Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Review: Embassy of the Dead by Will Mabbitt

Some say that children (and cats) can see things no one else can. Some children are referred to as sensitive because they can sense when something is off...or they can tell when something paranormal is near. ⁣
Jake Green is sensitive, and when he coincidentally meets (and talks to!) his first ghost (spectre to be exact), Stiffkey, he mistakenly takes a package meant for someone else. Now that he’s opened the package, the Embassy of the Dead is looking for him, and they won’t stop until the grim reaper Mawkins finds Jake and plunges him into the Eternal Void. ⁣
Releasing in September, (author) Will Mabbitt) and (illustrator) Taryn Knight take young readers on a ghost-filled adventure as Jake and Stiffkey (with the help of a spirited young ghost named Cora) set to make things right. ⁣
I love ghost stories, especially ones where the writer, and in this case writer and illustrator) can create an entire world set with the living and the dead.⁣
Mabbitt creates a paranormal universe that reminds me of Beetlejuice with quirky ghosts and a journey to the spirit world. Knight’s illustrations bring the characters (both dead and undead) to life throughout the book. Together, they show young readers a world outside of reality (for James, dealing with his parents’ separation). ⁣
Their first book in a new series, I can’t wait to read more of Jake’s paranormal adventures

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Review: The Sisters of Straygarden Place by Hayley Chewins

“Because the cost of light is darkness.”⁣
Out for publication (@candlewickpress) in September, Hayley Chewins creates a magical new world for young readers. Straygarden Place is no ordinary house, and the Ballastian sisters are no ordinary sisters. ⁣
Mayhap, Winnow, and Pavonine Ballastian were brought to Straygarden by their parents who were seeking botanical research. ⁣
For reasons unknown, they leave the girls with explicit instructions: “Do not leave the house. Do not go into the grass. Wait for us. Sleep darkly.” Being stuck in a place is hard, even a magical house like Straygarden that takes care of every material need you may have, and Mayhap catches Winnow sneaking outside into the grass. That’s where the book begins. ⁣
What follows is a mystery filled with magical, talking objects and an unbroken bond between sisters as they fight to save Winnow from the silver poison.⁣
Chewins invents unique vocabulary (dog=droomhund) and labels for her characters, human and inhuman, as well as a story never told before.⁣
Readers are transported in and through Straygarden as each room in the house, each page in the book, presents a new adventure. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Feature/Brief Review: Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis

Truth is a human right. ⁣
You’ve probably heard of Lindsay Ellis through YouTube and PBS. From the publisher: “It’s fall 2007. A well-timed leak has revealed that the US government might have engaged in first contact. Cora Sabino is doing everything she can to avoid the whole mess, since the force driving the controversy is her whistleblower father. Even though Cora hasn’t spoken to him in years, his celebrity has caught the attention of the press, the Internet, the paparazzi, and the government—and with him in hiding, that attention is on her. She neither knows nor cares whether her father’s leaks are a hoax, and wants nothing to do with him—until she learns just how deeply entrenched her family is in the cover-up, and that an extraterrestrial presence has been on Earth for decades.”⁣
Ellis explores government secrets, aliens, abduction in a way that has never been written before. Entertaining and insightful, Ellis presents the truth, or lack thereof, in a science-fiction novel that sometimes doesn’t seem so fictional. ⁣

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Review: Give This Heart a Pen by Sophia Thakur

I always believe it’s easier to review fiction than poetry. There’s just something about poetry that lends itself to individual interpretation, and one’s review of someone else’s poetry tends to be subpar. 

But, let’s give it a go, shall we? 

Sophia Thakur begins with the process: two poems that discuss the writing process as a “natural process of the heart”. Not just the writing process itself but the ebb and flow of life and one’s ability to “always restart”. Through the four sections (Grow, Wait, Break, Grow Again), Thakur’s heart bleeds onto the black and white pages. 

Writing poetry is hard because your bare your soul to the world in a raw and sometimes uninviting way, but there’s nothing undesirable here. Thakur’s words beg to be read and cherished and reread.  

