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Unicorn Crossing Review

unicorn_crossing_coverUnicorn Crossing: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017. 978-1449483579

Synopsis: Time flies in this fifth volume of Dana Simpson’s Phoebe and Her Unicorn! Follow the lovable duo as they experience somewhat-spooky Halloween parties, ecstatic snow days, and looming summer reading assignments. Although the journey of growing up can sometimes be difficult, along the way Phoebe and Marigold discover something more enduring than goblin fads, unicorn spa vacations, and even a Spell of Forgetting—their one of a kind friendship. – from

Why I picked it up: I wanted a lighthearted break after all of the heavy books I have been reading for my book clubs.

Why I finished it: I’ve mentioned before that I love this series in large part for Simpson’s often tongue in cheek humor that can be enjoyed by any age reader. Ever the drama horse (that’s a thing; I might have just made it up, but it’s a thing now), Marigold continues in her somewhat half-hearted quest to understand humans – namely Phoebe – when she decides to dress up like her best friend for Halloween. And while the experience doesn’t give Marigold any more insight into the non-unicorn beings, it’s an amusing anecdote about how well Phoebe and Marigold know each other. This bit is followed closely by another in which Marigold goes to a unicorn spa in Canada and leaves Phoebe on her own for a few days – needless to say, that although she survived for nine years without her friend, it proved hard to be without her.  The stories each touch on the notion that friendship is a bond that continues to strengthen and maybe even get a little weirder (in a good way) over time. Simpson’s art is fresh and fun without taking itself too seriously, contributing to the lighthearted humor of the comics. It’s a must read for fans of this series and even if you’re new to Phoebe and Her Unicorn, you’re sure to find something magical within the pages.

Other related materials: Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson; Unicorn on a Roll: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson; Unicorn vs. Goblins: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson; Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure; Phoebe and Her Unicorn in The Magic Storm by Dana Simpson; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Alien Invasion in my Backyard: An EMU Club Adventure by Ruben Bolling; The Ghostly Thief of Time by Ruben Bolling; Babymouse series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; Hamster Princess books by Ursula Vernon; Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke; Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack; The Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale; Lunch Lady books by Jarrett J. Krosoczka; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Stinky Cecil books by Paige Braddock


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W.A.R.P.: The Forever Man Review

forever_manW.A.R.P., Book 3: The Forever Man by Eoin Colfer

Disney-Hyperion, 2015. 978-1484726037

Synopsis: Riley, an orphan boy living in Victorian London, has achieved his dream of becoming a renowned magician, the Great Savano. He owes much of his success to Chevie, a seventeen-year-old FBI agent who traveled from the future in a time pod and helped him defeat his murderous master, Albert Garrick. But it is difficult for Riley to enjoy his new life, for he has always believed that Garrick will someday, somehow, return to seek vengeance. Chevie has assured Riley that Garrick was sucked into a temporal wormhole, never to emerge. The full nature of the wormhole has never been understood, however, and just as a human body will reject an unsuitable transplant, the wormhole eventually spat him out. By the time Garrick makes it back to Victorian London, he has been planning his revenge on Riley for centuries. But even the best-laid plans can go awry, and when the three are tossed once more into the wormhole, they end up in a highly paranoid Puritan village where everything is turned upside down. Chevie is accused of being a witch, Garrick is lauded as the town’s protector, and . . . is that a talking dog? Riley will need to rely on his reserve of magic tricks to save Chevie and destroy his former master once and for all. – from

Why I picked it up: This series is filling the hole that Artemis Fowl left. Plus, I like the sci-fi/historical fiction mashup.

Why I finished it: This book starts off a little bit slower than the previous novel and seems to keep up the meandering pace throughout without ever really picking up speed. We’re getting much more into the science bit now that Garrick has been reintroduced and much like the characters, the reader is playing a guessing game about his powers and how the mutations created by the wormhole will affect Chevie, Riley, and the rest of the Puritan village in which they have been deposited. The plot centers around an ongoing game of cat-and-mouse between Riley and Garrick, which it should be noted started many years before while Riley was still under Garrick’s apprenticeship. It’s a cunning element to the plot, but unfortunately I wasn’t feeling much of the suspense I felt like I should be feeling. Riley has to get very creative knowing that his target is basically immortal and considers himself to have the upper hand. Yet, our heroes seem to have lost a little bit of their spark (along with a few other things) coming into this book and it doesn’t seem to get shaken off as the story moves along. I was anxious to see Riley succeed in killing Garrick once and for all, and I was hopeful that he and Chevie could make it out in one piece, but there wasn’t a hook for me to really drawn me in. The ending did manage to pick up a bit, but it was just a little bit too late.

