‘Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson’ is a powerful book that encompasses decades of civil rights struggles and discrimination

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“Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson” is a very powerful book. Not only is the story of Katherine Johnson’s life inspiring, but the story she tells is filled with emotion and facts and history, and the way she combines them all into this middle grade book is superb.

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‘Betrayal in Time’ by Julie McElwain is a wonderful mystery/scifi/historical fiction novel

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“Betrayal in Time” by Julie McElwain is the fourth novel in which Kendra Donovan, a 21st century FBI agent, is unwittingly sent to the past while trying to avenge the deaths of  most of her team. Her goal is to kill the culprit in England. When someone beats her to the kill, she escapes up a staircase and ends up in 1815, in England.

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‘Heart of Barkness’ by Spencer Quinn: Don’t miss this tail-wagging adventure

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“Heart of Barkness” by Spencer Quinn brings back mystery-lovers’ favorite four-legged detective, Chet, with his sidekick, the two-legged Bernie Little. It’s Bernie Little’s detective agency, but both Chet and Bernie are very aware that it takes two to solve most mysteries. That’s why whenever Bernie introduces himself to someone, he introduces both of them. Chet and Bernie are a team and they are inseparable.

In this mystery, Chet and Bernie meet Lotty Pilgrim, a country singer who seems to have hit rock-bottom. She is playing in dives and lives on a small, run-down ranch. Her manager/boyfriend is much younger than she, and from the start, Bernie is no fan of his.

Bernie has just gotten out of the hospital after a near-death experience (read about it in the last Chet and Bernie book, “Scents and Sensibility”), and Chet is thrilled to be reunited with his other half. In fact, the mystery begins when Chet and Bernie go to hear Lotty sing. Bernie puts a $100 bill in her tip jar, but the money gets stolen by someone at the bar. Chet and Bernie go after the thief, and what happens after that is just one part of what becomes the mystery and history of Lottie’s life and her problems.

Chet’s narration is spot-on doggy, with appropriate distractions (Slim Jims and steak smells) and some canine self-deprecating awareness. After all, when a dog is telling the story, there is definitely some translation needed, but Chet is one sharp dog, and he catches some things mere humans might overlook. Chet explains it beautifully when the thief grabs the money from the tip jar,

“Something sneaky was going down. I knew that in a flash. You might be thinking, Wow Chet, how fast your mind works. But you’d be wrong. My mind had nothing to do with it. My teeth were the smart ones. Sneakiness gives them this powerful urge, the urge to…to do something, let’s leave it at that.”

So they chase the thief, recover the money but not the guy, and consider it done. It’s not. The ties that connect the different characters, the obvious good guys and the obvious and not-so-obvious bad guys are sometimes hard to see. But Chet and Bernie have a special power – the power of the dog and human combination – and they go where others might fail.

Quinn’s narrative, via Chet, is touching but always humorous, too. While reader’s will feel Lottie’s plight and worry about Bernie’s romantic situation, they will chuckle while reading Chet’s wonderfully canine narrative.

Mystery lovers devour the Chet and Bernie series. Dog lovers do, too. No fleas involved.

This review was originally posted on Bookreporter.com.

Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s copy provided by the publisher, Forge, for review purposes.

‘Spin the Dawn’ by Elizabeth Lim is an engrossing fantasy about a young girl whose ambition proves world-changing

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In a fictional world reminiscent of ancient China, Elizabeth Lim creates “Spin the Dawn,” the story of Maia, daughter of a tailor who is as skilled as any tailor but who is barred from the profession because of her gender. Her father has lost his ambition since the death of Maia’s mother, and two of her brothers were killed in the Emperor’s war. Now, it’s just Maia supporting the family.

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‘Storm Blown’ by Nick Courage is a middle grade adventure during a terrible hurricane

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In “Storm Blown,” author Nick Courage writes about a fictional hurricane and two of the children whose lives are affected by that storm. He’s not writing about just any storm, though. This is a once-in-a-lifetime storm, a storm that is fickle and doesn’t behave as storm experts expect. Because the story is told from many perspectives, including that of a storm expert, readers get the benefit of learning about not only storms, but human behavior.

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Part I: Volunteers feed and save abandoned, scared dogs — big and small — in Redland, Florida

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Please note: This article was originally published on ShelterMe.tv in 2016.

The Problem:

Redland, Florida; it’s a rural area southwest of Miami. A place that is haunted with the despair from the many animals who are abandoned there every week. Daily, cars and trucks stop on one of the streets or highways, open a door, shove out a confused animal, then drive away quickly.

The Redland area is not a safe place for the animals who are left there. Most are dogs, and while some learn quickly to stay away from humans, others are shot, poisoned, hit (on purpose) by cars, stolen by dog fighters; or they die from starvation and dehydration in the Florida heat. The lucky ones hide during the day, coming out as the sun goes down as a group of dedicated volunteers bring the food and water they need to survive. Join the volunteers, Jessie, Yleana, and Ramsey, on a hot July evening as they bring me along to witness the sad situation.

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Part II: The Solution to “The abandoned, scared dogs — big and small — in Redland, Florida”

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Please note: This article was originally published on ShelterMe.tv in 2016.

The Solution (Part II to “Volunteers feed and save abandoned, scared dogs — big and small — in Redland, Florida”):

It appears that any solutions to the huge problem of stray and abandoned animals in the rural areas of Miami-Dade County, like Redland and the Rock Pit Quarry, will have to be addressed by the volunteers. Rescues have approached the shelter, asking if there is a process for pulling stray dogs from the county (not the shelter, the stray dogs). According to Jennie Nicholas of Pennsylvania, the shelter never responded to her email. She said that when she wrote Miami-Dade Animal Services (MDAS), “I got zero response. I wrote an email asking if I needed any special permission to take the dogs and the email went unanswered.”

