Monday, November 09, 2015

Stick and Stone

Stick and Stone 

Written by Beth Ferry; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015, Ages 3-6

Stick and Stone is a book about a stick and a stone becoming friends by sticking up for each other in hard situations, as well as helping each other out in a crisis. 

Beth Ferry uses a rhyming style in telling the story, though not all sentences rhyme.

The illustrations help to convey the points made in the text, as well as making the book simple and age appropriate.  

This book is great for teaching children about friendships with different people. I would definitely recommend this book to parents who want their children to be open to making new friends and to teachers who want to teach their students what can happen if you stick up for someone. Also, I would recommend this book to teachers and parents with children that are 3 to 6 years of age. 

Review by Lauren Whaley 

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad 

Written by Natalie Hyde 
New York : Crabtree Publishing, 2015, Ages: 9-14

This book covers information regarding the Underground Railroad's history, and the people involved, such as slaves, slave hunters, and those who helped slaves to freedom, like Harriet Tubman. In addition to history, it also talks about the danger and success stories of the Underground Railroad and the people involved. Another topic that is covered in the text are the primary sources of information:  written, visual, and auditory. They described the different ways these techniques were used to advertise slaves, and how slaves knew when they had their opportunity to escape. Since there are two very different groups that participated in this time period, the book talks about interpreting the evidence that was left behind and the dangers of bias. With many opinions about this point in history, there is discussion about the controversial role of hymns and songs that were sung during this time. And finally, the topic at the end of the book talks about how history is repeating itself, and discusses slavery (now known as human trafficking) and what is being done in order to stop it. 

The author's writing style is very informative and straight forward, which would come in handy for students who are using this book as a resource for a project. The author is clear about showing no bias from her perspective, which is important when discussing a topic such as slavery. The author has also written many questions for the reader to ask themselves, such as "Are fictional stories written about events of the Underground Railroad primary sources or secondary sources?" The writer also does a good job of explaining words that the reader may not understand; this is important for adolescents who are working on their reading skills to become more fluent in their reading. 

The illustrations vary from paintings, prints, blueprints, documents, newspaper clippings, and even photographs. Another component that I found interesting was that the author described how some of the illustrations were created. An example of this is on page 13. On the bottom of the page, it looks like an average painting, but the text explains that the image is actually an engraving. An engraving is a print that was made using a carved pattern in a metal printing plate. 

I believe that this book is an excellent source for students and teachers alike to learn about this time period. I would definitely recommend this book to others who have an interest in the Underground Railroad. It offers readers many illustrations to help those who are visual learners, and there is text next to the pictures to explain what is being shown. But what I found very beneficial is that at the end of the book, there are many different sources the reader could use if they were doing research. In the back of the book, the following is provided: Timeline, Internet Guidelines, and a glossary. I feel that these components are very important because they help the reader better understand the content that is being provided by the author. Overall, I think that this is a great book, and this would be an interesting read for students ranging from the ages 9-14. 

Review by Evelyn Wilkins 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sam's Pet Temper

Sam's Pet Temper

Written by Sangeeta Bhadra; Illustrated by Marion Arbona
Toronto, ON ; Tonawanda, NY : Kids Can Press, 2014, Ages 7-12

Sam's Pet Temper is about a young boy who discovers he has a pet temper. The pet temper pops up during a recess time, because Sam was tired of waiting for his turn on the playground equipment. Sam quickly finds out that his pet temper made way for him, because it cleared the playground. Sam thought this was a good thing ... at first. But Sam quickly realizes that his pet temper caused him to get in trouble - at school and at home. Sam thinks that the pet temper has control of him ... but he will soon find out that he, in-fact, has control over the temper!

Sangeeta Bhadara's style of writing is playful but strong. Her wording is easy to read along with and would be easy to understand for a young reader.

The illustrations are friendly. Marion Arbona uses a lot of greys, reds, and blues throughout her illustrations. The drawings are very captivating to they eye of the reader.

I really enjoyed reading this book! I thought the idea of having a "pet temper" was a great way to explain the idea of a temper to a young child. I also like that it was a pet - the temper is not who we are - but it's something that we can have control over! This book was sitting on my coffee table one afternoon - and a friend of mine came over and noticed the book. She picked it up and started reading it - and said that this book would be perfect for her 5 year old! Overall, I think this book would be a great way to address the topic of anger or tempers with young kids. 