Other related materials: The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P., Book 1) by Eoin Colfer; The Hangman’s Revolution (W.A.R.P., Book 2) by Eoin Colfer; The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer; Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer; Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud; Seven Wonders books by Peter Lerangis; Keeper of the Lost Cities books by Shannon Messenger; The Lunar Chronicles books by Marissa Meyer; Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children books by Ransom Riggs;  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle;  A Wind in the Door by Madeline L’Engle;  A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L’Engle; The CHRONOS Files books by Rysa Walker

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Gaijin: American Prisoner of War Review

gaijin_american_prisoner_of_warGaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner

Disney-Hyperion, 2014. 978-1423137351

Winner of the 2014 Asian/Pacific American Award for Young Adult Literature

Synopsis: Koji, the son of a Japanese father and an American mother, suddenly finds his world turned upside down when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. Because he is of Japanese descent, he and other Japanese Americans must be taken away from their homes and sequestered like criminals. Accompanied by his mother, Koji learns quickly that the camps are not what they seem, and that being different may cause him more harm than good.

Why I picked it up: A library colleague turned me on to this book a few years ago and it’s been sitting on my shelf waiting for the opportune moment for me to rediscover it.

Why I finished it: It’s necessary to read about ugliness in this world so that we can remember the mistakes of the past and take steps to never repeat them. Faulker’s graphic novel about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II is both gritty and powerful, and on the 75th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor bombings, it is a reminder of one of many dark times in American History. My own grandfather has spoken of a young man who was sent to an internment camp that he has often wondered about since the end of the war. Faulkner notes multiple times throughout the book that the majority of those that were sent to these camps were children, something I don’t know that I thought very much about until I read this story. At its heart, this is the story of a family trying to make sense of the senseless actions that seem to be transpiring around them. They don’t fully grasp the prejudices that have become suddenly more apparent with their friends and neighbors. In a country that prides itself on giving its citizens a voice, they suddenly have none. Even thought Koji’s mother is trying to make the best of things, Koji is still angry and confused. The reader witnesses him lashing out in ways that feel like they make sense to the teenager, but we also slowly see an understanding dawning as the story moves on. It’s as if he has realized that there is something else to fight for, that he has every right to be angry, but that his anger needs to be fueled into doing good rather than creating havoc. Faulkner’s unspoken commentary about the experiences of Japanese-Americans speaks volumes and the invisible voices of those who were interred give power to the narrative. The art is a cross between a classic WWII-era newspaper strip and a kaiga (Japanese painting), mixing the art of East and West to add another layer of symbolism to the novel. Koji’s dreams seem to take on mostly red hues, which Eastern cultures associate with luck and power; the rest of the book is drawn in browns, blacks, and sepias, emphasizing a sort of depression and darkness that overtook the country as a result of the internment. It’s a powerful graphic novel that bears its teeth and screams with a rage that will have readers remembering it even after they have closed the book.

Other related materials: Take What You Can Carry by Kevin C. Pyle; The Moved-Outers by Florence Crannell Means; Farwell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston; Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference by Joanne Oppenheim; Remembering Manzanar: Life in a Japanese Relocation Camp by Michael L. Cooper; The Journal of Ben Uchida: Citizen 13559, Mirror Lake Internment Camp (My Name is America series) by Barry Denenberg; Early Sunday Morning: The Pearl Harbor Diary of Amber Billows, Hawaii 1941 (Dear America series) by Barry Denenberg; Journey to Topaz: A Story of the Japanese-American Evacuation by Yoshiko Ushida, illustrated by Donald Carrick; Journey Home by Yoshiko Ushida, illustrated by Charles Robinson; The Invisible Thread by Yoshiko Uchida; Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban; A Diamond in the Desert by Kathryn Fitzmaurice; Mystery at Manzanar: A WWII Internment Camp Story by Eric Fein, illustrated by Kurt Hartman; A Place Where Sunflowers Grow by Amy Lee-Tai, illustrated by Felicia Hoshino

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Bone, Volume 7: Ghost Circles Review

bone_7Bone, Volume 7: Ghost Circles by Jeff Smith

Graphix, 2008. 978-0439706346

Synopsis: A long-dormant volcano explodes, blacking out the sun, mowing down trees, and filling the land with soot and ash. The Lord of the Locusts has been released. Against this apocalyptic backdrop, the Bone cousins along with Thorn and Gran’ma Ben struggle to reach safe haven in the city of Atheia. Meanwhile, Lucius Downs lies severely wounded and trapped with the villagers in the camp at Old Man’s Cave. – from

Why I picked it up: The end seems to be near…or is it?

