Review: The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine (and Giveaway!)

Adventure MachineReview:

The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine

Author: Frank L. Cole

Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2017

Doug Castle of Castle Corp. from Beyond (Beyond, California, that is) has held a contest. Winners will get the chance of a lifetime: a new type of roller coaster ride – the Adventure Machine – which promises plenty of thrills and chills.

And the winners are…. (drum roll, please):

  1. Trevor Isaacs, a thirteen-year old who is frequently in trouble
  2. Cameron Kiffling, world’s smartest eleven-year old who is just a bit hyper (well, maybe more than a bit)
  3. Devin Drobbs, an obnoxious thirteen-year old gaming genius with an equally obnoxious, photo-snapping father
  4. Nika Pushkin – a milk-shake-drinking Russian girl with a way overprotective grandfather (who happens to be very, very rich)

This ride is much more than it seems because the Adventure Machine taps into its riders’ minds to have a thrilling – and entirely out-of-mind – experience. The prime attraction of this ride is the Terrorarium, a name which gives just a hint of what is to come. And any number of deadly things – black holes, saber-toothed tigers, and miniature moose (???) – are lying in wait for the unsuspecting contestants.

What the winners and their parents don’t realize is that the Adventure Machine ride has a secret. And to make this story even more of a page-turner, each of the riders has a secret, too. (I’d love to tell, but no spoilers!)

With four unique children, one dangerous and scary ride, and a few unexpected characters thrown into the mix, this story gives just what the ride promises: plenty of thrills and not overly grisly chills to keep readers racing for the end.

Here is my own little surprise: another contest! Win a copy of The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine. Simply follow Two BookWorms Blog and leave a comment to be entered into a drawing. Share this post for an extra entry! The winner will be announced on Friday, September 22. Good luck to all who enter!


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


Review: North of Nowhere

North of NowhereReview:

North of Nowhere

Author: Liz Kessler

Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2012

Source: Personal Purchase

When Mia’s grandfather goes missing, she heads off with her mother to support her grandmother and try to help find out what has happened to Grandad. It’s a big and complicated task, made even more complex by the fact that Mia has always been closer to her grandfather and seems to have little in common with her grandmother.

There are more mysterious happenings than Grandad’s disappearance. While taking Gran’s dog, for a walk, Flake bounds onto a fishing boat. When Mia goes on to retrieve him, she finds the diary of another young girl, Dee, and realizes that they have a lot in common. However, despite efforts to meet with Dee, the other girl is frustratingly elusive. Mia also meets a young boy her age, Peter. Yet after he heads off in the fishing boat, Mia learns from his family that he has also vanished.

What’s going on? One minute a storm will blow up; the next it is as though it never happened. Where are Grandad and Peter? And most mysterious of all – who would have left a package containing a compass at a local store for Mia?


I’d like to say this story reeled me in, but I am afraid it did not. I know this is a bit of a spoiler, but I usually like time travel stories. This one was confusing more than mysterious. I could have accepted that if, at the end, a good and clear explanation was offered. But no, we learn that the characters have been time traveling back and forth over a fifty year time period, and we are not given a perfectly clear understanding for why the time travel happened. For me, that’s an absolute necessity. No wishy-washy “I think so-and-so had it figured out.” I want it figured out and all believably explained (after all, why couldn’t the time travel work for different times? Say twenty-five years one time, thirty the next?) Perhaps younger readers won’t be so particular on this point.


To learn more about Liz Kessler and her books, go to





Review: Beyond the Bright Sea

bright seaReview:

Beyond the Bright Sea

Author: Lauren Wolk

Publisher: Dutton Children’s Books, 2017

Source: Personal Purchase

When Crow was just a baby, she had been tied into an old boat and set adrift on the ocean. The boat washed up on one of the Elizabeth Islands off the coast of Massachusetts, where she was found by a man she comes to call Osh. Osh keeps her and raises her on his own little private island. No one knows where she has come from or who her real parents may have been.

Yet there are some suspicions. On Penikese, another of the Elizabeth islands, there had been a hospital for people suffering from leprosy and most of the residents of the islands believe – and fear –  that Crow was born there. Crow develops a great longing to know. Who were her parents? Why did they send her off in that little boat? Where they really from Penikese?

In a story that unfolds as gently and as beautifully as a rose in the summer’s heat, the secret of Crow’s birth is explored. At the end of the mystery, we learn the true meaning of family.

If you enjoyed Wolk’s first book, Wolf Hollow, Beyond the Bright Sea will not disappoint. It is so wonderfully moving that, yes, I do feel some discussion questions coming on!

To learn more about Lauren Wolk, visit her website at:



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 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: 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:


Review: The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher


The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher

Author: Dana Alison Levy

Publisher: Yearling, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, 2014

Source: Public Library

What do two dads and four very different brothers make? A sea of testosterone? Complete chaos? A family, of course – a little bit wacky, a little bit chaotic (but what family with kids isn’t?), but also very lovable.

