Tag Archives: genre: science fiction

The Thief and the Sword Review

cleopatra_in_space_2The Thief and the Sword (Cleopatra in Space, Book 2) by Mike Maihack

Graphix, 2015. 978-0545528443

Synopsis: A mysterious thief has stolen the ancient sword Cleo recovered in Book One: Target Practice, and she’s determined to get it back. But her teachers at Yasiro Academy forbid her from risking her life, so she’s stuck at school, trying to adjust to her newfound popularity and responsibility. And when she learns more about the prophecy that names her the savior of the galaxy, she must go on a dangerous journey to find the time tablets that could decide her fate… before they fall into the wrong hands! – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I was eager to read more about Cleo’s adventures.

Why I finished it: Cleo has certainly turned into one of the popular kids at Yasiro Academy, which on the one hand is pretty cool, but on the other it means there’s more pressure for her to perform; being a show-off both is and isn’t Cleo’s thing. Plus, it seems like she’s sort of over this story about her being the one that will save the galaxy. Maihack is doing more character building in this volume, continuing to flesh out our heroine and her friends; plus, this is our first peek at Octavian, the evil dictator that Cleo will eventually have to battle. The reader gets a little bit more background about Cleo’s friend and roommate Akila. What I liked about Akila’s story is that not only is she trying to prove herself just like Cleo, but because she grew up with stories of the prophecy, she seems to be fully invested in helping her friend reach her full savior potential. Zaid still seems to be sort of a wild card and I have yet to figure out if he has a larger role to play; he and Cleo seem to have bonded on their outcast status so I have a feeling we will be seeing more of him. There is a mention of the fact that all archives and current data are either in the process of being converted or are in a paper format, which obviously contrasts from the rest of the highly technological tools that are used in the far future. This book takes us into the library for the first time and Cleo gets a glimpse at books that hold all of the recovered knowledge that was almost lost. I like to think that perhaps this is a reference to the debate of paper versus e-books and possibly Maihack’s belief that paper books will always have a place and a use. The colors in this volume continue to be fun and bright, even in the red palate Maihack uses to define Octavian’s lair. There’s a unique palate for each setting in the book that helps the reader be able to define the different parts of the academy and the galaxy. It’s another fast-paced adventure that will have you eager for more.

Other related materials: Target Practice (Cleopatra in Space, Book 1) by Mike Maihack; Secret of the Time Tablets (Cleopatra in Space, Book 3) by Mike Maihack; The Golden Lion (Cleopatra in Space, Book 4) by Mike Maihack; Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Phoebe and Her Unicorn books by Dana Simpson; Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson; Explorer books by Kazu Kibuishi; CatStronauts series by Drew Brockington

 

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Feature Presentation: A Wrinkle in Time

a_wrinkle_in_timeA Wrinkle in Time starring Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Zach Galifinakis, Michael Peña, André Holland, and Rowan Blanchard

Walt Disney Pictures/Whitaker Entertainment, 2018. Rated PG.

Synopsis: Following the discovery of a new form of space travel as well as Meg’s father’s disappearance, she, her brother, and her friend must join three magical beings – Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which – to travel across the universe to rescue him from a terrible evil. – from IMDB

I’ll be honest, I wanted to be excited about this movie. The novel has several stunning visual elements that I felt would have transitioned nicely to the screen. Sadly, that was not the case. Fans of the book will notice that there are some characters missing from the movie: her twin brothers Sandy and Dennys, and Aunt Beast (who is mentioned in passing, but does not play a role in the film). The Happy Medium is male rather than being female; Calvin is no longer a 14-year-old high school junior with a large family and a cantankerous mother; in the film, Mr. Murry has been gone for four years as opposed to months; Mrs. Whatsit is actually a centaur-like creature (as are the other Missus). It became more apparent to when I was watching the movie just how whiny and unlikable Meg is as a protagonist and a heroine. I understand the theme of learning to understand our faults and embrace them rather than conforming to an idea of what society thinks we should be, but it feels poorly executed. There is a scene in which the Missus show the children the effects of the Darkness on Earth – hate, jealousy, fear, and the like – that conveys humanity’s struggle with their own mortality and that we all fall prey to societal expectations. It’s wonderful, but the director fails to tie it into the rest of the plot. Yes, Meg could use a lesson in compassion, but it doesn’t seem to propel the story forward as it should. The relationships are somewhat awkward as well. Calvin and Meg’s crush on each other was more stilted that it needed to be, Calvin being portrayed as more of a doe-eyed love interest due to his popularity at school rather than the diplomat that will help the group navigate through the web of IT’s lies (for lack of a better phrase). The one bit I did like was that the Drs Murry adopted their children and gives support to the notion of belonging and love being the strongest of emotions. While the film is visually stimulating, the plot fails to hold the viewer’s interest and tell an engaging story, resulting in a movie that left me bored more than entertained.

