Dragonbreath is very cute and funny, but it's also got a hint of sophistication. Danny Dragonbreath's nerdy iguana best friend, Wendell, uses some bigDragonbreath is very cute and funny, but it's also got a hint of sophistication. Danny Dragonbreath's nerdy iguana best friend, Wendell, uses some big words and lots of sarcasm in his role as the reluctant sidekick to Danny's boisterous hero. There are lots of jokes that adults will laugh at as well as children. The plot is a little like Magic School Bus in that Danny has to do a report on oceans, so he and Wendell visit his sea serpent relative for some up close and personal research. Danny also struggles to breathe his first fire and deals with the school bully, who's a Kimodo dragon.There's a mix here of chapters and comics. The two-tone art is reminiscent of Jellaby and Babymouse, but the accent color is, of course, green. First in a series. ...more
More of a teaching tool than a great novel, I think. It had plenty of the ingredients for an outstanding read, but didn't come together for me.
If youMore of a teaching tool than a great novel, I think. It had plenty of the ingredients for an outstanding read, but didn't come together for me.
If you want to learn about the Civil Rights Movement in 1968 from the perspective of a 13-year-old boy whose father is a peaceful leader alongside MLK, and whose older brother is joining the Black Panther Party, this book succeeds. But if you're looking to read a really great story, not so much. I learned a lot from reading it, but I can't say I enjoyed it very much.
The language of book is elegant and thoughtful (though, in my copy, chapter 12 started with a typo: a big W instead of a T, turning "the" into "whe"). But the plot relentlessly hits you with terrible injustice after terrible injustice. The main character, Sam, is constantly hurt, confused, angry, scared--so much so, it's hard to connect with him. He never knows what to think or what to do. Some people may not be bothered by that because it's realistic. But I like my main characters to have a stronger perspective, so they don't just get blown around like a leaf in the wind through the entire book.
The other main characters in this book (Sam's father Roland, his brother Stick, Sam's girlfriend Maxie, his friend Bucky, his mother, and Stick's Black Panther friends) are all good and well-intentioned people caught in a seemingly hopeless battle for equality. The story's villains (racist white people, usually cops) are all exceedingly evil and one-dimensional. It's easy to hate the bad guys, but hard to choose which good guys you want to follow. The non-violent MLKers who organize demonstrations or the gun-carrying Panthers who provide breakfast and free clinics for black communities? I wasn't drawn into this MLK vs. Panther conflict because they both seemed like good options. It would be interesting fodder for debate among students, though.
There's a lot of violence in this book, almost all of it senseless and horrifying. So this is definitely something to recommend to mature readers, probably 7th grade and up. ...more
I don't have a single complaint about this book. It was well-written, enjoyable, and I learned a little something about being 13 years old in small-toI don't have a single complaint about this book. It was well-written, enjoyable, and I learned a little something about being 13 years old in small-town Alabama in 1918. I'd be happy if it got a Newbery nod.
The story's told by Dit, one of ten children, who is just your average kid until he befriends the daughter of the town's new postmaster: a super smart girl named Emma, who is black. Because it's 1918 and rural Alabama, their friendship is uncomfortable for many townspeople, both black and white. But it evolves naturally. Emma helps Dit with school. Dit teaches Emma, a city girl, how to play baseball. There's not a whole lot of plot until a fight between the awful white sheriff and a kind black barber results in a crime that rocks the small town--and Dit and Emma get involved in setting things right.
Because the chapters were short and filled with great details, I didn't mind at all that it took the story some time to get going. First-time author Levine was so great at setting the scene that the climax was ultimately pretty believable (which is rare in these kinds of books). Dit's moral development, and his understanding of race relations and history, never felt preachy or didactic.
This is one of those books that will be equally enjoyable for girls and boys, I think. While it is indeed about racism (the n-word is used quite a bit), it's also about friendship between a boy and a girl, and how bonding with a person who's different from you can change your life. In that way, it reminded me of Bridge to Terabithia, which is a pretty high compliment in my book. ...more
It only took me an hour to read this, but it was intense. Between all the death, dismemberment, guilt, racism, violence and fear, there's baseball, piIt only took me an hour to read this, but it was intense. Between all the death, dismemberment, guilt, racism, violence and fear, there's baseball, piano playing, family dinners and lullabies. But that's what you get from books about the Vietnam War. Ann Burg's story doesn't shy away from gruesome details, but she also shows that life goes on.
I wasn't blown away by the writing (like I was by, say, Out of the Dust). But it didn't make me roll my eyes (like, say, Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba). I think the story was so moving because it rang true. It is difficult for most of us to imagine life as a Vietnamese boy adopted by a suburban American family in 1977. A boy who witnessed terrible things before being airlifted to a totally different world, a world where people blame him for the deaths of their loved ones. He tells his story as if he's just barely able to get through it. It's harrowing.
What age is this best for? That's a little tough. Matt, the narrator and main character, is 12 or so. There's no mature language, but there are enough disturbing scenes from war-torn Vietnam to make me think twice about giving this to a 10 or 11 year old. And the fact that the writing can be a little difficult to sort out makes me think it'd be best for 8th grade and up. It definitely requires a reader who is relatively skilled and mature.
