A silly series just right for intermediate boys (and girls enjoy them, too). Twins Josh and Danny live near a mad scientist neighbor who has inventedA silly series just right for intermediate boys (and girls enjoy them, too). Twins Josh and Danny live near a mad scientist neighbor who has invented a serum that turns them into various animals. In this adventure, the boys and their friend Charlie (who's a girl) are turned into frogs and a newt and, of course, have a near death experience. Some nice facts about the animals woven in…this series reminds me (in a good way) of PBS cartoons-that-teach. Kids enjoy them, and they'll learn something along the way.
The illustrations could definitely be better, but they don't seem to deter kids....more
A silly series just right for intermediate boys (and girls enjoy them, too). Twins Josh and Danny live near a mad scientist neighbor who has inventedA silly series just right for intermediate boys (and girls enjoy them, too). Twins Josh and Danny live near a mad scientist neighbor who has invented a serum that turns them into various animals. In this adventure, they're turtles and, of course, have a near death experience. Some nice facts about turtles woven in…this series reminds me (in a good way) of PBS cartoons-that-teach. Kids enjoy them, and they'll learn something along the way....more
A weak 4 stars I confess--5 stars for the first 2/3 of the book; 3 for the last 1/3.
How do you classify a book like this? Historical fiction? Myth? FaA weak 4 stars I confess--5 stars for the first 2/3 of the book; 3 for the last 1/3.
How do you classify a book like this? Historical fiction? Myth? Fairy tale? Adventure? Magical realism? A little of everything?
I loved the first 2/3 of this book. The last 1/3, I was just sort of "meh" about. I've been mulling over the shift, and I've decided it's because the line between myth and historical fiction gets blurred. Astri tells herself the stories of her Norwegian culture in an attempt to process what's happening to her. This is quite well done, and her life does indeed mirror certain elements of the stories. She's very clear about what's different, though, and her character felt very realistic. Don't so many of us story-lovers do the same thing? Out of hope, especially, we remind ourselves of our stories--perhaps the current situation will turn out like one of those old wonderful stories we cling to. And Astri's life is hard, so hard. It's no wonder she escapes into the land of myth.
But when she and Greta get on the boat--actually, once the horse enters the picture--the line gets fuzzier and fuzzier until the ending is magical realism all over the place. I'm not sure how I wanted the book to end, but it wasn't satisfying as written.
Note for concerned parents: there's one scene about 1/3 the way through the book where the goatherd that Astri has been sold to comes into her bed somewhat aggressively, and Astri uses a knife to defend herself. This may trouble younger, precocious readers. The remaining sinister elements feel very much in keeping with fairy tales and fantasy that many younger readers enjoy....more
I wanted to like this more than I did. In general, it's fairly well written, but the ending felt a touch contrived, and I didn't like some of the artI wanted to like this more than I did. In general, it's fairly well written, but the ending felt a touch contrived, and I didn't like some of the art history speculation. Still, a fun choice for kids interested in art and/or who enjoy mysteries....more
First of all, to what does the title refer? They make a point of saying actuation is what used to be called magic, but no one uses the word "spell" atFirst of all, to what does the title refer? They make a point of saying actuation is what used to be called magic, but no one uses the word "spell" at all. They kind of steal something, but really, they're stealing it back….
Secondly, while I love me a good series, it's nice to read a book that can stand on its own, too. This one is clearly a set up for the rest of the series. As such, there's a bit of back story and explaining to wade through--but it's not overdone, and the explaining of actuation in particular is definitely necessary.
