Review: Annie B., Made for TV

annie-b.jpgReview:

Annie B., Made for TV

Author: Amy Dixon

Publisher: Running Press, 2018

Ages: 8-12

Source: ARC

Annie Brown has been best friends with Savannah Summerlyn since they were six years old. When Savannah wins the “Quail Award” – award for the best overall student in middle school – Annie is happy for her. Sort of. It’s kind of hard to be in the shadow of someone who is good at everything – academics, sports, you name it, Savannah is tops.

It’s not like Annie doesn’t have talent, too. She does. In fact, Annie writes commercials. She mostly writes about her own inventions, which is why her dad coined the phrase “wrinventor” (writer-inventor). And let me tell you, her inventions are clever and fun. But being a wrinventor is, unfortunately, a bit like being invisible. While Savannah shines as the star, people barely know that Annie exists, let alone writes amazing commercials.

It doesn’t really affect their friendship. At least, not until both girls try out for a new web show called The Cat’s Meow. Savannah convinces Annie they should both try out. After all, with Annie’s wonderful commercial voice she would make a great host and Savannah could be a featured performer.

Unfortunately, the producer doesn’t quite see things the same way as the girls do. He’s not impressed by Annie’s commercial voice, but he does like Savannah’s routine. In fact, he likes it so much that Savannah is chosen to be the host of The Cat’s Meow.

Once again, Annie is “a balloon of tears” because she feels she has done a “giant Cat’s Meow belly flop.” Or has she?

No spoilers, but let me assure readers that Annie has not done a belly flop. In fact, her talents have been recognized and Annie has opportunities – in The Cat’s Meow and in her friendships – that truly are made just for her. This is a great warm and fuzzy read, perfect for summer reading when you just want to have fun.

 

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

Review: Argos

argos.jpgReview:

Argos: The Story of Odysseus as Told by His Loyal Dog

Author: Ralph Hardy

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers, 2016

Ages: 8-12

Source: ARC

This month I have two selections which have been based upon The Odyssey. The first selection, which posted earlier this month, was Elektra’s Adventures in Tragedy by Douglas Rees. This book is not a retelling and readers won’t really get much of The Odyssey’s storyline by reading it (and perhaps that is fine with some folks).

Argos, however, is a retelling. However, it is told from the viewpoint of Odysseus’s faithful dog, Argos. Argos learns of his master’s adventures through the stories that other animals who have been able to travel and learn about Odysseus’ exploits share with Argos. Stories from gulls, sea turtles, bats, and a ship’s cat let Argos (and the reader) know that his master is alive and fighting to return home.

I can appreciate that there will be skeptical readers. They may not feel that The Odyssey is their cup of tea. I understand the feeling – for instance, I always feel that I could have happily and successfully lived my life without ever having read Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy – so why bother? (That is my opinion, but obviously my teacher felt differently.) Let me encourage readers to keep an open mind. Argos is well-written and fast-paced. I promise – it’s not a painful read.

My one criticism is that this book is meant for the 8-12 crowd and they will not have read The Odyssey yet. In light of this fact, I think that a glossary of characters, including a pronunciation guide, would be helpful. It’s not an absolute necessity in order to understand and enjoy the story, but I think it would even increase interest.

 

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

 

 

Review: Astronaut Aquanaut

Review:astronaut aquanaut

Astronaut Aquanaut

Author: Jennifer Swanson

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2018

How do space science and sea science interact?  They are more alike than many people realize. Explore these extremities with the help of this new book by Jennifer Swanson and National Geographic Kids.

Here are just a few of the similarities:

  1. In both space and the sea, explorers will need to bring their own oxygen supply. Plus, since neither environment is warm and cozy, scientists who study these places need protective gear in order to survive.

 

  1. Both environments are dark.

 

  1. Whether you want to become an astronaut or an aquanaut, the requirements are similar. The first step for both careers is a four-year degree in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM).

 

  1. Living conditions in either a long-term space or underwater mission are similar. Think snug.

 

  1. In both environments, robotic technology is essential.

 

  1. Almost all space conditions can be mimicked under the water.

 

  1. There is garbage everywhere – both in the depths of the ocean and in the depths of space.

 

Of course, each environment has unique features and challenges. In space, there is no gravity. Actually, that is incorrect. In space it is microgravity. (Check out pages 14-15 for the in-depth explanation.) Under water, divers experience an additional force: buoyancy. (And again – check pages 16-17 for technical details.)