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‘P is for Pterodactyl: The WORST Alphabet Book Ever (All the letters that misbehave and make words nearly impossible to pronounce’ is an EXTREMELY

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“P Is for Pterodactyl: The WORST Alphabet Book Ever (All the letters that misbehave and make words nearly impossible to pronounce)” is truly the BEST book ever! First of all, it’s brilliant — from the choice of alphabet words and for the text that explains what the words mean, and the words and text and illustrations combined make it really humorous, as well.

For example, “B is for Bdellium. We doubt that anyone knows what bdellium is, but it’s the only word dumb enough to begin with a silent B.

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‘The First Mistake’ by Sandie Jones — riveting and suspenseful

 

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“The First Mistake” by Sandie Jones is a truly suspenseful mystery with two female protagonists and a plot that is masterfully planned and executed. Alice finally seems to have her life together. After her first husband, Tom, died, she went to pieces. But for the sake of their daughter, she put her life together, relying on Nathan, whom she met and married less than a year after Tom died.

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Five animal-themed picture books kids will love

 

Animals and kids go together like hot summer days and ice cream or long sunlit days with reading lots and lots of books to kids before bedtime. And there’s nothing most kids like better than books about animals. Whether it’s a silly book or a book filled with adventure, kids love reading about animal antics.

pinky got outKids will LOVE “Pinky Got Out!” by Michael Portis, about a group of school children visiting the zoo when a flamingo gets out of the flamingo enclosure. The kids keep seeing Pinky, the flamingo, everywhere they go. Kids will love trying to spot Pinky on each page, and they’ll love what happens at the end. They will also learn a few facts about animals while searching each page for sightings of the pink escapee. You can tell them that the real-life Pinky is named Flamingo 492 and escaped from a Wichita, Kansas zoo and ended up in Texas on the coast where, fourteen years later, the bird is living happily. (Crown Books for Young Readers)

“Big Cat” by Emma Lazell is another humorous picture book, this one about a mix-up between a big catdomestic cat and a large cat, in this case a tiger. The action begins on the page before the title page, which features newspapers with partial headings like “missing” and “Mystery sightings” and pictures of tigers. Grandma lost her glasses, and she and her granddaughter are looking for them in a yard filled with cats when the young narrator tells Grandma that she’s found a cat. Grandma goes through all the adorable names of their cats. “Is it Ruby? Gertrude? Twinklywhiskers?Hufflystink?” They take the stray cat to the neighbors to see if she belongs to them, but the neighbors all “were not cat people.” Kids will LOVE identifying all the pets the neighbors do have! Although their new cat does eat a lot of cat food, they love him, but when a couple looking for their missing son find Grandma’s glasses and return them, she realizes that the new cat is not a cat at all! Be assured that no humans are harmed in the reading of this book, and there is a delightful twist (of course) at the end. (Pavilion Books)

In “Nelly Takes New York: A Little Girl’s Adventure in the Big Apple,” authors Allison nelly takes nyPataki and Marya Myers feature an adorable duo as they search the New York determined to find the Big Apple. Nelly and her beagle, Bagel, stop for a bagel (of the edible variety) in West Village, then go to the farmers market at Union Square. Each time they mention their quest, they are sent to another place. New Yorkers will enjoy reading about all the sights to visit as will those planning a trip to NYC. For students reading the book, a great activity would be to have a map of New York City handy to have children plot Nelly and Bagel’s journey across the city. This book could be used as a travel brochure praising the different New York City tourist sites and the “friendly New Yorkers.” The illustrations by  Kristi Valiant are worthy of mention. They are bright and colorful, but Valiant manages to make Nelly the center of attention, with her bright red jacket and curly black hair. (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

In “The Peculiar Pig” by Joy Steuerwald, a dachshund puppy somehow ends up in the pig peculiar pigpen one morning. Mama Pig, like most mothers, loves all her piglets the same, even the new, strange-looking, brown one. But when the other piglets push the little brown “piglet” away, she patiently waits her turn. The babies get bigger and bigger, only Penny, the dachshund, gets longer and longer. Mama Pig just tells her, “It doesn’t matter, Penny. I love all my little piglets the same.” More differences emerge when Penny barks instead of oinking. And while proper pigs dig with their snouts, Penny uses her paws. In spite of her diminutive size, Penny can outrun her piggy brothers and sisters. When danger threatens, though, Penny saves the day, proving that peculiar might just be perfect. Kids will love the idea that while someone might be very different from those around them, they might just be able to save the day sometime. (Nancy Paulsen Books)

one shoe two shoesIn a lovely take-off of Dr. Seuss, “One Shoe Two Shoes” by Caryl Hart is a simple but humorous book that kids will quickly memorize. They will love reciting the rhyming text along with the reader as the dog and the mice and the colorful shoes are enumerated and counted. While there are no cats (remember Thing One and Thing Two?), there is little mouse one and little mouse two. Like any self-respecting mouse, these also multiply. Between the shoes and the mice and the adorable dog, all illustrated by Edward Underwood in bright blocks of mostly primary colors, this one is definitely a treat for both the eye and the ear. (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

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

‘The Summer Country’ by Lauren Willig is an ambitious tale of prejudice and plantations in Barbados during Victorian times

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“The Summer Country” by Lauren Willig refers to the island of Barbados, where it is summer all year long. The story is about three women, and from the beginning it alternates between 1812 and 1854. The story begins in 1854, when Emily Dawson and her cousin Adam travel to Barbados for different reasons. Adam is representing the family business now that his grandfather, Jonathan Fenty, has died, while Emily is traveling to visit Peverills, the sugar cane plantation that her grandfather left her in his will.

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