- Ten Orange Pumpkins: A Counting Book
2013 Dial Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780803739383
Genre – Picture Book, Counting Book
Age – Toddler
We start with 10 orange pumpkins, but one by one, the characters of Halloween steal them away. The words in this book have a great rhythm they can be sung and they work perfectly with the countdown. The pictures are bright, colorful, and sharp. This is a great book to teach your toddler, not only about counting, but also about colors and Halloween. We are introduced to many characters that are a fun part of Halloween including a witch, a mummy, a scarecrow, a ghost, and more! Bonus game for the kids, try to spot the black cat on each page. Sometimes he is obvious and sometimes he is pretty well hidden. I just love great Halloween books and this is definitely one of them!
This Dark Endeavor
2011 Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9781442403154
Genre – Historical Fiction
Age – High School
Victor and Konrad Frankenstein are twins, and best of friends. Victor is impulsive, passionate and sometimes reckless, while Konrad is level-headed, and practical. They often share their life adventures with distant cousin Elizabeth, and longtime friend Henry. All is going well, until Konrad suddenly falls ill. Doctor after doctor is brought in to see him, but none are able to cure him. Meanwhile in his explorations, Victor finds the recipe for the elixir of life in the off limits dark library. Will he be able to find all of the ingredients necessary to save his brother’s life?
This book is fun, suspenseful, and fast-paced. All of that even before you realize that it is the prequel to Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein.” It is quite amusing to think of and then read about what made Dr. Frankenstein as eccentric as he was later in life. I really enjoyed the historical setting that Oppel built and I loved reading about the study of Alchemy and traditional medicine of the times. The teens set off on multiple adventures each more risky than the last. At certain points in the book I actually forgot that I was supposed to be worrying about Konrad! I was told that this book would be a good match for those who enjoyed The Monstrumologist series, which I did. Although it is not quite as good, I do agree with the statement. It has the historical aspect, the mystery, adventure, and the slightest bit of humor. All in all, a pretty great read!
War Brothers: The Graphic Novel
Sharon E. McKay
2013 Annick Press
ISBN – 9781554514885
Genre – Graphic Novel
Age – High School
Jacob is a fourteen year old boy who lives in Uganda. He is sent away to a boy’s school that will be safe for him in a time when young boys are being abducted and forced to fight in a gruesome civil war. Despite the assurance that they are safe, the rebel army breaks into the school in the middle of the night and captures the boys. As they march in the jungle their life becomes a matter of kill or be killed, and it is all they can do to survive each and every day. After a while some of the boys manage to escape, and must fight for their lives to reach safety.
This graphic novel is based on a true story, one that is filled with sadness and horror. The images and situations can be quite disturbing and are certainly not recommended for the faint of heart. That aside, I think it is important for teens and adults alike to know this story, to know the way in which young minds and bodies were manipulated and used for evil. Although I am not generally a huge fan of reading graphic novels myself, I believe that this story truly benefits from the imagery provided (even if it is disturbing.) Sometimes images affect a reader more than words ever could. That being said, the art was great. It was detailed but the background faded to the back. It allows our eyes and minds to focus on the major aspects of each frame. I liked that the colors of the pages changed with the environment. When Jacob was safe at home, the pages were white. When he was with the rebel army the pages were black. It helped to drive home the good versus evil settings throughout the story. I liked that the text did not over shadow the brilliance of the pictures, they perfectly complemented the story told in graphics.
Narrated by Saskia Maarleveld
2011 Recorded Books
ISBN – 9781461842224
Age – High School
Kerri is an obsessive planner. Any situation good or bad for which she can conceive she has a plan. But at seventeen years old she finds her brother’s body after he committed suicide. Needless to say, she had no plan for this situation. A few days later her childhood friend Jana tells her that it was not suicide, but murder, and he is not the only brother who has been murdered. Kerri, Janna, and another friend Sione all had brothers whose deaths were ruled suicide, but they suspect foul play. As the three start to investigate, they find disturbing patterns. One boy is killed every year, never from the same place, all older brothers, and they all spent New Years in the small tourist town of Summerton. None left any notes or warning that suicide was on their mind. As the facts build up, they realize their small town is nothing like they thought.
I liked this book, not loved but liked. At first I felt like the book was going to be very down and heavy the entire time based on the subject at hand. However, this is not the case. Healy somehow managed to give a slightly light hearted feel to a really dark topic. The characters were fun, and all very different. I appreciated that they all had their own personality, and their own attitudes. It made for some pretty juxtaposed interactions. This became particularly important as each chapter was written from the different perspectives of Kerri, Janna, and Sione. I also want to mention that the audiobook was done well, and I felt like a lot of the value of the book came from the format. The narrator, Saskia Maarleveld, has a great New Zealand Accent, as the book is set in New Zealand. Her voices are pretty good, except it was hard to tell the difference between Kerri and Jana which is a bit of a bummer because they are two of the main characters. Overall, it kept me entertained on my long daily commute!
An Awesome Book of Love!
2013 Harper Books
ISBN – 9780062116666
Genre – Picture Book
Age – Everyone who believes in love!
This is a super cute book about love. It explains it in the simplest of terms. Anyone who has love whether it is a partner, a spouse, a child, a sibling, or a friend will understand an aspect of this book. This would be an adorable reading for a wedding or anniversary event. It is the story of love from first meeting until forever that will bring smiles to all ages. It’s hard to describe it in terms of a story or plot, because much like love it is not quite linear.
