Tag Archives: genre:diary fiction

Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior Review

diary_of_an_8bit_warriorDiary of an 8-Bit Warrior: An Unofficial Minecraft Adventure by Cube Kid, illustrated by Saboten

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016. 978-1449480059

Synopsis: As a twelve-year-old Minecraft villager, Runt’s prospects for the future don’t look too promising. That’s because his choice of professions is limited to skill sets of farming crafting, or building. What Runt REALLY wants is to be a Warrior. Like Steve. Steve’s like, the greatest warrior ever. But villagers aren’t supposed to learn how to be warriors…until now.

Why I picked it up: These Unofficial Minecraft books have been popping up everywhere, so I decided to see what the buzz was about.

Why I finished it: Okay, I have a confession to make: I have never played Minecraft. I think I’m probably one of a handful of people that is a total noob when it comes to Minecraft. What I know about the game could fit on one of those 3×3 sticky notes. So what is someone like me doing reading a book like this? How could I possibly enjoy a book about one of the most popular – and arguably the most awesome – games ever when I don’t even play the game? Well, I’ll tell you. I like stories about little guys. Not like, they are physically little or that they are young or whatever; David and Goliath sort of stories where the hero is taking on an insurmountable challenge to be able to prove to himself and his peers that he is worthy of remembrance. Runt may be worthy of his name in terms of his appearance, but he has a passion for going beyond and thinking outside the box. He realizes that although he is expected to be a miner or a blacksmith or a baker or any of the other non-descript professions held by villagers, he is destined to be more like his hero Steve the Warrior. He wants it so bad both he and the reader can taste it. Runt’s diary is full of stories about the sort of challenges we face every day – in the Minecraft world and in the real world. We deal with weird bullies, impossible teachers, awkward neighbors, and strange comings and goings. We all have goals that we are working toward and doing what we can to make sure that we have a better chance of achieving those goals. So, yeah, I don’t play Minecraft, but I can still root for Runt. It’s a fast-paced read with lots of pictures that will grab you and pull you into the world of Minecraftia and the village of Villagetown. It’s a smart, funny, and courageous story that shows us we can do anything we put our mind to that will no doubt bring a smile to your face.

Other related materials: Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior: From Seeds to Swords: An Unofficial Minecraft Adventure by Cube Kid, illustrated by Saboten; Diary of a Minecraft Zombie series by Zack Zombie; Diary of a Farting Creeper: An Unofficial Minecraft Book books by Wimpy Fart; Diary of an Adventurous Creeper series by Mark Mulle; Herobrine’s Wacky Adventures series by Zack Zombie Books; Diary of a Minecraft Zombie Girl by Ian the Minecrafter; The Unofficial Minecrafters Academy series by Winter Morgan; Ultimate Minecraft Comic Book series by Zack Zombie Comics; Gameknight999: An Unofficial Minecrafter’s Adventure series by Mark Cheverton; The Untold Story of Steve: The Unofficial Minecraft Adventure Short Stories series by Mark Mulle; Minecraft Diary of a Wimpy Zombie books by Steve Kid; Minecraft: Essential Handbook by Stephanie Milton, Paul Soares Jr., and Jordan Maron; Minecraft Books for Kids: An Unofficial Minecraft Book by Steve Kids



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Li’l Rip Haywire Adventures: Escape from Camp Cooties Review

Lil-Rip-Haywire-Escape-from-Camp-CootiesLi’l Rip Haywire Adventures: Escape from Camp Cooties by Dan Thompson

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016. 978-1449470517

Synopsis: Rip Haywire, junior soldier-of-fortune, has the coolest life ever: he helps his soldier-of-fortune dad recover treasures from around the world. Then, things go dramatically sideways. His dad decides that instead of joining him on the latest adventure, Rip is going to summer camp..for girls. While planning his escape, he learns of a mysterious ancient temple near the camp and one of the female campers wants him to help her recover the treasure.

Why I picked it up: It reminded me of the old Dick Tracy detective comics and the Hardy Boy mysteries.

