Review: Buzz Aldrin: To the Moon and Back

buzz aldrinReview:

Buzz Aldrin: To the Moon and Back

Author: Buzz Aldrin with Marianne J. Dyson

Paper Engineering by Bruce Foster

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2018

This new book from National Geographic is a wonderful twist on learning about the Space Race. Told by Buzz Aldrin, it gives fascinating details about space missions. Fortunately, it is told in a way that is not overly complicated and includes plenty of photos that will help young readers gain understanding. I especially enjoyed the Aldrin family reflections.

What really sets this book apart are the pop-up diagrams. I took an extra picture for this post of one of the lift-up pages. I am sorry my photography skills aren’t stronger, since this photo doesn’t give the real idea of just how magnificent the pop-ups are. They include things like the Saturn V rocket including (on the back) the inner workings of the rocket and Apollo 11’s splash down into the Pacific Ocean.

bug eyed space monster

Much as I am impressed with the paper engineering of this book, I will offer one warning. Little hands are hard on books like this. The wonderfully designed paper space crafts are delicate. This is a book that I would suggest be read with an adult close by, perhaps even helping with the usually simple task of turning a page. The paper structures are too beautiful to be manhandled by (unintentional) rough treatment.


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

Review: Out of the Wild Night


Out of the Wild Night

Author: Blue Balliett

Publisher: Scholastic Press, 2018

Source: Personal Purchase

During one windless month of November, on the island of Nantucket, ghosts will walk. Our narrator, a ghost named Mary W. Chase, has awakened just as her former home is about to be renovated. Mary W. Chase knows this is a bad thing. When her house is stripped, all of its past will be torn away and she will disappear once and for all. To prevent this happening, she has become the Town Crier, a role which in life she would have been too timid to assume.

The house is currently the property of an elderly woman, Mrs. Eliza Remimbas. She has no family and has been coaxed by the crooked Eely Eddy Nold to sell. Despite his assurances to the contrary, he plans to modernize the house completely. Mary must stop him, but she doesn’t have to do it alone. A gang of children are there to help. “Children can easily absorb what they don’t understand, which makes them the best spies” (28). Mary feels certain that together they can accomplish what is necessary.

As the group of children form their Gang, the goal becomes the preservation of the historic houses of Nantucket (and the ghosts into the bargain). There is Gabriel Pinkham, son of Officer Pinkham. He’s the member who can see ghosts. Phoebe Folger Antoine, called Phee, is often teased by her grandfather. He calls her Fee-Fi-Fo Phee, for she has a giant-sized amount of determination. The Coffin children – Paul, Cyrus, and Maddie – live next to the graveyard, as do the Ramos twins, Markus and Maria. With the help of a few adults, most especially Phee’s pirate-like grandfather, Sal, and Mary, these kids will take on Eely Eddy and his demolition crew.

As the Gang’s work gets underway, they – and Mary – begin to realize that there is more at work here than even she realizes. Something deeper and darker is going on. Although these unknown entities are helping with the cause, the tactics are becoming different: more aggressive, violent.

Toward the end of the book, I felt that Balliett was hammering a bit hard on the “renovation is bad” theme. We get it. Renovation will exorcise a ghost. Be warned: there are surprises (and hints) lurking that will change your mind about that! At the end I felt as I did when I read Kipling’s story “The Gardener.” I got to the end and asked myself, “What just happened here?” and went back to reread the story. I had the same reaction to Out of the Wild Night.

I like that Balliett managed to get in a good deal of the island’s history sandwiched into the layers of the story. Instead of being boring, the facts were tucked in like pickles – and are just enough to give the whole story/sandwich a nice little extra tang.

This wonderful ghost story is “both shivery and cozy” (94).  Young readers will find the mysterious happenings intriguing and as Balliett herself points out, “Children and Ghosts. (go together) Like cinnamon with sugar” (64).

Review: Sign Here


Sign Here

Author: Gabrielle Djanogly

Illustrated by Adele Mildred

Publisher: Prestel Publishing Ltd, 2018

Did you ever have to face something challenging? Perhaps you are babysitting for the first time. Maybe you owe someone an apology. You might be planning a party. Or you have big dreams but need a place to record your thoughts. You might be angry or sad and need some sort of outlet for those feelings.

Sign Here is here to help. The official pull-out forms are like contracts. They’ll aid you with planning and organizing and being more creative. They give you a place to vent. They’ll help you seal friendships. Most of all, they will uncover the true YOU – and help you be at your best, even when you aren’t always feeling that way.