With plenty of great photos, quotes from astronauts and aquanauts, and experiments to try at home that help readers understand complex topics in simple ways, Astronaut Aquanaut brings fresh perspective to modern-day explorers.

 

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

 

 

 

Review: The Battle of Junk Mountain

junk-mountain.jpgReview:

The Battle of Junk Mountain

Author: Lauren Abbey Greenberg

Publisher: Running Press, 2018

Ages 8-12

Source: ARC

Shayne is spending her summer, as she has always done in the past, with her grandmother, Bea. It should be like other summers of the past, but it won’t be. Though at first Shayne may think that things in Thomas Cove, Maine never change, they do.

For one thing, her grandfather has died in a boating accident and now Bea is alone. For another, there is a new neighbor next door, a crotchety old man Shayne calls Cranky. His grandson, Linc, is the same age as Shayne (twelve) and is also visiting. Mostly, though, Shayne notices that her “summer sister” Poppy has changed. The things they once shared are no longer important to Poppy, who is now much more interested in boys. Even Bea is different, though initially Shayne can’t quite understand exactly what is going on with her.

Shayne had gone to Maine with the idea of helping Bea on a project. Bea is a collector, but her plan is to clean out her house and sell all the unnecessary things at the local flea market. The trouble is, Bea thinks it is all necessary. The house – which Shayne calls Junk Mountain – is simply overflowing with stuff and whenever Shayne tries to clear things out, Bea puts it all back. Shayne just can’t make any progress. It is troubling, but there is so much else going on that Shayne doesn’t dwell on it too much. She’s got problems with Poppy, Linc, and Cranky to keep her plenty occupied.

Last week I reviewed Elektra’s Adventures in Tragedy. Though I liked the book, I felt frustrated with the adults in the story. This book was the same. I liked the story and the younger characters, but Shayne’s mom annoys the heck out of me. I mean, I understand that you and your mother may be very different people and it can sometimes be tough to get along, but if you suspect (know) that an older parent is having some issues since when does it become your twelve-year-old daughter’s responsibility to resolve these issues? What makes the mom believe a kid has the experience or maturity to deal with any of it? When Mom calls Shayne and bawls her out for not getting rid of anything at the flea market, I just want to yell back at her, “Get off your own behind and act like an adult! This problem is far bigger than your kid daughter can handle so stop yelling at her for not being able to do what you don’t want to do!”

Well, now I feel better. Anyway, I think young readers will (as with Elektra) miss this point entirely so the pleasure of the story won’t be spoiled for them a bit. I actually really liked the intergenerational mix of characters. I also felt the outcome was totally realistic. Everything is not all sunshine and daisies, but it does end on a positive note. And Shayne’s experience does teach her an important lesson. When Shane complains that change sucks, Linc points out that “sometimes it can surprise you in a good way” (169).  This book is filled with good surprises.

 

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

Review: Wishtree

wishtree.jpgReview:

Wishtree

Author: Katherine Applegate

Illustrator: Charles Santoso

Publisher: Feivel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group, 2017

Source: Public Library

Rules are not meant to be broken. We have rules to help us, to protect us. Yet there are those times….

Red is an oak tree. A 216-year old northern red oak, to be precise. It may be one of the most common trees in North America, but Red is anything but common. Read is a wishtree. Each year on May 1st, people leave their wishes – some tied to scraps of fabric, some on index cards or post-it notes (there was even a note on a pair of undies… ahem). In all of Red’s years, a lot has happened in the little nearby world. There have been plenty of animal families protected by Red’s roots, hollows, and wide, leafy branches. Perhaps now it is time to protect some of the human families, too.

On Red’s trunk a young man has scratched a message. “LEAVE,” it says. It is meant for Samar, the young girl who also finds refuge among Red’s branches, and her family. Samar is lonely. She needs friendship. But how does one become friends? And can anyone, even a wise old tree, force a friendship? And are Red’s words true, “that something bad can be turned into something good with enough time and care and hope” (pg. 25)? The owner of the property keeps threatening to have Red cut down. Will Red have the necessary time? And is it time, perhaps, to break a rule, even if it is the most important rule of all?

This might not be the best read-aloud book. It’s one of those that gets you so emotional at the end that the reader may not be able to get the words out. I mean, by the time the executioners – oops, I mean arborists – show up with their chainsaws and stump grinders, we have grown to love Red.

Fans of The One and Only Ivan will not be disappointed. And if you are not familiar with Katherine Applegate’s work, it is definitely time to become acquainted.

