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

addison cooke

“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.

Continue reading

‘The Exact Location of Home’ by Kate Messner Is a Middle Grade Treasure

location of home

Kate Messner has been writing lots of books with lots of heart, and her newest, “The Exact Location of Home,” is no different. This extremely touching story will cause readers to think about appearances and stereotypes, friendship and family.

In this story, Kirby “Zig” Zigonski is excited to finally get to see his dad after months of delays and excuses. He’s devastated when his dad yet again cancels their weekend together. While garage-sale shopping, he scores a box of electronics and finds a GPS unit. With it, he finds a new hobby — geocaching.

Continue reading

‘Bow Wow: A Bowser and Birdie Novel’ by Spencer Quinn is the 3rd in this Dog-Narrated Series for Children

bowwow

Young readers love books about dogs and Spencer Quinn’s series about Bowser and Birdie is no exception. “Bow Wow” is the third book in the series that began with “Woof” and continued with “Arf.” Adults might be familiar with Quinn’s series about Chet and Bernie, which features the fabulous detective dog Chet, whose narrative sounds suspiciously like that of Bowser.

Continue reading

‘The Last Mrs. Parrish’ Should Be the Very Next Book You Read

lastmrsparrish

The raves are in for “The Last Mrs. Parrish” by Liv Constantine, and it’s no wonder. If anything, the glowing blurbs from such literary luminaries as Jane Green, Karin Slaughter, Lee Child, and Jenny Milchman don’t go far enough. The story is gripping from the start, yet when the twist occurs, the reader will feel compelled to go back to the beginning to see what was missed.

The story is of a rich and powerful man and the two women in his life. First, the reader meets Jackson Parrish, a paragon of perfection — handsome, athletic, charming, wealthy — through the eyes of Amber Patterson. Amber, the reader quickly finds out, is a schemer whose goal is befriending Jackson Parrish’s wife so that she can ruin their marriage and take her place at his side.

Continue reading

‘Invasion of the Scorp-Lions! A Monstertown Mystery’ by Bruce Hale Is a Fun-Filled Fantasy

invasion

With the third book in the Monstertown Mystery series, “Invasion of the Scorp-Lions,” author Bruce Hale shows that he can write a series in which each book brings something new to the plate.

At first, this episode appears to be like the two previous books with the main characters, narrator Carlos and his friend Benny, learning that something strange is going on in the basement of the school. They think it’s a ghost, and because of the kids and teacher who encountered the creature and are now in comas, they know it’s dangerous.

But here the story gets interesting because Hale brings in an additional character, Esme, whose mother creates monsters, and whose family comes from a long line of monster-creators. Their last name is Ygorre (pronounced Igor).

A character from the previous book, Tina, also known as Karate Girl, joins the boys on their monster-hunting adventure, and Esme gives a hand, too. At the end of the book, there is an event that explains why there will be lots and lots of monstery sequels to these books.

While the subject of the books —  monsters — and the clever, catchy lenticular, 3D-ish cover make the books look like light reading material, Hale includes a quite serious secondary plot in each book. In this book, Carlos is worried about his parents divorcing.

Also, Hale’s use of figurative language and imagery throughout the books should thrill teachers as they use excerpts from the book when teaching narrative or descriptive writing. “The mechanical room was as comfy and inviting as a concrete crypt at midnight. Mr. Boo had thoughtfully stacked five folding chairs and a card table in the middle of the room, for that homey touch.” Imagery and a touch of sarcasm in two very funny sentences.

While many readers (this one included) might take offense at Hale’s characterization of Barry Manilow’s music as “A scorp-lion’s worst nightmare” and “soppy strings and drippy vocals,” he does have Carlos admit to humming along with one of the songs after a while. Hale also gives Benny some humorous lines when he mixes up words. A teacher thinks the monster smell is from feral cats, so Benny asks, “What are Will Ferrell’s pets doing here?”

This series is a perfect choice for reluctant readers and adventure lovers from third grade through middle school. Humor and horror – a great combination. Also an excellent choice for teachers looking for a read aloud that will teach kids about imagery.