Why I finished it: If you’ll permit me a brief parallel, this is the portion of the saga that is vaguely reminiscent of Gandalf and Pippin’s ride to Minas Tirith in The Lord of the Rings. The cousins are reunited with Thorn and Grandma Ben, but there still remain two factions of valley dwellers: those in Atheia and those confined to Old Man’s Cave. The mysteries continue to abound as our quintet makes the dangerous journey across the valley, and a key piece to the puzzle is revealed…in a roundabout way. Well, actually, a couple of them, but it’s still hard to see what some of these clues mean to the bigger picture. This volume also sees the return of Bartleby the rat creature, who helps our heroes escape yet another onslaught by his people. I’m also starting to see Smiley’s role in the story as comic relief. It’s well-balanced comic relief, though: he uses humor to diffuse tense situations – particularly between his cousins – but he will also offer some logic on occasion that will make his comrades think more about what they are doing. Smith is using Smiley to help bring some much needed laughs to a desperate situation in this book, especially since most of the world has turned into a dark and barren landscape. The art is somewhat grittier to match the tone, but still retains the curved lines and soft edges that are linked to the hope we have that everything will work itself out. True, there is bound to be more trouble before things get better, but , like Smiley, I have faith that nothing can stop them.

Other related materials: Bone, Volume 1: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 2: The Great Cow Race by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 3: Eyes of the Storm by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 4: The Dragonslayer by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 5: Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Border by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 6: Old Man’s Cave by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 8: Treasure Hunters by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 9: Crown of Horns by Jeff Smith; Bone, Prequel: Rose by Jeff Smith; Bone: Tall Tales by Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegoski; Bone: Quest for the Spark Books 1 & 2 by Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegoski; Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke; The Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Knights of the Lunch Table books by Frank Cammuso; Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack; Nnewts books by Doug TenNapel; Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel

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Bone, Volume 6: Old Man’s Cave Review

bone_6Bone, Volume 6: Old Man’s Cave by Jeff Smith

Graphix, 2007. 978-0439706353

Synopsis: The story so far: the Bone cousins have been separated once again. Fone Bone and Smiley are lost in the woods after a narrow escape from a giant mountain lion and a small battalion of rat creatures. Meanwhile, Phoney, Thorn, and the villagers are attempting to round up the survivors in the rat creature’s assault on the valley and get them to the safety of Old Man’s Cave, where Grandma Ben waits. When the cousins are once again reunited, it is going to take all three of them working together if they hope to save Thorn and the rest of the valley inhabitants.

Why I picked it up: The plot is officially thickening….

Why I finished it: Okay, so, this is the volume where we get more into the nitty, gritty, bloody parts of the story. And yet, there is a moment at the end that I would venture to say is one of the most humorous moments of the entire series. I will say up front that the two don’t necessarily balance out, but in a series that is moving more and more towards war, there isn’t going to be a ton of happy, shiny moments. This installment also has one of the biggest reveals so far, and there’s EVEN MORE about what makes Thorn (and Phoney) so special to the overarching plan. Plus, an unexpected alliance is formed between the Hooded One and Roque Ja that could spell disaster in the short term. But with a series like this, it’s still unclear what the long term has in store for our heroes. Although we now have a better picture of the plan – beyond freeing the Lord of the Locusts – it still remains something of a mystery what role Thorn and the Bones have in being able to take down the Queen of the Dragons and prevent her from awakening. I might even go so far as to calling this the action movie volume of the series, since we are seeing much more fighting than in the last couple of volumes. And yet, Smith is still spinning masterful webs for the reader to untangle, layer upon layer as we draw closer and closer to a conclusion. Will our heroes prevail in the end? Hard to say, but they certainly won’t go down without a fight.

Other related materials: Bone, Volume 1: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 2: The Great Cow Race by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 3: Eyes of the Storm by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 4: The Dragonslayer by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 5: Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Border by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 7: Ghost Circles by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 8: Treasure Hunters by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 9: Crown of Horns by Jeff Smith; Bone, Prequel: Rose by Jeff Smith; Bone: Tall Tales by Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegoski; Bone: Quest for the Spark Books 1 & 2 by Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegoski; Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke; The Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Knights of the Lunch Table books by Frank Cammuso; Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack; Nnewts books by Doug TenNapel; Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel

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Hook’s Revenge: The Pirate Code Review

hooks_revenge_2Hook’s Revenge: The Pirate Code by Heidi Schulz, illustrations by John Hendrix

Disney-Hyperion, 2015. 978-1484717172

Synopsis: Having defeated the terrible Neverland crocodile, Jocelyn now sets her sights on recovering her father’s long lost treasure. But in order to find it, she needs to be able to read the map. In order to read the map, she needs the key. And in order to get the key, she’s going to have to collaborate with that annoying Peter Pan. Plus, she has to try to stay ahead of the evil Captain Krueger – which won’t be easy considering he has a faster ship and more men in his crew – and try to convince her captive, Evie – the girl Pan has brought to be his new mother – that the pirate’s life is not for her.

