Review: Benjamin Franklin’s Wise Words


Benjamin Franklin’s Wise Words

Author: K. M. Kostyal

Illustrator: Fred Harper

Publisher: National Geographic, 2017

Source: ARC

We all recognize them:

Honesty is the best policy.

Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Haste makes waste.

These were the sayings of Benjamin Franklin, the famous printer, diplomat, and scientist.

In this volume, young readers get these and many more of BF’s sayings, with explanations that pertain to today’s situations – and they are not so different from the past as you might imagine. Kostyal also works in plenty of interesting biographical and historical information.

I love the illustrations. They are wildly and wonderfully comical. For instance, readers should check out page 48 which illustrates the adage “He that Lies Down with Dogs, Shall Rise Up with Fleas.”

Learn more about K. M. Kostyal at:

Learn more about Fred Harper at:


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

Review: The Cat Who Came In Off the Roof

The Cat Who Came InReview:

The Cat Who Came In Off the Roof

Author: Annie M. G. Schmidt

Publisher: Delacorte Press, English translation copyright, 2014

Source: Personal Purchase

Mr. Tibble is a reporter, but he’s got a problem. He’s too shy to get any real news. Instead he writes articles about cats. He’s about to be fired, but his editor is giving him one last chance. Tibble must submit a news article by the morning.

Luckily for Tibble, a very unique young lady – Miss Minou – comes into his life when a dog chases her up a tree. She claims she is really a cat. She certainly has some very cattish traits. She sleeps in a box in his attic apartment. She is ready to pounce when a schoolgirl brings her pet mouse to show Tibble. She purrs and hisses and her very favorite person in the neighborhood is the fishmonger.

It is Miss Minou, whom Tibble calls his secretary, who saves Tibble his job, for as she climbs out onto the roof and converses with the other cats of the neighborhood, she is able to dig up some real news for Tibble to report. Again and again she is able to find out things long before anyone else hears a word. Tibble becomes the star reporter at the newspaper.

However, just as Miss Minou and her ‘sources’ are the reason behind Tibble’s success, they could be his downfall. Can Miss Minou save the situation? And now that she has somewhat adjusted to being human herself, what will she do if she has the opportunity to once again become a cat?

This delightful story will have readers cheering for everyone – Tibble, Miss Minou, and all her feline friends, even Tatter Cat, who is more than a bit rough around the edges. It’s a timeless and ageless little romance in the truest of feel-good traditions.

Review: Call Me Sunflower

Call Me SunflowerReview:

Call Me Sunflower

Author: Miriam Spitzer Franklin

Publisher: Sky Pony Press, 2017

Source: ARC

Sunflower Beringer – who wants to be known as Sunny – has had some major changes in her life. Her mother has suddenly decided to pursue an advanced degree and in the process left their home in New Jersey and Scott (Sunny’s dad), and moved the rest of the family to live with Grandma Grace in North Carolina just as Sunny is about to start sixth grade. All Sunny really wants to do is to get her parents back together, so she develops “Sunny’s Super-Stupendous Plan to Get Mom and Dad Back Together.” It includes playing on the feelings of both parents because she is sure the love still exists between them. She needs them to be a family once more!

However, the plan to rekindle their romance is so much more difficult than Sunny had expected, especially when working as a long-distance Cupid. When her first attempts are not particularly successful, Sunny knows she has to up her game. She moves from mysteriously delivered flowers from secret admirers to getting Mom to pose for a “glamour” photo to share with Scott. All to no avail. Revised plans call for stronger action, and the fact that she may actually hurt others in the process is a factor that Sunny has not considered.

My first thought was that this book would be a modern-day Parent Trap, but it takes a much fresher approach. I will admit that I felt angrier with Sunny’s parents than Sunny actually appears to (Why would you get involved in such deceptions? Just tell the truth from the start!), but I really like how Franklin makes us all realize that families come in many different forms. It’s all about the love and concern we share for one another that creates a family.


Note: This book was provided for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Review: The Ruby in the Smoke

Ruby in the SmokeReview:

The Ruby in the Smoke

Author: Philip Pullman

Publisher: A Borzoi Sprinter published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1985

Source: Library

When Sally Lockhart enters the offices of Lockhart and Selby, Shipping Agents, her motive is to learn more about the mysterious circumstances of her father’s death. She has received a letter which gives her few clues, but as soon as she asks about the Seven Blessings mentioned in the letter, the words are so powerfully frightening that a man drops dead.