Though the pages are meant to be pulled out, I think it also could be a great keepsake, like a journal. There are places to record your own thoughts and pictures. Perhaps in the course of growing up, readers might want to keep multiples of these pages and one day go back and compare. Many of the topics could be explored again and again (plenty of these pages could apply to adults).

This book measures 8-1/2 by 11-3/4. I checked to make sure the pages could also be saved in a notebook, if so desired. (Yes, it will work,) It is also constructed with heavier, more durable pages and the perforations work easily. I hate to think of tearing pages out of a nice book – a problem that does not trouble me at all when it comes to flimsy magazines – so I have to admit that I was looking for ways to save the pages.


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

Review: Gobbolino


Gobbolino The Witch’s Cat

Author: Ursula Moray Williams

Illustrated by Catherine Rayner

Publisher: Reissued in 2017 by Macmillan Children’s Books, first published in 1942 by George G. Hastings &Co., Limited

Source: Personal Purchase

When he grows up, Gobbolino, the witch’s kitten, wants nothing more than to be a kitchen cat. He wants to curl up by the fire, watch the baby, play with the children, and keep the mice down. However, even though he has one white paw, blue eyes, and a tabby coat, (and as we all know, witch’s cats are all black with green eyes) he was born a witch’s kitten and it seems that is all he will ever be.

The witch and Gobbolino’s mother can’t apprentice him to another witch and one day they abandon him altogether. Poor Gobbolino is left on his own to try and make a life for himself. He tries over and over again to find just the right place: at a farm, at an orphanage, at the Lord Mayor’s house, on a ship, as part of a Punch and Judy show. None of the places are right for him because he is a witch’s cat and people are afraid of him. Each time the perfect home seems within reach, Gobbolino is disappointed and must once again go searching.

This book was reissued in 2017 to celebrate its 75th anniversary. Yes, some readers might find it a bit dated, but it is so magical that some of the old-fashioned aspects of the book will be frankly overlooked. This type of Halloween reading is more sweet than some like, but it is perfect for those who want a little of the feeling of the day without much in the way of thrills and chills. Gobbolino is the type of cat you just want to take home and cuddle. I think readers will love him – even if he is a witch’s cat.

Review: Solve This!

solve thisReview:

Solve This! Wild and Wacky Challenges for the Genius Engineer in You

Author: Joan Marie Galat

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2018

According to this book, engineers are problem solving champs! I couldn’t agree more!

This book is filled with all kinds of experiments that will appeal to the budding engineer. Section 1 reviews some of the different kinds of engineers. It is pretty basic and there is often more overlap than this overview gives credit for, but that’s OK. The information isn’t overwhelming to kids. Section 2 constitutes the bulk of the book and gives example problems and real-life solutions. Kids get to work through problems like how to effectively protect their candy stash or sound-proof their rooms. Engineers working in the field weigh in on different engineering techniques. Section 3 gives information on historical successes, like the Great Pyramids or the waterwheel, and some of its failures. Remember the Tower of Pisa? It also mentions a few developments that could take place in the not too distant future, like roadways that melt ice.

Techie kids tend to like hands-on books. This one certainly fits that requirement. It has plenty of graphics which help make the topics easily understandable. There is plenty of encouragement from experts in the field, too. These role models are invaluable for getting kids interested in the STEM fields.



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

Review: Lulu the Broadway Mouse


Lulu the Broadway Mouse

Author: Jenna Gavigan

Publisher: Running Press Kids, Hachette Book Group, 2018

Ages: 8-12

Source: ARC

Lucy Louise, known as Lulu, is a sassy young mouse who lives at the Shubert Theatre in New York City. She’s got big aspirations (some might say unattainable). She dreams of being in the spotlight, even though everyone tells her mice can’t be stars.

While she’s day- and night-dreaming about her own goals, she’s a good friend to those folks who are already part of the theatre family. Well, maybe she’s not so friendly to the show’s child star, Amanda. Amanda is a mean girl, treating her understudy and others at the theatre in a bossy, unpleasant way. When a new understudy begins, Lulu is there to befriend – and protect – her from the overbearing Amanda and by doing so, Lulu manages to help not only Jayne (the understudy) but herself.

There are a lot of things I love about this story. First, as a Broadway insider, Gavigan’s experience brings an authenticity to the story that is wonderful.
The reader feels like part of the theatre family, too. Secondly, the ending to this story could have been so trite. You know the kind of thing I mean: mean girl gets her comeuppance. Instead, Gavigan helps us achieve a much deeper level of understanding. And lastly, I love Lulu’s recommendations at the end of the book. Here are just a few:

If you can visit NYC, see a Broadway show (of course!)

