Posted in Children's Lit

Dory Fantasmagory, by Abby Hanlon

DoryDory Fantasmagory
Abby Hanlon
2014 by Dial Books
ISBN – 9780803740884
Genre – Humor
Age – Elementary School
2 Stars

Dory is six years old. She has an older brother and sister, who never want to play with her. They come up with a story to scare her away from them and it backfires on them. Her wild imagination is more than enough to keep her busy!

I get what this book is trying to do, however, I am not sure it succeeded. Dory was just plain obnoxious in my mind. Her imagination was fun to follow, but insistence upon ignoring the real world got old. The complete lack of attention to her behavior (good or bad) by everyone in her family was also appalling. She acted well below her age, which might make it hard for appropriate readers to relate. I did find the rough illustrations to be fun and add to the story. Otherwise, it really fell short for me.

Posted in Children's Lit, Graphic Novel

Hidden, by Loic Dauvillier

Loic Dauvillier
Illustrated by Marc Lizano Color by Greg Salsedo Translated by Alexis Siegel
2014 First Second
ISBN – 9781596438736
Genre – Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction
Age- Elementary
4 stars

A grandmother tells her granddaughter her story of the Holocaust. When she was a young child, the world started being cruel to her and her family as well as some of her friend’s families. She was made fun of at school, her dad lost her job, and her parents seemed to be on edge. Suddenly she was told she had to hide in a closet, and when she came out of hiding her parent were gone. Her downstairs neighbors took care of her and kept her safe, they even fled the country with her. She loved her new family, but she dreamed of being reunited with her mom and dad.

This is a very emotional graphic novel. It is about several generations of love and loss. It is about teaching family history to all of the generations that follow, to always remember your history no matter how painful it was. I loved the imagery, and the way that you really felt each scene. Not only were the emotions clear on the faces, but in the colors that were carefully chosen. I liked the theme of protection through the generations. Dounia’s father protected her from the Nazi’s, while Dounia tries to protect her son from the horrors that she faced. I also really enjoyed that the Grandmother was able to tell her story after many years, with maturity, but somehow still through the lens of a little girl. She tells the story with innocence. She is hurt and sad, but not angry and vengeful. I think that this would be a good book to read as an introduction to the Holocaust. It conveys sadness and injustice, but is not too brutal for children to read.

Posted in Children's Lit, Young Adult Lit

Gracefully Grayson, by Ami Polonaky

GraysonGracefully Grayson
Ami Polonsky
2014 by Disney-Hyperion
ISBN – 9781423185277
Genre – Realistic Fiction
Age – Middle School, High School
5 Stars

Grayson is a twelve year old who lives with his aunt and uncle in Chicago. His parents both died in a car accident years ago.  Grayson’s parents encouraged him to express himself however he wanted, but when he came to live with his aunt and uncle, they were not as accepting. Now in sixth grade, Grayson has made a new friend. They hang out at lunch, they go to thrift stores on the weekend, and they ride the bus together. Everything seems like it is falling into a good place. That is until Grayson tries out for the female lead in the school play, and his new friend catches him trying on a skirt. Grayson has always felt like “he” is living in the wrong body, and now is the chance to show the real Grayson.

I am in love with this book. I love how amazingly honest it was, even when honest is not edgy or dramatic. I love that it didn’t exaggerate the everyday life of a girl who was living in a male body. Yes there was teasing, and yes there was bullying, but it was not overdone just for the sake of drama. I loved how strong and confident Grayson was. Despite the differences, new friends were made when the old ones weren’t accepting, Grayson was strong when someone was mean. Grayson felt more alive and honest than ever before. The characters felt true to life. Some were amazingly supportive, some were amazing jerks, some were owned by their fears, and some just didn’t plain understand Grayson. It is great to see an LBGTQ book that embraces a strong protagonist that refuses to let people control their identity. Yay for this book. Beautifully done. I don’t think my review does it justice.

Posted in Children's Lit, Young Adult Lit

Heap House, by Edward Carey

HeapHeap House
Edward Carey
2013 by Hot Key Books
ISBN – 9781471401565
Genre – Dark Fantasy
Age – Middle School, High School

3.8 Stars

Clod Iremonger lives at the Heap House. It is a strange mansion full of mazes surrounded by and built from lost and discarded items from London. Everyone in Clod’s family has a birth object, something that is chosen for them when they are born. They must keep this item with them at all times. Clod can hear these birth objects speak. Each one says a different name, his bath plug says James Henry. Things begin to get even stranger when Lucy Pennant arrives at the house. A big storm seems to be taking shape and the voices are getting louder. What will be left when the mysteries of the house come unraveled?