Sally’s continued research draws her further into the mystery. “Without knowing it, she had shaken the edge of a web, and the spider at the heart of it had awoken” (pg. 18).  Each step she takes draws her into an increasingly dangerous world, one which involves the worst of Victorian London’s dark side where cutthroats and thieves abound. Even darker are the secrets that Sally’s father had uncovered, including his shipping firm’s dealings with the opium trade and the secret location of an immensely valuable ruby.

Although I usually review books that have been published more recently, this book is timeless. It is an edge-of-the seat mystery full of suspense, with a wonderfully daring heroine at its center. This mystery is the first in the Sally Lockhart quartet – all well-worth reading/rereading.

Learn more about Philip Pullman at:

Review: The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs

The Nine Lives of Jacob TibbsReview:

The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs

Author: Cylin Busby

Publisher: Yearling, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, 2016

Source: Personal purchase

If readers think that my review of the nonfiction book The Whydah, A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked & Found may have dampened my enthusiasm for a swashbuckling tale, I must confess that it has not. Give me more vicarious adventure on the high seas, including run-ins with violent (or silly, as in Jack Sparrow) pirates and tales of perilous storms!

Fortunately The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs has somewhat satisfied my thirst (although not entirely – I could be entertained by a lot more) even though it is a story lacking in pirates. It is fiction, but very solidly based in fact. Although the “walking the plank” myths are missing, it is filled with plenty of real-life adventure.

Jacob Tibbs is a ship’s cat. He’s just a little guy – a kitten and the runt of the litter – but he’s the son of the infamous Mrs. Tibbs, a formidable ratter and a cat who can accurately foretell the weather. Mrs. Tibbs is famed on the docks of Liverpool and her kittens are much desired – all except little Jacob. So Captain Natick sets sail for American with both Mrs. Tibbs and her young son on board.

Jacob quickly realizes that it takes a lot of learning to be a ship’s cat. They are barely out of port when Mrs. Tibbs forecasts a storm. The weather seems clear but Captain Natick is uncertain. There’s no sign of an impending storm, yet Mrs. Tibbs has never been wrong. Unwisely he does not heed her warning, a choice he will come to regret. Within hours the violent storm brews up, one which will cost  men their lives, cause a mutiny and ultimately aid in the discovery of new land. Jacob Tibbs will face many dangers: harsh storms, cruel sailors (some are kind), and dangerous beasts of several varieties.

There are plenty of historical fiction books that feed us facts like a too-obvious pill in the jam. By using the fresh perspective of Jacob Tibbs, Busby is able to give readers the information, yet avoid boring everyone with too many facts and too little story. The balance is just right and the story is enjoyably gripping as we follow Jacob from one danger to the next.

Visit Cylin Busby’s website to learn more about her books at:




Review: The Whydah


The Whydah, A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked & Found

Author: Martin W. Sandler

Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2017

Source: Library

Tales of pirates have fascinated us for generations. These legends, told over and over in print and on the screen, have had all sorts of fresh, modern updates. They continue to lure us with tales of adventurous lives.

So the real question is this: Is the nonfiction as entertaining as the fiction?

Yes – although perhaps not in the way readers will expect. The Whydah, A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked & Found gives us plenty of information, not only about the Whydah specifically but of piracy in general. It debunks the myths of buried treasure and secret maps. Unfortunately, most pirates spent their loot too quickly to actually bury it and while some of the treasure was gold and silver, much of it was “ordinary trade goods, such as lumber, cloth, and animal hides – all items that would have been ruined if they had been buried” (pg. 110). And although pirates certainly were violent and cruel, no one really walked the plank. The most common – and feared – punishment was flogging.

Pirates were also surprisingly democratic. In fact, “the biggest reason to turn to piracy was the desire to be free men” (pg. 40). On a pirate ship, everything of significance was decided by vote and booty was distributed equally. Men of color were treated as equals, even though many had been (or had been destined to become) slaves. They even had a sort of “insurance policy” for men injured and disabled.

So will all of our romantic notions of pirates be shattered?

Not really. The Whydah was captained by Samuel Bellamy, known as “Black Sam” or “Black Bellamy.” He had jet-black hair and instead of the usual powdered wig,  he grew his hair long and tied it back with a black satin ribbon. His outfit, which consisted of a long velvet coat, knee britches, silk stockings and silver-buckled shoes, was “completed by a sword that hung at his left hip and four pistols that were secured by a broad sash” (pg. 11).  And of course there is a romance (though undocumented) of Black Sam and a girl from Cape Cod named Maria Hallett.