She has so many verses that destined for immortality.  Be sure to get a copy when the book hits the shelves in September.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Review: The Great Gatsby Graphic Nobel Adaptation

Coming January 2021, K. Woodman-Maynard presents her graphic novel adaptation of THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald. ⁣
From her website, the new graphic novel is described as an  “adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic story of the mysterious Jay Gatsby and his desire to be reunited with his love, Daisy Buchanan. Katharine both adapted and illustrated the book, depicting Fitzgerald’s iconic work in lush watercolors which captures the beauty of the Jazz Age.” ⁣
As a teacher, I’m always on the lookout for resources that will enlighten our students’ understanding of the literature we teach. While we do have several film adaptations of the classic novel, they don’t quite capture the true essence of the words in the same manner as Woodman-Maynard creates for readers. You can tell she loves the book in the way that she paints the characters. ⁣
Each important scene from the novel is recreated in the graphic novel in beautiful blues, yellows, and corals. Sometimes students respond better to graphic novels than classic literature. This way, a teacher could use both. For non-teachers, the graphic novel is a new way to experience the classic you probably read in high school. 🎨 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Review: Illegal by Francisco X. Stork

Set to release in August, Francisco X. Stork’s follow-up to Disappeared does not disappoint. ⁣
Brother and sister Emiliano and Sara are in the United States after crossing the border, desperately fleeing for their lives. With them is a cell phone carrying valuable evidence to bring down a dangerous cartel. To give her brother a chance and turning the phone over to the right people, Sara turns herself in to a border detention center to apply for asylum. One there, she realizes she shouldn’t have trusted the U.S. government as much as she thought. Does her life even matter in the border camp? Emiliano, rescued by a horse after crossing, has found a local he trusts and has been doing work for him, but now it’s time to get the cell phone in the right hands, and the only way to do that is to go to Chicago with his father with whom he has no relationship or trust. ⁣
Chapters alternate between Sara and Emiliano which fuels the fast-paced dual narratives as readers hold their breaths for Sara and Emiliano’s safety. Checkpoints and intimidating guards leave readers tense and hopefully give them a sense of what migrants feel as they enter the United States for a better, safer life. ⁣
Illegal is perfect for teens who love action as the book almost leaves you breathless and turning the pages for more!⁣

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Review: Ghost Hunter's Daughter by Dan Poblocki

"They say if you see him, it's already too late."

I remember being obsessed with Ghost Hunters back when the show started in 2004 as I love all things paranormal. So when I saw the synopsis of Poblacki’s new book following the daughter of a famous tv ghost hunter, I was hooked.

Claire lost her mother suddenly and has been trying to find out if she is still with her, spiritually, but when the book opens, Claire has not received any messages from her so maybe Claire isn’t as sensitive as she would like, considering her father’s profession. She regularly meets up with her friends Norma, Francine, Mikey, and Whit after school to tell ghost stories and try to find their own evidence that ghosts exist. 

Before they can start their next ghost hunt, Claire notices that she is being followed by a kid named Lucas whose Aunt LIzzie is known for being able to communicate with the dead, supposedly. Claire isn’t sure she believes it until Lucas tells her that her father is in trouble (he’s away on a ghost hunting adventure) and that the message to save her dad is coming from her mom. At first, Claire doesn't believe Lucas, but then she tries to contact her dad, and he doesn’t answer. He’s missing. 

Claire enlists Lucas for his help, and they run away to take the bus to find her dead, with Claire’s mother following along through Lucas who has inherited his family’s “gift”. But Claire’s mom can only go so far as the outskirts of Hush Falls where Claire’s dad could be is filled with spirits, both good and evil, following a historic flood. Together, Claire and Lucas have to find and save Claire’s father before it’s too late. 

Set for publication on July 7, 2020, Poblocki takes readers on a wild ghost ride with many twists and turns. Perfect for those young ghost hunters who love to read about action and adventure within the horror genre. Scary but not gory--enough to make you leave the night light one for at least one night!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Review: Again Again by E. Lockhart

"If you could live your life again and again, what would you do differently?"⁣
In 2014, E. Lockhart delighted my students with 𝘞𝘦 𝘞𝘦𝘳𝘦 π˜“π˜ͺ𝘒𝘳𝘴--this book was always checked out in the library and my personal classroom library. Three years later, my students devoured 𝘎𝘦𝘯𝘢π˜ͺ𝘯𝘦 𝘍𝘳𝘒𝘢π˜₯. Even though school is out for Lockhart's new release 𝘈𝘨𝘒π˜ͺ𝘯 𝘈𝘨𝘒π˜ͺ𝘯, I can't wait to get back to school (hopefully!) and share with my students. ⁣
Adelaide Buchwald has just encountered two life changing situations. Her brother Toby is in rehab for the second time for his drug addiction, and Mikey Double L has broken up with her. Now, one of those is definitely more important than the other, but we are talking about a teenage girl here. Adelaide feels like she's lost her brother even though he seems to be doing better. While Toby lives with their mom as he recovers, Adelaide lives with her father who is a professor at Adelaide's academy. ⁣
While Adelaide adjusts to her very recent breakup, she meets Jack whom she actually met before in Boston on a rooftop during a party in which he wrote a little poem for her. Seeing Jack again in a different state seems like fate, and Adelaide falls head over heels in love. In fact, Adelaide has her own addiction problem when it comes to love and relationships, and like most people, she just wants someone to love her back. ⁣
Told in a style that only Lockhart can accomplish, a mix of poetry, prose, text messages, and script, 𝘈𝘨𝘒π˜ͺ𝘯 𝘈𝘨𝘒π˜ͺ𝘯 asks the reader to re-evaluate what is important in life, what addictions we may have within our lives, and we cope with love and loss. And in true Lockhart fashion, there are twists and turns that leave you turning pages so fast you have to go back and see what you missed.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Review: No Fuzzball by Isabella King

