the same boy who returned to Hiawassee Middle School? He certainly seems different, but can anyone really change that much?

Though I often find multiple points of view to be confusing, in this case we get a clear picture of the boy Chase once was. The technique only adds to the power of the story. I also thought the perspective – a one-time bully’s look into his past – unique and really well-done. No trite answers. An excellent book for discussions (yes, some sample questions coming your way later this week).