Review by Amanda Vaculik

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley
By Shaun David Hutchinson; Illustrations by Christine Larsen
New York : Simon Pulse, 2015, Ages: Young Adult 13+

This book is about a character named Andrew whose family dies and he does not. He ends up living in a part of a hospital that had a wing that is abandoned during the renovations in the Roanoke Hospital. Andrew serves for the hospitals cafeteria and gets paid under the counter.He likes to spend his time in the ER or the pediatric department of the hospital. Even though Drew is not sick or needs treatment, he likes to be there because that is the last place that he was able to see his family.One day, a guy his age named Rusty was taken into the ER. He was burned by fire by his own classmates. Rusty had been bullied by his classmates for a while, but they took it very far. Drew is not sure why, but he feels some kind of connection with Rusty. Rusty and Drew are both characters that are gay too. Drew likes to hangout with many of the patients that have cancer. In Drew's world, everyone has seen to much suffering and also death.

This book was written in first person and was also written very well by the author. I felt that the writing style was very rich and just made the readers want to dive in and read it. She made the book easy to understand and you were able to feel the same feelings that the main character was having. It made you feel like as the reader, you were there in the book with them. The author's writing would not let you look away because he described, in detail, the humiliation that Rusty had to go through. It is sad to read, but the details make you want to read more because the author is very detailed throughout the book.

The book had a comic inside of it, which made the book even more interesting. I thought that the illustrations were creepy and were also gross. Even though my feelings about the illustrations were bad, the actual illustrations were very good. I believe they were perfect for this book, and Christine Larsen did a great job with them.

I thought that this was a great book. I loved reading it and felt interested and wanting to read more the whole time. I would recommend this book to others because it was very detailed and made you think a lot about being in the shoes of the main character, Andrew Brawley. The subject of the book is very intricate, it will make you want to keep reading because the writing is so good. I think that middle school students or even high school students would like this book because it had characters around their age that are very easy to connect with. There are also many realistic things about this book that students could connect to. 

Review by Hayley Sheffield

Stone Angel

Stone Angel 

By Jane Yolen; Illustrated by Katie May Green
New York, NY : Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Group Inc., 2015, Ages 8 - 12 

This story is about a Jewish family fleeing their town during the Holocaust.

The author writes in the language of a little girl. She refers to her mother as "Maman" and refers to the Nazis as "the bad men" and "the brown shirts". There is also a maturity to the girl's voice and language. When some men around her passed away, she narrates, "but I did not cry. I knew they had flown off to be with the angels." There is also repetition in the phrases "shadows of stars" and "angels".

The illustrations are very dark, depicting a dark time. They seem to be done in pencil.

I do recommend this to children in later elementary school, as it portrays the struggles of Jews during the Holocaust without being gruesome. This is a good story for educating younger children about the Holocaust. Children who have dealt with some family struggles, which have made them mature early can definitely relate to this, while that is a more rare occurrence. 

Review by Kelly Holmes


By Pimm van Hest; Illustrations by Kristof Devos
New York : Clavis Publishing, 2015, Ages 5 - 10

This story is about a boy who controls the weather. His emotions are tied to the weather. When he cries, it rains; when he's happy; the sun shines, and so forth.

The author uses a lot of personification when it comes to the weather. For example, the author writes "the joyful sun beamed down exuberantly." There is also repetition with the word "want". Everyone around Weatherboy wants him to influence the weather the way they want it. One example of this is "I want sun! I want cold! I want snow!" There is also a parallel between Weatherboy and another character named Skateboy. Separately, they are doing the same thing. They are both going "farther and farther" away from where they live until they eventually meet up.

The illustrations have a large variety of color. These colors depend on Weatherboys emotions. If he is sad, the colors are very dark. If he is happy, the colors are bright. The illustrations seem to be done in colored pencils.

I do recommend this boy for any ages, but particularly any child between the ages of 5 and maybe even as old as 12, because of the lesson that is learned. The personification in this book makes it very engaging and cute. I think this age group can definitely relate to the struggles that Weatherboy experiences in this story. Everyone around him is expecting so much of him, and he struggles between trying to make himself happy and make others happy. I love that this book teaches kids that they can be themselves and they don't always have to please others.

Review by  Kelly Holmes

Anastasia Again!

Anastasia Again! 
By Lois Lowry; Decorations by Diane deGroat
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, Ages 11-14

The story is about a twelve-year old girl named Anastasia who is adjusting to the move from the city of Boston to the suburbs. Anastasia is initially unhappy with the idea of moving because she is afraid that people would not like her because she is from the city. However, Anastasia comes to learn that life and the people in the suburbs is not what she thought it was to be. She eventually adjusts to the move, and finds happiness in the new, unexpected friendships with the people that she meets.

The story is told in a third-person limited point of view with insight from the perspective of Anastasia.

The cover of the book appears to have been hand-drawn. It is colorful, and it depicts a scene of the character of Anastasia appearing to be thoughtfully reflecting on her family's move while sitting on the moving boxes. The rest of the book has very few pictures which appear at the beginning of each chapter in black and white.

