Tag Archives: genre:friendship

Feature Presentation: The Lego Batman Movie Review

legobatmanonesheetThe Lego Batman Movie starring the voices of Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Zach Galifianakis, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, and Jenny Slate

DC Entertainment/Warner Bros./Warner Bros. Animation/Vertigo Entertainment, 2017. Rated PG

Synopsis: When Gotham’s bad guys surrender themselves, it looks like Batman might be out of his post as vigilante crime fighter. Once heralded for his heroics and bravery, he’s even more broody than usual now that there’s no criminals wreaking havoc. Plus, there’s this kid he adopted at a city gala for the police commissioner’s retirement that he isn’t sure what to do with that he’s maybe sort of hoping he can send back to the orphanage. So when Joker hatches a plan to break the city apart (literally), it’s going to be up to Batman, Alfred, Robin, and Barbara Gordon to save the day.

I love that Will Arnett is reprising his role as Batman because he is able to bring a distinct humor to a traditionally much darker character. Granted, this is  family movie, but it’s still refreshing to see Batman’s more childish side – something that is prevalent throughout Lego Batman. The film makes reference to all of Batman’s previous movie and television appearances: Alfred makes note of Batman’s many ‘phases’ and there is a bit at the end in which words like “Bam!”, “Pow!”, and “Biff!” appear in the air as Batman and Robin are fighting (spoiler: it’s a reference to the 1960s Batman television series with Adam West). These may go over the heads of younger viewers, but for those of us that have followed Batman in his many incarnations will get a kick. Viewers will also be amused to note that Siri (the iPhone personal assistant) is the voice of Batman’s computer and she seems to have developed a little bit of a personality to offset Batman’s sarcasm. I also loved Michael Cera’s Robin/Dick Grayson because he is such an innocent overachiever. He, like Batman, wants love and attention, but since Batman seems to be afraid of having a family and letting people in, Robin is there to show him some unconditional love. Alfred is still the most awesome butler ever and his ability to ‘handle’ his adopted son/employer is a bit of a running gag as well. But I think what really sold me at the end was the element of friendship and friends being the family we choose – there’s even a catchy pop song to that effect at the end to rival “Everything is Awesome”. It’s sure to entertain viewers of all ages.



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Razzle Dazzle Unicorn Review

razzle_dazzle_unicornRazzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016. 978-1-4494-77912

Synopsis: When your best friend is a unicorn, there’s never a dull moment. Whether it’s competing with the Christmas tree as to who is sparklier, bonding with a goblin who likes to steal socks, or making friends with a lake monster, Phoebe and Marigold make the most of every day.

Why I picked it up: I love how funny and fun this series is!

Why I finished it: Unicorns are creatures that require lots of attention and care, as the reader has learned thus far. But once you prioritize the fact that your best friend is a unicorn, everything sort of falls into place. We start off with some holiday stories (that remind us that the holiday season is (perpetually) just around the corner) and move through the latter half of the year until we once again find ourselves at Camp Wolfgang. Simpson’s humor and art are what really make this series shine (literally and figuratively) and the multi-generational jokes are well-timed throughout this collection. This volume sees Marigold interacting a little more with Phoebe’s parents – the unicorn develops sparkle fever and has to stay home from taking Phoebe to school, during which time Phoebe’s mom must entertain the beautiful creature while she recovers. We also learn the difference between a common orn and a unique orn (Marigold obviously falls into the latter category), and that it is important not to confuse the two. It’s a smart, funny series that will have you laughing out loud and enjoyed by unicorn lovers of all ages.

Other related materials: Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson; Unicorn on a Roll: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson; Unicorn vs. Goblins: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Alien Invasion in my Backyard: An EMU Club Adventure by Ruben Bolling; The Ghostly Thief of Time by Ruben Bolling; Babymouse series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; Hamster Princess books by Ursula Vernon; Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke; Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack; The Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale; Lunch Lady books by Jarrett J. Krosoczka; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Stinky Cecil books by Paige Braddock

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Molly and the Bear Review

cameron-company-molly-and-the-bear-soft-cover-1Molly and the Bear by Bob Scott

Cameron & Company, 2016. 978-1937359850

Synopsis: When pan phobic Bear moves in with Molly and her family, life becomes anything but ordinary. But with a lot of patience and understanding, Molly gradually begins to help Bear outside of his shell…even if there is some crying and whining along the way.