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A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel Review

wrinkle_in_time_graphic_novel

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Madeline L’Engle; adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. 978-0374386153

Note: The original novel A Wrinkle in Time bears the honor of being the 1963 John Newbery Medal recipient. Any discrepancies between the graphic novel and the original work are the interpretation of the artist who adapted the work.

Synopsis: Meg Murry and the rest of her family have been eagerly awaiting news about their father, who disappeared and has been gone for what feels like forever. Then, three otherworldly women – who have befriended Meg’s younger brother Charles Wallace – tell the siblings that they must rescue their father from the clutches of a Darkness that is threatening to take over the universe. Meg, Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe are transported via tesseract – a wrinkle in the fabric of time – to rescue Mr. Murry and bring him home.

Why I picked it up: I loved this story when I was in elementary school and I wanted to re-read it before I went to see the movie.

Why I finished it: There have been several classics that have been adapted into graphic novels and this is the first that I picked up. I love that artists are branching out and adapting their favorite childhood stories so that the newer generations can continue to enjoy the novels in a new way. What I love about Larson’s adaptation is the obvious care she took to include as many elements and plot nuances from L’Engle’s book because of its enormous popularity. I remember when I first read the book in elementary school, I was completely captivated by the notion of time travel and the magic of being whisked away to new and exciting places. IT was, and still is, a truly conniving and disconcerting villain, taking over all semblance of a population’s free will. As humans, we exercise our free will almost constantly during the day and the idea that we could be mentally and physically controlled is truly a terrifying thought. Of course, I had also forgotten that tesseract is a geometry term and doesn’t in fact refer exclusively to the glowing box from the first ‘Avengers’ film. If you want to read more about the tesseract and time travel, check out a couple of interesting articles found here and here. Larson’s art has an element of realism, but it is not so realistic that it takes away from the magic and the fantasy of the story. The contrast between the shades of blue to the black and white of the lines and backgrounds gives the story a sort of soft tone despite the dramatic scenes that occur during the novel’s climax. It is a wonderful introduction or re-introduction to this classic science fiction/fantasy book that will continue to be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Other related materials: 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; Many Waters by Madeline L’Engle; An Acceptable Time by Madeline L’Engle; Intergalactic P.S. 3: A Wrinkle in Time Story by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Becoming Madeline: A Biography of the Author of A Wrinkle in Time by Her Granddaughters by Charlotte Jones Voiklis and Léna Roy; The City of Ember: The Graphic Novel by Jeanne DuPrau, adapted by Dallas Middaugh, illustrated by Niklas Asker; The Wild Robot by Peter Brown; The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown; The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster; The Outlaws of Time series by N.D Wilson

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Cleopatra in Space Review

cleopatra_in_space_1Cleopatra in Space, Book 1: Target Practice by Mike Maihack

Graphix, 2014. 978-0545528429

Synopsis: On her fifteenth birthday, Cleopatra, the future queen of Egypt, finds a mystical tablet that transports her into the distant future. Turns out, she is destined to save the galaxy from Xaius Octavian, who has been stealing electronic information from every planet before he invades. History says the Cleo is destined to be a great leader, but first she has to figure out how to master Algebra and avoid detention.

Why I picked it up: This is a very popular title with the girls at the library.

Why I finished it: This book is a high-octane adventure from page one. I love how Maihack is taking a real historical figure and putting a more modern spin on her character: she has to go to school, make friends, and deal with teachers that just don’t seem to get it just like the rest of us. She’s sort of over the fact that she will one day be the ruler of a nation – well, before she gets transported into the future anyway – and we can see that her desire is to just be a normal teenager. It seems like fun to be the chosen one, but in truth, Cleo seems to be feeling a lot of the pressure of the mysterious prophecy. Maihack is showing us, perhaps, that being a leader might be all fun and games from the outside, but the grooming process and the journey toward greatness comes with its stumbling blocks and struggles. Plus, it is kind of fun to think about Cleo being an ace shot and a combat master. Maihack alternates between using bright and muted colors to help convey a better sense of the tone from scene to scene. I love the imaginative world of the future that has been laid out for the reader and I am looking forward to learning more of the history over the course of the series. It is an engaging read with well-developed characters that will have you eager for more.

Other related materials: Cleopatra in Space, Book 2: The Thief and the Sword by Mike Maihack; Cleopatra in Space, Book 3: Secret of the Time Tablets by Mike Maihack; Cleopatra in Space, Book 4: The Golden Lion by Mike Maihack; Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Phoebe and Her Unicorn books by Dana Simpson; Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson; Explorer books by Kazu Kibuishi; CatStronauts series by Drew Brockington

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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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