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

‘Wild Bird’ by Wendelin Van Draanen Is the Emotional Story of a Young Girl Out of Control

34052659

Wendelin Van Draanen knows how to write a story that packs a punch. She did it in “Running Dream,” a story about a high school runner who tragically loses her leg in a crash, and how she learns not just how to walk with a prosthetic, but how to really see others in spite of physical differences. In “Wild Bird,” Van Drannen offers up the story of Wren, a girl who lost her way and ended up involved in drugs.

The story begins when Wren is awakened in the middle of the night and whisked off to a juvie camp in the Utah desert for wilderness therapy for 60 days. It’s a last-ditch effort to rehab Wren, who has proven resistant to therapists, counselors, and every other kind of help her parents tried to get for her.

Continue reading

‘Suspect Red’ by L. M. Elliott — Fear and Loathing in ‘53 D.C.

suspectred

L.M. Elliott’s riveting Young Adult historical novel “Suspect Red” takes us on a rough ride through one thicket-filled thorny year in the life of early-adolescent Richard Bradley. He is a thirteen-year-old Washington D.C. resident circa 1953-54. And he is faced with the dilemmas and demons that would haunt any teen-ager whose father, whom he idolizes, is an FBI agent suffering from severe PTSD (making him, in those days, a “psycho”), and who, worse yet, works directly under J. Edgar Hoover during those dangerous and desperate months of June, 1953 to June, 1954: The Cold War rages. Continue reading

‘Malala’s Magic Pencil’ by Malala Yousafzai Is a Story About Possibilities and Kids Love It

malala

While the name “Malala” is quite familiar to adults, children may not know who the author of this picture book is. In “Malala’s Magic Pencil,” Malala Yousafzai tells her story, and it’s one that opens the eyes of the kids hearing her tale.

She starts her story telling about a show that she watched as a child, a TV show about a magic pencil that could create anything that was drawn with it. The boy who used it, the hero, always used the magic to protect people who needed help. Malala thought of the things she would do with a magic pencil.

Continue reading

‘Lemons’ by Melissa Savage: Wonderful and Thoughtful Middle Grade Fiction

lemons.jpg

“Lemons” by Melissa Savage covers some tough topics in a lovely story. The main character, Lemonade Liberty Witt, named because her mother wanted her to be able to make lemonade from tough situations, has just had a really tough situation. Her mother died.

Lem, as she is called, and her mother lived in San Francisco and enjoyed life to the fullest. Her father was never a part of the picture, and she didn’t really have other family. At least, that’s what she thought until her mother died and she went to live with her grandfather, who had been estranged from her mother, in small-town Willow Creek.

Continue reading

‘Bruce’s Big Move’ Author Ryan Higgins Opens Up and Shares Secret Behind Bruce’s Curmudgeonly Character and More

Bruce's Big Move High Res

With the release of the third “Bruce” book, “Bruce’s Big Move,” author Ryan Higgins agreed to answer some questions that delve deep into the heart of this wonderful series and its grumpy but lovable main character, Bruce.

Who would have thought that the character of Bruce was based on the author’s grandfather? Higgins shares that: Continue reading

‘Bruce’s Big Move’: Bruce and His Geese Are Back! And It’s a Giveaway of All the Bruce Books! #BrucesBigMove #FollowBruce

Disney-Hyperion sent me a copy of Bruce’s Big Move to review and is partnering with me for a giveaway!

Bruce's Big Move High Res.jpg

Not only is kids’ favorite picture book character back, one lucky Bruce fan will win a 3bruce bookswhole lotta’ Bruce: All three of the fabulous Bruce books, including “Mother Bruce,” “Hotel Bruce,” and “Bruce’s Big Move.”

ENTER TO WIN HERE

After “Mother Bruce” and  “Hotel Bruce” comes “Bruce’s Big Move,” a book starring the curmudgeonly bear Bruce which is every bit as sweet and touching as the first two “Bruce” books.