Our hero, 12-year-old Zeb, is a Tom Sawyer-ish character who's sent far from his woodsy home to work for his Great Uncle in St. Louis. Only he never sOur hero, 12-year-old Zeb, is a Tom Sawyer-ish character who's sent far from his woodsy home to work for his Great Uncle in St. Louis. Only he never sees his uncle. Instead, he's recruited mid-trip by a gambler named Chilly who leads him down a path that just gets farther and farther from what Zeb was expecting. He makes friends with a slave named Ho-John, an Indian chief and his daughter (she doesn't have a name, but is just called "the princess"). The story is mostly driven by Zeb's moral development, but there's also a little suspense thrown in when Zeb realizes he's had enough of being Chilly's lackey.
This wasn't poorly written, but I found the voice of Zeb a little cloying. I think the author depended too much on colloquialisms and didn't really put that much into fleshing out his characters or his story. Was it just me or did every character fit pretty neatly into a cultural stereotype?
I did appreciate the afterword that spoke to the historical accuracy of the story, and the glossary that was provided to enlighten confused young readers. ...more
4th grader Newt Newman is practically invisible until his friends help him come up with a Halloween costume that gives him a lasting alter ego: Captai4th grader Newt Newman is practically invisible until his friends help him come up with a Halloween costume that gives him a lasting alter ego: Captain Nobody. A far-fetched premise, but it's a cute story about a boy who comes into his own by puting on a mask and demanding a little respect. Best for kids who like sueprheroes or little people standing up for themselves. ...more
What a cool freaking book. The endpapers alone (an array of vintage-looking monster stamps) sent a thrill up my spine. From the illustrator of the TimWhat a cool freaking book. The endpapers alone (an array of vintage-looking monster stamps) sent a thrill up my spine. From the illustrator of the Time Warp Trio series and prolific poet Bobbi Katz, comes this book of poetry about monsters written from the perspective of a moster expert (or monsterologist). You have the usual fare here: ogres, trolls, dracula, etc. But you also get a bunch of creative creatures thrown in, too: the Compu-monster, the Verbivore, and the Surfing Sock-Eater.
Best for upper-elementary, I think. Not overly scary, mostly fun, with spectacular graphic design and an engaging premise. ...more
Jonah thinks he's just a normal adopted kid until he uncovers some secrets about his past. Where did he really come? What's it got to do with the FBI?Jonah thinks he's just a normal adopted kid until he uncovers some secrets about his past. Where did he really come? What's it got to do with the FBI? Would he be better off not knowing?
I felt a little meh abut the writing and characters, but the plot pulled me through. Haddix knows how to keep you turning pages.
This definitely reads like the first in a series. The ending is only partially satisfying, so you'll really want to pick up the second book fast. ...more
Even though I truly enjoyed this story, I'm going to start off with a bummer. David Shannon, what were you thinking with the cover art? Homer looks liEven though I truly enjoyed this story, I'm going to start off with a bummer. David Shannon, what were you thinking with the cover art? Homer looks like a young girly, doofy Severus Snape. Not a fan.
Moving on, there are many things to love about Homer P. Figg. He's an orphan from Maine (and a world class fibber) who worships his older brother and caretaker Harold. So when Harold is forced to join the army and fight in the Civil War, Homer sets off to rescue him.
In his travels Homer comes across two evil slave catchers, a rich Quaker named Mr. Brewster who houses a station for the Underground Railroad, a couple of scheming con artists, a group of medicine show performers, a hot air balloon captain, and lots of young soldiers. He's driven by his love for his brother and it leads him all the way to the Battle of Gettysburg.
This books moves fast. It has both humor and horror, plus a lot of rich historical detail. Super highly recommended. ...more
A promising new series for 9-12 year olds. The usual trio of main characters: the everyman chosen one, the goofy best friend, and the brainy girl. TheA promising new series for 9-12 year olds. The usual trio of main characters: the everyman chosen one, the goofy best friend, and the brainy girl. The usual alienation metaphor: this time it's being half-dead. Pretty decent writing.
I really didn't like the line: "a solution isn't like a piece of clothing--you can't always find one that fits the way you want" because I certainly can't always find clothes that fit the way I like. ...more
This is a pretty cool book, but I'm afraid kids who are old enough to get it will also think they're too old for picture books. It's a little on the iThis is a pretty cool book, but I'm afraid kids who are old enough to get it will also think they're too old for picture books. It's a little on the informational side, while also being completely wacky and unbelievable. To sum up: a great idea bound to end up in no-man's land. ...more
What's really rare about this is it's a children's book where the hero is an adult and we never really see things from a child's perspective. It madeWhat's really rare about this is it's a children's book where the hero is an adult and we never really see things from a child's perspective. It made its point (adventure!) and ended abruptly. I really liked the illustrations and I appreciated how businesslike the telling of the story was. It makes me wish there were more stories like this for kids. What's the opposite of condescending? Respectful, I guess. It's just a solid tale.
Now that I think about it, I guess a lot of comic books don't have child characters. Like Batman and Spider Man. But would I compare this book to a comic? No way. It's about an old math professor who wants to sail away in a balloon and ends up landing on an island that explodes. But I still think it's interesting to try to think of books for kids that don't have kids as the main characters. ...more