Here There Be Monsters: The Lengendary Kraken anf the Giant Squid, by HP Newquist

7899871Here There Be Monsters: The Lengendary Kraken anf the Giant Squid
HP Newquist
2010 Houghton Mifflin
ISBN – 9780547076782
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – Elementary School, Middle School
4 Stars

For hundreds of years the giant sea creature known as the Kraken has been a legend. But finally we are starting to discover that this creature is more than just a myth. Scientists have been searching and researching the giant squid, and they are finally beginning to uncover some of its secrets! I though this book had quite a slow start, but once it got going it became very interesting very quickly. I have always been a fan of octopus and squid, so maybe not everyone will find this as engaging as I did. However, the younger crowd may agree with me when they read about all of the gory details and see all of the creepy pictures.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School, by Louis Sachar

1391101Sideways Stories from Wayside School
Louis Sachar
1978 Follet Press
ISBN – 9780695409647
Genre – Humor
Age – Elementary School
4 Stars

The builder of Wayside School made a big mistake. He built all thirty of the classrooms on top of each other instead of next to each other on one floor. All the kids in this book have class on the thirtieth floor. They are silly, and quirky, and fun, and they each have a tale that can be told about them. I remember this book fondly from when I was a kid, and decided to revisit it again. It was a bit more simplistic than I remember, but then again I think I was eight or nine. However, it was still funny, and just the right amount of depth for the audience that it is geared at. Great for reluctant readers due to short stories, and laugh out loud hilarity!

The Lost Boy, by Greg Ruth

17265276The Lost Boy
Greg Ruth
2013 Graphix
ISBN – 9780439823326
Genre – Graphic Novel
Age – Middle School
3.5 Stars

Nate and his family have just moved to a new place, and while he is not happy about this, he still begins to explore. When he finds a tape player under the floorboards of his new bedroom, he enters into quite an adventure. The original owner of the tape player disappeared from town many years ago, it’s actually the town’s most famous mystery. As Nate and his new neighbor friend learn more about what happened, they find that there are some others that would also like to uncover mysteries of the past. Unfortunately these others are not the most friendly of beings!

This book was decent. I’ll be honest, it took quite an interesting and unexpected turn about halfway through. I’m not super into graphic novels, but every so often I attempt to branch out. Honestly, I really enjoyed the art. It was not simple, but not hugely detailed either. The best way I can describe it is gritty. It had a realistic yet dark feel to it, that complimented the story and theme really well. I did not feel that the characters in the book were very fleshed out or had much depth to them, which was disappointing. Still, this would be great for reluctant readers that enjoy fantasy as well as adventure.

 

The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan

28187The Lightning Thief
Rick Riordan
2006 Disney Hyperion Books
ISBN – 9780786838653
Genre – Fantasy
Age – Middle School, High School
4 Stars

Percy has bounced from boarding school to boarding school, getting kicked out every year for bad behavior. He has always noticed strange things around him, but recently they are getting stranger. Like when he uncaps a pen that turns into a sword and kills his math teacher. He then overhears his best friend and another teacher talking about strange creatures. After he leaves his latest boarding school, while traveling with his mother, they are attacked by a minotaur who makes his mother disappear. He soon learns that he is a half-blood and the son of a Greek God. He also finds out that the powerful lightning bolt of Zeus has been stolen. In order to set his life (and the weather) back to normal he must embark on a quest to find it and return it to Zeus.

I know I am a little behind, and everyone has probably already read this one, so I finally got around to it! I really enjoyed it, the plot was good, and fun, the pace was right, the characters although fantastical were quite believable in their attitudes. There was jealousy and bullying, kindness and cruelty, and all of the other behaviors commonly found in kids aged 11-15. Percy was great. I like that he wasn’t touted as “Super Kid USA.” He is not perfect, he isn’t a whiz kid in school, and he isn’t really athletic or popular. The way in which Riordan was able to intertwine old myths with new fiction was creative and entertaining. I loved reading about all of the interesting and non-human creatures such as Grover, his half-goat best friend!