 

 

 

 

Review: Ahimsa

ahimsaReview:

Ahimsa

Author: Supriya Kelkar

Publisher: TU BOOKS, am imprint of LEE & LOW BOOKS, Ltd., 2017

Source: Public Library

Ahimsa: nonviolence, a tenet found in Indian religions like Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Mahatma Ghandi used the principle of ahimsa in his movement of civil disobedience against the British. (from the glossary of Ahimsa)

Ahimsa takes history to a personal level. Protagonist Anjali’s mother has joined the freedom movement. It is a dangerous and complicated decision, one that will have effects for the entire family. The family’s first action consists of burning all of their foreign-made clothing. The act is hard to Anjali to accept, even if they are doing it for what Ma believes are all the right reasons.

Later Anjali must learn to put aside her personal prejudices when her mother decides to reach out to the Dalit community (the Untouchables of society). She and her mother perform the task of emptying their toilet, formerly only done by the Untouchables. It’s not pleasant and many of the community are outraged. How far will Anjali’s family go in their nonviolent fight for freedom?

And although the freedom fighters are finding nonviolent ways to counteract the British government’s rule, that doesn’t mean that violence does not erupt and threaten Anjali. Ghandi’s vision was based on religious pluralism, but Hindu-Muslim riots are posing additional dangers for Anjali and her family. As Anjali discovers, it is often easy to want to help, but it is hard to challenge status quo.

This wonderful book gives readers a deeper level of understanding of India’s struggles during the early 1940s. Although it would be a great edition to a classroom library, Ahimsa also gives readers that emotional connection that makes us love a book simply for its story.

 

Review: Hello Ruby

hello rubyReview:

Hello Ruby: Journey Inside the Computer

Author: Linda Liukas

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group LLC, 2017

Source: Public Library

Since the theme this month is about all the places we will go, I thought a trip inside someplace would be a little out of the ordinary. So today we will journey into a computer (I bet you thought I was going to say we’d go into a human body book).

Ruby, like so many small girls, is bored. Somehow there is just nothing to do and no one available to play with. Nothing seems like an adventure. So she turns – as so many of us do – to the computer to entertain her. Alas! The computer isn’t working. Ruby isn’t sure why, at least not until the mouse tells her: “Cursor isn’t answering my messages.” Then next thing she knows, Ruby and the mouse have crawled into the mouse hole and are exploring the computer’s innards.

This book is a clever way to introduce kids to the information of how a computer really works. It’s a chapter book, but with short, manageable chapters that won’t overwhelm the reader. While half the book is story, the second half of the book is filled with hands-on activities. Kids will “build” a computer (not a real one, just paper!) and will come away with an understanding of what a computer really is and how they work. It introduces the idea of programming, but once again on a level that is not overwhelming. Readers will not suffer from the same problem as Ruby; they will not be bored. To learn more about Ruby’s world, visit: HELLORUBY.COM.

 

 

Review: Tumble & Blue

tumble-and-blue.jpgReview:

Tumble & Blue

Author: Cassie Beasley

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017

Source: Public Library

Blue is one of the Montgomerys with a curse. He simply can’t win at anything. So when the red moon is scheduled to appear in the sky near his grandmother’s home in Murky Branch, GA, Blue’s father drops him off there. “According to family legends, on that night one person could travel into the swamp and claim a great new fate. And when you were cursed – as Blue and half of the other Montgomerys were- a new fate was worth the risk.” (pg. 9) Since the red moon only appears every 100 years, it’s his one chance. Of course, it’s all the other cursed Montgomerys chance, too, so Ma Myrtle, Blue’s feisty great-grandmother, will make the decision as to who is going to get the chance to change their fate.

Lily Wilson, aka Tumble, is a Maximal Star fan. She’s got four copies of his book How to Hero Every Day! She practices all Maximal’s precepts on a regular basis, for it’s vitally important she continues to be a hero. While Blue thinks of Tumble as a normal girl, Tumble prefers to think of herself as “potentially extraordinary.” (pg. 53) And she will be – if she can just be a hero often enough.

While Tumble and Blue both struggle against cruel fates, they begin to wonder: are their destinies really tied to a curse from long-ago, where magic and a weird golden alligator named Munch will control who they become? Or is it possible that Tumble and Blue can make their own choices?

With a cast of zany characters and mysteries that reach even deeper than those hidden in the nearby Okefenokee Swamp, Tumble & Blue will charm readers with true acts of friendship and heroism.

 

 

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: 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.