Why I finished it: In this younger reader adaptation of his popular Rip Haywire comics, Thompson takes the reader on a ride that is part diary, part comic, part activity book. Rip knows more about dismantling bombs and diffusing booby traps than he does about fractions and friendship. Then again, as an aspiring soldier-of-fortune, people skills aren’t at the top of his priority list. But if he’s going to escape this girls summer camp, he’s going to need to put down his fists and start collaborating with the mysterious and intriguing Breezy. Especially since she seems to need his treasure hunting smarts. I liked the illustrated novel format and the inclusion of some little puzzles to solve to exercise the whole brain while you follow Rip on his adventures. The plot is part detective story, part Indiana Jones film, taking the reader around the world in 195 pages. Not to mention the fun facts about yetis and ancient curses at the end of the book. It’s a book that will have a little bit of something for everyone and it’s sure to hook even the most reluctant of readers.

Other related materials: Agent Colt Shore: Domino 29 by Axel Avian; Agent Colt Shore: The Games Begin by Axel Avian; Double Vision by F.T. Bradley; Double Vision: Code 711 by F.T. Bradley; Double Vision: The Alias Men by F.T. Bradley; Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer; Steel Trapp books by Ridley Pearson; 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; Skip School, Fly to Space: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; When Crocs Fly: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; The Mutts Diaries by Patrick McDonnell; The Mutts Winter Diaries by Patrick McDonnell; AAAA!: A FoxTrot Kids Edition by Bill Amend; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes

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House Arrest Review

house_arrestHouse Arrest by K.A. Holt

Chronicle Books, 2015. 978-1452134772

Synopsis: I didn’t mean to do it.

Okay, maybe I meant to do it, but I did it cause we needed the money for my brother.

Y’know, cause he has this trach in his neck to help him breathe. And the meds are expensive.

Mom thinks I don’t know about the money problems, but I do.

Since dad walked out…well, what would you have done? Don’t tell me you wouldn’t, cause I know you’d be lying.

I just wanted to help. I just wanted to help.

Why I picked it up: The premise of the story intrigued me and I like novels in verse.

Why I finished it: It’s somewhat appropriate that this novel was written in verse because it makes the reader and Timothy consider things about the world – most notably the hardships we all go through and the lengths to which we will go to help those who are closest to us. We ponder the kindness of strangers and the feelings of fear and uncertainty. We acknowledge the support of friends who will come to our aid when they see us struggling. Timothy may begin the story feeling like a screw-up, but we see him gradually transform in the year he is keeping a court-ordered journal. While the reader will note that he never really expresses a desire to repent for his crime, we do see him working toward finding solutions that will allow for him to keep his family together. His desire to redeem himself and the difficulties he has with staying out of trouble almost prove more than he can handle, an internal conflict that Timothy struggles with throughout most of the book. I also find that we ‘see’ a different side to the story when the author uses poetry instead of prose. Not only are we really getting inside Timothy’s head, we are given room to form our own opinions and interpretations about whether or not he will or has reformed. The reader can set their own scenes as they read each of the entries over the course of the 52 weeks chronicled in the novel. Holt also asks the reader to consider their own relationships with the people around us, to think about those things for which we will fight and which battles we will choose. It’s a powerful and poignant look at a boy who, although he could be considered a delinquent, is navigating life the only way he knows how.

Other related materials: Rhyme Schemer by K.A. Holt; Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko; Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko; Al Capone Does My Homework by Gennifer Choldenko; Rules by Cynthia Lord; Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine; So B. It by Sarah Weeks; Knees: The Mixed-Up World of a boy with Dyslexia by Vanita Oelschlager, illustrated by Joe Rossi; The Crossover by Kwame Alexander; El Deafo by Cece Bell; Paperboy by Vince Vawter; Tangerine by Edward Bloor; Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen; Ghost of Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

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Slam! Review

slamSlam! by Walter Dean Meyers

Scholastic, 2008. 978-0545055741.

Winner of the 1997 Coretta Scott King Book Award

Synopsis: Greg ‘Slam’ Harris knows how to hoop. He’s a powerhouse ball player that has his eye set on the NBA. But his teachers can’t seem to dig it, always getting on his case about his grades, about how he could do better. Then he starts to see the other side, starts to see what it looks like when you can’t make it, when you have to face not being on top. Turns out, life is a game and he doesn’t have the ball.

Why I picked it up: Meyers was a popular author among many of my library school peers and his work came to me highly recommended.

