Review: TEK

TEKReview:

Tek: The Modern Cave Boy

Author/Illustrator: Patrick McDonnell

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 2016

Source: Public Library

Tek is a typical troglodyte child. He lives in a cave. There are plenty of dinosaurs to study and even play with. The world is evolving at a remarkable pace. The problem is that Tek is missing it all. You see, he’s plugged in to his electronics and it seems that NOTHING can get him away from his game box, phone or tablet (yup, even in the Ice Age). Clearly, something has to be done. His parents don’t know what. His best friend, Larry the dinosaur, can’t convince Tek to come out and play. It’s not until Big Poppa steps in and shakes things up that Tek realizes there is something more beyond the eerie glow of his cave.

This story is definitely one to share. It gives a very obvious message that too much electronics might not be such a great thing, yet it never comes across as preachy. It is written in such a way that we can genuinely enjoy the story’s “moral.” The text is filled with the humor of everyday life. I love the dinosaur names, especially the Flying Idontgiveadactyl. The pictures are also funny. Tek, living during a time when people were hairier, has a beard. (His mom does not but she does have her hair held together with a bone in a Flintstonesque style.)

Though this book is very entertaining, I wouldn’t expect miracles. Your own little troglodyte might not be willing to give up their electronics so easily, but it is certainly worth a try.

The Reveal: Blind Date with a Book #3 (2018)

night paradeReview:

The Night Parade

Author: Kathryn Tanguary

Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2016

Source: Public Library

Saki and her family are traveling from Tokyo to a remote mountain village to celebrate Obon* with their grandmother. Saki and her brother find the old traditions boring and don’t have much in common with their grandmother. During the first day, Saki decides to hang out with some of the local kids her age. As a result, Saki is tricked into desecrating a local graveyard, an act during which she accidentally invokes a death curse. Not only is she in trouble with her parents, but she’s got some bigger problems to deal with, too.

Over the next three nights, Saki will join the Night Parade, “the biggest celebration of the year…(when) spirits travel from near and far to pay homage at the shrine on the mountaintop” (pg. 71). Each night a different spirit will come to help and guide Saki as she journeys on a fantastic, dream-like quest in order to get the Midlight Prince to lift the curse. It’s not an easy task. In addition to the quirky and mischievous spirits, there are many magical creatures to contend with, some friend, some foe. The New Lord has ordered the spirits of the Night Parade to halt Saki’s progress. And, of course, Saki must make those choices which help her achieve her goal.

This story may take place in Japan, but the kids in this story – Saki, her brother, her Tokyo friends, and the kids from her grandmother’s village – could be from anywhere. While they are quite typical, they are not especially likeable. Even Saki, at first, is whiny and entitled. Her adventure with the Night Parade certainly brings growth. By the end she is a kinder, more thoughtful girl.

Though I generally enjoyed this story, my one complaint about this book is that I mostly disliked the use of vernacular. Tanguary could – and should – have dropped all the words like: “gonna,” “musta,” “outta” and “lemme.” Sometimes this type of dialogue adds to building a character. In this book it does not.

 

* Obon is one of the most important Japanese traditions. People believe their ancestors’ spirits come back to their homes to be reunited with family.

Review: The Wolf, The Duck, & The Mouse

wolf-duck-mouse1.jpgReview:

The Wolf, The Duck, & The Mouse

Author: Mac Barnett

Illustrator: Jon Klassen

Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2017

Source: Public Library

Collaborators Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen have once again worked together to produce a picture book which young readers are sure to love. In this pourquoi tale we learn the reason that wolves howl at the moon. The book jacket gives us the simple story line: “This story is about a mouse, and how he got swallowed up by a wolf, and who he met down in its belly, and what happened after that.” Believe me when I tell you that you won’t guess all the things that go on in the wolf’s belly, but you will enjoy the fun!

The text is simple and straightforward. “Early one morning, a mouse met a wolf, and he was quickly gobbled up.” That’s pretty clear, even to the youngest of listeners. Then the humor kicks in – for instead of being digested, the mouse makes a friend. Inside the belly, duck lives a pretty nice life (except there are no windows). And it’s even better when mouse joins him, because now there are dinner parties, dancing and music for two. It is quite a ruckus. Think of how that poor wolf must be feeling! Then along comes someone who could change things for all three critters, bringing an outcome that combines both the unexpected and the familiar.

Klassen’s illustrations are a bit somber and muted in color palette (well, they would have to be when you’re living in a windowless belly!), but nonetheless sparkle with the amusing side of the situation. Fortunately, the story and pictures are more upbeat, making the reader feel like they have gained friends themselves.

 

 

 

 

Review: Somebunny Loves Me

somebunnyReview:

Somebunny Loves Me

Author: Parry Gripp

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2018

Source: ARC

With Valentine’s Day already here, I have a book that would be a nice, last-minute gift for the younger set. (I’m also thinking Easter baskets, here, especially with the sweet little bunny on the cover).

Whether you are considering getting a new pet or perhaps your young readers simply love all kinds of animals, this new book by National Geographic Kids is a great choice. Readers are introduced to all kinds of BFFs: kittens, puppies, goldfish, chicks, turtles, lizards, ponies. Each verse focuses not only on what good friends these animals can be, but how we need to care for and love them in return.

The photographs are engaging. Who wouldn’t want one of these adorable little critters? (OK, I’m not a big lizard fan and it doesn’t seem cute to me, but tastes do differ.)

I like the message of this book. Pets are fun, pets are lovable, pets require responsibility (and not just on the part of Mom or Dad). What I also like is that if you go online to natgeokids.com/somebunny, you can sing along with Gripp!