Why I picked it up: I am a huge fan of quirky animal stories, strong female protagonists, and family comics.

Why I finished it: It takes a special sort of person to handle a 900-pound pan phobic grizzly, and Molly happens to have the right personality. Despite the fact that some of Bear’s trivial idiosyncrasies leave Molly scratching her head, she is (to a point) happy to oblige to his requests. It’s not that she’s being dismissive; she merely wants to find a way to relieve some of Bear’s anxieties: his fear of cats, his worry that the air isn’t safe to breathe when they land after a plane flight, the stress of whether or not Molly is going to leave the house when she puts her socks on (sometimes she just has cold feet), and how to get her father to warm up to him. Originally published as a webcomic, Bob Scott has collected the most comprehensive collection of his strips to give the reader a little bit of a taste as to what Molly and the Bear is about. As previously stated, it’s easy to  get drawn in to the comic not only because of the characters, but because Scott’s art pays such a loving homage to the Golden Age comics of which we are so fond. There is a playfulness to the art and the writing that shows the reader just how much fun Scott has writing and drawing the strips. I thought it was particularly clever that he’s thrown in a few artist gags into the mix – they might go over some reader’s heads because they seem somewhat out of context, but I think it’s a way for Scott to poke a little bit of fun at himself. It’s a funny, heartwarming comic about just being yourself and the joys of friendship. For more of Molly and Bear, check out the comic here.

Other related materials: Garfield comics by Jim Davis; Snoopy: Contact! (A Peanuts Collection) by Charles M. Schulz; Woodstock: Master of Disguise: A Peanuts Collection by Charles M. Schulz; Charlie Brown and Friends: A Peanuts Collection by Charles M. Schulz; 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; Oh, Brother! Brat Attack! by Bob Weber, Jr. and Jay Stephens

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The Quikpick Papers: To Kick a Corpse Review

to_kick_a_corpseThe Quikpick Papers: To Kick A Corpse by Tom Angleberger, illustrations by Jen Wang

Harry N. Abrams, 2016. 978-1419719066.

Synopsis: It was over. After our last adventure, there wasn’t supposed to be a Quikpick Adventure Society. But Marilla was bent on delivering justice for her family…for the thousands of slaves that had to suffer under the hand of their masters. And when a pretty girl is goading you and calling you a wimp, well, what choice did we have? So here it is; the last and final adventure…for real this time.

Why I picked it up: I wanted to know how the last adventure ‘ended’.

Why I finished it: And so, things have come to an end. For real this time. Well, I am sure there will still be excitement and adventures, but nothing quite so fantastic as before. The trio has certainly grown since we first met them, and they will keep going on even though there are no more reports. I do have to admit that the premise for the last adventure is a little bit odd.  Then again, I’ve mentioned before that I’m not the kind of person that would intentionally seek out the strange and abnormal – I’m more of a Dave than a Marilla or a Lyle. But these sort of experiences are the ones that make a lasting impression on the characters and on the reader. The things we do with our friends, no matter how weird or crazy they may seem to others, are what bring us together and strengthen our bonds. They are the things that we will remember and look back on years later. Angleberger has given us a story about the power of friendship and the strange nature of change. Our lives evolve in unexpected ways as we get older, a fact that becomes apparent to Lyle at the close of the report. It’s not always good or bad, but it happens. Wang’s illustrations help add to the humorous nature of the story and they play off the sort of silliness that is inherent to Lyle, Dave, and Marilla’s friendship. It’s a somewhat serious end to the series, but it does give the reader some comfort knowing that the trio continues to carry on, even in the face of change.

