Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith

51lNSiGFQjL  Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith, Schwartz & Wade Books, (9780553511932), 2015

Format: hardcover

Rating: 5 (starred review)

Genre:  realistic fiction

What did you like about the book? This book tells the story of two 10-year-old boys in alternating chapters. Zavion and his father live in Louisiana. They survive Hurricane Katrina but lose their home and everything in it and have to stay with friends in Baton Rouge. Henry lives in Vermont and just lost his best friend Wayne in an accident on a nearby mountain. The boys’ lives intersect when Henry accompanies Wayne’s father on a volunteer mission to help hurricane survivors. Henry is on a quest to find a marble that he and Wayne once shared which was left in the pocket of a pair of jeans donated to hurricane victims. Both boys are deeply wounded by both present and past losses: Zavion is still grieving for his mother who died several years earlier and Henry for his absent father. Both boys have distinct voices, and anyone who wonders what it was like to be a child in New Orleans when the levees broke, or a child who witnesses his friend’s death, need look no further than this novel. An author’s note adds an interesting dimension. Well worth reading.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Given the characters’ young age, there is a lot of sadness and loss to process. Older readers might be initially deterred by the fact that the protagonists are only 10 years old. Encourage them to stick with it. The novel also relies a lot on coincidences, but the emotions felt so authentic that I was willing to suspend my disbelief.

To whom would you recommend this book? Read-Alikes? This will be a good novel to recommend to boys, but girls may enjoy it too. Although sensitive readers may be disturbed by some of the images, it feels like an excellent choice for a classroom or family read aloud or book discussion group. Readers looking for other novels depicting boys struggling with the death of a friend or family member should try The Way Home Looks Now by Wendy Wan Long Shang and Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries and middle schools, particularly since its publication coincides with the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Where would you shelve it ? Middle grade fiction or young adult fiction depending on your library’s collection.

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Renée Wheeler, Leominster Public Library, Leominster, MA

Date of review: August 28, 2015

Posted in *Starred Review, Book Review | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How to Babysit a Leopard: And Other True Stories From Our Travels Across Six Continents – Ted and Betsy Lewin

61LSmuJ8DHL     How to Babysit a Leopard: And Other True Stories From Our Travels Across Six Continents – Ted and Betsy Lewin, Roaring Brook Press, (9781596436169), 2015.

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5:  4

Genre:  Non-fiction

What did you like about the book? Betsy and Ted Lewin describe four decades of their travels to exotic places in one to two page vignettes. Using a mix of text, photos, and drawings, the Lewins create snapshots of wildlife and cultures they have encountered.  Readers will feel like they are along for the ride sharing memories both humorous and wistful of faraway habitats and diverse animal and human populations.  Entries are organized first by continent and then by location and trip, but the narratives jump randomly among previous years.

Anything you didn’t like about it?  I had to keep checking to see when and where each account took place. A chronological progression would have seemed more logical.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Recommend to middle school social studies teachers to introduce other parts of the world. Also recommend to young people who like to read travelogues.

Who should buy this book? Middle school and public libraries.

Where would you shelve it?  910

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  Yes, if you enjoy hearing about other people’s travels.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Mary Melaugh, Marshall Middle School Library, Billerica, MA

Date of review: 8/27/15

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

51il33ILXNL           Made You Up by Francesca Zappia, Greenwillow Books (9780062290106) 2015

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

What did you like about the book? Alexandria is a senior in high school who isn’t often sure what’s real and what’s not.  The flaming phoenix that flies over her neighborhood, she’s fairly certain isn’t real.  Other things aren’t so clear cut for this paranoid schizophrenic.  The tale that unfolds as she attempts to tackle her senior year at high school (to do the simple things like make friends, get a boyfriend, solve the mystery of the Scoreboard) is at times disjointed but in a way that serves to bring you more into the confusion of Alex’s life and it works well.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?   Fans of “Going Bovine” will enjoy this one.

Who should buy this book? High schools and Public libraries

Where would you shelve it? YA Fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: April Duclos, Hudson Public Library, Hudson MA

Date of review: 8/27/15

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Fun Book of Scary Stuff – Emily Jenkins, pictures by Hyewon Yum

612Mpb-hIRL      The Fun Book of Scary Stuff – Emily Jenkins, pictures by Hyewon Yum, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, (9780374300005), 2015

Format: Hardcover.

Rating: 1-5 (5 is excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre: Picture Book

What did you like about the book?  A young boy has a conversation with his dogs about his fears. The pug agrees with him, while the bull terrier, the self-proclaimed “bravest dog ever” scoffs. The text appears as word bubbles between the boy and his dogs. The boy’s list of fears includes monsters, ghosts, witches and trolls to which the terrier asks” When did you see trolls? You keep being scared of stiff that probably doesn’t exist.” The boy then lists scary things that do exist, his mean cousin, the crossing guard, swimming pool sharks and finally the big one, the dark. The terrier finally agrees that the dark is “actually, really scary.” When all three go into a dark closet it is the boy who turns on the light vanquishing the dark. The illustrations are set against a lot of white space, so they will not overwhelm children with fears. The scary things are not too scary and will not cause any nightmares. The dogs are quite humorous and expressive. The ending is wonderful in showing how the little boy is able to face his fears and realize that he can be brave…sometimes.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No.

To whom would you recommend this book?  This is a good book to hand to a child who is dealing with childhood fears. Pair it with the Scaredy Squirrel series by Melanie Watt.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture Books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this at the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA

Date of review: 8/27/15

 

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Tiny Hamster Is a Giant Monster – Joel Jensen, Joseph Matsushima and Amy Matsushima

71SEkLsY9SL    Tiny Hamster Is a Giant Monster – Joel Jensen, Joseph Matsushima and Amy Matsushima, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, (9781481451109), 2015

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is excellent or a Starred review) 3

Genre: Picture Book

What did you like about the book?   The front cover informs us that this picture book is “Based on the YouTube sensation.”   It is a cute take on the classic monster movie starring an adorable hamster wreaking havoc on a toy city. The illustrations are taken from video footage with a real hamster photographed within a paper and cardboard city. When he turns into the monster a little felt dinosaur costume cover the hamster’s head and back. Kids will enjoy the humor of a giant hamster in the city. Of course, you can check out the live action version online.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Since the illustrations are “rendered from video footage”, some sharpness is lost, but overall they work well.

To whom would you recommend this book? Hand this to readers who enjoyed Dogzilla by Dav Pilkey. Fans of classic monster movies like Godzilla and King Kong will enjoy this one, too.

Who should buy this book? Public Libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture Books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this at the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA

Date of review: 8/27/15

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

One Word From Sophia – Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail

51k3dM3CvIL   One Word From Sophia – Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, (9781481405140), 2015

Format: Hardcover.

Rating: 1-5 (5 is excellent or a Starred review) 3

Genre: Picture Book

What did you like about the book?     Sophia, a biracial child, is looking forward to her birthday so she can get her “One True Desire,” a pet giraffe.   The obstacles are her mother (a judge), her father (a businessman), her uncle (a politician) and the hardest of all, her Grand-mama. Sophia is a precocious child who presents her case in a way that fits each family member’s oeuvre. She presents legal facts to her mom, uses a graph for her father and takes a poll for her uncle. Each one tells her in various ways that she is using too many words, so she finally finds that just one, “Please?” will do the job. She gets her per giraffe, “And two words came in handy as well: Thank You.” The watercolor and colored pencil drawings bring a childlike feel to the story. Children will love some of the humor such as her idea to sell giraffe poop accompanied by a crayon-like drawing of a pooping giraffe.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book?  This would work well paired with other books about improbable pets such as Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell, What Pet to Get by Emma Dodd and I Want a Pet by Lauren Child among many others.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture Books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this at the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA

Date of review: 8/27/15

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Stanley At School – Linda Bailey, Illustrated by Bill Slavin

61-6Bi6fOYL  Stanley At School – Linda Bailey, Illustrated by Bill Slavin, Kids Can Press, (9781771380966), 2015

Format: Hardcover.

Rating: 1-5 (5 is excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre: Picture Book

What did you like about the book?     Children will love this humorous story about what happens when Stanley and his dog friends decide to go to school. Stanley and his friends wonder what the children do every day at school, so they venture inside. Their sense of smell leads them to the coatroom where they soon help themselves to lunch. When the kids show up they are delighted, but the school janitor is not. Soon the dogs and kids are running wild through the school gym, band room and art room until they end up outside the principal’s office. Stanley is worried about what the “top dog” will do to them, but luckily she is a canine lover. So after some pats to the paint spattered dog’s heads she sends them outside and on their way. Stanley and his friends are so excited that they finally know what the kids do at school “They go there to eat and to run.” Of course word spreads and the next day when school opens “the dogs were waiting.” The illustrations perfectly capture the personalities of the dogs and the action.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Add this to your back-to-school display and story time. Fans of the previous Stanley books will love this new one!

Who should buy this book? Public Libraries, elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture Books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this at the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA

Date of review:  8/27 /15

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , | Leave a comment