If you can’t visit NYC, see a local theatre production

Be a good friend. Be honest. Be loyal. Be kind.

Eat cheese. The stinkier the better.



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

August and September 2018 Round-Up


Check out my reviews for the month of August and September! 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: Eppie the Eleplant

eppie the elephantReview:

Eppie the Elephant (who was allergic to peanuts)

Author: Livingstone Crouse

Illustrator: Steve Brown

Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books, 2018

Eppie the Elephant is starting school and she’s got one major rule she won’t forget: NO PEANUTS. You see, Eppie is allergic to peanuts. She’s a bit worried about this allergy. She wonders if the other children will laugh at her or know that she is different. She does make friends, but the moment of truth comes at lunch time. Eppie is “pointed to a lone, distant seat.” Her friends are not aware of her allergy and bring things like pb&j sandwiches and bags of peanuts. So there she sits, all alone, singled out, and sad.

Spoiler: There is a nice ending to this story and honestly, I think it is very realistic. Most children are very accepting of their friends’ food allergies. Their parents, however, are another matter.

One of my children has a peanut allergy. I can still remember how my child, the lone one in the class, had to forgo all the wonderful birthday treats because they were not allergy-friendly. (I did send in some nut-free crackers for the teacher to keep on hand, but let’s be real. How can a cracker compare with a wonderfully frosted cupcake? Later, the school stopped allowing edible birthday treats.) When I worked in preschool, there were several students with peanut allergies. By my preschool days, we were inspecting snacks (there were some severe allergies) and any child who brought in anything with nuts had their snack confiscated and had to be content with Saltines. Yet there were always parents who would forget and not even check what they were sending. Daily.

I think this is a great book for sharing. The message is important, but told in a way that is not preachy. The illustrations are adorable. I just want to cuddle Eppie! And don’t forget to check out the end papers. It certainly gives a new picture of what life can be like with an allergy.


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

Review: Food Fight!

food fightReview:

Food fight! A Mouthwatering History of WHO ate WHAT and WHY Through the Ages

Author: Tanya Steel

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2018

Throughout history, humans have survived on all types of foods. During the Prehistoric Era, deer, wheat, rye and nuts were foods that were commonly eaten. During World War I, canned foods were a staple: canned tuna and other fish and meats, canned fruits and vegetables, canned soups. During the Renaissance, most people subsisted on rye and barley bread and some cheese while wealthy families included meat in their diet.

For each time period, we learn a “bite-size history” which gives a small background as to what was going on in the world at the time. Readers learn what a typical day was like, how spices were used, and what utensils were available. There are sections describing table manners of the day, as well as yucky food facts. Here’s just one example to whet your appetite (or not): In ancient Greece, paint used on plates was mixed with human urine to keep the paint from fading.

The book also includes recipes. All of these are much more appetizing than you might think. There are things like Roast Mastodon on a Stick (and if mastodon is in short supply, substitute beef), King Tut’s Not Fishy Cakes, Lentil Stew for Junior Olympiads, Revolutionary Potatoes, and Oliver Twist Oat Cakes. I haven’t tried any of these recipes yet, but they look reasonably easy. I do hope to try a few out and will follow up with my successes/failures.


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

Review: Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret

Review:explorer academy

Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret

Author: Trudi Truett

Publisher: Under the Stars, an imprint of National Geographic Partners, LLC, 2018

I admit it: when I first received this book, my response was, “National Geographic is publishing fiction?” Sure, I love their nonfiction, known for its in-depth research, interesting text, and iconic photos, but I wondered how all this would translate to a fictional story. Now I have a new response. National Geographic and fiction? YES! And when can we see more?

Twelve-year old Cruz Coronado will be leaving his home in Hawaii to attend the Explorer Academy in Washington, DC. He has ties to the Academy even before he arrives. His mother once worked for Synthesis, the scientific arm of the Society, and was killed in a lab accident seven years earlier. His Aunt Marisol still teaches anthropology at the school. Even as he begins his new education, there are those who think he has been given special treatment.

Cruz works hard to prove himself, but there are mysterious things going on that point to something more sinister going on. Before he even leaves home, he is attacked by a diver while surfing. And at the Academy, a number of frightening and unexplainable things happen, things which are somehow linked to his mother’s death. Tough for Cruz; exciting for the reader!

I think techie types will love this book. I really appreciated the section at the end called “The Truth Behind the Fiction.” The cool inventions mentioned in the story (there’s one kid who wears color-changing, shape-shifting glasses) are not as far-fetched as one might think. And best of all, this is a new series. Readers get to look forward to more adventures with Cruz and the other Explorers.


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