Why I finished it: I had a really hard time getting into this book, not because of the subject matter, but because it was written in dialect, mirroring the way we speak. It gives the reader a sense of the narrator and how he views the world around him, but it makes for somewhat annoying reading material. I found myself gleaning the story mostly from context, which also made it difficult to get into the book. The sports writing was enjoyable: I’m a huge hoops fan – mostly college ball – and it was intriguing to me to have the game set up from the players perspective and to have insight on the lingo they use for the plays and the ball. I like first person narratives because they tend to be more ‘reliable’ and we have a better feel for the characters and their emotions. I can totally understand Slam’s frustrations at being bothered about his grades and his performance off the court. I’ve been haggled about needing an attitude adjustment, about needing to ‘do the right thing’. And yeah, some of that comes from being a teen and being in situations where you don’t think anyone understands you. But as a reader, we see that Slam has potential; we want him to wake up and realize that there’s a little more going on than just the stuff happening to him. Whether or not a wake-up call will stick is hard to say, but if it comes from the right place, it can make all the difference. If you like books that read like you talk, then I’d recommend it. If you’re like me and you know you’re going to be slogging through it, perhaps one of Meyers other works will be a better choice.

Other related materials: Hoops by Walter Dean Meyers; Game by Walter Dean Meyers; Monster by Walter Dean Meyers; Kick by Walter Dean Meyers and Ross Workman; Scorpions by Walter Dean Meyers; Somewhere in the Darkness by Walter Dean Meyers; The Jericho Trilogy by Sharon M. Draper; We Beat the Street: How a Friendship Pact Lead to Success by Sampson Davis, George Jenkins, Rameck Hunt, and Sharon M. Draper; True Legend by Mike Lupica; The Crossover by Kwame Alexander; Ball Don’ Lie by Matt de la Peña; Boy21 by Matthew Quick; Night Hoops by Carl Deuker; Miracle’s Boys by Jacqueline Woodson

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Katrin’s Chronicles: The Canon of Jacquelène Dyanne, Vol. 1 Review

katrins_chronicles_1Katrin’s Chronicles: The Canon of Jacquelène Dyanne, Vol. 1 by Valerie C. Woods

BooksEndependent, 2013. 978-0988768727

2014 Jessie Redmon Fauset Award Finalist

Synopsis: Set in Chicago in the 1960s, Katrin’s Chronicles details the mystery solving adventures of Katrin and her older sister J. Dyanne, whose mysterious gifts allow her to see and perceive things others cannot. Told by their Grand Anne to write their history, Katrin sets out to demystify the circumstances under which J. Dyanne is able to uncover the culprit in a case of political corruption that gives the girls an almost celebrity status on the South Side.

Why I picked it up: I was asked to review the book as part of a book blog tour and I gladly accepted.

Why I finished it: This book is a delightful blend of high mystery and southern gothic, combining Holmesian deductive prowess with the supernatural beliefs of tarot, voodoo, and psychic readings. Woods sets the tone for the book by providing the reader with a picture of a close knit family that fights for each other and looks out for each other. There are two older siblings that are also in the mix, but they don’t play much of a role in the story. Katrin, much like Dr. Watson, hopes to one day become a doctor, and her chronicle is littered with her Latin practice, an element that helps to develop her character. Though the book is just as much about J. Dyanne as Katrin, J.Dyanne still remains a somewhat mysterious personage. She is possessed with a powerful gift of observation and the ability to see into the beyond, which becomes a valuable tool to aid in the recovery of lost animals, lost persons, and lost objects. J. Dyanne is seen as a witch and a seer, but neither of those assertions by her peers and neighbors seem to fit with what truly goes on behind the scenes. I loved that there was a historical element to the story as well: the 1960s was a period of racial and political unrest in this country, and in some cases exacerbated by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to which Katrin makes reference. These outside events also have an impact on the characters, causing them to think outside themselves and ponder how they fit into the bigger picture. This book is a must for fans of Sherlock Holmes or even just a good mystery that keeps you guessing until the last pages.