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, by Kate DiCamillo

16052012Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by K.G. Campbell
2013 Candlewick Press
ISBN – 9780763660406
Genre – Adventure, Humor
Age – Elementary School
4 Stars

Flora is a cynic who loves her superhero comics. So when she witness her neighbor accidentally vacuuming a squirrel in the yard, she jumps into action! When she saves the squirrel she learns that he has super powers. Although she is very happy to have a new super hero squirrel, her mom does not share in her excitement. After each attempt her mother makes to banish the squirrel, she must find a way to save them, and maybe, just maybe the squirrel can find a way to save her as well.

Flora and Ulysses was a super fun read. It was hilarious and unexpected, and the pictures added to my laughter! Flora is not your average young girl, and she doesn’t fit into any particular mold. But she is fun, and kind, and creative. Despite her cynicism she is a good role model for young girls. There are other characters in the book that are not quite as kind as she is, however, the really help to highlight how amazing Flora can be. The book is light-hearted and just plain fun to read. Children’s books can often be very deep and heavy, and it is good to offset that kind of book with something like Flora and Ulysses, it reminds young readers, and even your older ones, how much fun you can have with a book.

The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel , by Deborah Hopkinson

17061488The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel
Deborah Hopkinson
2013 Knopf Books for Young Readers
ISBN – The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel
Genre – Historical Fiction
Age – Middle School
4.2 Stars

Eel is riddled with more issues than any young boy should have. He is an orphan, and his awful step father is trying to find him amd his brother in order to make them beg on the streets for him. He must constantly watch his back and work to hide and protect his younger brother. He works multiple jobs just to keep them afloat. During all of this “The Blue Death” breaks out in his neighborhood in London, and many people he knows become sick or worse. Everyone is convinced that this plague is spread by poisonous air, but Dr. Snow thinks differently. Dr. Snow regularly employs Eel to take care of his plethora of animals, but now he has a new task for him. Together they attempt to gather evidence that the sickness may be spread by a different method. Hopefully they prove it before many more people perish!

I heart plague historical fiction! This may be a bit morbid of me, but I just find the social and scientific aspects of these situations to be fascinating. The characters are great. Eel is a very responsible young kid, who takes care of his responsibilities admirably. Despite all of the hardships he must juggle, he still has the time and energy to be  compassionate towards others in more dire situations. Although this book is a work of fiction, it does an incredible job of sticking closely to the truth of the time. At the end of the book there is additional information about the timeline as well as specific people involved in the story. I really think that Hopkinson did a wonderful job of depicting the hysteria, and various other reactions to Cholera.

Fallout by Todd Strasser

17262252Fallout
Todd Strasser
2013 Candlewick Press
ISBN - 9780763655341
Genre – Historical Fiction
Age – Middle School
4 Stars

Nuclear war seems imminent in the summer of 1962. Everyone is talking about it, but Scott’s dad goes one step further, he builds a bomb shelter for his family. His family soon becomes the joke of the neighborhood. Everyone is convinced that Scott’s family is paranoid. That is until a nuclear bomb is actually dropped. Scott’s dad has only stocked the shelter with supplies for his family for two weeks.  As the family races to their shelter in the middle of the night, they must fight off all of the neighbors that want in as well, but a few make through the doors. Now they must all fight to survive in a too small space, with not enough food, air, or water. People tend to show their true colors in the most stressful of situations, and this is no exception.

So I have been trying to gather my thoughts on this book for a while now, and I have written several reviews and deleted all of them. I really liked this book, and I can’t figure out why. It is not highly plot driven, it is not a book that you can’t put down, and it is not incredibly suspenseful or action packed. It is however, and incredibly personal account of an extremely frightening situation. The relationships and interactions that take place in the story, are honest, they are simple and complicated all at the same time. Parts of the book are difficult to read, in an emotional sense. The families in the story are faced with a very hard situation and are forced to make tough decisions, decisions that I would hope I would be strong enough to avoid. I think one of the important lessons in this book, is to not judge others that are in a situation that you know nothing about. This book is well written, emotional, and terrifying. I hope I never have to live through anything like it.

