Tag Archives: genre: science fiction

Solution Squad Review

solution_squad_coverSolution Squad by Jim McClain, art by Rose McClain, Serena Guerra, Christopher Jones, Joshua Buchanan, Shelby Edmunds, Jessica Lynn, Robby Bevard, and Paul E. Schultz

Solution Squad LLC, 2017. 978-0998942506

Synopsis: Follow the adventures of teen superheroes Equality, La Calculadora, Abscissa, Ordinate, Absolutia, and Radical as they use their math-based powers to solve everyday problems and even some extraordinary ones!

Why I picked it up: I heard McClain speak at a library conference this last summer and was intrigued by the notion of a comic being used to teach mathematics.

Why I finished it: As someone who found mathematics confusing and complicated in school (you would think it wouldn’t be that hard to plug numbers into a formula…), this book made me wish that my own teachers had been able to come up with some of the same creative concepts that McClain has conceived in Solution Squad. Using characters names and powers to reinforce basic principles, the reader is taken on a fun-filled mathematical journey that features some of everyone’s ‘favorite’ problems; for example, the two trains traveling at different speeds where one will eventually catch up to the other. McClain’s teaching expertise really shines in this book and in the lesson plans he has that will help other teachers be able to use his material in their own classrooms. I know I would have been a lot more incentivized by the comic angle when I was learning Algebra! And if you still aren’t that into math at the end of the book, that’s okay too. There’s still a lot of crazy adventures that will keep you guessing and maybe even playing along to solve the problems with our young heroes. It’s a great way to trick your brain into learning something new!

Other related materials: Everything You Need to Ace Math in One Big Fat Notebook: The Complete Middle School Study Guide by Altair Peterson, illustrations by Chris Pearce; Everything You Need to Ace Science in One Big Fat Notebook: The Complete Middle School Study Guide illustrated by Chris Pearce; The Everything Kids’ Puzzle Book: Mazes, Word Games, Puzzles, and More! Hours of Fun! by Jennifer A. Ericsson and Beth L Blair; The Everything Kids’ Science Experiment Book: Boil Ice, Float Water, Measure Gravity – Challenge The World Around You! by Tom Robinson; Klutz LEGO Chain Reactions Craft Kit by Pat Murphy; The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle and Other Surprising Stories About Inventions by Don L. Wulffson; Smithsonian Maker Lab: 28 Super Cool Projects by Jack Challoner; Hidden Figures: Young Reader Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly; The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Reader’s Edition by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Meeler, illustrations by Anna Hymas; Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

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One Trick Pony Review

one_trick_ponyOne Trick Pony by Nathan Hale

Harry N. Abrams, 2017. 978-1419721281

Synopsis: In the future, Earth has been overtaken by a race of blob-like aliens that ‘eat’ anything resembling technology. Digital rescuers, like Strata’s family and their caravan, are intent upon saving and carefully archiving any surviving technology to preserve the memory of the human race. Out searching an area with her brother and a friend, Strata discovers a special robot pony that she hopes to be able to save. But when the aliens find them, it becomes a race to see who will survive.

Why I picked it up: I really enjoyed the short story about Hugh Glass in Guys Read: True Stories and I’ve been eager to pick up more of Hale’s work.

Why I finished it: What first drew me in to the story was its simplicity. Yes, there are a lot of different threads, but Hale relies on the intelligence of the reader to piece together a history rather than just giving it to us outright. There’s obviously some explanations at the climax about how the aliens came to Earth, but we’re focusing more on a battle than the war. Strata, her family, friends, and the other members of the caravan might not remember what the old Earth looked like, but they have a vested interest in preserving their way of life so that future generations can have knowledge of the past. To me, Kleidi (the titular one trick pony) represents a sense of hope that humanity can restore itself, using our own manpower to pick ourselves up. Kleidi also shows the reader that technology has the potential to both harm and help us, which we can see playing out in our modern world daily. Strata can use Kleidi to outrun the aliens, but each time they are able to hide they are found again, and the group continues to mass until the aliens capture the pair and take them to their leaders. Strata’s perseverance is a point of contention with the little group of travelers – they believe it would be safer to dismantle Kleidi so that they can escape – but her courage is what really wins the day. She has enough faith in her own abilities and trusts Kleidi to be a loyal companion; she believes that she will be able to save herself and her family with Kleidi’s help and that is what she seeks to do over the course of the story. Hale’s art is realistic yet imaginative as he paints for the reader a desecrated landscape of oddly convex buildings to juxtapose what little natural elements of the Earth are left. I appreciated the muted yellows contrasting with the greyscale, highlighting Kleidi in particular as special and unique. It’s a fast-paced, though provoking ride through a futuristic world that is sure to engage readers of all ages and levels.