I really liked the book. It was an easy read, and I think it is relatable to many kids who have had to adjust to a move or any other type of similar situation. The book really captures and creatively depicts the perspective of a pre-teen girl. I would recommend this book to older kids because it does mention topics such as sex that some people might feel is inappropriate for younger kids to read.

Review by Christine McBride

Twenty Two cents Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank

Twenty-Two cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank 
By Paula Yoo; Illustrated by Jamel Akib
New York : Lee & Low Books Inc., 2014, Grades K-6

Twenty-two cents is a biography on Muhammad Yunus and his life growing up in Bangladesh. Muhammad was one of the few people in Bangladesh that was not poor. He eventually moved to United states to attend college and received degree in economic related fields. Here was much strife in his homeland, and he would eventually return to Bangladesh. Many poor people in his country especially women could not receive loans from banks and would have to ask to get loans from loan sharks. Muhammad devised an idea of the Village Bank that would give small loans to groups of people so they could take out a loan together. The bank would have low interest rates so that everyone could pay back. Muhammad would eventually go on to win a Nobel Peace Prize for his work.

The author's style is very direct and easy to understand. She is very descriptive, and I could picture most of what she was talking about even without the illustrations. The book moved along at a good speed, the author paced the information well. I don't think there was any frivolous section either. Each page had something of value to the story. Pictures books are short as it is so there is no need for fluff.

I thought the illustrations were quite good and had to have been painted. The colors were vibrant, and I thought that the people pictured were very believable looking. I like that the author and illustrator worked together because the pictures always went along with the text on the page. I also liked how each page did not look the same as the last. When books have receptive pictures in the background I find it to be boring.

I would recommend this book for younger readers that want more of a challenge in a picture book. For being a picture book, it has a decent amount of writing per page and was longer then I expected. I would also recommend this book to anyone that enjoys history because it provides some information I did not know prior to reading the book. It is always cool to learn something new from history, and I never really new about the founding of Bangladesh and the book had some interesting information on the subject. 

Review by Mitchell Roth


By Raina Telgemeier with color by Braden Lamb
New York : Graphix, 2014, Grade 4-6

This story is about the author, her family and the road trip they are about to take to go visit her family in Colorado Springs. It goes through all the struggles that the family experiences along the way on this road trip. This story also shares some good memories (flashbacks) that have occurred causing the family to be at the point which they are at now. It takes you through the timeline of the trip and the visit with her family and nothing goes as planned.

The author's writing style is very detailed and fun. She does not back away form the bad stuff. The reader can see that she wants to include anything that could possibly happen on a family trip. She fills her story with emotions, both good and bad. Since this books is mainly pictures with little writing the illustrations do most of the talking. However, with as little words there are she does at great job at getting her point across!

The illustrations are wonderful! They are full of life and color. Every illustration fits the scene that is happening at that point in the book! The flashbacks that occur in this book are made in a more dull olden type color, which allows for easy knowledge of what parts of the story are from the past and which ones are current. Since it is written like a comic book, the illustrator and author have made it very easy to know what order to read the pictures in.

I personally loved this book! I myself have a younger sister, so I could relate to a lot of the conflict between the two girls in this book. I thought it was a very cute read. I also really enjoyed that the author used a more comic book style to write this book. For someone who doesn't like to read books that often like myself or prefers to look at pictures, this would be a great book to choose. I believe that it can be very relatable to any kid that has siblings and has ever ridden in a car for a long period of time with them. I would suggest this book to any kid grade 4-6 but I feel girls would enjoy it more then boys because it is centered around Raina in the book.

Review by Laura Shelley 

The Notebook of Doom: Whack of the P-rex

The Notebook of Doom:  Whack of the P-rex
by Troy Cummings
New York, NY : Scholastic Inc., 2014, Ages 8-11

The story is about a young boy named Alex who has recently moved to the small town of Stermont. He and his two friends, Rip and Nikki, are apart of the S.S.M.P- Super Secret Monster Patrol. On their way to school, they spot a trail of candy, and then Alexander trips into what he thought was a hole. Recovering from his fall, Alexander, Rip, and Nikki, realize that it is not a normal hole, but instead, the footprint, to a monster. Their town is trashed with candy, and buildings look stomped upon. It wasn't until they hear a loud vibration occur, and a loud roar that Rip saw the dinosaur. They gang tried to discover what did the candy have to do with this monster, and the finally realized that this wasn't any regular dinosaur, but a P-Rex! A pinata-saurus Rex!

The author is very descriptive throughout the book. He uses several literary devices, such as onomatopoeia, descriptive language, similes and metaphors, and personification. I believe the use of these literary devices makes the book appealing.