All in all, a great read and one that kids will be clamoring for. I love that magic has become uber scientific in this. There are a few over the top things (like "Dread Cloaks"--from what I could tell, they don't even wear cloaks), but mostly the fact that a kid can cue up a fireball or rainstorm is pretty cool. Ben is a great characters, and it will be fun to see how his story plays out. Sasha and Peter are on the fringe, despite that cover, so I'm not as invested in them yet. And I liked how the name Richter features in, but is slippery--even as a name…. ...more
TenNapel says to think of this as an Easter story, a Resurrection story--and when you have that framework going in, the story takes on a whole new meaTenNapel says to think of this as an Easter story, a Resurrection story--and when you have that framework going in, the story takes on a whole new meaning! On the surface, a story of a kid who loses his dog, goes to live with Grandpa for the summer, and meets up with some bullies. Then… he discovers a T-Rex. The T-Rex becomes his new pet with mixed results initially (after all T-Rexes can be awfully destructive, even if accidentally). The ending shows some subtle clues to the Resurrection/Easter them--at the beginning of the story, Ely asks what eggs have to do with Easter. At the end of the story, Ely and Randy are shown frolicking with the baby dinosaurs that have hatched out of the eggs left behind…. There are lots more details, events, and emotions. This is a great story, one that kids will enjoy (esp the dinosaur's bodily functions!) and with more depth than first meets the eye.
My one complaint is that the sequence showing Ely and the T-Rex first getting acquainted felt choppy to me. There's no evidence of Ely even remotely thinking he should be careful/afraid/cautious or even that he's surprised to see a giant T-rex…. I know it's a graphic novel and all, but I needed a touch more realism for that part I guess....more
The magical car seems to be flying for the last time in this latest installment of her time-traveling adventReview originally posted at RedeemedReader
The magical car seems to be flying for the last time in this latest installment of her time-traveling adventures (following Chitty Bang Bang and the Race against Time, which takes her and the Tooting family back to the prehistoric era). Not only does Chitty fly to the moon and back, but this time, the Tooting family actually meets the original Potts family. There are also instances in which the modern Chitty is in the same time and place with a Chitty from another time and place. The Tootings and Pottses try valiantly to keep the two Chittys from actually seeing each other because they rightly fear an interruption in the space-time continuum. Tiny Jack is his same nefarious self, and everyone gets a glimpse of what the future would be if we went back and tinkered with the past.
Sometimes, hard decisions must be made, and the Tootings and Pottses are faced with a doozie: do they do the right thing, take Chitty back into the past, and undo a wrong? By undoing it, they will also undo the Tootings’ own experiences with Chitty—without even a memory left. This sacrifice on the Tootings’ part would be immense. But, doing the right thing often does call for sacrifice. And community often helps us survive those sacrifices. A terrifically fun read, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Over the Moon is light sci-fi, full of quirky characters, nicely diverse, and very British. ...more
This book came out on my birthday this year (January 8) along with titles such as Hokey Pokey, Navigating EarlyReview originally posted on Literaritea
This book came out on my birthday this year (January 8) along with titles such as Hokey Pokey, Navigating Early, and The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brockett. Despite the "potential Newbery buzz" for books like Hokey Pokey and Navigating Early (both were on the early "to read" list at Heavy Medal, for instance), my favorite of this group is The Adventures of a South Pole Pig: A Novel of Snow and Courage.
So, why do I like this little chapter book so much? A longheld love affair with Charlotte's Web making me predisposed to like any pig chapter book? A general fondness for talking animal stories? A son who loves all things "pig"? Those are all reasons that helped me pick up this title off the "new" shelf at the library earlier this year. But those are not the reasons that make me like this book better than others I've read this year.
The Adventures of a South Pole Pig: A Novel of Snow and Courage is well written. Pure and simple. Characterization is top notch. We first meet Flora as a piglet who dreams of life beyond the pigpen, befriending the barnyard cat (Luna) in hopes of finding out "stuff." One day: escape! And Flora meets Oscar, a lead sled dog. Henceforward, after being returned to the pigpen, Flora dreams not just of exploration but of joining the sled dog team. After all, she has courage, pluck, strength, a stout heart. What more could you ask for in a sled dog team member?
One day, Flora is taken, along with Oscar and a number of other dogs, on board a ship bound for an Antarctic expedition. The reader will pick up on clues that go over Flora's head: her destiny is clearly for the crew's plates. She and her newest cat friend, Sophia, team up in the ship's hold to conquer the myriad rats, and Flora works hard to build up her strength in preparation for her anticipated sled dog/pig role.