 

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

 

The Reveal: Blind Date with a Book #2 (2018)

cardturnerReview:

The Cardturner

Author: Louis Sachar

Publisher: Ember, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, 2010

Source: Personal Purchase

Bridge is a game that requires “judgment, patience, decisiveness, and most importantly, the ability to think clearly and plan ahead” (pg. 168).

Alton Richards does not know how to play bridge and probably doesn’t have a single one of the necessary attributes, but when his Uncle Lester Trapp – whom his parents insist is his favorite uncle (because he is very rich) – goes blind due to complications from diabetes, Alton is volunteered to be his cardturner/chauffeur at the bridge games which Trapp attends four times each week. Alton has nothing better to do for the summer. He didn’t get a summer job and his girlfriend has dumped him to date his best friend. That fact that he knows nothing about bridge is not a drawback. As far as Trapp is concerned, that is a positive point in Alton’s favor.

There is plenty of competition for those who want Trapp’s money (at least, that’s the way Alton’s parents feel). Mrs. Mahoney is his long-time housekeeper. Teodora is his naturopathic nurse who Alton’s mother says is just prolonging Uncle Lester’s agony. And then there is the Castaneda family. The “crazy” Castaneda family about whom Alton’s mother tells the strangest stories. Alton can’t quite figure out what their connection to Trapp is. His parents see this summer as the perfect opportunity for the Richards’ family to get in just a bit tighter with dear old Uncle Lester.

Alton begins playing bridge as Trapp’s cardturner and very quickly he realizes that there is much more to this game than he had ever imagined. Alton may not have had any initial interest in the game, but as he watches his uncle he finds himself learning. He’s determined that he will do a better job than Trapp’s former cardturner who apparently had the audacity to actually question one of his moves during a game. Alton has the chance to meet the first cardturner, too. It is none other than a member of the notorious Castaneda family, a girl named Toni who happens to be just about Alton’s age.

Some readers, like me, will not know anything about the game of bridge. And although this book contains many detailed explanations about the game, it is still enjoyable as a story. Sachar does take the time to explain some of the intricacies of the game, which the reader can explore or skip, but although they are important to the story, they are not the heart of it. Even if you choose to skip those explanatory passages, you will become totally involved in the game as Trapp and Alton head toward the championship.

 

 

 

 

Review: The Blizzard’s Robe

blizzard's robeReview:

The Blizzard’s Robe

Author/Illustrator: Robert Sabuda

Publisher: Athenium Books for Young Readers, 1999

Source: Public Library

There are many myths and legends about the Northern Lights. In Robert Saduba’s picture book version, a clan that lived near the Arctic Sea feared the long, cold months of winter. They lived in near darkness and with the darkness came the thing that they feared the most: Blizzard. Blizzard had the power to destroy their village with its strong winds and snow.

Among these people lived a young girl named Teune who would sit by the hearth and sew deerskin robes to keep the people warm. Her robes were not only practical; they were beautiful. One night as Blizzard came swirling into their village, he passed over Teune’s home. There was no more wood to keep Blizzard out and in desperation she threw the deerskins onto the dying fire. As a result, Blizzard’s own robe caught fire and was destroyed.

Although the clan was happy that they would have one less thing to fear from the night, Teune was sad. During a dream, Blizzard went to Teune and told her if she would help him, he would honor her people with a great gift. Secretly Teune began a fantastic garment for Blizzard and in return, as promised, he rewarded the clan with colored waves of light.

Like many people, when I first think of the colors of winter, cool blues and grays come to mind. Sabuda’s book is filled with jubilant color! From the fiery reds and oranges of a winter sunset to the cheerful and comforting yellows of firelight and the pulsing white of the winter stars, color bursts from the pages in a glorious celebration. Although the story itself is wonderful, this is certainly one to add to your collection based on the art alone.

 

 

 

The Reveal: Blind Date with a Book #1 (2018)

huntingprincedracula_9780316551663_hc

Photo Credit: kerrimaniscalco.com

And now for the big reveal! If you were thinking it was Dracula, you were close and if you like that kind of scary story, this one will not disappoint.

Hunting Prince Dracula

Author: Kerri Maniscalco

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books, Little Brown and Company, 2017

Source: Personal Purchase

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell (both characters introduced in Maniscalco’s book Stalking Jack the Ripper) are on their way to the Academy of Forensic Medicine and Science, housed in Bran Castle in Romania. Audrey Rose is about to enroll as the first female student; Thomas has been asked to join her as a chaperone (along with one sleepy-headed Mrs. Harvey – just to keep things proper) by her uncle who has fallen ill. That’s Bran Castle, home of Vlad the Impaler, Prince Dracula himself.

On the train to the school, a dead body is found with a stake through the heart. At the school, one of Audrey Rose’s fellow students is found dead – and drained of blood. As more bodies accumulate, we are brought deeper and deeper into a mystery, and it seems as though Drac has been resurrected. That, or there is one clever and terribly evil murderer on the loose.

This is a dark and disturbing mystery. Yes, there is the romantic tension that takes place between Audrey Rose and Thomas, but it is even more important that they stop the crimes. Without each other’s help, it is unlikely that either of them will survive.

It’s handy that this story is set in a forensics school. There are lots of opportunities for morbid reminiscences about the Jack the Ripper case, grisly descriptions of the new murders (they actually autopsy their fellow students and friends), and frankly scary wanderings through dangerous tunnels and caves – at night. Even the imagery used is dark and foreboding, with things like “leaves the color of dried wounds” (pg. 41) and “moments bled together” (pg. 257). So if this is the type of stuff that keeps you awake long into the night while pulling the covers up over your head as some feeble protection, this book should probably be a pass for you. If you don’t worry about such things, it’s an intriguing mystery and you should go for it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

 

 

January 2018 Round-Up

Check out my reviews for the month of January! 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!

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 https://mightymoby.wordpress.com/ 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.