Other related materials: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales books by Nathan Hale; Guts & Glory books by Ben Thompson; Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale; Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale; Nathan Hale: Revolutionary Spy by Nathan Olson, illustrated by Cynthia Martin and Brent Schoonover; The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks, color by Jordie Bellaire; The Stone Heart by Faith Erin Hicks, colors by Jordie Bellaire; Cleopatra in Space books by Mike Maihack; Compass South by Hope Larson, illustrated by Rebecca Mock

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Kung Fu Robot: How to Make a Peanut Butter, Jelly & Kung Fu Sandwich Review

kung_fu_robot_1The Adventures of Kung Fu Robot: How to Make a Peanut Butter, Jelly & Kung Fu Sandwich by Jason Bays

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2017. 978-1449479633

Synopsis: Kung Fu Robot is an international machine of mystery and the savior of all things awesome and cool. He’s the world record holder for ice cream sandwiches eaten in one sitting, the reigning champion of continuous nunchucking, and once won a bronze medal for the simultaneous stomach rubbing and head patting. Together with his 9-year old sidekick, Marvin, he faces his arch-nemesis, Kung Pow Chicken: a robotically-enhanced, foul fowl bent on destroying the city’s peanut butter and jelly supply. Kung Fu Robot and Marvin must save the day . . .  and their lunches! – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I was not only intrigued by the title, but the app that went with the story.

Why I finished it: So, to be able to write about the full experience of the story, I downloaded the app so that I could experience all of the Kung Fu awesomeness while I was reading. Some downsides are that to use the Kung Fu Vision, the book has to be held flat for the camera to pick up the different QR codes hidden on the pages and the camera has to be held about a foot away in order for it to focus on the page. But really other than that, the app had a lot of really fun things that enhanced the reading experience: there’s a couple mini-profiles about Kung Fu Robot and Marvin, and there are three different games you can play that correspond with different fight scenes throughout the book. Plus, if you’re the type that loves to push buttons and sound effects, there’s quite a few pages in which strategically placed theme music and karate chops can be added by the reader. The games can also be played independently of the book and an e-book is also included within the app so you can have the Kung Fu action even when you’re on the go. And even without the app, the story is still jam packed with laughs, action, ninjas, and the foiling of evil plans to force people to eat sandwiches that are way less awesome than peanut butter and jelly. Kung Fu Robot is a likable hero that is often overly eager to share his love of lunch time essentials, but he definitely has his heart in the right place – especially when it comes to Marvin. Marvin is something of a worry-wart, but with his logic and quick thinking, you can be sure Kung Fu Robot will be able to save the day. Bays’ art is just as fun and action packed as his story, and it reminded me a little bit of Dexter’s Laboratory. It’s softer and has fewer edges than Tartakovsky’s art, but it still gives it that fantastic, adventurous feel. I’m excited to recommend it to reluctant readers because it has the interactive app that goes with it and even if you don’t or aren’t able to get the app, you can still experience the awesomeness of the story.

Other related materials: Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior books by Cube Kid; Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja series by Marcus Emerson; Secret Agent 6th Grader series by Marcus Emerson; Crime Travelers series by Paul Aertker; Phoebe and Her Unicorn books by Dana Simpson; The Bad Guys books by Aaron Blabey; Dog Man books by Dav Pilkey; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Hilo books by Judd Winick; Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell

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Whales on Stilts! Review

whales_on_stiltsWhales on Stilts!: A Pals in Peril Tale by M.T. Anderson; illustrations by Kurt Cyrus

Beach Lane Books, 2010. 978-1442407015

Synopsis: Lily Gefelty thinks it’s more than a little weird that her father works for a company that makes prosthetics for cetaceans. I mean, what do whales need stilts for anyway? But when she realizes her dad’s boss, Larry, is outfitting the whales with laser eyes as well, she knows there’s something even more dastardly going on. Luckily, she has her friends Katie Mulligan and Jasper Dash to help her save the day!

Why I picked it up: I wanted a short read for a weekend trip.

Why I finished it: What I like about this series is that it doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. Our heroes find themselves in improbable situations, but for them these (for the most part) are everyday occurrences. The ridiculousness gives it the feel of a pulp novel while taking the reader on a highly imaginative trip through an alternative version of our own world. I really identified with Lily because I often wanted to hide behind my bangs and pretend I was invisible when I was younger. I know the feeling of not being up to par with my friends, of believing that I’m too ordinary to do the fantastic. But despite Lily’s shyness, she uses her cleverness and wit to be able to come up with a plan to stop Larry and his mind-controlled whale army from taking over the world. She might not have Jasper’s knack for inventing or Katie’s ability to fight off a zombie attack, but her ability to think and act quickly truly makes her a hero. I’d give this book to people who like fast-paced adventure and edge-of-their-seat action – it’s a pretty fast read and keeps up a good pace throughout.

Other related materials: The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; Jasper Dash and the Flame Pits of Delaware (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; Agent Q, or The Smell of Danger! (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; Zombie Mommy (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; He Laughed With His Other Mouths (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron; Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist books by Jim Benton; Cardboard by Doug TenNapel; The Wild Robot by Peter Brown; Ungifted by Gordon Korman

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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 Amazon.com

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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W.A.R.P.: The Hangman’s Revolution Review

hangmans_revolutionW.A.R.P., Book 2: The Hangman’s Revolution by Eoin Colfer

Disney-Hyperion, 2014. 978-1423161639

Synopsis: Chevron Savano thinks she’s going home to a familiar twentieth century, but when she arrives she finds that the world is a much different place from than what she remembers. In this reality, she is a cadet in a fascist training academy that prepares soldiers to fight in the war against France. Split between two minds and literally at war with herself, Chevie must find a way back to the nineteenth century in order to stop the revolution that creates her current world.

Why I picked it up: It was an impulse borrow at the library – I remembered having read and enjoyed the first book in the series, but had forgotten there was more.

Why I finished it: Having shifted over briefly from reading Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series, this book is much darker and more mysterious than the previous series. While there are parallels that can be drawn between Artemis and Holly and Riley and Chevie, W.A.R.P. is a series that grounds itself in a somewhat grimier waters and our heroes often find themselves in much more tenuous situations than their counterparts. Colfer takes care to remind the reader that London at the turn of the century is not wholly the thriving metropolis that it is made out to be: it has shady, unfriendly, disease-ridden parts that make the reader glad for modern medicine and indoor plumbing. This aside, Colfer blends the past with the present in such a way that the reader can be fully immersed in both worlds simultaneously. Chevie and Riley rely on their natural talents to get them out of tight situations – and they seem to get into quite a few of them. While the main premise of the book is laid out in the first few pages and we’re basically privy to the entire plot, Colfer still surprises the reader with his trademark twists that make us realize that perhaps we don’t know how the story will end. The book moves at a fast clip and there’s a lot of good action happening in every chapter that fuels the motivations of our protagonists and antagonists. It’s definitely more mature than Artemis Fowl and perhaps not for the faint of heart, but readers who dare are in for a fun but dangerous adventure through nineteenth century London and even beyond.

Other related materials: The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P., Book 1) by Eoin Colfer; The Forever Man (W.A.R.P., Book 3) 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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Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox Review

artemis_fowl_6Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox (Artemis Fowl, Book 6) by Eoin Colfer

Disney-Hyperion, 2009. 978-1423108375

Synopsis: When Artemis Fowl’s mother contracts a life-threatening illness, his world is turned upside down. The only hope for a cure lies in the brain fluid of the silky sifaka lemur. Unfortunately, the animal is extinct due to a heartless bargain Artemis himself made as a younger boy. Though the odds are stacked against him, Artemis is not willing to give up. With the help of his fairy friends, the young genius travels back in time to save the lemur and bring it back to the present. But to do so, Artemis will have to defeat a maniacal poacher, who has set his sights on new prey: Holly Short. The rules of time travel are far from simple, but to save his mother, Artemis will have to break them all and outsmart his most cunning adversary yet: Artemis Fowl, age ten. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I love reading about Artemis’s adventures.

Why I finished it: Time travel is tricky, something most of us are familiar with after many years of watching TV and reading other books that may have featured a time travel element. But in the world of Artemis Fowl, time travel seems almost more complicated than we were lead to believe. Sure, we knew that in the present it might only seem that we were gone a few seconds or even a few hours despite the fact that we could have been gone for days or years. We know we’re not supposed to interact with our past selves or really even manipulate anything lest we change the future to which we are returning. These are rules that Artemis is perfectly aware of, but since when has our anti-hero ever played by the rules? I appreciated that there were several nods back to the first book in the series throughout this installment and if you remember enough about the events of that first book, you can notice Colfer elegantly knotting some threads that we’d skipped over before. Things for the most part seem to come full circle for our protagonists – in this case, literally – but there were still a good number of twists and turns to keep me interested and guessing about what sort of set up was being created for the next book. Though, if the ending is any indication, things have been so completely skewed sideways that our heroes are going to need a lot more cunning in order to flip things around to the way they were. Artemis continues to become a softer person than when we are first introduced to him, a fact that does not go unnoticed by Artemis when he is confronted by his younger self. It’s almost become strange to ‘watch’ Artemis grow up – we understand the need of the character to grow both physically and emotionally, but we also still long for that largely unfeeling criminal mastermind that did what he had to do to get things done. Artemis still does what needs to be done, but there’s more emotion creeping in as we move forward, an element that could very well have a major impact. It’s a fast and engaging read that will leave you hanging and eager for more.

Other related materials: Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, Book 1) by Eoin Colfer; 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 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; Artemis Fowl: The Seventh Dwarf by Eoin Colfer; 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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