‘The Atomic City Girls’ by Janet Beard Is an In-Depth Look at Oak Ridge, TN — Its Part in the Atomic Bomb and the Lives of Workers

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“The Atomic City Girls” by Janet Beard is fiction. But the author grew up near Oak Ridge in Eastern Tennessee and as a child learned about the facility and its part in creating the atom bomb. With this novel, she manages to share the lives of those who worked there from respected scientist to lowly laborer.

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7 Fabulous Choices in Children’s Picture Books for Black History Month

With the increase in diversity in children’s books, there is a plethora of wonderful books for children of all ages that are perfect picks for February and the celebration of Black History.

“Dream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama’s Inspiring and Historic dreambigdreamsPresidency” by Pete Souza, the former chief official White House photographer, is a beautiful book filled with touching and insightful images of a president who could be solemn when the occasion called for it, caring when compassion was needed, loving with his family, and fun when children were involved. The images show a man who wasn’t afraid to be real with people and to show them that he cared. The photographs show a man who radiates confidence and charm. It’s a really lovely book. (Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers)

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Ten Perfectly Poignant Picture Books for Valentine’s Day

It’s not too late to get the perfect Valentine’s Day present for your favorite picture book reader. Here are ten picture-perfect choices.

Dog lovers who are book lovers know that almost no one writes nonfiction dog books IMG_3995like Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, author of “Made for Each Other: Why Dogs and People Are Perfect Partners.” This small picture book is aimed at older picture book readers, although younger readers will love the beautiful photographs by William Muñoz. The book is filled with all the nonfiction features teachers love to teach, like Contents (Part One: A Perfect Partnership; Part Two: The Science of Love; and Part Three: Sharing Our Lives), Resources for Young Readers (books, websites and videos with more information), Source Notes and Additional Sources (a bibliography of resources used for the information in the book), and an Index. Within the book’s pages is information ranging from how dogs differ from wolves and how they may have parted ways in the past to how dogs help us now by being our best friends, guiding us, protecting us, providing us with therapy, and just loving us. It’s a beautiful, completely true love story. (Crown Books for Young Readers)

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Three Lovely Children’s Picture Books Celebrate Animals

 

Three wonderful picture books — each in its own way celebrating nature, the joys of a pet, and the companionship of animals.

“Please Please the Bees” by Gerald Kelley is the story of Benedict the bear. He loves honey and gets three jars of honey delivered to his lovely home each morning by bees. He eats his toast with honey, drinks his tea with extra honey, practices his violin, bakes his honey cake, knits, runs errands, and drinks one last cup of honey tea before bed. It’s a very fulfilling life until one morning there is no honey. The bees are on strike, and Benedict learns that sometimes, nature — and bees — need a hand. Clever illustrations provide hints of what is to come, with Benedict living in a house where the plants have all died.  Benedict and the young readers of this story learn about what bees need to produce honey, and all live happily ever after. The story is charming, humorous, and important. The illustrations are lovely in watercolor and other media, and the fact that the texture of the watercolor paper is used for much of the white space keeps the illustrations rich and engaging.

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‘How to Disappear’ by Sharon Huss Roat Is a Beautifully Written Story of the Invisible, the Individual, and the Power of Social Media

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“How to Disappear” by Sharon Huss Roat is a book that once begun, is difficult to put down. It starts innocuously enough with the story of a girl with severe anxiety. Vicky can’t function at high school and must disappear into the stall of the bathroom when she just can’t bear going to class and facing others. Since her best friend moved away, she’s been trying to disappear completely, since that’s easier than actually talking to people and making new friends.

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‘Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Ship of the Dead’ by Rick Riordan is the Third Book in this Wild Fantasy Adventure Series

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Rick Riordan knows his Greek gods, as has been proved with the “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard” series. He also does an amazing job writing a series about Norse gods and Valhalla, the place where those related to the gods go if they die a noble death. Kind of like Camp Half Blood but with different rules.

The main character in this series is Magnus Chase, the son of Frey, the god of healing. In this story, Magnus and his friends must journey to Jotunheim and Niflheim to reach the evil god Loki’s ship before he can leave with his warriors and start Ragnarok, the end of the world.

Over the course of the story, the reader learns that Samirah, the Muslim Valkyrie, is fasting during the day because of Ramadan. Magnus’ good friends Hearth and Blitz must travel on their own adventure, and Hearth must face his very evil father, whom he finally vanquishes with Magnus’ help. Magnus also learns more about Alex, his gender fluid friend. In the last book, “The Hammer of Thor,”  Riordan had hinted that Magnus felt more than friendship toward Alex, about whom Magnus seems to instinctively know which pronoun (he or she) is appropriate to use at what time. In this book, that hint is resolved so there are no uncertainties left.

