When Mino Took the Bus by Simona Ciraolo

            When Mino Took the Bus by Simona Ciraolo.  Flying Eye Books, 2022. 9781838740887

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

Format: Hardcover picture book

What did you like about the book? Mino, a little chipmunk, is leaving home, leaving his mother to find a new home; it’s time.  He takes some seed, kisses his mother goodbye and boards the bus. He is understandably anxious, fidgeting and asking the driver lots of questions. When Beatrice, a young fox. comes on board, they share snacks. More passengers come on board.  Stopping for a break, the passengers explore the area.  There is quite a feast at lunchtime when all the passengers share their food.  It’s a beautiful journey filled with stories and memories.

Mino is one adorable chipmunk with a large head and big eyes. The illustrations, appearing to be watercolor, are soft and dreamy, in pastel shades. A very lovely, tender story.

Anything you did not like about the book? No.

To whom would you recommend this book? This might be a good story to share when someone is moving or maybe starting at a new school.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries and nursery schools

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

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

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Katrina Yurenka, Retired Librarian, Contributor, Youth Services Book Review

Date of Review: February 7, 2023

Posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, Moving, Simona Ciraolo | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Wicked Ones by Robin Benway

The Wicked Ones (A Dark Ascension Novel) by Robin Benway. Disney Press, 2023. 9781368078627

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

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Fantasy

What did you like about the book? When sisters Drizella and Anastasia were seven and six-years-old their father absconded with anything of value he could find and skipped out. Sometime later their mother remarried, inheriting a younger daughter, Ella.  Ella’s dad and Lady Tremaine’s husband dies a year later. Ella is the household slave, despised by her stepmother and ignored by her stepsisters. Now Drizzy and Annie are 17 and 16-years-old respectfully.  The prince has come of age and a ball will be given in his honor with all the eligible young maidens invited to attend.  Annie is excited, Drizella not. They are forced to take music lessons to prepare for the gala though both of them are without talent.  By chance Drizella meets Madame Lambert, a scientist, who not only takes Drizzy under her wing but offers to take her on as her assistant when moving to Paris!  Annie meets a handsome groom, Dominic, who works at the king’s palace.  He and Annie fall in love.

Lady Tremaine wins awards as one of the most despicable villains in literature.  She is cruel, belittling, devoid of love and caring. Will Annie and Drizzy be able to free themselves from her?  And what of Ella?

Anything you did not like about the book? I was pretty much unable to put this down, but it is utterly depressing.

To whom would you recommend this book? Those who like embellishments on fairy tales could well enjoy this but can only hope that a sequel is in the works that might undo some of the fatalistic pathos.

Who should buy this book? Public, upper middle school and high school libraries

Where would you shelve it? YA Fiction

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

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Katrina Yurenka, Retired Librarian, Contributor, Youth Services Book Review

Date of Review:  February 7, 2023

Posted in *Book Review, *Young Adult, Fairytale retelling, Robin Benway | Tagged | Leave a comment

Sneaky Shadows by S C Manchild, illustrated by Sam Caldwell

Sneaky Shadows by S C Manchild, illustrated by Sam Caldwell. Berbay Books, c2020, 2022. 9781922610454

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

Format: Hardcover picture book

What did you like about the book?  A guessing game format will make Sneaky Shadows an entertaining read aloud. Light blue endpapers with familiar shadow shapes let us know that things are not always what they seem. Readers are admonished to guess what’s producing the inky black shadow and then turn the page for the big reveal. At first, it’s easy. Two penguin-shaped shadows stand wing to wing; when we turn the page, we get to giggle at the dressed-up, happily married couple with 4 children (Dave wears a tux – of course – while Michelle has on a fetching red top and garish gold necklace). Then (obviously) a giraffe followed by a camel. But wait, it’s not a camel but rather a llama balancing two molded Jello creations on its back. And so on. Colorful fonts and goofy asides keep the laughs coming (a swan on skis instead of an elephant and a frantic kangaroo babysitter instead of a T-rex). The slick digital illustrations are easy on the eyes and plentiful white space means we can focus on the riddles.

