Category Archives: reviews

Big Nate: Revenge of the Cream Puffs Review

big_nate_revenge_of-the_cream_puffsBig Nate: Revenge of the Cream Puffs by Lincoln Peirce

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016. 978-1449462284

Synopsis: Here come the Cream Puffs!  Nate and his baseball team, saddled with the most embarrassing moniker in Little League history, want to show the world they’re not just a bunch of cupcakes. But it won’t be easy. Their opponents mock them. The local sports section misprints Nate’s name—THREE TIMES. And now, on the day of the big game, illness and injuries have the team facing a crushing defeat . . . unless the unlikeliest Cream Puff of all can come in from the bullpen and save the day.from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I’m loving this comic so so much!

Why I finished it: Nate is still the man when it comes to everything – or so he would like to think. He’ll take on most any challenger in order to prove he’s the top dog. Except maybe Kim and her new cuddle bunny Chester. That’s just too much physical damage to even think about. Whether it’s kicking Gina’s butt at chess or trying to earn participation points by getting coffee for Mrs. Godfrey, Nate never fails to express his trademark charisma and charm that will keep readers endlessly entertained. We continue to identify with Nate’s struggles to get through middle school: dealing with over-exuberant teachers, trying to stay away from the bullies, trying to win the girl of your dreams back, pondering why he didn’t make the list of school hotties…. Peirce’s art is still just as lighthearted as his stories, using bright colors and thick lines to entice the reader into the book’s pages. It’s a perfect end-of-the-summer read as we start to head back to school.

Other related materials: Big Nate: What’s A Little Noogie Between Friends? By Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: I Can’t Take It! by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate’s Greatest Hits by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: Welcome to My World by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: Say Goodbye to Dork City by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: The Crowd Goes Wild! by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate and Friends by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: Game On! by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate Makes the Grade by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: Great Minds Think Alike by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate Out Loud by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: Thunka, Thunka, Thunka by Lincoln Peirce; My Weirdest School books by Dan Gutman, illustrated by Jim Paillot; Timmy Failure books by Stephan Pastis; Middle School books by James Patterson and Chris Tebbits, illustrated by Laura Park; Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney

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Max the Flying Sausage Dog: The Seaside Tail Colouring Book Review

max_the_flying_sausage_dog_seaside_tailMax the Flying Sausage Dog: The Seaside Tail Colouring Book by John O’Driscoll and Richard Kelley; illustrated by Arthur Robins

Words in the Works LLC, 2017. 978-0997228458

Synopsis: When Tom’s cousin Katie comes to visit, the family takes a trip to the seaside to enjoy the waves. But what happens when a wave sweeps Katie out to sea? Will Tom use Max’s special power to help save his cousin?

Why I picked it up: It’s the perfect end of summer read! Plus, it’s also a coloring book!

Why I finished it: If you have read some of my other posts, you will know how much I have been enjoying Tom and Max’s adventures. And now, with this coloring book, the reader can take a role in the story by playing illustrator! I loved being able put down my own version of Robins’ wonderful illustrations and putting a different spin on this story that was all my own. The story itself is not as long as the other three Max books, but there’s lots of blank pages that invite the reader to fill it up with their own drawings and doodles. Plus, there are pages from the previous stories for the reader to color as well! This may be a quick read, but it will provide hours of entertainment.

Other related materials: Max the Flying Sausage Dog: A Tail from London by John O’Driscoll and Richard Kelley, illustrated by Arthur Robins; Max the Flying Sausage Dog: Tails from the Pound by John O’Driscoll and Richard Kelley, illustrated by Arthur Robins; Max the Flying Sausage Dog: A Scary Tail (Bullies, watch out!) by John O’Driscoll and Richard Kelley, illustrated by Arthur Robins; Gumwrappers and Goggles written and illustrated by Winifred Barnum-Newman; That Day in September and Other Rhymes for the Times by Liz Lime; Flat Stanley books by Jeff Brown, illustrated by Macky Pamintuan; Nate the Great books by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, illustrated by Marc Simont; Roscoe Riley Rules books by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Brian Biggs; George Brown, Class Clown books by Nancy Krulik, illustrated by Aaron Blecha; The Notebook of Doom books by Troy Cummings

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The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas Review

BSI_1The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas (Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars, Case Book 1) by Tracy Mack and Michael Citrin, illustrations by Greg Ruth

Orchard Books, 2006. 978-0439828369.

Synopsis: When a murder at the circus unravels another, far more treacherous crime, the master detective and the boys of the Baker Street Irregulars must pursue terrifying villains to solve this mystery, dodging danger at every turn…. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I was in a Sherlock Holmes sort of mood while browsing through the stacks at my local library.