Other related materials: The Quikpick Papers: Poop Fountain! by Tom Angleberger, illustrations by Jen Wang; The Quikpick Papers: The Rat with the Human Face by Tom Angleberger, illustrations by Jen Wang; Rocket and Groot: Stranded on Planet Strip Mall! by Tom Angleberger;  Origami Yoda books by Tom Angleberger; Star Wars: Jedi Academy books by Jeffrey Brown;  How to Eat Fried Worms by Judy Blume; Freckle Juice by Judy Blume; Diary of a Sixth-Grade Ninja books by Marcus Emerson; The Ninja Librarians books by Jen Swann Downey; The Creature from My Closet books by Obert Skye; Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney; Guys Read books edited by Jon Scieszka; The Lemonade War series by Jacqueline Davies

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The BFG Review

the_bfgThe BFG by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1982. 978-0374304690

Synopsis: Sophie doesn’t believe in giants….until one night when she happens to see one out the orphanage window. Naturally, the giant kidnaps her and whisks her away to his cave, which really isn’t as bad as it sounds. You see, most giants would have already eaten Sophie whole. But this is the Big Friendly Giant, who blows good dreams into the children’s windows as they sleep. So when the child-eating giants decide that England will be their next buffet, Sophie and the BFG must come up with a srumdidilyumptuous plan to outwit them.

Why I picked it up: It was one of my brother’s favorites when he was in elementary school and it is the only book I remember him reading that made him laugh out loud.

Why I finished it: My brother reads just as voraciously as I do, but somehow we grew up reading very few of the same books. We both read and liked many Roald Dahl books over the years, but this one eluded me for some reason or another. The BFG has the traditional mix of lighthearted and dark moments that are the hallmark of Dahl’s stories, while offering an explanation for whence come our good and bad dreams. What struck me was the element of peril running throughout the story, something that I don’t recall being quite as prevalent in his other works. The reader recognizes that the BFG wants to keep Sophie safe from his child-munching brethren, but there is still a fear that keeps hold of us page after page and chapter after chapter. Will it work? Will the giants discover Sophie? Can this girl and the giant convince the Queen that giants exist so they can save England? Will the BFG be able to eat anything other than snozzcumbers? But the dark is somewhat balanced out by the backward nature of the BFG himself. We see that he is on the outside of the clan, partially because of his refusal to eat “human beans”. We laugh at the notion that he has stolen a child’s schoolbook to be able to learn how to write. We are endeared by his jumbled speech and mixed-up metaphors. Though Sophie tries to set him straight, she eventually accepts that by trying to correct him, the two will merely become more and more confused. Blake’s illustrations add to the quirky nature of the story, drawn in abrupt strokes with heavy lines that still manage to give the characters a realistic quality. It’s a story about the power of sheer determination and the idea that friends come in all shapes and sizes and can be found in the most unlikely places.

Other related materials: Matilda by Roald Dahl; James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake; Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake; Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake; The Witches by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake; Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake; The Twits by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake; Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren; Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White; Stuart Little by E.B. White; Pax by Sarah Pennypacker

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The Misadventures of Salem Hyde, Book 4: Dinosaur Dilemma

misadventures_of_salem_hyde_4The Misadventures of Salem Hyde, Book 4: Dinosaur Dilemma by Frank Cammuso

Harry N. Abrams, 2015. 978-1419715358

Synopsis: Salem has a science project to finish…that was due two days ago. But she has a plan: she’s going to go to the museum to explore their Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit to get some inspiration. Except that the dinosaurs in Dinosaurs Alive! aren’t alive…until Salem uses her magic to bring them to life. And when she gets a pet Velociraptor to use for her science project, Salem thinks she’s got it made in the shade.

Why I picked it up: I like to read something light hearted and funny to balance out my more serious reading selections.

