Friday, August 26, 2016

Little Cat's Luck

Little Cat's Luck
by Marion Dane Bauer; illus. by Jennifer A. Bell
224 pages; ages 8-12
S&S Books for Young Readers, 2016

Patches is an indoor cat, but when a golden leaf flutters and flitters and catches her attention, Patches must follow. She pushes her way through a window screen and out into the big, wide world. Not only is she curious about the leaf, but she is on a mission. Patches us looking for a special place.
She doesn't know what it will look like, but she'll know it when she sees it.

This story is told in verse, using visual placement of words to "show" the story. For example, when a leaf disappears
         peak   a
     the           red
Over                  roof

And then there's this, the beginning of chapter 7:
The problem with searching
for a special place
without knowing
where such a place might be --
or even what
it might look like
should you find it --
is that the search
can take a great deal
of time... 

Readers discover why Patches need a special place all of a sudden - and how she tamed the meanest dog in town - in this sweet, fun-to-read book.

We'll be hanging out on Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers over at Shannon Messenger's blog. Hop over to see what other people are reading.  Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Space Boy and the Space Pirate

Space Boy and the Space Pirate
by Dian Curtis Regan; illus by Robert Neubecker
40 pages; ages 5-10
Boyds Mills, 2016

Last year we met Space Boy when he blasted off to rescue a cat. Now he's off on another adventure - to rescue his cousin, Sasha, who's been kidnapped by a space pirate.

"Wake up!" he yells to his trusty crew, and they blast off, headed to Planet Zorg. Where they find the evil space pirate who is forcing Sasha to ... play dolls? Space Boy tries to negotiate a hostage release but the pirate steals his space ship, leaving him stranded. Will he ever get back to earth? Will he be able to rescue his cousin? Will he be late for dinner?

This adventure story, accompanied by comic book-style artwork, celebrates the power of pretend play. You may want to have some extra boxes hanging around in case your young space cadet decides to build a ship of her own.

Check out the space-related activities here. Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Nadia ~ The Girl Who Couldn't Sit Still

 This is a perfect book for the season, especially if you have a gymnastics-crazy kid who cartwheels down the hall.

Nadia ~ The girl who couldn't sit still
by Karlin Gray; illus. by Christine Davenier
40 pages; ages 6-9
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016

Nadia Comaneci loved soccer, swimming, and climbing trees in the forests beyond her village of Onesti, Romania. "She didn't just climb the trees," writes Karlin Gray, "she swung from branch to branch until her family would call her home."

To find an outlet for all that energy, Nadia's mom signed her up for gymnastics classes. It would be great to just say ..."and the rest is history..." but that would ignore the years of hard work and learning that Nadia put into developing her skills on the bars and beam. It would ignore the falls and failures.

When she fell, Nadia picked herself up and brushed herself off and practiced some more until she perfected each move. Until she got first place in national competitions. Until she reached the Olympics in Montreal (1976). She whipped around the bars, balanced, flipped, and won the highest score ever - a perfect 10.

At the end of the competitions, Nadia took home five medals (three gold). Back home she did just what you'd expect a girl who couldn't sit still to do: keep on practicing.

On Monday  we're joining the roundup over at the Nonfiction Monday blog where you'll find even more book reviews Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, August 5, 2016

23 Minutes

23 Minutes
by Vivian Vande Velde
176 pages; ages 12 - 16
Boyds Mills, 2016

Fifteen-year-old Zoe has a secret power: she can travel back in time to relive events she wants to change. There are only a couple caveats: she can only travel back in time 23 minutes, and whenever she changes things it never ends well. Plus people think she's crazy.

So when she steps into a bank to get out of the rain - and finds herself in the middle of a robbery gone wrong - Zoe tries to help. By going back in time.

There are two things that I really like about this book: the consistency of this magical power; and that small changes have unexpected results. While Zoe has this talent/superpower, she's not sure what all the rules are. So when someone dies in the bank robbery, she thinks that maybe she can go back in time to save a life. On round two, she calls the police - only this time it ends up worse.

She tries again. And again. And each time some little thing results in a horrible ending. And then there's that third caveat: she has a limited number of attempts to try to get things right.