Other related materials: Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud; Lockwood & Co.: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud; The Vengekeep Prophecies books by Brian Farrey, illustrations by Brett Helquist; W.A.R.P., Book 1: The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer; The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson, illustrations by Ben McSweeny, Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage; The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage; Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee; The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel, illustrated by Jim Tierney; The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier; The Riverman by Aaron Starmer; Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

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Dear Mr. Henshaw Review

dear_mister_henshawDear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary, illustrations by Paul O. Zelinsky

HarperCollins, 2000. 978-0380709588

Winner of the 1984 John Newbery Medal

Synopsis: Leigh Botts is a HUGE fan of Boyd Henshaw. Ever since second grade, when his teacher read the class Ways to Amuse a Dog, Leigh has been writing letters to his favorite author. And now that he is in sixth grade, he gets to do a project on an author – asking them questions about their work, why they write, where they get their ideas, and how they became a writer. But the correspondence that is supposed to cheer Leigh up only makes him more angry and frustrated. Plus, he has to deal with the fact that his parents are divorced, he’s the new kid at school, and someone keeps taking all of the good food out of his lunch! Will he ever fit in? Will his favorite author actually be the inspiration he needs to become a writer himself?

Why I picked it up: I love Beverly Cleary and I have always been a huge fan of her Ramona books…but not enough to write to her.

Why I finished it: Being the new kid at a new school in a new town and dealing with your parent’s divorce can put any kid in a tough situation – there’s so many different emotions to sort through that can make it seem as if nothing will ever turn out right. I’ve been through a similar scenario, and if you can learn to roll with the punches, you can learn things about yourself that can make you into a stronger person. Leigh is struggling in more ways than one – missing his dad, worrying about catching the lunch thief, not being able to make friends – and even though the answers he receives in return from his favorite author seem rude and mean (we never actually get to see the other half of the correspondence), Leigh is learning things about himself and his life that are making a bigger impact on him than even he knows. Cleary’s first-person diary helps the reader get inside Leigh’s head and we share his victories and his stumbles right along with him. It makes one feel like they are reading letters from a friend, even if we don’t know what the other half of the conversation is. Zelinsky’s drawings add to the emotion of the story and add another dimension to Cleary’s writing. It’s a sweet, funny, and heartbreaking coming-of-age story that shows us that we have the power to believe in ourselves, even if we don’t know how.

Other related materials: Strider by Beverly Cleary; Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary; Ramona and Her Mother by Beverly Cleary; Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary; Ramona Forever by Beverly Cleary; Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor; Clementine by Sarah Pennypacker; Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai; Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo; Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson; Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech; When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead; When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt; Young Fredle by Cynthia Voigt, illustrated by Louise Yates; Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff; Pie by Sarah Weeks; Waiting for the Magic by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrations by Amy June Bates; Call Me Hope by Gretchen Olson


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Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life review

Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renée Russell

Aladdin, 2009. 978-1-41698-006-3

Synopsis: Nikki Maxwell has just started at her new school, Westchester County Day Middle School, and she’s hoping to have a super-cool phone to get her a spot with the CCP (Cute, Cool, Popular) girls – but instead her brain dead mom gets her a diary. Diaries are for dorks, but this doesn’t stop Nikki from recording everything about her life – her new crush (Brandon), the mean girl (Mackenzie), her friends (Chloe and Zoey), her lame school job (library shelver), and her passions (art, painting).

Why I picked it up: I was told to read it by the two nine-year-olds I babysit for – in their words, “It’s so good! The boy one is good too, but since we’re girls, read the girl one.”

Why I finished it: I read this book and remember middle school vividly – the crushes, the mean girls, the teachers, the trying to fit in – and love that this diary portrays all of it so accurately. I even had a Mackenzie – her name was Holly – but I dealt more with that in elementary school and high school than I did in middle school. Nikki’s observations about her classmates, her family, and her friends are endearing and funny, and I totally felt for her in all of the embarrassing situations she found herself in. I was a little puzzled at her fascination with Tyra Banks, but I had far more embarrassing celebrity fascinations – it’s what all junior high girls do, right? I was laughing through most of the book, partially because the writing is so good and because I was thinking about how thankful I am that I was never subjected to getting tripped in the cafeteria. Younger readers will likely appreciate Nikki’s honest voice and older readers will read and remember (fondly and not so fondly) their own school struggles. With more books in the series, I can’t wait to see what Nikki will be writing about next!

Other related materials: Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Popular Party Girl by Rachel Renée Russell; Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Talented Pop Star by Rachel Renée Russell; Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney; Dear Dumb Diary books by Jim Benton; Geek Chic: The Zoey Zone by Margie Palatini; The Popularity Papers books by Amy Ignatow; Mackenzie Blue books by Tina Wells; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson; Rumors from the Boys’ Room: A Blogtastic! Novel by Rose Cooper; NERDS books by Michael Buckley

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