Jason Fletcher and his husband Tom Anderson have reached out and adopted four boys. Frog (really Jeremiah) is the youngest. At six, he is just starting kindergarten along with his imaginary friend and pet cheetah, Flare. At school he meets plenty of real boys and girls, but who exactly is this elusive friend named Ladybug?

Jax and Eli are both ten and until this year have attended the same school. This year, however, Jax will be attending the local upper elementary school while Eli will be heading off to a private school for gifted students. And though the boys and the schools are different, both boys are to find that there are challenges to face. Will Jax be overshadowed by older brother Sam? And is Pinnacle School the best thing that ever happened to Eli – or not?

Sam is the oldest (12) and seems to have everything figured out. He’s one of the cool kids and the best goalie on the soccer team. He’s got a real chance to make it on the Shipton Under-15 Elite Team. But Sam has other gifts, too, and is not at all certain which direction he should go.

Add to this mix a dog with MIR (maximum inconvenience radar), a cat, a cranky neighbor who moves to the neighborhood looking for a quiet life, and a loving aunt from NYC who makes cupcakes for a living, and you have the kind of unforgettable story and characters that make you want everything about this book to be real.

Learn more about Dana Alison Levy and her books at:



Review: Touching Spirit Bear

Touching the Spirit BearReview:

Touching Spirit Bear

Author: Ben Mikaelsen

Publisher: Harper Trophy, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2001

Source: Personal Purchase

Cole Matthews pretends he doesn’t care about anything. He doesn’t care that he’s always in trouble. His latest run-in has involved beating another boy, Peter Driscal, to a bloody mess. Peter suffers permanent injuries due to the beating, but to Cole it doesn’t matter. Peter had it coming to him. In the past, his parents have always paid for Cole to be bailed out of whatever fresh trouble he has gotten involved in.

This time will be different. Prosecutors want to try Cole in adult court, and he is facing jail time. His parents have divorced and are no longer as willing to help. However, Cole does have one chance to escape jail. From Garvey, his youth probation officer, he learns he can apply to a new program called Circle Justice. This program is “a healing form of justice practiced by native cultures for thousands of years” (pg. 12).  It is an opportunity for a person to make their wrongs right. To Cole, it’s just another opportunity to get away with his crimes.

Cole’s application is accepted, and he is brought to a remote Alaskan island where he will spend a year alone. When he sees the shack that has been prepared for him, his anger and resentment blaze up. As soon as he is left alone, he burns down the shack and his supplies. He attempts to escape the island by trying to swim to another nearby island, but finds that he cannot make it while the tide is coming in. Again his anger flares. While near the remains of his shack, he sees a white bear, Spirit Bear, and decides to challenge the animal. It is a grave mistake, for the bear mauls and nearly kills him. He survives simply because Garvey finds him and gets him the necessary medical help he needs.

Cole’s journey is not yet over. It takes six months for his injuries to heal (and even then he still needs plenty of therapy.) Although he has broken his contract with Circle Justice, and it seems unlikely that he will be trusted enough to go to the island again, he is given one more chance to redeem himself. Has Cole really changed? Can he really heal all of his scars, not just the physical ones, but the emotional and spiritual ones? And, most of all, can he somehow earn Peter’s and his own forgiveness?

This is a great story. Cole certainly is a troubled young man and yet, despite his attitude, the reader never loses faith. I think it’s the type of story that will appeal to young men, not only for the emotional aspect but because of the adventure part, too.

Stay tuned! As usual with stories that mean a lot, I have been working on discussion questions!

Review: Paper Wishes


Paper Wishes

Author: Lois Sepahban

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson Books, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2016

Source: Personal Purchase

Manami and her family lived on Bainbridge Island, Washington. They are Americans, but when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, Manami, her parents, and her grandfather are brought to a prison camp in the Californian desert. Manami’s brother and sister, Ron and Keiko, are away at college and have been able to avoid the prison camp. When preparing to leave her home, Manami attempts to bring the family’s dog, Yujiin, but soldiers take her pet away.

Life in the prison camp is difficult. It is hard to grow herbs and vegetables when your garden is in the desert. Living space is cramped, and father and mother work hard. Manami is able to attend school where a very kind teacher, Miss Rosalie, does her best to help the students. Then Ron, concerned about his family’s welfare, joins them at the prison camp. He will also teach, handling the older student classroom. Keiko remains at college, available to help should her family be freed. While Manami is happy that Ron is with the family, his presence brings complications – dangerous secrets that will affect everyone and their safety.

For readers who think they don’t like historical fiction, I have to say: please give Paper Wishes a chance. It’s a wonderfully told story and while it is historical, the history blends itself in seamlessly, never catching our attention by being overly obvious or didactic.

Check out Lois Sepahban’s website, especially the classroom guide for Paper Wishes at: