Posted in Picture Books

The Fly, by Petr Horacek

22926582The Fly
Petr Horacek
2015 Candlewick Press
ISBN – 9780763674809
Genre – Picture Book
Age – Preschool
4.3 Stars

People don’t seem to like him, neither do cows, and frogs try to eat him. It just seems that fly cannot catch a break. He is just going about his own life, not hurting anyone! What’s the big deal? Beautifully illustrated as always, Horacek brings us the story of a bug, from his own side. None of that pesky bug attitude from this book, more like that pesky human! We learn that the bug is a fitness buff, who likes to make friends, and eat afternoon snacks. He has a hard life and just wishes that the other creatures would be nice to him. But in the end, things always turn out the same for him don’t they? I love the way the pages are used. Some are completely filled with color, while some partial pages act as flaps to help with the story. The colors are bold, and blended in a way that is reminiscent of Carle, but with its own added style. I pretty much love all of Petr Horacek’s creations.

Posted in Children's Lit

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, by Chris Grabenstein

16054808Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
Chris Grabenstein
2013 by Random House Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780375870897
Genre – Adventure, Puzzle
Age – Middle School
2.7 Stars

The new Alexandriaville library is opening, and to celebrate they are holding an essay contest. Twelve lucky winners will be chosen to have a sleepover before the library officially opens. The first twelve have been chosen, and the lock in commences. It is full of fun and games, but just when the party is about to be over, the real puzzle begins. Each child has the chance to win great prizes if they compete in an enormous puzzle, they must try to escape the library!

The idea of this book is clever. It is a haven for those who like riddles and puzzles, and it should be heaven for those who appreciate the library. The puzzles are fun, and I love the idea of spending the night in the library, especially if I don’t have to work! However, I felt like all of the factoids and lessons about the library and the Dewey Decimal System were cliche and forced. Although there was a lot of cleverness to be had, the library information was lacking. It’s as if abruptly mid sentence one would say “PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Nonfiction books are in order by subject headings as categorized by the Dewey Decimal System.” On another note, I listened to the audio book, and while I really enjoyed some of the quirky accents for the adults, I grew to despise the annoying nasally voice used for some of the children. Speaking of the children, I just didn’t like most of them, they were obnoxious, and lacked any interesting characteristics. But there were a couple of gems, unfortunately, they were not the most prominently featured. As a children’s librarian, I wanted to love this book, but I found that it was just okay.

Posted in Picture Books

Max the Brave, by Ed Vere

22712981Max the Brave
Ed Vere
2014 by Puffin Books
ISBN – 9780723286691
Genre – Picture Book
Age – Preschool
4.5 Stars

Max is a sweet adorable kitten, but Max is also a brave and fearless kitten. Of course he loves to do what other kittens do, chase mice! Now he just needs to figure out what a mouse looks like. Boy is he in for a surprise when he finally does find a mouse, it was not what he was expecting! This book is adorable. Max is so sweet and funny, and gullible. I love his big eyes, and his playful nature, he reminds me so much of my cat, Ninja. Each page is a different bright and bold colored background, and he is the main focus. The story is fantastic, I can’t wait to try it at storytime. It should be great for participation. Kids can help you identify the animals, but they might get confused at the end, just like Max!

Posted in Young Adult Lit

Zane’s Trace, by Allan Wolf

Zane1653113‘s Trace
Allan Wolf
2007 by Candlewick Press
ISBN – 9780763628581
Genre – Novel in Verse
Age – High School
4 Stars

When Zane thinks he killed his grandfather, he takes off in the ’69 Barracuda that his father left behind. He’s on a road trip to the cemetery where his mother is burried, and he plans to kill himself. Along the way he picks up a strange girl who keeps him company through the journey. They each tell their stories in the only way they know how, helping to figure out who they are and who they want to be.

I’m going to be up front about this, poetry is not my thing for the most part, but I have found some I like. One novel in verse I completely fell in love with is “The Watch that Ends the Night” by Allan Wolf (just like the animal.) Anyhow, when I moved to Tennessee this Summer for my new Librarian position, one of our first performers was none other than Allan Wolf (just like the animal) and he gifted me with a personalized signed copy of Zane’s Trace. Honestly, I doubted I would like it (Sorry Allan, the novel in verse thing…) Alas, it was wonderful! Zane is such a cool kid, and often times its the coolest of kids who have the hardest times. I loved that through his adventure which was supposed to be the end of Zane, was really a way for him to get to know himself before the end of Zane. It was obvious that research was done, and the strange bits I know about cars seemed to jive. This story reminded me that journeys are not just about where you physically go, but where and how you emotionally and mentally go as well. Those can often change your destination more than anything else. Thanks Allan for the wonderful book! Maybe I will give up my animosity for novels in verse and try another.

Posted in Young Adult Lit

The Dogs, by Allan Stratton

25496559The Dogs
Allan Stratton
2015 by Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN – 9781492609384
Genre – Mystery, Horror
Age – High School
3.9 Stars

Cameron’s dad is not a nice man. He drinks a lot, and when he drinks he is abusive. Because of this, Cameron and his mom have been running and hiding for years. Every time they find someplace new Cameron starts to make friends and feel comfortable, and then they have to leave. This new place is sort of weird, and really creepy. The house is on a farm that hasn’t been lived in for sometime, and the farm feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. When Cameron starts seeing and talking to the ghost of the little boy who used to live in the house his mom thinks he is reacting to the fear his father has caused them. Cameron gets the feeling that this is more, and maybe he is on his way to solving an old town mystery.

