I love the concept of “Killers of a Certain Age,” perhaps because I am “of a certain age.” Deanna Raybourn certainly writes authentically about women in their 60s and these particular women who have been assassins for decades, working for an organization nicknamed “The Museum.” Their job has been killing bad guys, beginning with Nazi escapees; then when those were mostly dead either from natural causes or murder, assassinating drug overlords, crime bosses, and other really bad people. Now the four women, who trained together in their 20s, are taking the first steps toward enjoying a well-deserved retirement by embarking on an all-expense-paid cruise courtesy of their former employer. But what happens when they realize, on that very cruise, that instead of the cruise being the beginning of the rest of their lives, it’s intended to be the end of their lives?Continue reading
True to form, “Santa’s Little Yelpers” features not only a myriad of doggie characters, but also David Rosenfelt’s favorite wants-to-be-retired lawyer, Andy Carpenter. This is the 26th mystery featuring that self-deprecating, wise-cracking, extremely dog-loving attorney who really doesn’t want to work anymore. Most of the mysteries in this series are more thriller than legal procedural, with a hefty dose of humor on the side, and in this novel we meet a former lawyer, Chris Myers, wrongly incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit. Now he is being accused of another crime, a murder, that he also didn’t commit. And just as in many of the mysteries in this series, Andy Carpenter must begin the trial for this defendant with no idea of how he will prove his client is not guilty.Continue reading
In her second novel, Jean Meltzer continues writing about something she’s rather an expert on: Jewish life. “Mr. Perfect on Paper” is a charming tale of finding love where you least expect it, and while it’s a romance, it’s also a glimpse into the lives of people who are struggling, but keep their struggles private. Her delightful main character, Dara Rabinowitz, is ridden with self-doubt, suffers from GAD, general anxiety disorder, and is very candid about it. Because of her disorder, Dara prefers to live life close to her bubbe, Miriam, spending time with her and otherwise working from home while running her extremely successful and lucrative business, a Jewish dating app called J-Mate. Her mother died, and Dara is also close to her sometimes-pushy sister.Continue reading
Usually I review books or write about animals and shelters. But I just had an experience that left me feeling taken advantage of and I want to share that so others might be warned. So this is about Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, California. We stayed there for one unforgettable night. Unforgettable because of how incredibly overpriced—and disappointing—our room was. Details below.
Let me say from the start that the rooms at the Calamigos Ranch are waaay out of my price range. Normally, I would never consider spending over $1400 for a one-night hotel stay. Ever.Continue reading
In her newest novel, “Odder,” we see why children’s writer Katherine Applegate is a Newbery medalist and New York Times bestselling author—it’s because her writing touches readers’ hearts, fills us with emotion, and often shows us a new way of observing the world around us. In “Odder,” we meet a sea otter whose antics fill us with happiness as she dances and twirls and dives joyfully in her ocean environment. At the same time, we glimpse the danger that otters face, and the greater danger that imperiled them in the past—humans. Now, aside from terrible storms, their greatest foes are hungry sharks.Continue reading
Good teachers and librarians know that literature can help inform children about social justice and other issues around the world. And there are many authors and many thoughtful middle grade books that open readers’ minds about such problems. Here are some excellent choices that should be a part of classroom and school libraries.Continue reading
Guernica is the small Basque town in Spain that was made famous by Pablo Picasso in his huge painting of the devastation that town endured during the Spanish Civil War. The Germans destroyed the town and slaughtered men, women, children, and animals at the behest of the rebel forces led by the military. At the start of “The Girl from Guernica,” author Karen Robards takes us to this small town the night before the horror that is a central part of the novel, to see the violence and wanton cruelty through the eyes of the main character, Sibi.Continue reading
These four picture books all feature animals, but the messages they impart are all quite different. However, in all of them, the animals are clever and open to new ideas, and isn’t that an important message we want to teach our children?Continue reading
The Spanish word “solito” means alone, and in his memoir, “Solito,” Javier Zamora shares the perilous journey the author made as a fairly sheltered nine-year-old child from a rural town in El Salvador, through Guatemala and Mexico, to the US.Continue reading
National Geographic Kids creates the kind of nonfiction books that kids of all ages (and adults, too) love to read. They are filled with facts, photographs, maps, charts, and lists, in addition to the nonfiction text features that elementary school students learn about — like table of contents, indexes, glossaries, and pages with more information. In short, they are the perfect vehicle for teaching about nonfiction reading because kids love the content. And as every teacher knows, when the content is engaging and interesting to the reader, kids are able to read higher level material. As an aside, when my six-year-old grandson saw these books, his eyes lit up. “I’m taking these home,” he declared. Music to my ears. From dinosaurs to animals and space, these sturdy, beautifully edited books will have you covered.