There’s plenty of adventure, too. Bellamy learned the pirate trade from Benjamin Hornigold, a legend himself because he trained so many pirates including the infamous Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard. Bellamy quickly became one of the most successful pirates. The book gives details of pirate attacks, including tactics like playing weird music and doing even weirder dances meant to terrify their prey.

The Whydah sunk off the coast of Cape Cod in what meteorologist’s called “the perfect storm” and Bellamy and most of the crew died. Though heading to Maine, it is presumed that Bellamy had visited with Maria just before the wreck. The legends, however, have lived on. Then, in the 1980’s, the Whydah was discovered by Barry Clifford. It was first documented pirate ship discovered. Did the discovery take away from the mystery? Not at all. The archeological evidence is just as fascinating as the Whydah’s story.

If you are taking a trip to Cape Cod this summer, you might want to check out the Whydah Pirate Museum to see the real artifacts.

June 2017 Round-Up


Check out my reviews for the month of June! 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: I’m Trying to Love Spiders

I'm Trying to Love SpidersReview:

I’m Trying to Love Spiders

Author/Illustrator: Bethany Barton

Publisher: Viking, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2015

Source: Library

I’ll be honest. In the official spider test, I chose d. run away screaming. So thinking my attitude may need some adjustment, I decided to give this picture book a try.

It’s hard to like spiders or their relatives, scorpions and ticks. They’re just not cuddly. Almost all of them are venomous, though most cannot bite a human (note that I did not say all – a particularly disturbing thought). They use their venom to liquefy their prey, which is kind of gross even if it does rid the world of a lot of unwanted pests. And it is not particularly comforting to know that there are some 40,000 species of spiders.

For young readers, though, this book gives plenty of arachnid facts, told in a very engaging way. Several species are listed, including all kinds of fun facts, so be sure to check out the end papers. For example, did you know that the Bird-Dung Crab Spider hides in plain sight by looking like bird poop? Or that there is even a spider called the Happy Face Spider? Actually, I have to admit it. This book actually leaves me wanting to know more about spiders.

I just don’t want to get too close. As Barton is the first to admit, loving – or at least getting to know – spiders is not easy, but as she also points out, we can all keep trying.

Check out Bethany Barton’s website at:



Review: The Book That Dripped Blood

The Book that Dripped BloodReview:

The Book That Dripped Blood

Author: Michael Dahl

Illustrator: Bradford Kendall

Publisher: Stone Arch Books, 2007

Source: Library

Anyone who comes in contact with the fur-covered book is in trouble. It has claws. It has teeth. It attacks.

Is there anyone who can stop it? Perhaps the Librarian has the power to end the book’s attacks. Maybe the Collector will help – or not.

Although this is a chapter book (Guided Reading Level: K), it reads like a graphic novel. It is part of the Library of Doom series which includes lots of intriguing titles like The Book That Ate My Brother or Ghost Writer.

One of the things I like about this book – beside the low-level creepiness – is that at the end of this short book are some fun facts about rare and unusual books, a short glossary, discussion questions (my favorite!), a couple of writing prompts, and even an internet site to use for further research. It’s great to have all the resources compiled.

Learn more about Michael Dahl at his website:


Review: Fish in a Tree


Fish in a Tree

Author: Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Publisher: Puffin Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2015

Source: Library

Ally Nickerson is called many names: freak, dumb, loser. The truth is that she is simply different, and she thinks she knows why. She has a problem which she tries desperately to conceal even though this secret “is like dragging around a concrete block” (pg. 69). Ally can’t read. No matter how hard she tries, she simply can’t make sense of those squiggly, little symbols.

So far she has been able to fool her teachers, though not without consequences which include regular visits to the principal. When her teacher goes on maternity leave, her substitute, Mr. Daniels – a grad student studying special education – discovers the truth. Ally is dyslexic. Ally begins to realize that different is not stupid.

The intriguing title comes from a quote that reminds us all of this fact: If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its life believing it is stupid.

This book celebrates students with all kinds of abilities. It explores the importance of friendship and family and offers hope to those who struggle academically. At the end of the book is a wonderful set of discussion questions and a journal of sketches of “impossible things.”

Check out Lynda Mullaly Hunt at: