Tag Archives: genre: picture books

Max the Flying Sausage Dog: A Scary Tail Review

max_the_flying_sausage_dog_3Max the Flying Sausage Dog: A Scary Tail (Bullies, watch out!) by John O’Driscoll and Richard Kelley; illustrated by Arthur Robins

Words in the Works, 2016. 978-0997228427

Synopsis: Tom and Max are always picked on by the bullies next door and their bigger, meaner dogs. Could a neighbor in a run-down house have the answer Tom needs to get the bullies to be nicer?

Why I picked it up: This series is so cute and fun!

Why I finished it: This might not be a Halloween story, per se, but it has ghouls, ghosts, and witches that will thrill each reader. When Tom’s parents convince him to go and help out an older lady everyone thinks is a witch, he and Max are nervous about what will happen to them. But there’s no need to worry because Miss Amersham isn’t actually a witch – she’s just lonely since her dog died, and Tom knows what it’s like to lose a friend. Miss Amersham tells Tom he needs to confront the bullies (whatever that means) and then they will stop picking on him. While the solution isn’t immediately apparent to Tom or the reader, the solution is both creative and clever. What is so enchanting to me about this series is that it hits on a lot of different themes, like responsibility and bullying, that are things most of us have to deal with all the time either directly or indirectly. We might be afraid to go to that scary house down the street and interact with a weird neighbor, but it’s still someone’s home and that neighbor is still a person that needs to be treated with respect. We shouldn’t make fun of something or someone just because we perceive it as different or weird. We need to celebrate our individuality and be willing to do things that might seem a little bit scary at first. But these experiences are the ones in which we grow the most. Sweet, charming, and full of love, this book can be enjoyed by all ages and all reading levels either read to yourself or out loud. I’m always excited to read more about Max and Tom’s adventures!

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 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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Sherlock Sam and the Ghostly Moans at Fort Canning Review

sherlock_sam_2Sherlock Sam and the Ghostly Moans in Fort Canning by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016. 978-1449477882

Synopsis: On a class trip to Fort Canning, a base used by British troops during World War II, Sherlock Sam and his friends discover a hidden escape port that appears to be haunted. Desperate to prove that there is no such thing as a ghost, Sherlock, his robot Watson, his sister Wendy, Sherlock’s dad, and his friends Jimmy and Nazhar set out to discover the real source of the moaning within the historical monument.

Why I picked it up: I was eager to read more about Singapore’s Greatest Kid Detective!

Why I finished it: In Sherlock’s second case, he’s forced to confront the idea that something illogical could be the most logical solution. But Sherlock isn’t willing to accept that all signs point to the supernatural. Sure, there are plenty of ghosts in Peranakan and Asian culture, but those are just stories; stories like that couldn’t possibly be real. Then again, belief in the supernatural is different from person to person…. Readers get to know a little bit more about Sherlock’s dad, as he joins the gang to help his children and their classmates solve the mystery behind the ghostly moans coming from the hidden escape port. It’s easy to see where Sherlock gets some of his hobbies and quirks, evidenced in the plot and by the accompanying illustrations. I liked the additional character development because now the parents don’t feel like such flat characters. They do have a role, and it’s not just to cook food, tell them to do the dishes, and lecture them about getting to school on time. Husband-wife writing team Felicia Low-Jimenez and Adan Jimenez have started to develop a little bit more of their style with this book. The plot remains somewhat formulaic (as mysteries tend to be), but they throw in enough twists to keep the reader guessing and keep things from becoming predictable. They have even thrown in some universal cultural references to ground non-Asian readers in the story. drewscape’s drawings continue to enchant, focusing more on the little details in the background for this installment that not only brings the characters to life, but gives us a better idea of their personalities as well. It’s fun, humorous, and just the right amount of scary. And be sure to check out Sherlock Sam’s Blog and Facebook page for even more of the boy detective.

Other related materials: Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloom in Katong by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Sinister Letters in Bras Basah by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Alien Encounter on Pulau Ubin by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Vanishing Robot in Penang by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Cloaked Classmate in Macritchie by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Stolen Script in Balestier by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Fiendish Mastermind in Jurong by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Obento Bonanza in Tokyo by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Comic Book Caper in New York by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Waylon! One Awesome Thing by Sarah Pennypacker, pictures by Marla Frazee; Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective books by Donald J. Sobol; Nate the Great books by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, illustrated by Marc Simont; The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner; The Chicken Squad books by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Kevin Cornell

 

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Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloom in Katong Review

sherlock_sam_1Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloom in Katong by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016. 978-1449477899

Synopsis: Meet 10-year-old Samuel Tan Cher Lock, or, Sherlock Sam. He’s a boy detective with astute powers of observation, a love of comics, and an insatiable appetite. So what happens when the cookbook needed to make one of his favorite dishes goes missing? Along with his sister Wendy, classmate Jimmy, and his robot Watson, he’s on the case to recover the family heirloom!

Why I picked it up: I like kid detectives and fast-paced mysteries.

