A Clatter of Jars Review

a_clatter_of_jarsA Clatter of Jars by Lisa Graff

Philomel Books, 2016. 978-0399174995

Synopsis: It’s summertime and everyone is heading off to camp. For Talented kids, the place to be is Camp Atropos, where they can sing songs by the campfire, practice for the Talent show, and take some nice long dips in the lake. But what the kids don’t know is that they’ve been gathered for a reason—one that the camp’s director wants to keep hidden at all costs. Meanwhile, a Talent jar that has been dropped to the bottom of the lake has sprung a leak, and strange things have begun to happen. Dozens of seemingly empty jars have been washing up on the shoreline, Talents have been swapped, and memories have been ripped from one camper’s head and placed into another. And no one knows why. from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I loved A Tangle of Knots.

Why I finished it: In this companion to A Tangle of Knots, Graff introduces us to a new set of Talented kids who find themselves in the midst of a mystery while attending summer camp. As a refresher, those with Talents can do something special like tie perfect knots or talk to animals or mix a beverage perfect for making you feel better or matching orphaned children with new parents. Those without a Talent are Fair, meaning they have no special powers. Lily, Chuck, Renny, and their siblings are hoping to have a summer camp experience that will help them find something about themselves beyond their Talents. As the story unfolds, we see each of the characters discover something unique about themselves that sets them apart from the rest of the campers and allows them to find and solve the mystery of the jars of Talents in the lake. What I love about this book is just how imaginative it is. It gives the reader a chance to think about what their own Talents are (both magical and nonmagical) and about how we express love for our families and friends. We learn that forgiveness is not always an easy thing to do, but we also see that reconciliation can help to mend broken hearts and minds. I also liked that this book included recipes for some delicious sounding summer time beverages that can be made year round (depending on the availability of the ingredients). It’s a fantastical read that gives a positive message about the power of love.

Other related materials: A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff; Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff; The Thing About Georgie by Lisa Graff; Double Dog Dare by Lisa Graff; The Great Treehouse War by Lisa Graff; Bliss by Kathryn Littlewoood; A Dash of Magic: A Bliss Novel by Kathryn Littlewood; The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd; A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd; Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl; The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop by Kate Saunders; Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice; Zebra Forest by Adina Rishe Gewirtz; Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein; Hold Fast by Blue Balliett; Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle; Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis; Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass; The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech; The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill


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The Survival Guide to Bullying Review

survival_guide_to_bullyingThe Survival Guide to Bullying: Written by a Teen by Aija Mayrock

Scholastic, 2015. 978-0545860536

Synopsis: The Survival Guide to Bullying covers everything from cyber bullying to how to deal with fear and how to create the life you dream of having. From inspiring “roems” (rap poems), survival tips, personal stories, and quick quizzes, this book will light the way to a brighter future.from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: Because I remembered being bullied in school and not feeling like I couldn’t talk to anyone about it.

Why I finished it: Being a kid is hard. It’s even harder when there are people in your social circle at school or work that seem to be mean to you and maybe a few others for no reason at all. It could be that we don’t fit into the ‘pretty, skinny, perfect’ mold. It could be that we don’t like the same movies or books as other people. It could be that we like a different food than everyone else. It’s never easy to pinpoint why you or someone else is being picked on; mostly, there’s an overwhelming feeling of being defective or faulty, being made to believe that there’s something wrong with you, being made to believe that you’re a bad person. Mayrock addresses many of these thoughts and feelings as she walks the reader through her own middle school and high school experiences with bullying, both in person and online. It’s refreshing for me to see/read about someone who has experienced the same nonsensical emotional beating and the different techniques they used to be able to fight their way out of the hole. While the writing can be cliched at times and knowing that all of the methods won’t work for everyone in every situation, it’s a great resource for getting young people to be able to recognize the problem and getting the help they need to stop the bullying and bring a boost back to their self-esteem. It can be hard to recognize that you need help; it’s easy to convince yourself that if you don’t confront the issue it will resolve itself; it’s easy to get caught up in an endless cycle of feeling alternatively worthy and worthless. There is a helpful list of websites and hotlines at the back of the book that can aid the reader in taking the first step toward breaking the cycle for themselves or for someone else. It’s an inspiring little volume that can be read as a whole or just as individual relevant chapters.

Other related materials: Be Confident in Who You Are (Middle School Confidential, Book 1) by Annie Fox, M.Ed.; Real Friends vs. the Other Kind (Middle School Confidential, Book 2) by Annie Fox, M.Ed.; What’s Up With My Family? (Middle School Confidential, Book 3) by Annie Fox. M., Ed.; Confessions of a Former Bully by Trudy Ludwig; My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig; Stick Up For Yourself!: Every Kid’s Guide to Personal Power and Positive Self-Esteem by Gershen Kaufman, Ph.D, Lev Raphael, Ph.D, and Pamela Espeland; Speak Up and Get Along!: Learn the Mighty Might, Thought Chop, and More Tools to Make Friends, Stop Teasing, and Feel Good About Yourself by Scott Cooper; Bullying Under Attack: True Stories Written By Teen Victims, Bullies, & Bystanders edited by Stephanie H. Meyer, John Meyer, Emily Sperber, and Heather Alexander; Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones; We Want You to Know by Deborah Ellis; The Weird! Series by Erin Frankel, illustrated by Paula Heaphy; The Drama Years: Real Girls Talk About Surviving Middle School – Bullies, Brands, Body Image, and More by Haley Kilpatrick with Whitney Joiner

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The Princess Curse Review

the_princess_curseThe Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell

HarperCollins Publishers, 2013. 978-0062008152

Synopsis: In the fifteenth-century kingdom of Sylvania, the prince offers a fabulous reward to anyone who cures the curse that forces the princesses to spend each night dancing to the point of exhaustion. Everyone who tries disappears or falls into an enchanted sleep. Thirteen-year-old Reveka, a smart, courageous herbalist’s apprentice, decides to attempt to break the curse despite the danger. Unravelling the mystery behind the curse leads Reveka to the Underworld, and to save the princesses, Reveka will have to risk her soul. from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: The title caught my attention while I was browsing for books in the library.

Why I finished it: Those of us who know anything about fairy tales know that they usually involve a curse of some sort that a brave hero or heroine must break before the all-important happily ever after ending. What piqued my curiosity about this particular book was the nature of the curse. Did the author choose to retell a fairy tale? Did Haskell take an existing plotline and add a few new twists and turns of her own? What is the curse and is it something I’ve read about before? The answer to all of these ended up being that yes, this is a retelling of a fairy tale with some new twists – including a variation on the traditional curse. It’s a clever mash-up between Twelve Dancing Princesses and Beauty and the Beast that takes an almost mythological turn as Reveka reveals the true consequences of breaking the curse. Reveka has been labeled a liar and a troublemaker by the nuns who raised her, but it’s clear to the reader that though her actions at the outset seem somewhat devious and selfish (the reward is enough for her to pay the admission dowry to a nunnery where Reveka wishes to start her own herbary), she begins to see the selflessness that comes from freeing the princesses from their obligations to dance. It’s a fantastical read that fans of Gail Carson Levine, Karen Cushman, and Megan Morrison will devour.

Other related materials: The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell; Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell; Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel by Megan Morrison; Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison; Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine; Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale; Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale; illustrated by Nathan Hale; Princess Academy series by Shannon Hale; The Chronicles of Claudette by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado; Princeless series by Jeremy Whitley, illustrated by M. Goodwin; The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, illustrations by Ana Juan

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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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