To be honest, it is hard to even describe this book. In a nutshell, it was strange. The fantasy of it was very dark. This book included elements of child slavery, cruelty, and just plain evil. I found it to be incredibly original and creative. It started a bit slow, but I think most of that came from my confusion. As I read more, I found that I could not stop reading. The characters were unique, and I liked them all, even if I liked them because they were evil. They were almost as well described as the setting of the house and its grounds. I would love to have a chance to wander the house and grounds. I also like that each chapter began with a picture of a different character in the book. It really helped to visualize such fantastical characters. I also enjoyed that the story was told from two different perspectives, Clod and Lucy. It allowed us to hear the story of the house from the side of privilege as well as the side of captivity. I really enjoyed this book, but I wonder if it would appeal to too small of a group.

Posted in Children's Nonfiction, Picture Books

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands, by Katherine Roy

SharksNeighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands
Katherine Roy
2014 Roaring Books Press
ISBN – 9781596438743
Genre – Nonfiction, Picture Book
Age – Early Elementary, Elementary
4 Stars

The great white sharks love to eat seals, and there is a little island just off the coast of San Francisco where seals like to hang out. A few months out of every year, after the seals have been properly fattened up, the sharks come to feast. Katherine Roy tells the story of these sharks live especially relating to their prime feeding time, August through November. Roy not only talks about their eating habits, but she also explains the anatomy of these sharks, and what makes them so unique. She also explains a bit about how information is collected by scientists.

Aside from the excellent informational side of this book, the illustrations are incredibly beautiful! I loved how the first few pages of the book were very sparse in text, really building up what is an interesting topic. The middle is much more text heavy, but even when the text seems to use huge words that might be confusing, she includes illustrations that really help to show what she has written about. I also enjoyed that every page seems to leave you on a cliffhanger. It really made me want to keep reading. Then at the end, Roy goes back to the limited text and massive illustrations, making for a great conclusion. The is a great book for any young one interested in sharks! It also seems like a great book for a kid to grow into!

Posted in Picture Books

Dojo Daycare, by Chris Tougas

dojoDojo Daycare
Chris Tougas
2014, Owl Kids
ISBN – 9781771470575
Genre – Picture Book
Age – Preschool
4 Stars

When ninja parents drop their ninja kids off at daycare a day of fun, mayhem, and chaos ensues. The ninja master has such a hard time keeping each little ninja in order. Will they ever get through the day?

This book is super adorable. The illustrations are clever and hilarious in their simplicity. Each page has a large amount of white space, which allows the reader/listener/viewer to really focus on the main even of each page. The rhymes are great, and help to build a fun rhythm. Kids are sure to laugh at just about every page. I also like that if you look a little bit closer, you will actually find a meaningful lessons for the young ones, and then the end will have you laughing again!

Posted in Graphic Novel

Through the Woods, by Emily Carroll

woodsThrough the Woods
Emily Carroll
2014 Margarey K. McElderry Books
ISBN – 9781442465954
Genre – Graphic Novel
Age – Middle School, High School
5 Stars

This graphic novel is a collection of short stories that are scary, creepy, bone chilling, and wonderful. The stories will not give you nightmares, but are clever and original in nature. I especially like the conclusion, which is a new lesson from Little Red Riding Hood and her Big Bad Wolf. The text of the story is a bit minimalistic, but this is not a negative to me. It is very poetic and adds to the chill factor. The illustrations are incredible. The pictures are beautifully done, and really leave you with a strange feeling. Many of the pictures were dark in color and in nature, which made the bright pages all the more impressive. I loved how the text appeared. It flowed throughout the pages and stories in different fonts and colors and in doing so, they managed to change the feel of the words and pictures. Fantastic!