What I like about Zoe is her grit. She could give up - this is too much for a 15-year-old kid. Especially one as messed up as she is. She might be unlucky, but she's no coward.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Poems from the Farmer's Market

Fresh Delicious: Poems from the Farmer's Market
by Irene Latham; illus. by Mique Moriuchi
32 pages; ages 4-8
WordSong, 2016

What's round and smooth and red and "ripe like a summer moon"? If you guessed tomato, then you're right. And if you're eating juicy red tomatoes straight out of the garden - or fresh from the farmer's market - then you know there is nothing that says "summer" like tomato juice dripping down your chin.

Unless it's watermelon. Or peaches. Or blueberries or strawberries... or any of the fruits and vegetables featured in this book of fresh, right-off-the-vine poems.

The language is not only lyrical, it's mouthwatering. Take this ending of a bit about lettuce:
"Sometimes / I crunch / into a leaf
the very / same flavor / as rain."

Or the image of okra pods as "mouse-sized swords". Or the poem about shooting watermelon seeds... makes you want to grab some fresh watermelon and have a seed-spitting contest right now!

At the end are recipes from the farmer's market: salsa, fruit kebabs, fritata, pizza, ice cream. YUM!

The combination of yummy poems and bright, bold illustrations will tempt you to head out on an expedition to your local farmer's market. Make sure you take a notebook and some colored pencils along with your shopping bag, because you might want to jot down your own delicious poems and draw some pictures of the fruits and veggies you meet.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Summer I-Like-To-Reads

Got some just-getting-to-read-on-their-own kids looking for some summer reading? Here's two new books from Holiday House. These easy to read stories are are written in simple language that will appeal to newly independent readers.

 Drew the Screw
by Mattia Cerato
24 pages; ages 4-7

Drew's a simple guy. He lives in the workshop and hangs out with his friends: cross-cut saw, hammer, pliers. Each of them has a job. Pencil draws, tape measures. But what do you do? they all ask Drew.

Throughout the book, the boy is building something. We never see it until - finally! The boy gives Drew a job!

A Hole in the Wall
by Hans Wilhelm
32 pages; age 4-7

"A dog saw a hole in the wall. What was in it? Another dog!"

Dog can't wait to tell warthog and lion and all his other friends. They can't believe it. A hole in the wall with a dog? Of course, each animal has to go see for itself. But when warthog comes back, he reports that dog is wrong. There was no dog in the hole - it was a warthog!

If this tale sounds familiar, it is. Hans Wilhelm was inspired by "A Fable" written by Mark Twain. Wilhelm includes Twain's tale and adds his own moral about expectations, mirrors, and stories.

Review copies provided by publisher.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Garden of My Imaan

The Garden of my Imaan
by Farhana Zia
230 pages; ages 9-12
Peachtree publishers, 2016 (paper)

Aliya already struggles with trying to fit in. She wants to talk to the cute boy; she wants to stand up to the bully. That she's Muslim is just another part of her life - homework for Sunday school, deciding whether (or not) to fast during Ramadan.

And then a new girl moves into town. Marwa won't eat the chicken nuggets in the cafeteria because they're not halal. She fasts during Ramadan. She wears a hijab. And now Aliya has questions about herself. Like every coming-of-age story, Aliya wonders who she is, what she believes, and how she fits in.

Hijab: should she wear one? Her friends who do say that it's just part of who they are - like a zebra wearing stripes. But Aliya hears stories about name-calling and people ripping hijab off girls at a school and in the mall. Even without a head scarf strangers have yelled things at her: "go back to the desert"; "drive a camel".

What I like about this book: it has a great inter-generational scenes, especially when a grand-aunt visits. She is quite demanding and Aliya must give up her room so Aunt can sleep well. I also like that the story challenges assumptions about Muslims. And that Aliya finds a way to cultivate her growing faith (Imaan) through writing (a diary filled with letters to Allah). I also like the story about the Mango tree... which reminds us that if we want to see fruit we have to do more than toss a seed onto the ground. We have to cultivate the garden.

Review copy provided by publisher.