In the end, of course, Magnus and his team save the world from the end of the world, but the fun is in watching how he does it. Jack, his magic singing sword, is ever-present and ever humorous; Samirah continues to reflect well on the Muslim community; and Magnus, with his self-deprecating narration, continues to enchant and charm readers of all ages. Riordan should be given much credit for his inclusion of many diverse characters and lifestyles in this series.

Highly recommended for readers who enjoy fantasy, adventure, and humor. Readers should have read the first two books in the series prior to beginning this voyage. Begin with “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer.”

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for review purposes.

‘Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court’ by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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“Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court” is a marvelous autobiography by one of the greatest basketball players who ever graced the court. Watching him play was a privilege for any true sports fan because he appeared to be graceful and athletic, ultra-competitive, always under control — and in control — and a true champion. He and his teams won an almost unbelievable percentage of their games at every level — high school, college, professional.

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‘Prince in Disguise’ by Stephanie Kate Strohm: Lovely YA RomCom

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“Prince in Disguise” by Stephanie Kate Strohm is a lovely retake of every novel (or fairytale) in which a prince tries to find true love by going about in disguise so that someone might fall in love with him for his own person, not the fact that he is a prince.

In this sweet retake, the main character Dylan’s older sister has fallen in love with a Scottish lord through the arts of a reality TV show called, of course, “Prince in Disguise.” While Dylan keeps reminding everyone that Dusty is not marrying a prince but rather a lord, no one cares. Dusty is everything that Dylan thinks she is not — beautiful, graceful, outgoing, sophisticated, and comfortable in front of the camera. Their mother is the star of a morning show on the local network, so she also is camera-friendly. Continue reading

‘Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery’ by Jenny Colgan is the Perfect Novel to Read on a Cold Winter’s Night

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With “Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery,” Jenny Colgan rounds out her stories about little Mount Polbearne, a village on the coast of Cornwall that is isolated from the mainland when the tide comes in, and its lovely baker Polly Waterford, her American boyfriend Huckle, and their puffin Neil.

Polly and Huckle live in a romantic lighthouse that is drafty and cold, but which has beautiful views of the ocean and the town. Polly loves to bake, and Huckle tends bees. They are happy together except for Polly’s uncertainty about marriage and having children, especially considering her family history. She never knew her father, her mother is rather a recluse, and she’s always just too busy with the bakery to plan anything.

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‘Must Love Dogs: A Howliday Tail’ by Claire Cook Brings Holiday Cheer and Sweet Tails to Readers

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The bestselling “Must Love Dogs” series by Claire Cook allows readers a chance to enter the never-boring life of Sarah Hurlihy as she negotiates a romance with her boyfriend/fiancé John. Her close-knit family, including her very Irish and very funny father, complicate the story in the way that only family can.

In this sixth tale in the series, Sarah and John have bought Sarah’s family home and are trying to figure out how to make the home theirs. It’s difficult with sisters and brothers coming to their childhood home whenever they want, while that hilarious but very hard-to-handle dad, the clan’s patriarch, lives in the home in his own “apartment,” or man-cave, as he calls it. Sarah’s assistant from the preschool. Polly, who is recently divorced and pregnant, has also moved in.

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‘The Trust’ by Ronald H. Balson Is a Thrilling, Action-Filled Suspense Novel

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In “The Trust,” Ronald H. Balson, takes his readers to Northern Ireland on a whirlwind tour of Ireland and its troubles — both current and past. Liam Taggert, the Chicago detective who, with his lawyer wife Catherine, are the main characters in all Balson’s books, must deal with the past when it comes back to haunt him in this touching, thoughtfully-written story.

When Liam’s uncle Fergus dies, he leaves his property in a secret trust with Liam as the trustee. Liam is reluctant to return to Northern Ireland for the funeral, but Catherine urges Liam to go and reconcile with the family he hasn’t seen in years. Liam, who has been estranged from his Irish relatives for almost two decades, is thrust into the middle of a maelstrom. After Fergus is murdered, other Taggerts are targeted and some are killed. Liam must use his detective skills to try to find the murderer before everyone in the family is killed.

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‘Addison Cooke and the Tomb of the Khan’ by Jonathan W. Stokes is a Humorous and Thrilling Middle Grade Adventure

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“Addison Cooke and the Tomb of the Khan” is a superb sequel to “Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas” by Jonathan W. Stokes. The series is aimed at middle grade readers who love action and adventure — especially when the main characters are quirky and clever.

Stokes also includes plenty of diversity in his cast of characters. Addison and his sister Molly are joined on their adventure by friends Eddie Chang and Raj Bhandari. The story begins when Addison invites his friends to accompany him, his sister, and their aunt and uncle to China to explore a Song dynasty fortress in the Gobi desert.

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