Meet NoFuzzball...no, wait...meet Queen NoFuzzball. Sounds like a strange name, right? π˜•π˜° 𝘍𝘢𝘻𝘻𝘣𝘒𝘭𝘭 is set to release on 8/4/20. ⁣

@scholasticinc presents the furry, black Fuzzball, queen of her loving and loyal subjects...her human family. They give her daily massages and presents and all the attention a queen requires. Until they go away on vacation. Fuzzball is confused and wonders why her subjects would abandon their queen. She decided to get the house ready for their return except in Fuzzball’s Brian, making the house look tidy is the complete opposite of what she thinks tidy should look like. Not only that but her human family is going to return with something more than souvenirs from their trip. ⁣

Isabella Kung’s (@isabellakung) debut is perfect for PreK to age 3. My two year old especially loves the front and back covers with Fuzzball in her various states of queendom. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Review: Finders Creepers (Half Past Peculiar, Book One)

Finders Creepers (Half Past Peculiar, Book 1)


Derek Fridolphs (writer) and Dustin Nguyen (Illustrator)

You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover...usually...but Half Past Peculiar has a beautifully creepy cover to match the mysterious tales inside of missing pets and a mysterious house owned by the Mordreds (even the name is creepy!). 

Set to release on July 7, 2020, the first installment of the Scholastic Finder Keeper’s series will hook you from the jump. The story follows twins Esmerelda and Atticus Fetch who, after the dog disappeared years ago, find lost pets for their neighbors. From frogs to ferrets to dogs, Esmerelda and Atticus follow maps, information from books, and common sense pet clues to find these lost and beloved pets and return them to their anxious owners. 

As the story unfolds, Illustrator Dustin Nguyen creates thrilling comics of the twins’ pet rescue adventures, all the while sacrificing their homework time to look for their own lost dog. But don’t tell their adventurous mom who is away collecting artifacts for the museum. Within the narrative, Fridolphs and Nguyen show readers letters and postcards from the twins’ mom as another example of the immersion into the story. 

It seems like an easy job for the twins  to find lost pets until one mysterious lost flyer for a dog shows up in the basement and leads them to an unfriendly house with its own secret. 

*I received this copy from Scholastic in exchange for an honest review.*

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Review: True Hauntings: Deadly Disasters

True Hauntings: Deadly Disasters πŸ‘»

Dinah Wiliams 

First of all, seeing the cover of this book took me back to my elementary school days waiting for the Scholastic Book Fair to come to my school because I would totally buy all of the horror books. Today, as an adult in my thirties, I still love horror, and I was so excited to read this one!

Set to release on July 7, 2020, Dinah Williams presents ten gruesomely tragic stories across the globe. From the deadly 2011 Japanese tsunami to the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, Williams tells the stories of tragic accidents that left behind hundreds, if not thousands, of restless spirits.

Marketed for 8-12 years olds, I often yelled out “gross” or “eww” while reading, but I know I would have loved it even more as a kid. Williams also provides related facts and tidbits throughout the book which made me pull out my laptop and research. While I do wish the book provided photos of some of the supposed ghosts caught on camera, I looked each story up myself to find the evidence to support each tragedy.

In the introduction, Williams says that “20%” of people believe in ghosts. Count me as part of that 20%!