Anything you didn’t like about it? It is an Australian import so there are some words and phrases that will be unfamiliar to children in the U.S. Some of the animal descriptions were a little weird; the gorilla and the snake that are kissing each other because they’re young and in love or the swans who can’t afford skis.

To whom would you recommend this book?  I can see this becoming a favorite for kids age 3-5 for its sheer goofiness. Probably good for a library as once you’ve read it, you’ll already know what all the shadows turn out to be and won’t need to read it again.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

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

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: February 5, 2023

Posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, Humor, Riddles, S C Manchild, Sam Caldwell | Tagged | Leave a comment

Snail Trail by Ziggy Hanaor, illustrated by Christos Kourtoglou

Snail Trail by Ziggy Hanaor, illustrated by Christos Kourtoglou. Cicada Books, 2023. 9781800660311

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

Format: Hardcover picture book

What did you like about the book? Not all who wander are lost, and not all who like solitude are lonely. This is the tale of a happy snail named Marjorie who likes to “wander off and try to find a quiet space.” Friends are always following her to see if she wants company or to share a snack. But Marjorie just likes to be alone. One day she finds a friend who is similarly enjoying some alone time, and she finds out how he prevents others from following him – by wiping his slime trail with a leaf. From then on, Marjorie and Bernard are kindred spirits who sometimes have alone time together, but who always know to respect each other’s space. And from then on she always carries a leaf.

I loved this book about an introvert who finds a way to get what she needs. The matter-of-fact exposition and the immensely appealing water color art work wonderfully together. Kourtoglou’s free form artwork is adorable. The blobby snails with shocks of hair, glasses and hats are so funny, their eyes so expressive. I won’t soon forget an image of Marjorie the snail reclining under a bush, with pensive eyes, contemplating a rose, a long trail of slime tracing her path. This book is a funny and a useful validation of the joy of solitude. It’s a good tool for showing kids how to give their friends space.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book? For ages 5 and up. I can imagine preschool and kindergartens using the book to talk about difference.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Picture books

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

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: February 6, 2023

Posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, *Starred Review, Christos Kourtoglou, Feelings, Snails, Ziggy Hanaor | Tagged | Leave a comment

A Sliver of Moon and a Shard of Truth: Stories from India by Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Uma Krishnaswamy

A Sliver of Moon and a Shard of Truth: Stories from India by Chitra Soundar, illustrated by Uma Krishnaswamy. Candlewick Press, 2022. 9781536225150

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

Format: Hardcover

Genre:  Fiction/short stories

What did you like about the book? Another delightful book of short stories from the team who brought us Mangoes, Mischief and Tales of Friendship. Four short original tales about the problem solving duo Prince Veera and his best friend Suku, a farmer’s son, show how even the wiliest, greediest or angriest adults can be appeased by common sense or cleverness. The boys venture to the summer festival near Prince Veera’s great-uncle’s palace and solve tricky problems involving making a peahen sing, and even win a bout with a champion wrestler. The stories are gentle and funny, the boys are brave and kind, and the atmosphere of old India is so nicely evoked by the charming black and white drawings.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No

To whom would you recommend this book? A nice purchase for all libraries, excellent for reluctant readers, and a nice family read aloud. For ages 5+.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Fiction/short stories

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

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: February 6, 2023

Posted in *Book Review, Chitra Soundar, India, Short Stories, Uma Krishnaswamy | Tagged | Leave a comment

Race Against Death: The Greatest POW Rescue of World War II by Deborah Hopkinson

Race Against Death: The Greatest POW Rescue of World War II by Deborah Hopkinson. Scholastic Focus, 2023. 9781338746167

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

Format: Paperback ARC, published April 2023

What did you like about the book? So much is written about World War II as it occurred in Europe, about the Nazis and the Holocaust, but much less is written about what occurred in the Pacific.  When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the US officially joined the war but FDR was persuaded to concentrate efforts on stopping the Nazis, not the Japanese. The Japanese attacked the Philippines on two consecutive days in December 1941, following their attack on Pearl Harbor. Thousands of Americans and Filipino soldiers lost their lives or were taken as prisoners of war as the Japanese took control of the Philippines. 30-40% of those taken captive died due to starvation, dysentery, torture and murder.  The infamous Bataan Death March, where sick and starved POWs were forced to walk 65 miles from one prison camp to another, is well documented but still ignored in documentation for the school-age audience.  These men all but lost hope until they were finally rescued in January of 1945.  Hopkinson embellished her story with copious photographs and maps, personal histories and horrendous facts.

An epilogue is included along with a timeline of events, resources to explore, bibliography and source notes.

Anything you did not like about the book?  No, except that being a pre-published edition, much back information is missing including an index.

To whom would you recommend this book? Anyone wishing to learn about World War II as it was experienced in the Philippines following the invasion by the Japanese in December 1941 will be rewarded with these first-hand accounts.

Who should buy this book? Elementary, middle, high school and public libraries.

Where would you shelve it? 940.54

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

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Katrina Yurenka, Retired Librarian, Contributor, Youth Services Book Review

Date of Review:  February 3, 2023

Posted in *Book Review, *Starred Review, Deborah Hopkinson, Japan, Philippines, World War II | Tagged | Leave a comment

How to Help a Friend by Karl Newson, illustrated by Clara Anganuzzi

How to Help a Friend by Karl Newson, illustrated by Clara Anganuzzi. Templar Books, an imprint of Candlewick Press, 2022. 9781536226676

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

Format: Hardcover picture book

What did you like about the book? How do we learn to help our friends when they are feeling down? One way is to be able to identify emotions. This heartfelt picture book shows all the ways a friend, or you, can feel, and the ways to help. A brown-skinned girl in teal blue overalls and many different animals demonstrate lots of ways to feel big feelings: some friends like to be alone; some like to talk about it; some like to read; some just want to laugh. Kids will be able to recognize many different ways of feeling feelings. Lilting rhyming text begs to be read aloud, and although there isn’t an arc to the story, their are plenty of lovingly illustrated settings and animals doing animal things or human things to point out and enjoy. There are squirrels in the trees, penguins on glaciers, porpoises swimming and singing, macaws flying over the girl and a polar bear in a rowboat gliding down a river. The artist clearly revels in portraying nature.

I like that the book validates that big feelings are not to be feared, and that a friend can help. And it is not lost on me that the child is brown skinned with an ample, rounded body. I love seeing different body shapes in children’s books. I especially liked this verse: “Some friends want to fly away. / Some friends want to hide. / Some friends might want someone else but appreciate you tried.” Kids will see that this is what friends do for each other.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Almost every verse starts with, “Some friends…” and I found it to be tiresome after a while, even though I loved the message.

To whom would you recommend this book? A lovely addition to story times on friendship, for ages 4-8.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Picture books

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

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: February 5, 2023

Posted in *Book Review, *Picture Book, Clara Anganuzzi, Emotions, Empathy, Feelings, Friendship, Karl Newson, Stories-in-rhyme | Tagged | Leave a comment

Camp Creepy by Kiersten White

Camp Creepy (Sinister Summer: Book Three) by Kiersten White. Delacorte Press, 2023. 9780593379127

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

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Fantasy/adventure/mystery

What did you like about the book?  Have you been longing for a reunion with the Sinister-Winterbottom children? Then you’re in luck because the plucky trio (twins Alexander and Theo, adopted older sister Wil) are back and this time, they’re going to camp. Having successfully navigated the Wretched Waterpark and a vacation in a vampiric spa (and acquiring several items to help them in locating their missing parents), the children must now outwit an onslaught of subliminal advertising. A disgraced ad executive turned camp director has managed to trap Alexander with positive self-talk and (literally) hypnotic tie dye t-shirts; yikes! Suddenly the formerly timid and obsessive twin is eating from a buffet and jumping off a rope swing into the lake! And Wil has forsaken her beloved cellphone Rodrigo and ditched Goth black for bright colors! Luckily, Theo swoops in and saves the day, and together the kids uncover more clues and allies that may help them unravel the increasing number of vanished but loving caregivers. Once again, droll dialogue, sophisticated humor, and genuine unsolved mysteries will keep readers laughing and engaged. Spoiler alert: at the end of this installment, the twins figure out that their loopy caretaker, Aunt Saffronia, is a ghost, which certainly explains her lack of attention to corporeal matters, such as food and automobile safety. The twins present as White while Wil is referred to as having brown skin.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No. Still no maps or illustrations; quite a missed opportunity for some fun.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Those who have already read the first two books will be eager to read this sequel and continue solving the mystery. A good read alike for those who have enjoyed Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events or Pseudonymous Bosch’s The Name of This Book Is Secret series. Given the advanced (but readable) vocabulary and innocent content, this is a good recommendation for younger children who read way above grade level.

Who should buy this book? Elementary, middle schools and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Fiction

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

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: February 4, 2023

Posted in *Book Review, Author, Fantasy, Kiersten White, Middle grade novel, Mystery, Series | Tagged | Leave a comment

Meet Five Marvel Super Heroes by Marvel Press Book Group

Meet Five Marvel Super Heroes (World of Reading Level 1) by Marvel Press Book Group. Marvel Press, 2022. 9781368073677

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

Format: Paperback graphic novel

Genre:  Early reader

What did you like about the book? This is a quick introduction to these five superheroes, how they came to be superheroes, and a battle for each with a baddie. The sentences are short and simple enough for early readers, but still action-packed. I think the excitement and popular topic will help entice even reluctant readers to check out these stories. Expert illustrations are detailed, expressive, and just as you would expect from a Marvel graphic novel.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Not a thing

To whom would you recommend this book? Children learning to read ages 4-8 (depending on skill level)

Who should buy this book? Elementary school libraries, public libraries, and day-cares

Where would you shelve it? Beginner readers

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

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Vicky Tandy, Athol Public Library, Athol, MA

Date of review: February 3, 2023

Posted in *Book Review, Easy / Early Reader, Marvel, Superhero | Tagged | Leave a comment

Belittled Women by Amanda Sellet

Belittled Women by Amanda Sellet. Clarion Books, HarperCollins, 2022. 9780358567356

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

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book?  A promising premise: In New Concord, Kansas, a divorced mom and Louisa May Alcott fanatic moves into a farmhouse she has inherited from her aunt and sets up shop as a tourist attraction, re-enacting scenes from the famous novel. But as her three daughters grow into teens, the situation gets rocky. Meg is a spacey and shallow mean girl, Amy is a melodramatic monster, and our heroine Jo just wants to get a cross country scholarship so she can move as far away as possible. The plot gets set in motion when a magazine writer and her son arrive for a feature length article on the show and Jo is torn between her attraction to the shallow but cute visiting Hudson and David, the hunky, smart, kind boy next door, who just happens to be Meg’s ex. There’s a lot of banter and funny set pieces involving the re-enacted production (let’s just say that historical accuracy is not valued). I’m a Little Women fan and enjoyed the madcap antics, which definitely had me laughing out loud in some of the crazier parts. All the main characters present as White, with the exception of best friend Laurie, who identifies as queer and BIPOC, and gets paid a pittance to join the cast. Beth is also a hired hand, replaced each year, to more uproarious effect.

Anything you didn’t like about it? The characters felt flat and underdeveloped. Even Jo, the heart of any version of LW, lacked depth. Although the book is an homage, not a retelling, the absence of any sisterly affection between the characters seriously undermined my investment in the story. Sellet’s characters constantly mangle the revolutionary brilliance of Alcott’s novel. Her point wasn’t that girls could only be happy if they became little women and pursued conventional lives; it’s that little women are made, not born. Even ladylike “Book Meg” (as Sellet distinguishes her characters from the originals) must modify her behavior in order to become Mrs. Brooks. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  LW fans may enjoy this update, but the uninitiated will have a hard time making sense of it. Read alikes (that I liked much better) would include I, Claudia (2019) by Mary Mccoy, Re: Jane (2016) by Patricia Park, or My Imaginary Mary (2022) by the Lady Janies.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries where interest in reimagined classics is high.

Where would you shelve it? YA fiction

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

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: January 22, 2023

Posted in *Book Review, *Young Adult, Amanda Sellet, Classics, Siblings | Tagged | Leave a comment