Category Archives: reviews

Harry Moon: Wand Paper Scissors Origin Review

harry_moon_1Harry Moon: Wand-Paper-Scissors Origin by Mark Andrew Poe, illustrations by Christina Weidman

Rabbit Publishers, 2017. 978-1943785599

Reviewer note: The Harry Moon and Honey Moon books are being re-released as The Amazing Adventures of Harry Moon and The Enchanted World of Honey Moon.

Synopsis: Harry Moon is up to his eyeballs in magic. In the small town of Sleepy Hollow where every day is Halloween night, his archenemy, Titus Kligore, has eyes on winning the annual Scary Talent Show. Harry’s sister, Honey Moon, says Harry needs better tricks so he finds a new and better magic wand. Still, Harry has a tough job ahead of him if he is going to steal the crown. He takes a chance on a magical rabbit who introduces him to the deep magic. Harry decides the best way forward is to “do no evil ” while the battle to defeat Titus goes epic.  – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: It’s marketed as a book with values and caters to kids with dyslexia.

Why I finished it: I’m always intrigued by stories of readers sharing ideas for books with authors, and in the case of Harry Moon, kids were asked what kids of values and messages they wanted in a book. While I cannot completely agree with all the messages the book sends (there is a rumor about students kissing teachers and a questionable relationship between the protagonist and his former babysitter), I was really drawn in by Harry’s commitment to ‘Do No Evil’. Bullying can be a big problem no matter what age you are, and the messages we send to kids about how to deal with bullying can have a huge impact on their world view and their self-esteem. Harry’s approach of making friends with Titus, even though Titus was pretty much a jerk, is bold and mature. I will acknowledge that it’s not always going to work, yet it promotes a step in the right direction. The other message I got out of the book is about finding the courage (magic) inside yourself to be able to make changes – both in your personal life and in the lives of others. I liked that Harry’s family is so open and honest with each other and they are a tightly knit group, and promoting environments where kids can be heard is integral to how they process both good and bad situations. There are several jokes that will go over the heads of some of the younger readers, but I think anyone that picks up the book will be pleasantly surprised. I will say that the beginning is weighed down with a lot of background, but once you get past that, the rest of the book was a quick read that can be enjoyed by readers of all levels.

Other related materials: Harry Moon: Halloween Nightmares by Mark Andrew Poe, illustrations by Christine Weidman; Harry Moon: First Light by Mark Andrew Poe, illustrations by Christine Weidman; Harry Moon: Harry’s Christmas Carol by Mark Andrew Poe, illustrations by Christine Weidman; Honey Moon: Dog Daze by Sofi Benitez, illustrations by Becky Minor; Honey Moon: A Scary Little Christmas by Sofi Benitez, illustrated by Becky Minor; The Bad Guys books by Aaron Blabey; Diary of A Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney

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The Trolls Will Feast! Review

creeps_2The Trolls Will Feast! (The Creeps #2) by Chris Schweizer

Amulet Books, 2016. 978-1419718823

Synopsis: In Pumpkins County, monster attacks are a common enough occurrence, but when Jarvis is attacked by an invisible monster, the Creeps know they’ve found their next case. Through Mitchell’s extensive monster expertise, the gang identifies the culprit: a Troll. Unfortunately, Trolls travel in packs. They hibernate together, and they feast on humans together. The tastiest type of human? Those who have been marinating in their own stress hormones. And there’s an awful lot of stress to go around these days, what with the town’s gossip site spewing out nonstop misinformation and alarmist messages. Could the Trolls be behind the county-wide breakdown in communication? With the town’s anxiety levels soaring off the charts, it’s up to the Creeps to find out—before the Trolls’ big feast. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: It’s that time of year again!

Why I finished it: Trolls are creatures that are at the center of many Halloween and folk tales, and I appreciated how Schweizer took some of the common beliefs about trolls and turned them on their head. To make the trolls invisible (unless you have been sprayed in the eyes with goat milk) makes the danger even more heightened for our heroes and the other citizens of Pumpkins County. Schweizer continues to build on the world he created in Night of the Frankenfrogs and even does some more exploration into the Creeps’ individual interests and abilities. I particularly liked seeing more of Jarvis’s gadgets and delving into Mitchell’s monster encyclopedia. The underlying message about believing in yourself really came out during the story’s climax and it helps to reinforce the idea that even though the Creeps seem weird to the rest of Pumpkins County, they’re really just a regular group of kids with more diverse interests that initially meets the eye. Schweizer’s use of muted colors in the art given the book a classic horror movie feel and grows more and more cinematic as the plot moves forward. If you read and enjoyed the first book in the series, this volume will be a treat – without any tricks!

Other related materials: Night of the Frankenfrogs (The Creeps #2) by Chris Schweizer; Curse of the Attack-O-Lanterns (The Creeps #3) by Chris Schweizer; The Crogan Adventures series by Chris Schweizer; The Notebook of Doom series by Troy Cummings; Brain Camp by Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan, and Faith Erin Hicks; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier; Harry Moon books by Mark Andrew Poe; Honey Moon books by Sofi Benitez; The Graveyard Book  by Neil Gaiman; A Tale Dark & Grimm by Andrew Gidwitz; In A Glass Grimmly by Andrew Gidwitz; The Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz

 

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Amulet: Supernova Review

amulet_8Amulet, Book 8: Supernova by Kazu Kibuishi

Graphix, 2018. 978-0545828604

Synopsis: Emily has lost control of her Amulet and is imprisoned in the Void, where she must find a way to escape the influence of the Voice. Meanwhile, Emily’s brother, Navin, travels to Lighthouse One, a space station where the Resistance is preparing to battle the approaching Shadow forces that would drain planet Alledia of all its resources. Emily and Navin must be smarter and stronger than ever to ensure Alledia’s survival. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I’m totally hooked on this series and can’t believe it’s almost concluded!

Why I finished it: What I have loved about Kibuishi’s series is the depth. The world creation, the characters, the settings – there are so many moving pieces that come together in beautiful and almost unexpected ways. Supernova really helps to flesh out the complexity of the relationship between Amulet and Stonekeeper, and just how dangerous it can be when a Stonekeeper gets out of control. As the conflict in Alledia continues to grow, it seems more important than ever for our heroes to stick together to fight back against the shadows that are threatening to overtake the planets. The fantasy element is at its finest in this latest installment, as the readers are introduced to a species of tree with leaves who can clear out heavy pollution, we learn there is a place for Stonekeepers to rest, and there’s even some more space travel. There is a starker contrast to the light and the dark in this volume, both in terms of the coloring and the plot. The reader sees moments of peace and happiness interspersed between the fighting, but it is still hard for us to see how the conflict will end and whether or not a solution will be found. I’m eager to see the fate of Emily, Navin, Trelis, and the others, but I will be more than a little sad to see the story end.

Other related materials: Amulet, Book 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 2: The Stonekeeper’s Curse by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 3: The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 4: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 5: Prince of the Elves by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 6: Escape from Lucien by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 7: Firelight by Kazu Kibuishi; Explorer: The Mystery Boxes by Kazu Kibuishi; Flight Explorer, Volume One edited by Kazu Kibuishi; Zita the Spacegirl graphic novels by Ben Hatke; Cleopatra in Space graphic novels by Mike Maihack; Babymouse graphic novels by Jennifer L. Holm & Matt Holm; Bone graphic novels by Jeff Smith; Missile Mouse books by Jake Parker; The Secret Science Alliance books by Eleanor Davis; Dragonbreath books by Ursula Vernon; Big Nate books by Lincoln Pierce; Chickenhare by Chris Grine; Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot graphic novels by Dav Pilkey, illustrated by Dan Santat

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Digital Library: Better Nate Than Ever

better-nate-than-ever-9781442366206_hrBetter Nate Than Ever by Time Federle; read by the author

Simon & Schuster Audio, 2013. 5 hours, 54 minutes. ISBN 9781442366206

Odyssey Honor Audiobook Award Winner, 2014.

Synopsis: Nate Foster has big dreams. His whole life, he’s wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he’d settle for seeing a Broadway show.) But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune? With Libby’s help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There’s an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom. – from Amazon.com

I always think it is a treat when an author performs the audiobook version of their own work because you can get a feel for how they hoped to portray the characters on the page. Federle brings across the exuberance, hopefulness, and nervousness of Nate’s character as he embarks on what becomes a journey of major ups, downs, and even some other surprises along the way. I had a laugh out loud at Nate’s internal voice telling him to stop talking when he knew he was starting to ramble – and I’m sure other readers will identify with this part of Nate’s character as well. It was hard not to root for Nate as he is going through the audition process, which seems somewhat nerve-wracking when you consider the sheer number of people in the casting office – some of whom he is competing with. I also had to admire Nate’s starry-eyed view of New York and the way he instantly falls in love with the city even though Kristin Chenoweth is not at the Greyhound station to welcome him with a song. I absolutely loved everything about this audiobook and would recommend it to anyone with big hopes and dreams to help encourage them.

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Digital Library: A Wrinkle in Time

a_wrinkle_in_timeA Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle; Read by Hope Davis

Listening Library/Penguin Random House Audio, 2012. 390 Minutes. ISBN 9780307916570

Synopsis: Meg Murray, her little brother Charles Wallace, and their mother are having a midnight snack on a dark and stormy night when an unearthly stranger appears at their door. He claims to have been blown off course, and goes on to tell them that there is such a thing as a “tesseract,” which, if you didn’t know, is a wrinkle in time. Meg’s father had been experimenting with time-travel when he suddenly disappeared. Will Meg, Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin outwit the forces of evil as they search through space for their father? – from the publisher

Davis brings L’Engle’s classic middle grade sci-fi/fantasy novel to life and takes the reader deeper into the text – especially if you are listening to the audiobook while following along in a physical copy. The reader can really get a feel for the different layers of the story and the personalities for the characters with the audiobook thanks to Davis’s superb voice acting. She seems to adopt a multitude of personas as she reads through the novel, giving each character a unique voice as the plot goes along. I like it when a narrator takes the time and energy to put a little bit of diversity into their acting because it reduces the feeling of monotony. As much as I enjoy the story, I am still not a fan of Meg as a heroine. Davis seems to bring out more of the whining adolescent quality of Meg’s character and it really turns me off to her character. I understand that she is trying to figure some things out, but I don’t relate to her at all. Despite this, I enjoyed Davis’s performance of the book and think it would make a wonderful companion to the physical copy.

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Feature Presentation: Peter Rabbit

peter_rabbitPeter Rabbit starring James Corden, Rose Byrne, Margot Robbie, Daisy Ridley, Fayssal Bazzi, Domnhall Gleeson, Sia, Colin Moody, Sam Neill, Elizabeth Debicki, Christian Gazal, and Ewen Leslie

Sony Pictures Entertainment/2.0 Entertainment/Animal Logic Entertainment, 2018. Rated PG.

Synopsis: Peter Rabbit (James Corden) his three sisters Flopsy (Margot Robbie), Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki), and Cotton Tail (Daisy Ridley) and their cousin Benjamin (Colin Moody) enjoy their days harassing old Mr. McGregor (Sam Neill) in his vegetable garden. After old McGregor’s death, his great-nephew (Domnhall Gleeson) inherits the house and seems to share his late uncle’s views about rabbits invading the garden. But when he starts to fall in love with the animal lover next door, Bea (Rose Byrne), his feelings towards Peter and the others begins to change. But is it too late?

I wasn’t quite sure what to think about this movie, but I ended up really enjoying it. The characters are endearing and charming, though sometimes the comedy can get a little crass (likely for the adult audience rather than the kiddies). My only real qualm with the movie is that it is supposed to be based on ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’. While the movie shares some of its source material with the beloved children’s books by Beatrix Potter (namely, the characters and the basic plotline of Peter repeatedly sneaking into the garden), I don’t think it is a true adaptation (The World of Peter Rabbit and Tales of Beatrix Potter more closely follow the books). That said though, I liked the different angle the writers took to make it a little more relatable to modern audiences. There is a running joke about the contrast in Bea’s paintings (her ‘real work’ is abstract at best while her drawings of the local wildlife (a side project) are much more captivating) that seems to hold up over the running time. The extermination methods McGregor uses go a little bit over the top and the ridiculousness just made me bored after a while. The back and forth between the rabbits and McGregor also have moments where the jokes fall a little flat, but for the most part, the exchanges are clever and engaging. The message about learning to understand others and to ask for forgiveness is important to instill in younger and adult viewers alike. It’s a cute family film that will be enjoyed by both kids and adults.

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What’s On: A Series of Unfortunate Events, Season 2

series-of-unfortunate-events-s2A Series of Unfortunate Events, Season 2 starring Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, Presley Smith, K. Todd Freeman, Usman Ally, Jacqueline Robbins, Joyce Robbins, Matty Cardaropole, John DeSantis, Sara Rue, and Lucy Rush

Netflix, 2018.

Synopsis: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire continue to search for answers about the fire that killed their parents, an apparent survivor of the fire, and the mysterious organization V.F.D as they are pursued by Count Olaf and his acting troupe.

Season Two begins with the Baudelaire orphans waiting in the office of Prufrock Preparatory School to be seen by the vice principal. In fact, they have been waiting there so long, Klaus (Louis Hynes) notes, that Sunny (Presley Smith) is now a toddler rather than an infant. Nothing like a bit of light humor to start off a much darker series of events for both the Baudelaire children and the audience. What I appreciate about the series is that the characters are being moved around in such a way that we become invested in their fates – in the books, many of the people the Baudelaires encounter are simply around for the duration of the book and then drop off, never to be seen again. For example, the librarian at Prufrock (Sara Rue) is recruited by Jacques Snicket (Nathan Fillon) as a V.F.D. member and is seen in later episodes aiding Violet, Klaus, and Sunny. The audience is also more easily able to follow the journey of the notorious sugar bowl that was the catalyst for the events now occurring; it is seen repeatedly in the possession of a mystery female whom we are being lead to believe may be the survivor of the fire that killed the Baudelaire parents. The added musical numbers performed by Count Olaf and his troupe are delightfully amusing, especially given the rather dire and depressing nature of the series. And while this season ends on a literal cliffhanger (a fact that I am sure will not go unnoticed at the beginning of the next season), the audience is still somewhat prepared for further trouble to come, though we know not yet what forms it will take.

 

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