Why I finished it: The Baker Street Irregulars are a group of recurring characters in the classic Conan Doyle detective stories that are Holmes’s eyes and ears on the streets of Victorian London. There’s a host of books out there that sort of take on the Sherlock Holmes universe and revamp it in new and interesting ways, but only a few that I have seen really deepen the existing tales of mystery. I loved the notion of a story that surrounds the supporting characters and gives us further insight into how Holmes was often able to gather so much information pertaining to a crime. It’s fun for me to get to know the boys better and actually get a better feel for who they are beyond being members of the Irregulars. While not all of the boys play a larger role in the story, I’m sure that over the course of the other three books the reader will get to know each of the Irregulars. Ruth’s art is reminiscent of police sketches: short, broad strokes that bring out the minute details in the landscapes and portraits that are interspersed between the pages. I appreciate the research done by the authors and the manner in which they treat their characters as real people, similar to the Holmesian Speculation put forth by fans of the original works of Conan Doyle. Holmesians/Sherlockians and even casual fans of the series will enjoy this fast-paced mystery adventure.

Other related materials: The Mystery of the Conjured Man (Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars, Case Book 2) by Tracy Mack and Michael Citrin; In Search of Watson (Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars, Case Book 3) by Tracy Mack and Michael Citrin; The Final Meeting (Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars, Case Book 4) by Tracy Mack and Michael Citrin; The Sherlock Files books by Tracy Barrett; Stoker & Holmes novels by Colleen Gleason; Charlotte Holmes series by Brittany Cavallaro; The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes edited by Chris Sasaki, illustrated by Lucy Corvino; The Extraordinary Cases of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, introduction by Jonathan Stroud; The Great Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, introduction by Joseph Delaney; Lockwood & Co. series by Jonathan Stroud; H.I.V.E. series by Mark Walden

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Suit Your Selfie Review

suit_your_selfieSuit Your Selfie: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017. 978-1449483753

Synopsis: Gather ‘round the smartphone, kids! Stephan and the Pearls gang are back with a whole album’s-worth of jokes, jabs, and cringe-worthy puns. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I’ve been enjoying the middle grades selections of syndicated comics.

Why I finished it: This collection features a number of off the wall puns and true-to-life conundrums that had me cracking a smile in no time. Pastis doesn’t even seem to care that so many of the puns are really, really bad and his characters aren’t afraid to tell him so. My favorite features Pig taking care of his pillow because it’s down. Another favorite was a strip in which Pig is riding an invisible bicycle because Pastis can’t draw bicycles. There’s also a bit in which Rat creates a historical tour featuring a telephone booth, a mail box, a book, and a rock star who appears to be homeless. Yes, a lot of the jokes are pretty cringe worthy, but that’s part of the fun. We need to be able to laugh at terrible humor every once in a while because it’s good for us to laugh. Laughter helps lift us up when we’re sad and it helps us stay young. This is a perfect short read for when you might need a little pick-me-up or even if you don’t and it’s even better when shared with those people in your life who still remember phones that plugged into the wall.

Other related materials: Beginning Pearls: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; The Croc Ate My Homework: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; When Crocs Fly: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis Skip School, Fly to Space: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; The Mutts Autumn Diaries by Patrick McDonnell; The Mutts Winter Diaries by Patrick McDonnell; Timmy Failure  books by Stephan Pastis; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney; Captain Underpants books by Dav Pilkey; Stick Dog series by Tom Watson; The Essential Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson; The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes: A Calvin and Hobbes Treasury by Bill Watterson

 

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Welcome to Camp Woggle Review

oodlethunks_3The Oodlethunks: Welcome to Camp Woggle by Adele Griffin, illustrations by Mike Wu

Scholastic Press, 2017. 978-0545732918

Synopsis: School is out for the summer and Oona and her brother Bonk can’t wait to help their dad over the vacation. But now that the kids aren’t in school, Stacy, their pet stegasaurus, is bored. So Oona and Bonk decide to create a summer camp for their pet and the pets of the other kids – Camp Woogle!

Why I picked it up: I loved the idea of having a dinosaur for a pet.

Why I finished it: Clearly I have a thing where I start series not on the first book, which I have referenced before, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying this prehistoric adventure. Oona and Bonk are clever, entrepreneurial young cave people with a can-do spirit and big hearts. They see that Stacy is driving their mom crazy and tearing up the cave, and so the two put their heads together in order to solve the problem of keeping their pet entertained and keeping themselves occupied during the school break. Oona wants to be able to include all of the community’s pets, but runs into a problem when she realizes that one of the newcomers has a pet T-Rex that could potentially eat the other campers. Her ability to create and enforce rules as well as compromise on an effective punishment for rule-breakers shows younger readers that they themselves are capable of creating solutions to everyday dilemmas. Oona and Bonk show a positive attitude in the face of some adverse situations that at first seem discouraging, but in the end turn out okay. Wu’s art reminds me a lot of the animation for the film Inside Out, which seems appropriate since he has done work for Disney. It has a realistic yet whimsical quality that adds to the fun of the story, helping Oona, Bonk, and rest of their friends and family come alive. I’d recommend this book for those of you like me that love strong female characters and for kids who have dreamed of having a dinosaur for a pet – it’s a enjoyable and inspirational story about how we face challenges and overcome setbacks.