Why I finished it: Salem’s antics continue as we venture into this fourth book, and we are just as much in love with her as we were at the beginning. I have to admire the way that she looks at things and wants to make things a little bit more interesting. She’s definitely not a girl who is going to settle for the ordinary, even if it sometimes gets her into some trouble. So even though she’s left her science project until the last minute – as most anyone could do – she has big ideas about how to make it the best ever. Readers with pets will particularly enjoy this book; watching Salem and Whammy try to wrangle Nipper the Velociraptor proves to be a little bit too much. On the one hand, Salem has a lot of good material for her project; on the other, the baby Velociraptor is growing bigger and bigger every day. As with the previous books, Salem will need Whammy and a little bit of luck in order to fix her dinosaur dilemma. Also, I just noticed this, but the book titles (Trouble, Catastrophe, Dilemma) play into the ‘Misadventures’  portion of the series title. It’s a clever touch. I also liked the bit of yellow that is infused into the drawings in this volume. It gives it that same fun, lighthearted feel as its predecessors. It’s a cute story and a great addition to your shelf that is sure to engage readers of all ages.

Other related materials: The Misadventures of Salem Hyde, Book 1: Spelling Trouble by Frank Cammuso; The Misadventures of Salem Hyde, Book 2: Big Birthday Bash, The Misadventures of Salem Hyde, Book 3: Cookie Catastrophe by Frank Cammuso; The Misadventures of Salem Hyde, Book 5: Frozen Fiasco by Frank Cammuso; The Knights of the Lunch Table books by Frank Cammuso; Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; Lunch Lady books by Jarrett J. Krosoczka; Babymouse books by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; Daniel Boom AKA Loud Boy books by D.J. Steinberg; Missile Mouse books by Jake Parker; Secrets of a Lab Rat books by Trudi Trueit, illustrated by Jim Palliot; Frankie Pickle books by Eric Wight; Amulet books by Kazu Kibuishi

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Review

absolutely_true_diary_of_a_part_time_indianThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, art by Ellen Forney

Little, Brown books for Young Readers, 2007. 978-0316013680

Winner of the 2008 National Book Award

Synopsis: Junior isn’t like most people. Born with water on the brain, Junior often suffers from seizures; he wears glasses that don’t fit his face, his feet are too big for his body, and he speaks with a lisp. The one thing he seems to have going for him is his art. It’s how he makes sense of the world. It’s how he’s staying even a little bit sane when he becomes the only Indian at a high school full of white kids, when his best friend won’t speak to him, when his sister runs away to live the life of a romance novel. It’s what gives him hope during a year that seems hopeless.

Why I picked it up: This is another title that came highly recommended to me by my librarian colleagues and I thought it was time I pulled it off my shelf.

Why I finished it: I found out in the first few pages that Alexie wasn’t going to be pulling any punches. He told it like it was, and he didn’t shy away from any of the scary, awkward, gruesome details that come with growing up on an Indian reservation. In a lot of ways, Junior is a stereotype, and he’s willing to acknowledge this to a point. When it is proposed he leaves the reservation, it’s not only a way for him to help fight the stereotype, but a chance for him to make something better than himself, to be the person his parents could have been had someone believed in them. And really, I think everyone needs that: one person in our lives that is willing to believe in us, to help push us away from our comfort zone into the breech. And yet, Junior still feels as though he is living two separate lives, one much more surreal than the other. But despite the tragedies he faces and the challenges he overcomes, Junior finds a way to make sense of it all…well, mostly. Forney’s art is a delightful mix of realism and cartoonish humor, largely to reflect Junior’s mood or state of mind while he is drawing. It’s a way for the reader to truly experience how Junior is making sense of the world and how he is perceiving those around him. It’s a funny, heartbreaking story about how we face life’s challenges and how we learn to control the elements we can while coping with those we cannot.

Other related materials: Flight by Sherman Alexie; If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth; Rain Is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Lori Earley; Who Will Tell My Brother? by Marlene Carvell; My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson; Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen; Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sàenz; Winger by Andrew Smith, illustrated by Sam Bosma; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; El Deafo by Cece Bell; Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine; American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang; Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina; The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind by Meg Medina; Mexican White Boy  by Matt de la Peña; When I Was Young and Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago; Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa  Abdel-Fattah

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