Catastrophe strikes the ship, Flora's stout heart and strong legs help save the day, and she becomes essential to the team's survival. Flora forms an unlikely team with old Oscar, prickly Sophia, and the boy Aleric to help save the day in a heartwarming ending that is not at all saccharine.
The best chapter books for the third-fifth grade crowd feature great friendships, often between unlikely characters. You will find that in spades in this delightful book. Flora seeks adventure and finds it beyond her wildest dreams. Her courage is tremendous. Sophia's begrudging acceptance of the role of team player is well done. The scary and tense situations are just the right level for the target age group. As bizarre as the plot line is, it somehow works: we're rooting for a pig and a cat in the Antarctic and we know they will make it.
This book works on so many levels: plot, characterization, "issues" (survival, friendship, teamwork, etc.), setting (from the farm to the boat to the Antarctic). Illustrations are quirky and effective. But it also works on a sentence level: the text is excellent. A well constructed text can be read aloud easily and to great effect; Kurtz gives us that here. In fact, while this book will delight strong third and fourth grade readers (and younger), I think it's real gift will be as a read aloud so that a group can cheer on Flora together. She would like that; she's a friendly type and a real team player. ...more
When 12-year-old Cat suffers a concussion and brain damage after falling from her bird watching perch, nothReview originally posted on RedeemedReader.
When 12-year-old Cat suffers a concussion and brain damage after falling from her bird watching perch, nothing is quite the same. Her balance is a tad off, her memory a tad off, her concentration…you guessed it…a tad off. So when she and her mom hear about an innovative brain science institution that’s promising full recovery, they are definitely interested. The only problem? When Cat arrives at the specialized institution tucked away in a remote part of the Everglades, she discovers that things aren’t always what they seem. Why, at such a prestigious institution, aren’t there more than a handful of patients? Isn’t it odd that they are all twelve year olds with similar brain damage? Why have some of the patients mysteriously disappeared? What is really going on?
Wake Up Missing is an adrenaline pumping read that just came out this month. A little bit of brain science, a little bit of potential DNA manipulation, a little bit about the history of some very famous scientists, and a lot of action make this book a quick and exciting read. Guys and girls both will enjoy the mixed cast of characters and the small subplots going on in the background. Anytime a book brings up such murky waters as DNA manipulation, there is much to discuss. This is not a “deep” novel, but there are great issues to pick apart. In this book, it is clear that the way each person was originally created is the way he or she should stay–even if a brain injury has complicated that original design (although Messner doesn’t phrase it quite that way, the point is there)....more
Pros: Lots of fun to read, this book jumps right into the story on the morning of Testing Day when all 12-year-olds fiI'll say this is basically a 3.5
Pros: Lots of fun to read, this book jumps right into the story on the morning of Testing Day when all 12-year-olds find out their rank (3's and up are good to go; below that and you're a nobody; 1's aren't even allowed to marry/have children and no one's ever heard of a zero).
You guessed it: our hero is a zero. Of course, the plot doesn't end there but races along to an ending that would be pretty impressive on the big screen. There is lots more going on than Al first understands when he receives his zero rank mark. Like all good fantasy heroes, he learns as he goes, meets unusual fellow outcasts, reunites with his old friends, hides from those out to kill him, and eventually performs nearly superhuman feats to save the day--all because he is being sacrificial and thinking of others.
Cons: this book would have benefited from a touch more originality (cities named Brighton and Dockside, for one). The supporting characters, especially Al's friends, were a bit unremarkable and stock.
All that to say, this is a fun read and kids will no doubt enjoy it--especially if they're not as jaded as this grown-up who's read a fair number of "testing day" type scenarios in recent years and which all feature the main character NOT landing the mark/rank/station/skill they expect. ...more
3.5, really. Not quite a 4 star, but it feels better than my usual 3 stars...
Review originally posted on Literaritea. Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC!
