A Shiloh Christmas

A year has passed since Shiloh has become part of Marty’s family.  It’s almost Christmas but the holiday spirit is low.  Judd, Shiloh’s previous owner, is trying to be a better person, a new minister preaches more fire and brimstone than love, and a severe drought has made life harder.  Marty and his family suspect the new pastor of hiding abuse of his daughters when they discover Rachel locked in a toolshed.  A sudden wildfire destroys several houses and although Judd’s home is also burned, he is blamed for setting the fire.  Marty’s parents offer Judd a place to stay while he rebuilds his house and searches for his dog.  While uncomfortable, with the support of his family, Marty begins to see his community in a new light.  As in the other books, the warm feelings of love, compassion, and family mingle with messages of tolerance and forgiveness.  Despite being the last in a quartet, this book can stand on it’s own.  Another wonderful read!

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Dog Man: The Tale of Two Kitties

Dav Pilkey’s third installment in the Dog Man series is a, “tale of oppression…a tale of redemption…a tale of rebirth…a take of hope…a tale of two kitties.”  The three story lines of Dog Man, Petey the Cat, and Mecha Flippy converge when good comes out on top.  Petey’s clone, a kitten joins the story, but refuses to take up his creator’s evil.  The story ends with Mecha Flippy in jail but turned to the side of good by the friendship of the kitten. Petey has escaped the Police Chief and is off to create more havoc.

Step by step direction on drawing the characters is at the end of the book.  Also included is a comic explaining the benefits of reading to a pet.

Sure to be a hit, especially with reluctant readers.

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The Last Viking Returns

Josh, the oldest of three boys, has always admired Vikings.  He is brave and afraid of nothing.  However, his younger twin brothers are getting bigger and wilder, which does worry him.  While staying with their grandparents, they all take an adventure to Viking World.  At the same time, Thor and the gods in Asgard are watching over them.  As the twins get into mischief, Josh spies them on a Viking ship just as archers with flaming arrows are about to demonstrate a Viking funeral.  A similar problem is happening in Asgard as the dragon, Fafnir, is about to attack.  Josh finds an inner strength to protect his brothers – in a way that also helps the gods protect Asgard!  The large, colorful illustrations add many details to the story.  Throughout Viking World are runes on wooden beams.  A key in the back helps decode the messages.  They are quotes about dragons and bravery from Tolkein, Neil Gaiman, John Lennon and Churchill.  Awesome addition!  This book is a real treat on many levels.

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The Baseball Player and the Walrus

A very successful baseball player became quite unhappy with his life.  One day, while visiting a zoo, he enjoyed watching a walrus.  The more he thought about it, the more he wanted the walrus in his life.  The zoo would not sell it to him until he could prove he could take good care of it, so he created a huge, complete environment for it.  All went well, until baseball season started.  He missed his walrus so much he decided to quit the team to spend more time at home with his friend.  However, he discovered taking care of a walrus was expensive and soon ran out of money.  The walrus was returned to the zoo.  When the player tried to re-join the team, he found he had been replaced.  Sadly he went to the zoo to say goodbye to his friend  As he entered, he noticed a sign requesting an experienced caretaker for the walrus.  He knew his prayers were answered.  Simple, cartoon-like illustrations are colorful and expressive.  This provides a good look at the responsibilities of owning a pet and being happy.

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All The Crooked Saints

Filled with magical realism reminiscent of Isabel Allende, Maggie Steifvater takes readers to the fantasy of town of Bicho Raro, Colorado, where strangers find themselves coming to “find themselves”.   Three cousins, who act more like siblings, Beatriz, Daniel and Joaquin, all possess the family power to bring out the inner darkness in people but it is up to the visitors themselves to find their own miracle cure in defeating their inner demons.  Young adult readers who are used to plot-driven contemporary coming of age novels will need to be patient with Steifvater’s writing and try to look at it via the lense of good art rather than entertainment.  Motifs of owls and roses, conflicts of inner powers vs outer perceptions, and landscapes both real and fantastical will swoon some readers and surprise previous Stiefvater fans. Plus, the gorgeous cover will sell this as well.  Recommended for upper middle and high school libraries.

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Creatures of the Rain Forest

Interesting, although sometimes creepy, creatures of the Central and South American rainforests are described in this 32 paged book..  One interesting feature in this series shows the comparative size of the creature to a hand or an average adult height.  Another, is a rating scale of each being for size, power, strength, aggression, and deadliness.  The tiny Brazilian treehopper, has an odd-shaped helmet to ward off predators.  Other animals include the poison dart frog (which isn’t poisonous when raised in captivity!), the Brazilian wandering spider whose bite is 30 times more deadly that of a rattlesnake, as well as the Hercules beetle, which eats 24 hours a day.  Also included are the vampire bat, the singular mammal whose diet is only blood (a sanguinivore), the Goliath bird-eating spider, larger than your dinner plate, and the Goliath tigerfish, with 32 sharp, one inch long teeth! The last three include the electric eel, whose electrical impulses can knock a horse off its feet, the green anaconda, which can weigh up to 500 lbs., and the harpie eagle, a huge bird whose 5 ” talons can be the same size as a grizzly bear’s.  Each page includes full color photos, a paragraph about habitat or behaviors, and a fact box.  Additional facts are presented in the back with an index.