Why I picked it up: Jocelyn had to have had so many more adventures after she vanquished the crocodile….

Why I finished it: Jocelyn might have gotten her feet wet, but she still seems a little green at this whole pirating business – especially as it relates to the Pirate Code. For one thing, pirates are supposed to kidnap (she takes Pan’s new mother, but Evie is probably the world’s worst hostage), ransack (she doesn’t want to go after a merchant ship for fear of disrupting trade agreements), fight (her crew is provoked into defending her, but it now means Captain Krueger knows about Hook’s treasure), and above all, not to be trusted. But Jocelyn seems somewhat torn between doing whatever and doing the right thing. She definitely doesn’t want to adhere to the standards that her grandfather has set down for her and she’s more apt to want a loophole in the Pirate code than she is to follow that either. She’s clear about the fact that she wants to live her life on her terms, and that is something she does manage to do. She finds ways to get done what needs to be done in order for the end result to be the most beneficial for her and her crew, even if things often go sideways. But Jocelyn’s spunk and spirit keep her crew and the reader cheering her on as she fights to take what is hers. The reader sees more of a struggle for Jocelyn to find an in-between where she can belong, much the same way we struggle to find a niche for ourselves. Hendrix’s illustrations add another layer to the story, as good art does. He’s taken the time to really study the descriptions and then creates for the reader a series of images that bring the reader deeper into the plot’s key moments and contribute to the fantastic overlay of the book. I’d recommend this book for fans of fractured fairy tales and those of you who like a good spin on a classic story. I’ve very much enjoyed the tales of Jocelyn Hook thus far, and I am excited to see what more is in store for her and her crew.

Other related materials: Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz, illustrations by John Hendrix; Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie; Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrations by Scott M. Fischer; Peter and the Starcatchers books by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, illustrations by Greg Call; Peter and the Starcatchers Never Land books by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, illustrations by Gregg Call; Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk by Liesl Shurtliff; Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Surtliff; Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff; Fairy Tale Reform School series by Jen Calonita; Kingdom Keepers books by Ridley Pearson; The Sisters Grimm books by Michael Buckley; The Last Dragon Chronicles by Chris D’Lacey; The 8th Continent series by Matt London

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Artemis Fowl Review

artemis_fowl_1Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Disney-Hyperion, 2001. 978-0786808014

Synopsis: Artemis Fowl isn’t just a 12-year-old genius; he’s a criminal mastermind. And he’s hatched up a scheme to try and reinvent the family name…well, sort of. But when he kidnaps an elf – Captain Holly Short – for ransom, he finds that not only are elves definitely not like the fairy tales, he may have finally met his match.

Why I picked it up: This was one of my brother’s favorite series when he was in elementary school.

Why I finished it: This book has a little bit of everything – folklore, mythos, technology – and it intertwines the elements to create a book that is part action, part mystery. The story begins as an incident report, but evolves into a sweeping third-person narrative that hops from character to character as the plot moves along. It starts out somewhat slowly, but things begin to accelerate quickly once we get past some of the general set up in the first chapter. The bits of history and background about the Fowl family and their bodyguards is interesting and it’s important to helping flesh out the characters, but readers may still feel a little bit bogged down by the explanations. Artemis is billed as a sort of anti-hero, and he definitely fits the category: he’s a character that has less-than-scrupulous morals, yet, he still has a soft side that makes it appear as though he has some integrity. Holly acts as a foil for Artemis, balancing out his scheming and conniving with her stubbornness and determination. The assortment of dramatis personae creates for the reader a world that is simultaneously real and fantastic, utilizing elements of both fantasy and science fiction to draw us in. It is an intense and moving story that will keep readers on the edges of their seat trying to guess what sort of tricks Artemis has up his sleeve. Because, I mean, what twelve-year-old doesn’t dream of being a criminal mastermind that is pretending not to be a criminal mastermind?

Other related materials: The Arctic Incident (Artemis Fowl, Book 2) by Eoin Colfer; The Eternity Code (Artemis Fowl, Book 3) by Eoin Colfer; The Opal Deception (Artemis Fowl, Book 4) by Eoin Colfer; The Lost Colony (Artemis Fowl, Book 5) by Eoin Colfer; The Time Paradox (Artemis Fowl, Book 6) by Eoin Colfer; The Atlantis Complex (Artemis Fowl, Book 7) by Eoin Colfer; The Last Guardian (Artemis Fowl, Book 8) by Eoin Colfer; Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel adapted by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, art by Giovanni Rigano, colors by Paolo Lamanna; W.A.R.P. books by Eoin Colfer; The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer; The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud; H.I.V.E. series by Mark Walden; Inkheart by Cornelia Funke; Inkspell by Cornelia Funke; Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke

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