T3.5, really. Not quite a 4 star, but it feels better than my usual 3 stars...
Review originally posted on Literaritea. Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC!
There's no question that Voigt can write, and write well at that. On the surface, her latest book seemed tailor made for me: I love a good mystery. I enjoy historic time periods and settings. I relish a good, open ending. Quirky characters, a dog, some art, the life of the theater--what's not to like?
When the book opens, Max's parents--both actors and owners of the Starling Theater Company--are planning a monumental trip to India. Max gets to go along. Until the day his parents board the boat and the boat leaves...without him. But, because Max is a quick thinker, he soon finds out that the boat they were supposed to board didn't exist. Therefore, did the whole trip exist? Are his parents in trouble? Did they know about this ahead of time? Is this an elaborate game or some nefarious plot? The reader doesn't know either, and we spend the next several hundred pages working on this mystery along with Max.
Thankfully, Max's grandmother lives close by, so he's not completely alone at the tender age of 12. He also has his painting instructor, a new tutor, and a new spunky girl to help him make sense of life and survive. And survive he does through his newly created "Mister Max" business: he solves minor mysteries for hire. Each time Max shows up for a new job, he's crafted a new disguise using his parents' many costumes. Thus, no one knows it's really a twelve year old boy underneath.
By the end of the book, we've learned a lot about Max and his parents (including where they are, although not how/why they got there), and Max has helped long lost lovers reunite, his painting instructor discover a new technique, and made some good friends. We're nicely set up, too, for the next book in the series.
And yet... Frankly, this book was too long. I finished it several weeks ago and am still mulling over just what didn't work. I enjoyed the characterization both of Max and the supporting cast. I enjoyed the overall dramatic framework of the book ("Act I"). But the length of the book draws out the mystery surrounding the parents' disappearance a little too long. We're bored with where his parents might be by the end and are much more invested in the here and now with Max and his new friends....more
This is a great introduction to the tale of Beowulf: gritty, full of action, high drama. Hinds does a good job with palette and manages to keep the acThis is a great introduction to the tale of Beowulf: gritty, full of action, high drama. Hinds does a good job with palette and manages to keep the action intense without overdoing it; if the blood were always red, it might be too much, but it's simply dark splotches in the first book. The reader knows it's gory, but it's a little easier to take.
All in all, a good overview to the legend--particularly for high school and/or college students struggling to read through it for English class :-). (Like my own students used to have to do!)...more
Based on a real person, this tale is definitely a tall tale--or is it?
I have a hard time with Sis's faces, but otherwise, I find his illustrations fasBased on a real person, this tale is definitely a tall tale--or is it?
I have a hard time with Sis's faces, but otherwise, I find his illustrations fascinating. He puts such details in them. This book reminded me a touch of his style in The Wall: there are spreads where there is a single line of text at the bottom but various smaller frames with additional narration above.
Author's note with more information on the main character included....more
This is just the kind of book I devoured in 4th grade (and thereabouts). Mystery, adventure, potential murder, danger... (which is precisely why I hadThis is just the kind of book I devoured in 4th grade (and thereabouts). Mystery, adventure, potential murder, danger... (which is precisely why I had a steady book diet of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys during that time!). Kids will enjoy it!...more
When the story opens, 12-year-old Ivan is living with his mother in an apartment in Leningrad as the famous siege of Leningrad begins. Ivan and his olWhen the story opens, 12-year-old Ivan is living with his mother in an apartment in Leningrad as the famous siege of Leningrad begins. Ivan and his older neighbor (an "aunt") flee the city on a dangerous journey which involved crossing a iced-over river, catching a ride with a stranger, and showing up unannounced at a distant relative's house. Once they arrive in their new rural town, Ivan quickly makes friends with the local resistance fighters and joins them--none too soon, it turns out, because the Germans are moving in quickly. Ivan ends up getting chosen by the brutal commander of this particular German force--Axel--to play music for him and to train Axel's two adorable German Shepherd puppies.