In this fabulous picture book, Bruce is tired of living a chaotic life with not only his four geese children but the three mischievous mice who make life noisy, messy, and filled with nonstop action. Bruce craves some peace and quiet.

He tries sending the mice away, but nothing works. They are happily oblivious to his best efforts and don’t go anywhere. Finally, Bruce decides that he and the geese must move. They find a beautiful home on the edge of a lovely lake. There is sweet solitude and plenty of quiet contentment.

Continue reading

Three Must-Have Picture Books for Young Animal Lovers and Others

There are three astonishingly beautiful picture books for children which should be considered for every school library or bookshelf.

howtoheal

“How to Heal a Broken Wing” by Bob Graham is the fictional account of a pigeon who flies into a skyscraper in the middle of a large city and falls to the sidewalk. People walk past, unseeing and uncaring, but when Will and his mother walk by, Will sees. Will cares. Will breaks away from his mother and goes back to the hurt bird. He gently picks it up and holds it out to his mother.

This touching story of one boy’s compassion for a bird many consider dirty and vermin-like is beautifully told and illustrated. The text is quite spare as are the illustrations. Both parents make identical gestures when they first see the bird — their hands on their heads as if to say, “Really?!” But both wholeheartedly join in the rescue attempt, the mother giving up her scarf to carefully wrap the bird for its trip to their house and the father going out to buy the injured bird a cage to recuperate in. And slowly — the author shows the passage of time through illustrations of the changing moon — the bird heals.

This is a story that will not soon be forgotten, and it might just be the book that changes a child’s life and view of those who are helpless, those whom others don’t notice, those who desperately need help. It’s a story that would certainly facilitate productive conversations about helping others and the value of life.

Quite different from the fictional story of one pigeon is the nonfiction book “Many: TheIMG_3282 Diversity of Life on Earth” by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Emily Sutton. In “Many,” the author presents the incredible diversity, the incredibly enormous numbers and types of plants and animals and even microbes that exist alongside of us on our planet. From two kinds of huge elephants (African and Asian) to more than 600 kinds of oak trees; from over 100,000 kinds of mushrooms to thousands of microbes in one teaspoon of dust, and from deserts to islands, from treetops to the bottom of the ocean, the author states:

“We have learned that every kind of living thing is part of a big, beautiful, complicated pattern.

The last part of the book warns about the danger of continuing to disrupt the beautiful, natural pattern that is life on Earth. “The trouble is, all over the world, human beings are destroying pieces of the pattern…” Examples are chemicals poisoning our air, rivers and oceans and fishing boats emptying the oceans and people cutting forests resulting in the extinction of animals and plants.

This book is perfect for starting a conversation or project about the environment and what we must do to protect it for our children and future generations.

IMG_3281Another nonfiction picture book is “Song of the Wild: A First Book of Animals” also by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Petr Horácek. This picture book is organized by “Big and Small,” “Color and Shapes,” Animal Homes,” “Animal Babies,” and “Animals in Action.”

The largest bird, the African ostrich, is compared to the tiniest, a hummingbird just bigger than a bee. It could fit inside the ostrich’s eye. The information is presented in rhyme, which makes this a lovely book to read aloud.

“The ostrich lives in Africa
in grasslands hot and dry,
the biggest bird in all the world —
in fact, too large to fly.”

There are giraffes and lions and elephants and ants. One sepia and taupe monochromatic page titled “What Am I?” presents information about mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, and more. The next page begins “Colors and Shapes” and has brilliant color illustrations of beetles with the information that there are more than 300,000 kinds of beetles. Camel with their humps, zebras and tigers resplendent with stripes, and a panda grace the pages of this chapter.

This is not a picture book for a quick read. Rather, this is a picture book that youngsters will want to peruse slowly as they absorb all the information. They will learn that even a crocodile is tender when it comes to her babies.

“No one thinks of crocodiles as gentle;
tenderness is something for the doves.
But when baby crocodiles are hatching,
it’s hard to say they don’t get Mother’s love.”

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover books provided by Candlewick Press for review purposes.