“5,000 Awesome Facts (About Animals!)” is organized in an unusual manner. Each double page spread is titled with a number and the subject matter. For example, one such spread is called “35 Witty Facts about Animal Intelligence” and features a big picture of an African gray parrot. Fact number 10 states that “in a study, African gray parrots showed selflessness—one parrot helped another get treats, even if it meant it would get less.” There are facts about dolphins, a beluga whale who could mimic human speech, fish, elephants, and even chickens. Some of the clever groupings include “100 Eye-popping Facts about Animal Vision,” “50 Buzzworthy Facts about Bees, Wasps, and Hornets” and “50 Facts about Animals that Can Take the Heat.” This is a book that will be picked up over and over again, as it’s not a book that will be read straight through. I could envision a teacher using this every morning to share a few fascinating facts with students as an engaging way to start the day.
“Dinosaur Atlas: When They Roamed, How They Lived, and Where We Find Their Fossils” is true to the title and includes a map on many double page spreads. In the table of contents we see that the book is organized perfectly. It starts with “Meet the Dinosaurs” and then has “Prehistoric Planet” which includes sections about the three periods, Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous. Then there is the section “Finding Fossils,” which takes readers to different continents from North and South America to all the other continents except Antarctica. Then, of course, no book about dinosaurs would be complete without information about what happened to the dinosaurs, so three theories are presented: The Asteroid, Volcanoes, and Slow Climate Change. We learn about dino descendants and prehistoric birds. There is a very detailed dino dictionary at the end, listing all the dinosaurs in alphabetical order with pronunciation, meaning, geologic time, where found, length, and group. And like all the information in these books, the careful use of color makes reading and understanding the information simple.
“Can’t Get Enough Space Stuff” states on the cover that it includes “fun facts, awesome info, cool games, silly jokes, and more!” This soft-covered book includes double page spreads that are labeled “From the Field,” which explain different elements of space like black holes, water on Mars, Europa, a planet with two suns, and more. There are pages with space sillies, fun and games, quizzes, and far-out facts. This book is filled with corny jokes like “Why couldn’t the astronaut focus on his book?” Of course — “he kept spacing out.” Some of the information is interesting, like “Astronaut John Young sneaked a corned beef sandwich onto the Gemini 3 mission in 1965.” There are pages labeled “Try it out” with ideas for activities like creating a galaxy mobile. There isn’t a chronology, and it isn’t organized by sections, so kids will enjoy looking randomly at the different pages and activities. It’s another book that they won’t tire of because of the plethora of information it contains.
Please note: This review is based on the final books provided by National Geographic Kids, the publisher, for review purposes.
From the iconic Ruby Bridges and Colin Kaepernick to the lesser known Ethelda Bleibtrey (whom I had never heard of prior to reading this book), these nonfiction picture books will teach children about individuals from history whose determination, imagination, and strength impacted the world.Continue reading
“Bark to the Future” is the latest doggie mystery featuring the charismatic narrator Chet, a distinctive black shepherd-mix dog with one white ear, who tells the story as only a dog might. And in the capable paws, er, hands, of author Spencer Quinn, we chuckle and nod our heads in amusement as we realize that Chet’s narrative is just what our dogs might say if only we could understand them.Continue reading