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The terms carnivore, herbivore, and omnivore are defined on the first page.  The text is large and although there are only a couple of sentences per page, young readers will appreciate the information included.  Beautiful close-up photos show a variety of carnivores.  Some of the carnivores mentioned may be a surprise, for example, spiders.  These meat eaters use venom to soften food in order to eat.  Also, the Venus fly trap is a plant that ingests insects.  A picture glossary is in the back with a book and internet resource, and an index.  The format is pleasing and information is plentiful.  This is a great nonfiction resource for primary readers.

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My Rotten Friend

Told in a rhyming text, AAAB format, a young girl narrates the zombie-like qualities of her best friend.  “She’s my best friend, but I won’t lie, Penelope smells like something died.”  Epelbaum’s artwork does a great job showing classmates and adults being repulsed by Penelope.  The young, blonde narrator tries to get Penelope involved in activities, but things just don’t go well.  Penelope starts biting things and people, including the narrator.  Penelope is hungry, but only for brains!  As the story continues, the young girl begins to change… into someone very much like her gross, in-dead friend.  Just the book for a creepy read-aloud!  Zombie vampires!  Yikes!

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Sunshine Brightens Springtime

What a great nonfiction book about sunshine for young readers!  Large, colorful, illustrations show animals enjoying springtime sun.  The rhyming text informs the reader about all the ways the sun affects our lives.  Verb word choice “beams”, “sparkles”, and “glimmers” add another dimension of interest to this attractive book.  The acrylic and digital artwork uses a warm palate of colors to create a joyful arrival of spring.  The last pages add further facts along with an internet site.

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The Lavender Blue Dress

This is a gentle, rhyming story of a little girl whose family was poor but loving.  The Christmas ball was approaching and all the school children were looking forward to something new to wear.  Mabel had been dreaming of a dress the same beautiful color as her lavender blue sheets.  As her classmates joyfully raced home to prepare for the dance, Mabel slowly walked with her mom.  Once home, her parents and grandparents surprised her with a gorgeous gown they had created while she was at school.  Mabel’s dress was a success but the love of family is what made it the best.  The artwork, in cool pastels, is a good match for this tender story.

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I Wanna be a Dinosaur!

Detailed, colorful watercolor illustrations enhance this story of a dinosaur-loving family.  Son Carl wants to be a dinosaur and the entire family gets involved with choosing a dinosaur with particular qualities or characteristics.  Twelve dinosaurs that walk, fly, or swim are emphasized as each family member tries to make a decision.  The artwork is large, ample, and vibrant.  The last pages provide additional facts about each dinosaur in the story.  An interesting feature is a timeline of periods from the Permian to the Cretaceous so one can see in which period each dinosaur live.  This is a great mix of fact and fiction.

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Wax by Gina Damico

Reviewed By: Shelley Walter, OHS Library Secretary

WAX by DamicoThis is the story of a teenage girl, Poppy, who is an aspiring actress. She has a nightmare performance and is ridiculed by her peers, namely a boy name Blake. Blake bullies her and she seeks revenge and finds a secret studio inside the town’s famous candle factory.

The old woman in the secret studio, who crafts wax figures of various people including townspeople, warns Poppy of a plot to take over the town by replacing the humans with wax substitutes.

The book took time to get going and at times seemed to drag. It is a good story and did get my interest as it went along.

Poppy’s family did not quite develop into interesting characters. The wax teenage boy “Dud” plays a part, I found myself wishing he had a bigger part (he did in the end).  Poppy has a somewhat sarcastic sense of life and I identified with that.

My first young adult novel to read in quite a while.

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Hip-Hop Culture

Hip-Hop Culture, part of the Hip-Hop Insider series, takes one on an informative, fast-paced and fascinating trip through hip-hop history up to today’s influences such as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s use of hip-hop in Hamilton. Written by history teacher/author Judy Dodge Cummings, readers quickly see the widespread influence hip-hop has had since 1973 with its birth by DJ Kool Herc trying to fulfill a need for new school clothes by throwing a “concert” at a local rec center where he and his sister charged admission.  Here he began combining songs during drum sections and this form of hip-hop became deejaying – one of four connected touchstones.  From ghetto to global stage, from need to commercialization, Cummings lays out the influence of deejaying as well as the other three –emceeing, dance, and graffiti — have had in cultivating hip-hop culture and likewise how hip-hop has influenced our word, dance, music, dress, and politics.  Complete with bright color photos and historic side-bars, a timeline, essential facts, glossary, resources, and notes for each chapter, the 112-page text maintains an upbeat feel.  While written for the young adult audience, Hip-Hop Culture provides provocative food for thought and discussions at a higher level that one would initially imagine.  Recommended for libraries who need a more recent copyright date.