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

milkFortunately, the Milk
Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Skottie Young
2013 Harper Collins
ISBN – 9780062224071
Genre – Fantasy
Age – Elementary
4 Stars

When the kids realize that they have no milk for their morning cereal, dad must go to the store to buy some, but he takes an awful long time. He finally returns to the kids questions about what to him so long. He explains that he went to the store, bought the milk and then…he saw a flying saucer, which spurred an adventure including dinosaurs, pirates, time travel, and more. Throughout his adventure, he is very careful to hold on to the milk. We all know that dad and the milk make it home safely, the surprise it what happens in between!

As with most of Neil Gaiman’s books, it is full of imagination, humor, and adventure. Although the book may seem to take some pretty strange left turns, it all makes sense in the end (well, sort of.) I loved the fun characters and worlds that Gaiman built in such a short and simple book. The illustrations match the tone of the book, and add to the whimsy as well. This age group has always been really hard for me to actually enjoy, so I was very pleased by this book.

Gandhi: A March to the Sea by Alice McGinty

16290039Gandhi: A March to the Sea
Alice McGinty
Illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
2013 Amazon Children’s Publishing
ISBN – 9781477816448
Genre – Picture Book, Nonfiction, Poetry
Age – Early Elementary, Elementary
3.5 Stars

 

In 1930, Gandhi decided to protest England’s rule over India. England declared that the people of India were not allowed to use the salt from the sea, they had to purchase salt from the British and pay the exorbitant taxes on salt. Gandhi only practiced nonviolent protests and this picture book in verse tells the story of his twenty four day march to the sea and its lasting effects.

I liked this book for a few different reasons. I absolutely love the idea of nonfiction picture books. It is not always easy to pull off, but this one works. Although I am not a huge fan of poetry and books in verse, I liked this one. I find that they are often too dramatic. The story of Gandhi’s march is a dramatic one, and the format and tone of this poetry is fitting. Now for the best part, the illustrations! Holy Cow! They look so real, but not quite like a photograph. It really makes the book magical. The lines, details, light, and shadows are completely realistic. I like that the backgrounds are just that, they fade to the back, yet they are still beautiful. Each page really has a focus and they compliment the text, the history, and the nature of the story. I think this is a great book for kids in elementary school. Not only does it use a more uncommon format, but it teaches a great life lesson, and history.

 

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

13083239 (1)The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
William Joyce
2012 Antheneum Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9781442457027
Genre – Picture Book
Age – All Ages
6 Stars

 

Mr. Morris Lessmore loved books, stories, and words. Each day he wrote the story of his life in his book. One day a devastating storm blew everything around and mixed everything up, including the words of his story, the words of his life. He didn’t know what to do so he wandered. Then while looking up he saw a lady being pulled through the sky by a flock of books. She saw that he wanted to fly and sent him a good story. This story took him away to a magical library in a magical land of magical books in which he began to rewrite his story. He lived his life day after day writing and sharing books and stories with others.

There are honestly no words to describe this book. I say it is for all ages because anyone who has a love for books, stories, words, and a fulfilled life will love this book. Do not be surprised to feel tears in your eyes as you read and look at the pictures. Speaking of the pictures, they just add to the magical feeling of this book. They are realistic, yet not. There is an immense depth in each illustration. The colors are vibrant without being bright. Mr. Lessmore feels real to me. Its not that he looks real, but considering his expressions and body positions and mannerisms, he just feels real. I don’t want to say too much especially about the ending, because I don’t want to skew anyone’s ideas or opinions. I will say that once you read the book, which you must, go on YouTube and check out the 15 minute short film that is based on the book. It won an Academy Award for a short film.