I won't give away the rest of the book. Suffice it to say that Ivan forms a tremendous bond with his two canine charges, hatches a daring escape plan for them and him both (and other resistance fighters), endures another harrowing journey across unforgiving Russia, and... you'll just have to read it! Those who enjoyed the first Zasha book will enjoy this one. This one ends on a cliff hanger--which makes sense if you've read the first book, but which I had to do a little research about since I haven't read the first.
Zasha is a bit too long for my tastes and will challenge some early middle school students. Still it's a good fit for the middle grades age group and young adults will enjoy it, too. ...more
Phelan did a terrific job with the graphic novel medium for this story--or, rather, three stories. Taking inspiration from Verne, Phelan chronicles thPhelan did a terrific job with the graphic novel medium for this story--or, rather, three stories. Taking inspiration from Verne, Phelan chronicles the solo globe-trotting journeys of Thomas Stevens on bicycle, Nellie Bly on various modes of transport, and Joshua Slocum on sailboat. Interesting, a great combination of stories, and excellent use of frames--this is a book kids will enjoy reading. I particularly liked the way Phelan reveals the passage of time/lands in the different frames and the way he captures the character of these three adventurous types....more
This second installment is one madcap race to be sure. Chitty has a mind of her own and takes the Tooting family to prReviewed first on RedeemedReader
This second installment is one madcap race to be sure. Chitty has a mind of her own and takes the Tooting family to prehistoric times, to the Roaring Twenties in America (and Chitty’s original owner, Count Zborowski), to El Dorado, to the present, and finally, to the famous 1966 World Cup game in London. Jem uses Chitty’s logbook to piece together different adventures in Chitty’s past (and helps his sister Lucy narrowly avert a tragic accident). By the end of the book, the nefarious Tiny Jack and Nanny have Chitty in their grips, and the Tooting family has just spied the Potts family. Personally, I think this book would make a very fun animated film. Definitely the tie that binds the trilogy together, this is the most action-packed of the three and leaves you hanging at the end!...more
Fun, quick read--action-packed, 24-hour timeline, secret societies, ethnically diverse characters, good guys v bad guys, and... baggage carousels! LovFun, quick read--action-packed, 24-hour timeline, secret societies, ethnically diverse characters, good guys v bad guys, and... baggage carousels! Love those scenes.
I thought it a bit predictable, but that's probably just the grown-up in me reading this. Kids will no doubt enjoy it.
I confess that Anna got on my nerves a bit and I found the other characters needing a bit more "oomph" for me to really fall in love with them....more
My husband remembers reading this book as a kid; I missed it somehow. We listened to this with our children on our Christmas travels. The author readMy husband remembers reading this book as a kid; I missed it somehow. We listened to this with our children on our Christmas travels. The author read the version we listened to, and she was an excellent narrator! We all enjoyed the story immensely, but I kept marveling (silently) at how stereotypical the Indian and Cowboy were. I managed to overcome that and enjoy the story--but I also confess that I kept picturing Owen Wilson as the cowboy a la his role in the Night at the Museum movie... which made me laugh.
But I digress. Great adventure, full of imagination, and a terrific ending. Worth noting for those concerned: as a British work, there aren't the same qualms with certain slang phrases that often don't appear in "classic" American works targeted for this age audience ("hell" and similar words)....more
Chwast gives us a marvelous retelling of the Odyssey, keeping characters and scenes intact and distilling the great work down to its essence in a fastChwast gives us a marvelous retelling of the Odyssey, keeping characters and scenes intact and distilling the great work down to its essence in a fast moving graphic novel format. I think college students and adults who read this in high school and want a quick recap would thoroughly enjoy this.