Other related materials: Oona Finds an Egg (Oodlethunks, Book 1) by Adele Griffin, illustrations by Mike Wu; Steg-O-Normous (Oodlethunks, Book 2) by Adele Griffin, illustrations by Mike Wu; The Dino Files books by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Mike Boldt; Dino-Mike series by Franco; Dinosaur Boy by Cory Putman Oakes; Dino Detectives books by Anita Yasuda, illustrated by Steve Harpster; Haggis and Tank Unleashed series by Jessica Young, illustrated by James Burks; Mad Scientist Academy: The Dinosaur Disaster by Matthew McElligott; Who Would Win? Tyrannosaurus Rex vs. Veliciraptor by Jerry Pallotta, illustrated by Rob Bolster

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Listening Now: Brains On!

logo_taglineBrains On!: A Podcast for Kids & Curious Adults hosted by Molly Bloom, produced by Marc Sanchez, writing and reporting by Sanden Totten

http://www.brainson.org/; Available on iTunes, Apple Podcast, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Spotify, and NPR One

Synopsis: Brains On! is a podcast featuring science and kids produced by American Public Media. We ask questions and go wherever the answers take us. Sometimes that means talking to a food scientist or a snake handler, other times that means putting on a play about sound waves or writing songs about sleep. A different kid co-hosts each episode. We talk to them about the interesting stuff they’re doing and the things they think about. It’s a science lesson for your ears – so join us and turn your brains on! – from the website

This podcast is another one of many that has helped to support the STEM movement, helping kids and adults alike get in touch with hard science (psychology is considered a soft science). The hosts tackle things from farts to how airplanes fly to why mosquitoes are so annoying to how our brains read books – and so much more! I also think it is unique to have different kid co-hosts each show that come on and talk a little bit more about their experiences with the topic. One of the episodes even featured some kid inventors that have won national awards for helping to tackle issues that they notice in their everyday lives. It was inspiring to me because there was never anything quite this big when I was growing up and I’m always so excited to hear about how kids are going out and exploring and interacting with the world around them. I remember science fairs being a huge deal when I was in school and in some school districts around the country they still are a big deal. You can also sign up for a monthly newsletter that gives some extra special bonus content to go along with the episodes. It’s a great way to get inspired to get out there – here are so many things to do and explore and showcase their smarts – you just have to know where to look.

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Owly, Vol. 2: Just A Little Blue Review

owly_2Owly, Vol. 2: Just A Little Blue by Andy Runton

Top Shelf Productions, 2005. 978-1891830648

Synopsis: Best friends Owly and Wormy meet a bluebird who nests with its family in a rotting tree while out gathering apples. When the pair learn that the bluebird’s home is in danger, they decide to build their neighbor a new home. Blue thinks the new house is a trap and threatens Owly and Wormy. Discouraged, the friends pack away the little house in a closet. Months later, when a fierce storm threatens the bluebird’s tree, Owly and Wormy come to their rescue.

Why I picked it up: I read the series for a reader’s advisory class in library school and this wordless comic series has become one of my absolute favorites.

Why I finished it: Owly is a kind but somewhat shy owl always looking for new friends and adventures, much like many of the readers. Even though the characters are animals, Runton humanizes them, giving the story a sort of sweetness and simplicity. The little quirks they demonstrate are really what endears them to the readers. Owly and Wormy display an optimism throughout the story that helps them continue to move forward despite Blue being mean and rejecting their house; plus, I loved that Owly serves tea when they go home to help cheer Wormy up. They show us that it is okay to be saddened by setbacks, but that we all have the power to move on to something even better. It was heartbreaking to see the pair sacrifice their beloved wheelbarrow to build the birdhouse, but it teaches us that there are both easier and hard sacrifices to be made for the sake of friendship. It demonstrates the value of being a good neighbor and caring for the ‘person’ rather than the place. Runton’s art has as much personality as his characters, using curves to create softened edges and an upbeat feeling even when things are sad. It’s a fun, fast read for persons of any age and reading level that shows us the kindness is a universal language.

Other related materials: Owly, Vol. 1: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer by Andy Runton; Owly, Vol. 3: Flying Lessons by Andy Runton; Owly, Vol. 4: A Time to be Brave by Andy Runton; Owly, Vol. 5: Tiny Tales by Andy Runton; Owly & Wormy: Bright Lights and Starry Nights! by Andy Runton; Owly & Wormy: Friends All Aflutter! by Andy Runton; Bone comics by Jeff Smith; Little Robot by Ben Hatke; Korgi series by Christian Slade; Hildafolk books by Luke Pearson; Stinky: A Toon Book  by Eleanor Davis

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