Posted in Young Adult Lit

Evil Librarian, by Michelle Knudsen

librarianEvil Librarian
Michelle Knudsen
2014 by Candlewick Press
ISBN – 9780763660383
Genre – Fantasy
Age – High School
3.3 Stars

Cynthia is the set director for the upcoming school play Sweeny Todd, and she couldn’t be more excited. She loves hanging out with her best friend Annie, figuring out how to make her set and props as amazing as possible, and drooling over her crush, Ryan. All of this is going well until Annie falls in love with the new librarian. Cynthia gets the feeling that something isn’t right with Mr. Gabriel, but she never expected he was a demon who had come to her school in order to find a human bride and suck the life force out of every single student!

How could I have found this book and not read it? Honestly, it was better than I had expected it to be. It was funny, imaginative, and well funny. It was a light read that had all of the elements I look for in a good YA book. There was friendship, romance, no parents, and soul sucking (librarian) demons! I’m not big on the musical thing, but it was more focused on set innovations and less on music. It’s not like this book is the quality that will set it in the classics genre, but it was enjoyable to read. The characters were believable and their reactions to crazy scenarios were also believable. I loved that they added in human that were completely insane, because that’s real life. I feel like Knudsen painted a super picture of high school that we all know can be miserable at times.

Posted in Young Adult Nonfiction

Call of the Klondike: A True Gold Rush Adventure, by David Meissner

KlondikeCall of the Klondike: A True Gold Rush Adventure
David Meissner
2013 by Calkins Creek
ISBN – 9781590788233
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – High School
3.4 Stars

Stanley Pearce and Marshall Bond were in Seattle when a steamship returned from Canada in 1897. The steamship was carrying miners who had found gold in the Klondike. Very quickly they pooled money and acquired supplies and set off on the next ship out. This is the story of their arduous journey through Canada and Alaska in search of their riches. They tell not only their story, but the story of thousands of others as well. And though the two were not the luckiest of the miners they were not the worst off either.

I like the pacing of this story, it was fast moving and interesting. I also liked the use of letters and diary entries. It helps the reader to feel as if they are inside the minds of the two travelers. I also thought that the pictures added really well to the text in telling the whole story. By no fault of the author, I just didn’t really like Pearce and Bond. I felt like they were very selfish and manipulative. They tended to think of no one but themselves, even as they watched many face greater hardships then themselves. Also, despite the fact that I am not a huge fan of Jack London, I did enjoy his cameo, and learning about his life and the origins of Buck the dog! I found myself disappointed that the end did not have a big climactic (negative or positive) ending. It just ended, and it left me with no real emotion about the pair. However, it made me want to learn about stories of different people who embarked on similar journeys.

Posted in Uncategorized, Young Adult Lit

Six Feet Over It, by Jennifer Longo

SixSix Feet Over It
Jennifer Longo
2014 by Random House Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780449818725
Genre – Realistic Fiction
Age – High School
2.9 Stars

Leigh’s sister has been fighting a grueling battle with cancer, and it has taken its toll on everyone in the family. Leigh doesn’t have many friends, which might be good because after helping care for her sister she doesn’t have much time. Then after a summer away at her grandparents house, her parents bring her and her sister home, to a new home, at a cemetery. Now Leigh is working at the family business selling graves. She constantly avoids all close relationships outside of her sister, trying to avoid repeating previous heartbreaks. This becomes hard after her dad hires a young Mexican immigrant. They end up becoming good friends, which in turn makes Leigh the last thing she wants to be, vulnerable. Will Leigh be able to keep her head above ground, while selling underground real estate?

This book sounded better than it was. I wasn’t a fan of Leigh, I just didn’t like the way she reacted to anything. Granted, she went through some pretty rough patches, and didn’t have much support, but she seemed to be low on the scale of resilience. On the other hand, this sometimes happens, and I appreciated the honesty in which her voice shown through. Her family was equally unlikeable, and not in the fun quirky way, but in the “are you kidding me?!?” way. Pretty much every character in the book was frustrating, and just about every scenario was completely unbelievable. On a positive note, I loved the setting! I loved the way Longo painted a picture of every scene. I felt like I was in each section of the cemetery, I felt like I was sweating in the office with a fan blowing on me, or eating peppermint patties (Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for me) to make everything bearable. However, that wasn’t enough for me to put up with a book that just really didn’t have much going on. But wait!!! Suddenly it has a ton going on, but I can’t possibly figure out how this whole thing would ever happen in real life, which  is what it is pretending to be. Not good, not bad either. Its a solid meh from me.