Thursday, April 30, 2020

Review: The Summer We Found the Baby by Amy Hest

The Summer We Found the Baby
By Amy Hest
Publication Date: 08/2020
Suggested Retail Price$16.99 / $22.99
Age Range: 10 and up
ISBN: 0763660078

Eleven-year-old Julie Sweet never expected to find a baby on the children's library steps, and she certainly never expected to take the baby home with her and her six-year old sister Martha. But before she can think about what she's doing, she's running towards Belle Beach with a baby in a basket! Martha, who first thinks the baby is a doll, is mad at Julie for not letting her carry the baby, as if that is the biggest problem right now. Twelve-year-old Bruno Ben-Eli is on his way to NYC for his first trip on a train into the city after a secretive letter from his brother who is away in the military. Before he can get to the train, he sees Julie and Martha taking a baby off of the stops and running away. Does he follow the instructions in his brother's letter, or does he follow the girls with the mysterious baby to the beach?

Told in alternating narratives between Julie, Martha, and Bruno, Amy Hest presents a unique situation for these children that proves to be more than meets the eye. Julie, Martha, and Bruno have to face adult-like situations where they have to make tough decisions that only they can process in the moment. Not only do they face a tough situation with this mysterious baby, but Ben learns something new about his brother that changes his entire family. 

With a faced-paced triple narrative Hest creates a tenderhearted, yet suspenseful, book for young readers that features a famous historical cameo in the end. 

About Beverley Naidoo:

Amy Hest is the author of many beloved books for young readers, including Remembering Mrs. Rossi, Letters to Leo, and the Katie Roberts novels. She is also the author of many picture books, including Kiss Good Night, When Jessie Came Across the Sea, and On the Night of the Shooting Star. Amy lives in New York City.

On the morning of the dedication of the new children’s library in Belle Beach, Long Island, eleven-year-old Julie Sweet and her six-year-old sister, Martha, find a baby in a basket on the library steps. At the same time, twelve-year-old Bruno Ben-Eli is on his way to catch the 9:15 train into New York City. He is on an important errand for his brother, Ben, who is serving in World War II. But when Bruno spies Julie, who hasn’t spoken to him for sixteen days, heading away from the library carrying a baby in a basket, he has to follow her. Holy everything, he thinks. Julie Sweet is a kidnapper. Of course, the truth about the baby they’ve found is much more complicated than the children know in this heartwarming and beautifully textured family story by award-winning author Amy Hest.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Journey to Jo'Burg: A South African Story

By Beverley Naidoo
Publication Date: December 31, 2019
Beverley’s Photo :: Jacket Art :: Beverley’s Website
HarperCollins; November 12, 2019; Paperback; ISBN: 9780064402378; 96 pages; $6.99

In my tenth grade class, I have been reading aloud Trevor Noah's Born a Crime, and when I read Journey to Jo'Burg, I couldn't help but notice the similarities in the stories and the suffering of so many people during apartheid in South Africa. While Trevor Noah's memoir is geared towards young adults and adults, Journey to Jo'Burg is perfect for older children to tweens. Siblings Naledi and Tiro must find their mother in Johannesburg, after their younger sister becomes sick, and they need to get to a hospital. The problem with finding their mother in Johannesburg is finding their way through apartheid borders. Traveling through Soweto (with much the same experience as Noah), Naledi and Tiro face unmistakable and unforgiving discrimination and injustice.

Heartbreaking and angry, Naidoo paints a story of struggle, racism, and poverty while also depicting characters who never give up and do what they need to do to save their family. While the book focuses on the journey to find their mother, Mma has her story told from the perspective of someone who works for the rich. She barely makes any money nor can she provide a lot of basic necessities for her children.

The reader simultaneously roots for the children to find their mother, and the family to survive and fight the apartheid system.

About Beverley Naidoo:
Beverley Naidoo is the award-winning author of several children’s books, including The Other Side of Truth, No Turning Back, and Chain of Fire. Her books center on political corruption, struggle, and injustices that occur in South Africa. After being exiled, Naidoo moved to England where she married and had children with another South African exile. 

Separated from their mother by the harsh social and economic conditions prevalent among blacks in South Africa, thirteen-year-old Naledi and her younger brother make a journey over 300 kilometers to find her in Johannesburg. Mma lives and works in Johannesburg, far from the village Naledi and Tiro call home. When their baby sister suddenly becomes very sick, Naledi and Tiro know, deep down, that only one person can save her. Bravely, alone, they set off on a journey to find Mma and bring her back. It isn't until they reach the city that they come to understand the dangers of their country, and the painful struggle for freedom and dignity that is taking place all around them.

Additional Praise for the Book

"Growing awareness of the sufferings of South Africa's black children brings renewed point to Beverley Naidoo's Journey to Joburg, a story for young readers, the more searing for its gentleness, that makes them ask questions we must learn to answer." 
-Guardian, UK

“...so simple and straightforward that it makes accessible even to quite young children the difficult and the profound.” 
-Times Educational Supplement, UK