I love the cover of this book. The colors are amazing, and vibrant, and the whole picture really adds to the creepy vibe. I also rally enjoyed the tone of this book. It just gave me an eerie feeling the whole time I was reading it. Some ghost stories just feel so cheesy that the horror feeling is lost, and although I didn’t find this book scary, it was definitely creepy! The whole story read very quickly, it actually seemed way shorter than it was. It went so fast, that I almost wanted more, but then again if it had been another fifty or a hundred pages longer, I probably would be saying the opposite. The writing was clear and concise. It wasn’t overly descriptive or flowery, but at the same time I really felt like I could visualize every scene. I guess my only wish is that there was a bit more depth to the characters. I found myself wanting to know a little bit more about many of them, and was still wanting at the end. Can’t wait to read more creepy books this fall!

Posted in Children's Lit

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Raina Telgemeier
2012 by GRAPHIX
ISBN – 9780545326995
Genre – Graphic Novel
Age – Middle School
3 Stars

Callie loves theater, but she is much more talented when it comes to creating the plays, not actually being in them. She works hard on her school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, making friends and having tons of fun as she goes. She is seemingly successful at all of her endeavors, except one, BOYS. No one who she likes ever likes her back. As she struggles through school, the play, and her attempts at romantic relationships, her friends always offer their support.

Let me start off by saying, I am not generally a graphic novel kind of girl. I wasn’t a huge fan of these illustrations. They weren’t bad at all, I just didn’t think they stood out. Also, I am not into theater. Why would I read this, you ask. I wanted to see what the hype was about, and why it was getting challenged so often. Honestly, it makes no sense to me. Nothing was explicit in this book, unless you consider two boys kissing explicit. I am glad that we have more LGBTQ characters in children and teen books these days, I just hope that they are portrayed in a non negative manner. At first I thought that Telgemeier was really pushing some stereo types, but I did appreciate that not every character followed the molds that society envision. Although I see the value, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

Posted in Picture Books

Welcome Home, Bear: A Book of Animal Habits, by Il Sung Na

23834604Welcome Home, Bear: A Book of Animal Habits
Il Sung Na
2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780385753777
Genre – Picture Book
Age – Toddler, Preschool
5 Stars

Bear was tired of waking up every morning in the same old place, so he decided to find a new home! He traveled around to many different animal’s homes to find a place that was just right for him. In his adventures he meets  birds, polar bears, and more. In the end he makes an important discovery about home. I love this book. I would be great for storytimes about bears or homes. I love the story, and how it shows us where both common and not so common animals live! Now let’s talk illustrations; Il Sung Na is my favorite contemporary picture book illustrator. I can’t say enough about the beautiful pictures. They have such depth to them, I could stare at them for hours. Somehow, the colors are soft, but bold and bright all at the same time. The backgrounds shine just as much as the animals in the front. The expressions on the animals faces are so wonderful. The are silly yet true to the situation. Sigh…

Posted in Children's Nonfiction

What if you had Animal Hair!?, by Sandra Markle

17981412What if you had Animal Hair!?
Sandra Markle
llustrated by Howard Mcwillian
2014 by Scholastic Paperbacks
ISBN – 9780545630856
Genre – Nonfiction
Age – Early Elementary
5 Stars

Different animals have different kind of hair, and they all serve a purpose. What if you had Animal Hair!? dedicates each page to a different animal, some are well known, and some a bit more obscure. Each page shows a child with similar hair to animals such as porcupines, lions, zebras, and sloths, and more. A couple different fun facts litter each page. Markle and McWillian make a fantastic team in this series. I have already read What if you had Animal Teeth!? to a 3rd grade class, and they loved it! I have just requested that my new library, which has none of these books, buy the whole series. The illustrations are fantastic, they are funny and bold. The facts are informative and interesting for readers of all ages! I can’t wait to learn about animal feet, which is new, and animal ears, which is coming in 2016. This book is proof that children’s nonfiction can be awesome!

Posted in Young Adult Lit

Fig, by Sarah Elizabeth Schantz

Sarah Elizabeth Schantz
2015 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
ISBN – 9781481423588
Genre – Realistic Fiction
Age – Middle School, High School
2.3 Stars

It seems very sudden to Fig that her mother has gotten sick. She then learns that her mother has struggled with schizophrenia before. As fig grows up she must deal with all of the woes of becoming a teenager, and her sick mother. Fig begins to think that if she works hard enough, if she can only sacrifice enough, her mother will get better. Together they both seem to go down an irreversible downward spiral. Will her mom ever get better, and will there ever be a time that Fig does not claim responsibility for that which she has no control over?

I wanted to enjoy this book, a lot. I am working on a book challenge this year, and this filled the category of a book you read purely because of the cover. This one is so visually appealing to me. So, it reinforced the cliche, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Once I got into it, I had even more hope, as I am particularly interested by the topic of mental illnesses. However, it just didn’t go anywhere. It seems like one of those books that you would love more for the writing, but it just wasn’t my style. I felt like Fig never grew up at all. It seemed like the I was viewing the entire story through the eyes of a six year old, despite the fact that many years passed in the telling. I wasn’t much of a fan of any of the characters, they just didn’t seem to have much character themselves. They were never explored to their full potential. It was just overall a bit flat in my opinion.

Posted in Picture Books

Ninja Bunny, by Jennifer Gray Olson

22748880Ninja Bunny
Jennifer Gray Olsen
2015 Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN – 9780385754941
Genre – Picture Book
Age – Preschool, Toddler
4 Stars

The rules for being a super awesome ninja begins with being able to work alone. Several other rules are written about as well as illustrated in a hilarious manner. This is one of those books where the words tell one story and the pictures tell a whole different story. The juxtaposition is sure to make the older listeners laugh, while the sweet and funny words are great for the younger listeners. The lesson at the end is appropriate for all age groups! I love the illustrations, they are done in very soft colors, but they make an impact. The ninja bunny is adorable with his long skinny ears flying everywhere in all of the pictures. A definite add to my ninja storytime!