Why I finished it: Previously published overseas, Singapore’s Greatest Kid Detective makes his U.S. debut in style. The book draws on famous Singapore locations for its setting and the diversity and the culture really come to life. So, not only does Sherlock Sam have mystery and intrigue, there’s a history/social sciences lesson. Plus, all the talking about food was making me hungry – I love trying new foods and I’m eager to go to my local library to see if I can check out some books on how to experience some of the tasty treats I read about. Sherlock is a quirky character that is (intentionally) just as intelligent and resourceful as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective. The genius factor is played up just enough that readers will be able to follow most of Sherlock’s logic and deductions, and we are in awe of the cleverness exhibited by the young detective. The husband-wife writing team has crafted a story that is sure to keep us on our toes until the final pages. I really enjoyed the illustrations because they brought the story to life. They reminded me a lot of the Big Nate comics the way the lines are drawn and the way drewscape uses visuals to really bring home the humor. It’s a quick read sure to entice mystery lovers and reluctant readers alike. And be sure to check out Sherlock Sam’s Blog and Facebook page for even more of the boy detective.

Other related materials: Sherlock Sam and the Ghostly Moans in Fort Canning by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Sinister Letters in Bras Basah by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Alien Encounter on Pulau Ubin by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Vanishing Robot in Penang by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Cloaked Classmate in Macritchie by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Stolen Script in Balestier by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Fiendish Mastermind in Jurong by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Obento Bonanza in Tokyo by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Comic Book Caper in New York by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Waylon! One Awesome Thing by Sarah Pennypacker, pictures by Marla Frazee; Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective books by Donald J. Sobol; Nate the Great books by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, illustrated by Marc Simont; The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner; The Chicken Squad books by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Kevin Cornell

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Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine Review

ada_byron_lovelace_and_the_thinking_machineAda Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by April Chu

Creston Books, 2015. 978-1939547200

Synopsis: Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the famous romantic poet, Lord Byron, develops her creativity through science and math. When she meets Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first mechanical computer, Ada understands the machine better than anyone else and writes the world’s first computer program in order to demonstrate its capabilities. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: In addition to Darlene Beck-Jacobson having featured the book on her blog, I’m an avid supporter of books that promote math and science and women in technology.

Why I finished it: The literary world needs more books like this one that promote math and science to a female audience. Both fields have been heavily dominated by men – and for the most part, still are – and it is important to promote the contributions of female mathematicians and scientists because their stories are inspiration for the new generations. Lovelace grew up and lived in an era where women did not often stray beyond the role of wife and mother, and like those before and those who would follow her, she found a way to make a name for herself and to challenge the notions of what it meant to be a woman. She is celebrated as the first programmer, a title I feel she deserves: the algorithms she wrote in the 19th century pre-date the computer, but when her work was applied to the modern ‘thinking machine’, it was nearly perfect. Wallmark’s story may be marketed as a children’s book, but the story she tells can be appreciated by readers of all ages. It’s about perseverance and the power of ideas, a message that transcends age and gender. Chu’s illustrations lovingly capture the Victorian era and the world of numbers that entertained Lovelace. The attention to detail lets the reader linger a moment on the pictures that accompany the text, to more fully appreciate the forward thinking minds that unknowingly created computer programming. It’s an inspiring read that can be read and shared over and over again.

Other related materials: Ada Lovelace: The Computer Wizard of Victorian England by Lucy Lethbridge; Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer by Diane Stanley, illustrated by Jessie Hartland; Lauren Ipsum: A Story about Computer Science and Other Improbable Things by Carlos Bueno; Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh, illustrated by Melissa Sweet; Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts; Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding by Linda Liukas; If: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers by David J. Smith, illustrated by Steve Adams; Hedy Lamarr and a Secret Communication System by Trina Robbins, illustrated by Cynthia Martin; Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World by Rachel Swaby; Girls Who Rocked the World: Heroines from Joan of Arc to Mother Teresa by Michelle Roehm McCann and Amelia Welden, illustrated by David Hahn; Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee, illustrated by Megan Hasley and Sean Addy; Cool Engineering Activities for Girls by Heather E. Schwartz; Cool Chemistry Activities for Girls by Jodi Wheeler-Toppen, PhD; Cool Physics Activities for Girls by Suzanne Slade

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Max the Flying Sausage Dog: Tom’s Birthday Tail Review

toms_birthday_tailMax the Flying Sausage Dog: Tom’s Birthday Tail by John O’Driscoll and Richard Kelley, illustrated by Arthur Robins

Words in the Works, LLC, 2015. 978-0991036493

Synopsis: It’s Tom’s birthday and Mom has a special surprise for him: they are going to the pound to pick out a dog! Which one will he pick to be his new friend?

Why I picked it up: I really enjoyed the chapter books and I was excited to know that it was being adapted into a picture book.

Why I finished it: All of the characters we loved from the chapter books are now going to entertain children of all ages. The picture book is a delightful way for readers not ready for chapter books to enjoy Max and Tom’s adventures. The full page illustrations and condensed text make it easy for children to read by themselves or read out loud. Robins’ illustrations are fun and whimsical, taking us into the pages and helping us to experience the story on another level. It’s a fun story about making new friends and experiencing everyday magic, if only we are willing to see it.

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; Macavity!: The Mystery Cat by T.S. Eliot, illustrated by Arthur Robins; Mr. Mistoffelees: The Conjuring Cat by T.S. Eliot, 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; Build, Dogs, Build: A Tall Tail by James Horvath; Dig, Dogs, Dig: A Construction Tail by James Horvath; Work, Dogs, Work: A Highway Tail by James Horvath; Sausages by Jessica Souhami; Daredevil Duck by Charlie Alder

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Merry Christmas 2015!

merry_christmasMerry Christmas 2015!

This year, I have been thinking a lot about reading. ‘But Beth’, you’re thinking, ‘don’t you always think about reading?’ And to answer your question, yes, I am always thinking about reading in some form or another, but to be more specific, I was thinking about the stories that were read to me out loud as a child. I remember curling up in a parent or grandparent’s lap (or next to them, as I grew older) with a favorite book and listening to the story. There’s a certain magic to the words that doesn’t always come across when you are reading something to yourself. Plus, there’s a plethora of other really good reasons reading aloud can be awesome – especially for young children.

So here’s a list of some holiday favorites to read aloud with the family. Most of them are marketed as children’s books, but I find that these can be enjoyed at most any age. And wherever you are or whatever you do to celebrate the season, have fun, be safe, and have a wonderful holiday!

Eight Tales for Eight Nights: Stories for Chanukah by Peninnah Schram & Steven M. Rosman; 978-0876682340

The Tale of Three Trees retold by Angela Elwell Hunt, illustrated by Tim Jonke; 978-0745917436

Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell, illustrated by Jason Cockcroft; 978-1416925187

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry; 0836247396

Santa’s Favorite Story: Santa Tells the Story of the First Christmas by Hisako Aoki, illustrated by Ivan Gantschev; 978-1416950295

The Night Before Christmas: The Classic Edition by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Charles Santore; 978-1604332377

Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus: The Classic Edition by Frances P. Church, illustrated by Joel Spector; 978-0762411207

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg; 978-0395389492

Corduroy by Don Freeman; 978-0140501735

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss; 978-0394800790

The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert, photographs by Per Breiehagen; 978-0449816813

The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett; 978-0698116528

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P.J. Lynch; 978-0763678227

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story by Gloria Houston, illustrated by Barbara Cooney; 978-0803702998

Click, Clack, Ho! Ho! Ho! by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin; 978-1442496736

Olive, the Other Reindeer by Vivian Walsh, illustrated by J. Otto Seibold; 978-0811818070

How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas? by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Mark Teague; 978-0545416788

The Smallest Gift of Christmas by Peter H. Reynolds; 978-0763679811

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The Not-So Itty-Bitty Spiders Review

olive_and_beatrix_1Olive & Beatrix, Book 1: The Not-So Itty-Bitty Spiders by Amy Marie Stadelmann

Scholastic, Inc., 2015. 978-0545814805

Synopsis: Twin sisters Olive and Beatrix don’t often get along. Olive is “ordinary” and loves science. But Beatrix is a witch! She has a brain full of tricks, and she uses her magic powers to play pranks on Olive and her best friend, Eddie. In this first book, Beatrix ruins Olive and Eddie’s latest science project. So Olive and Eddie play a prank on Bea. They rig up a bucket of spiders over her bedroom door. But when the spiders crawl into one of Bea’s magic potions…WHAM! Giant spiders are on the loose! These sisters will have to work together to shrink the not-so itty-bitty spiders down to size! – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I have friends with younger children that struggle with reading, and the Branches books are a great way to help with retention.

Why I finished it: These books are not meant to be super deep by any means because it is designed to help grow readers, which means the author needs to get to the point a little bit quicker than some other beginning chapter books. We are introduced to the twins: Beatrix is a witch because she was born at midnight on the night of the full moon; Olive was born two minutes later and even though she’s not a witch, she works her own magic with science. The sibling rivalry is something lots of readers with siblings can relate to, and it’s important to have stories that continue to relay the message that even if we don’t get along with our siblings, they will be there to back us up when we need it. I liked the sort of purplish motif with the art because I like purple and because it gives the story a sort of mysterious air that plays up Beatrix’s magic and Olive’s science. The chapters are pretty short (5-10 pages), so it is a pretty quick read that can be enjoyed alone or as a read-aloud. It’s not going to hit the mark with everyone, but I hope that these stories can reach out to struggling readers and help make reading fun.

Other related materials: Heidi Heckelbeck series by Wanda Coven, illustrated by Priscilla Burris; The Amazing Stardust Friends books by Heather Alexander, illustrated by Diane Le Feyer; Princess Pink and the Land of Fake-Believe books by Noah Z. Jones; Stella and the Night Sprites books by Sam Hay, illustrated by Turine Tran; Owl Diaries books by Rebecca Elliott; The Adventures of Sophie Mouse series by Poppy Green, illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell; Looniverse books by David Lubar, illustrated by Matt Loveridge; Monkey Me books by Timothy Roland; The Kingdom of Wrenly series by Jordan Quinn, illustrated by Robert McPhillips; Ivy & Bean series by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall; Katie Woo books by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Tammie Lyon; The Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

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