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Spy Next Door: Mutant Rat Attack

At first glance, I was impressed with the illustrations that accompany the text.  It’s almost a cross between a middle grades book and a graphic novel, which makes it a great option for students to bridge that gap.  The main character, Dexter Drabner, has an active imagination, and I think students will connect with him.  The story begins with a dream sequence and continues with Dexter filling in for one of his favorite superheroes, Toby Falcon, who is a skateboard-riding spy!  An accident in Dexter’s science classroom causes a large, mutant rat to be on the loose.  The only turn-off was the emphasis on “rat gas power” (flatulence) to produce electric power.  Overall, though, this is an engaging book designed for students grades 2-5.

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The Hubble Space Telescope

This informational text about the Hubble Space Telescope covers how the telescope works, what missions it is has been apart of and what it is. Informational text features complement the text and add to the learning. There is even a diagram of the Hubble Space Telescope. The end of the book includes a section of books and websites to learn more about it.

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Great Big Things

The illustrations and simple text were the first things that attracted me to this book. It starts out with a view from space and the words, “The world is full of great big things:”. It goes on to show really big things: a canyon, billions of stars, the wide desert. And then it focuses on one mouse who travels throughout the book in the wind, on a massive train, through a forest, with only a crumb and at the end reaches another mouse and gives them the crumb. The message is that great big things are very small when you go through them for someone you love.

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Winter Dance

A fox sees a snowflake floating through the air and wonders what he should do because winter is coming. Each animal that the fox meets gives suggestions based on what they do to get ready for winter. The squirrel gathers, the bat hangs by its toes and goes to sleep, and the snowshoe hare turns white to match the snow. Each time the fox says, “That won’t do for me.” At the end, the fox meets another fox and they dance in the snow. The text is engaging as well as informative about animal behavior. The illustrations are beautiful and work with the text to create a soft tone reminiscent of winter snowfall.

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And the Robot Went

A Nosy Fox opens a box to find robot parts inside. Different characters come along to try to make to robot work, but are not successful. “the Eager Beaver pulled the lever, the Wicked Witch flicked the switch…” After each character does something to the robot, the robot makes a noise. Finally a child comes along and takes charge, directing the animals what to do to create the robot.

The text is cumulative and rhyming. The onomatopoeia and illustrations contribute to the chaos that is going on. The confusion and chaos continues, as the last line states “and the robot went.” and he walks off into the sunset.

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How Is Chocolate Made

This text gives an overview of how chocolate is made. Two to three sentences are on a page and each two page spread includes a photograph related to the text on the page. The text includes many informational text features including words in color, a map, glossary, and an index. There is also a code for abdokids.com which has a video, activities and links to other information about how chocolate is made.

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No Tooting at Tea

As a young girl goes over the rules and manners for attending a tea, she is continuously interrupted by a toot. They go through the suspects and the reasons why they could not of tooted. “Owls don’t toot, they hoot.” She decides to cancel her tea party since no one will tell her who keeps tooting and as she walks back to the house, she discovers that it is the teakettle. They decide to have the tea and then the young girl toots. There is an afterword about how to make tea and what to include at a tea party.

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Plankton is Pushy

Plankton happens upon Mussel and says hello. Mussel does not reply and Plankton feels that Mussel is being rude. Plankton goes on to explain that Mussel should reply, yet Mussel remains silent further frustrating Plankton. When Mussel finally opens, Plankton can’t hear him, so he gets closer and closer until… SNAP! Mussel closes over Plankton. The entire story is told as a one sided conversation and from the point of view of Plankton. The illustrations give us clues to how Plankton is feeling.

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Karl, Get Out of the Garden!

A picture book biography about the man responsible for developing the scientific classification and naming system used throughout the scientific community today.  The water color illustrations do a good job of evoking the time period (1700s) in which Karl Linne, aka Carolus Linnaeus, lived and worked.  The book shares his early love of plants and insects, his confusion as he began his medical studies and found so many different names used for the same plants, the wrath he faced from other scientists who found him presumptuous in declaring his own name for things, and the eventual fame and fortune he received (even being knighted) when his ideas caught on.  Final information pages in the back share how his system has needed to grow and adapt as new scientific knowledge grows.

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Willow’s Smile

It’s okay, but I thought a bit flat.  It’s basically a story about a girl who feels like she can’t always summon a smile when she wants, and she’s worried as picture day approaches.  When she’s assigned to be the photographer’s assistant, she gets the job of bringing out everyone else’s smiles.  When it’s her turn, they all join forces to return the favor. Smiles all around.

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Daddy Long Legs

It’s cute. It’s kitschy. It’s got vintage, graphic illustrations that are reminiscent of picture books of the past.  On the way to school, Matthew’s father’s car has trouble starting.  As dad drops him off at Kindergarten, the what-ifs begin.  Matthew begins by asking what if the car doesn’t start when it’s time for dad to come get him, and then for every answer dad has to offer, Matthew has a new what-if question, exposing his fear that dad might not make it back.  But in the end, dad assures him that if all else fails, he will run on his own two legs back to Matthew’s side.

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Before You

It reads like a poetic love letter.  It feels like it has romantic overtones, but could also be read aloud as a parent reading to a child.  It’s a series of, “I was a flower with no pot. I was a polka with no dot….” etc. etc. etc. And then a series of all the things the listener brought to the reader’s life. It ends by asking, “What took you so long?”

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