The Mixed Up Chameleon
ISBN – 978-0064431620
Genre – Picture Book
Age – Toddler, Preschool
There was a chameleon sitting on a shiny green leaf. He was green so you could barely see him. When he moved around he changed colors. On the branches he was brownish, on the flower he was reddish, and on the sand he was yellowish. Then one day he went to the zoo. He saw all kinds of animals that were different from him, and he wanted to be like them. Slowly he transformed with every animal he saw into a crazy hybrid. In the end he realized that he was happy being just like him.
So Eric Carle, yeah that’s all I need to say on illustrations. He is also brilliant for creating books that teach literacy in some form or another. In this one we get to learn how to identify all different kinds of animals and what make them special. I also enjoy that in many of his books, the corner of the page is has some way of identifying what is on the current and past pages. Overall, it is classic Carle, funny, beautiful, and educational!
Zombie in Love
Illustrated by Kelly DiPucchio
ISBN – 9781442402706
Genre – Picture Book, Humor
Age – Early Elementary
Mortimer is a zombie, a lonely zombie. He has been trying very hard to find a nice girl. He goes to the gym, he took dancing lessons, but nothing seemed to work for him. So one day he decides to put out a personal add titled “Tall, Dead, and Handsome.” In this add he asks the perfect girl to meet him at Cupid’s Ball on Saturday by the Punch Bowl at 7pm. When he gets to the ball he waits and waits. Will his true love ever show up?
What a heartwarming, skin chilling, love story! It will make you sad, make you laugh, and make you want to read it again and again! I loved Mortimer, and his creepy smile, which you will see in detail if you read this. One of my favorite parts of the book is that his personal add can be sung to the tune of “If You Like Pina Coladas.” It feels like the creators were trying to put together a book that appeals to young kids, but has something for the adults as well. The illustrations match the tone of the text so perfectly and just add to the hilarity! If you are worried that this is too scary, stop. There is nothing scary about this zombie tale. Early elementary students will be too busy laughing to feel anything close to fear.
A Long, Long, Sleep
2011 Brilliance Audio
ISBN – 9781455820504
Genre – Science Fiction, Audiobook
Age – High School
Woken by a kiss from a strange boy, Rosalinda Fitzroy is disoriented and confused. She soon finds out that she has been asleep for sixty two years. Her parents, her boyfriend, and everyone she knows is dead. The world has gone through the “Dark Times,” that killed millions of people and changed life on earth forever. Now she has to come to terms with this new unknown life. Back in her normal life her father was the head of a gigantic interplanetary corporation, and now she must be groomed to take over upon her eighteenth birthday. Will Rosalinda be able to put the past behind her and move forward, or will the past force itself upon her new life?
This book surprised me. It had way more depth than I thought it was going to have. Not to mention it is the first audiobook in a while that didn’t really annoy me. The narrator’s voice was completely inoffensive, and I liked that she actually used noticeably different and fitting voices for each different character. Sometimes I disliked Rose’s self deprecating attitude, but I came to realize that it was all situational. I liked that it wasn’t a cut and dry romance book like so many of the new YA science fiction novels seem to be. It has action, friendship, conflict, and love. When I say love, I mean really strange completely atypical teenage sappy driveling love. Huzzah to that!
That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown
Illustrated by Neal Layton
ISBN – 9781423106456
Genre – Picture Book
Age – Preschool
Emily Brown has a stuffed bunny named Stanley and they do everything together. One day they were going into outer space to search for other forms of life, when the Chief Footman to the Queen came knocking on the door. The Queen had noticed her bunny and wanted it, she offered a new golden teddy bear in return. Emily did not want the golden teddy bear and declined the offer, after all she loves Stanley. The two friends return to their adventures only to run into one after another after another of the Queen’s staff attempting to make a trade for the Stanley. However, no amount of wonderful toys could change Emily’s mind. In the end it is Emily that comes up with a perfect solution that makes everyone happy.
This adorable book could be such a great read aloud book if you can speak in an acceptable British accent. Each person that comes to trade toys for Stanley, speaks to Emily in Quote bubbles, so you actually get to characters and voices. Each one also refers to Stanley as “Bunnywunny” much to Emily’s chagrin. Many kids will relate to Emily’s imagination and adventurous attitude. They will also relate to having an attachment to a stuffed buddy. The illustrations perfectly capture her time in space, in the desert, under the sea, and more. Many pages combine real photographs with the illustrations, almost in the style of Knuffle Bunny. All of this mixed with a super sweet ending make this a real winner.
2012 Tundra Books
ISBN – 9781770494374
Genre – Dystopian
Age – High School
The city is divided and the bridges are guarded. The northside is full of the more wealthy people, while southsiders live in poverty and squalor. They don’t have proper medicine, and they never have enough to eat. Their main desire is to overrun the northside and live in equality. Nik is an orphan northsider who is in high school, and destined for a great career with the Internal Security and Intelligence Services. However, when ISIS comes to recruit, they don’t pick him. Then the hostiles overrun the bridges, bomb Nik’s school and much of the city, and they kidnap his friend, Sol. Along with Sol’s sister, Nik goes looking for his friend. While on the other side of the bridges, Nik learns that all of the propaganda pounded into his head for years, may not be 100% true.
Another Dystopian book, you ask? Yes. Not only do I really enjoy a good dystopian, but so do the teens. I have gotten used to hearing “I read The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Legend, and I really want to read more books like that. ” So I am constantly trying to find good quality dystopian novels that are not necessarily well known. Is The Bridge one of them? Meh. It wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t great. It just didn’t have much action. The two main characters just walked around, and did menial tasks. No one had any depth to them, and they didn’t make me want to root for them, at least not til the very end. I’m pretty sure that the last 20 pages of the book were the best, but certainly not for the reasons you would expect from this genre. I also thought it was very stereotypical. It just didn’t feel like there was a ton of original thought.