Note to concerned parents: some scenes/characters look much more startling in graphic novel format than when merely read about in antiquated poetic form. Racy elements are more racy and so forth. ...more
Oh, Binky makes me laugh--mostly because he reminds me of my nephew. I never reviewed this book last year, but this is what I gave my 6 year old nepheOh, Binky makes me laugh--mostly because he reminds me of my nephew. I never reviewed this book last year, but this is what I gave my 6 year old nephew for Christmas last year. For Christmas this year? the next in the series. Quirky and funny--a great combo...more
I wasn't wowed by Moon Over Manifest, I'll be honest. Navigating Early is a much stronger work in my opinion. AnotheReview first posted on Literaritea
I wasn't wowed by Moon Over Manifest, I'll be honest. Navigating Early is a much stronger work in my opinion. Another historical fiction work, this time set just at the end of WWII in a boys' boarding school in Maine, Navigating Early follows one boy's journey to come to grips with his mother's death and his father's seeming unconcern for him. In the process, he meets the unique Early Auden, goes on a fantastical voyage that weaves in and out of the mythic story of Pi (including the discovery of further numbers), and helps bring closure to more than one person in Early's famous family.
If Early Auden were living today, we would diagnose him somewhere on the autism spectrum--probably Asberger's. I really like that he is NOT diagnosed in this book (he wouldn't have been labeled in the WWII time period either). I think this adds to his character significantly. We want to label people in so many ways; isn't it better to befriend them and learn from them regardless of what label they might carry? Jack learns that Early is a true friend. And Jack learns how to be a friend back.
Early teaches Jack many things on their voyage to find the giant bear, to follow Pi's journey, and to complete their quest. What Jack doesn't know is that Early's absolute conviction of his brother's survival from war (against ALL official evidence), his knowledge of the mathematical intricacies involved in the number Pi, and his childlike faith in the details he notices are all true--even though the casual observer would never believe it. Early notices myriad details that others miss, perhaps because he's not so caught up in the social issues that bog most folks down. Part magical realism, part quest, and all friendship, this story works for me better than Moon Over Manifest. It's a touch too long and struggles a bit with the voice--sounds more like an adult narrating than Jack many times. Still, it's worth reading, and I think many sensitive young readers will enjoy this one....more
I was drawn to this book because I like quirky stories, and I'm a huge fan of Oliver Jeffers (the illustrator). And this book started out great! PoorI was drawn to this book because I like quirky stories, and I'm a huge fan of Oliver Jeffers (the illustrator). And this book started out great! Poor Barnaby Brockett, born to terrible parents, sibling to two very ordinary kids, and master to one devoted dog. The book reads much as a classic Roald Dahl book might (complete with TERRIBLE parents!), and Jeffers's illustrations add a similar touch as Quentin Blake's might.
And yet, the book gets both more absurd and a trifle more boring in the second half. Barnaby's malady (floating) is unrealistic, sure. But somehow, even though he'd floated up, gotten caught in a hot air balloon, been to South American, North America, Europe, and Africa (in addition to his home continent of Australia), when he floats up to space only to be intercepted by the international space mission... well, I was kind of over it by then.
An adventure, yes. Quirky, yes. Funny and endearing characters (save for Barnaby's own family--and, honestly, Barnaby himself), yes. Good "message" (be yourself), yes. But overall, a bit too absurd for my quirky tastes when all was said and done. I felt that the ending was a bit lackluster even though Barnaby was taking a stand.
My kids and I are continuing to enjoy these stories about Poppy. We're listening to them on tape, so that may be part of the charm. The narrator is doMy kids and I are continuing to enjoy these stories about Poppy. We're listening to them on tape, so that may be part of the charm. The narrator is doing an excellent job of maintaining terrific voices for the different animals. This makes crotchety Ereth's swearing even funnier ("spider spit" and the like). Ereth is a porcupine, by the way. Like Ragweed and Poppy, Poppy and Rye alludes to greater social and societal issues than simply two mice falling in love and, together with Ereth and Rye's family, defeating a troop of beavers. This book brings up questions of environmentalism (subtle, but there) as well as progress for the sake of progress v. evaluating the current status quo before forging ahead. It's a little slower than Poppy, but if you're vested in the characters it shouldn't be a problem.
Great characterization as usual and just the right level of adventure for elementary school students....more