The primary medium for this book is pencil. It puts the reader in the mindset of reading a middle school student's notebook. The sketches aren't to scale, or realistic but more cartoon style. I believe this helps make the book engaging. My favorite illustrations in the book are the actual journal entries. When they finally discover the P-Rex, the put it in the S.S.M.P Notebook.. The entry includes a drawing of the monster, its habitat, diet, behavior, and other interesting facts about the monster.

I believe the book was very engaging. Even as a college student I was interested in trying to figure out how to get rid out that P-Rex. I believe this books falls under the higher spectrum of early childhood and the lower spectrum for middle. I could see myself having this book in my fourth grade classroom library. This book also integrates science and language arts topics. The S.S.M.P had to observe the evidence and then in detail explain what they observed. The first basic steps of a science lab report. By reading this book, I believe it could improve a students lab report writing skills. Overall, I really enjoyed the book, and plan to read the other 5 books in the series. 

Review by Kimyada Clanton 

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. The Mecha-Monkeys From Mars

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. The Mecha-Monkeys From Mars 

Story by Dav Pilkey; Art by Dan Santat
New York, NY : Scholastic Inc., 2014, Grades 3-5

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. The Mecha-Monkeys From Mars is about Ricky and his robot getting in trouble with his parents. After being grounded for wrecking their parents' car, a mouse in a spaceship says he needs help on Mars. Ricky's robot goes off to help but gets trapped by Mr. Monkey's evil monkey minions! Mr. Monkey takes off to Earth to enslave all of Mousekind!

Dav Pilkey's writing style tells you exactly what is happening in the story with no elements. The writing is not as important in this book because of the picture-driven story. Pilkey develops the character of the villain and brings the story full circle at the end of the book.

The illustrations are the most important part of the story. It would be possible to follow the storyline by just looking at the pictures on the pages, and not actually reading the words on the page. The medium of these illustrations are colored pencil drawings.

I recommend this story to anyone who is looking for a fun story. There is not much meaning in the book, however it is just a fun story for school aged children to read, or for a parent to read for their child. 

Review by Benjamin Swartz 

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. The Mutant Mosquitoes From Mercury

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. The Mutant Mosquitoes From Mercury
Story by Dav Pilkey; Art by Dan Santat
New York, NY : Scholastic Inc., 2014, Grades 3-5

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. The Mutant Mosquitoes From Mercury is the story about a small mouse who has created a giant robot friend. Mr. Mosquito is sick and tired of living on Mercury because of the hot days and the cold nights. Mr. Mosquito creates giant, mutant mosquitoes that he wants to use to take over Earth. As Mr. Mosquito attacks Earth with his mutant mosquitoes, Ricky and his robot must fight to save the planet!

The authors's writing style is very student friendly. Also, Pilkey is able to incorporate math content into his story when Ricky is taking his math test. He builds up the background of the villain and gives him a motive. There is no need to look deep into his writing because the writing describes what is happening in the illustrations. The illustrations in this book really drive the story.

The illustrations are the mainstay of this story. There are large illustrations on each and every page of this story. They drive the story. These pictures seem to be a crayon or colored pencil drawings. Due to that fact that there are illustrations on every page of the book, I do not believe that there is one illustration that is most effective in developing the story as a whole.

I enjoyed the book Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. The Mutant Mosquitoes From Mercury. I am a fan of his as I grew up reading some of his previous books like Captain Underpants. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to read a book for pure fun and enjoyment.

Review by Benjamin Swartz 

Can't Look Away

Can't Look Away 
By Donna Cooner
New York : Point, 2014, Ages 12-17

This book is about Torrey Grey, a widely famous internet sensation. Torrey loves to post videos about beauty and fashion, but when her sister is killed in an accident, Torrey can't help but think that it might be because of her videos. The only way Torrey knows how to grieve is through the internet, which doesn't go over well with her audience; they bash her because of it. At her brand new school, she doesn't know who to trust and who to stay away from, so when dark and brooding Luis catches Torrey's eye, she doesn't know what to do. With the ultimate help from Luis, and a surprising friendship she finds in Raylene, Torrey learns to accept who she is without the constant adoration from her internet site.

Donna Cooner wrote in such a way that I was entranced in this book from beginning to end. It was written with suspense, heartbreak, and love; some of my favorite things in a good book. There were quotes throughout from Torrey's vlogs at the beginning of each chapter, which I thought really tied in with the whole internet theme of the book. Overall I loved how I was waiting to see what was going to happen next at any point in the point due to her cues and points of suspense.

The only picture in the book is the front title, which is a collage of a girl, assuming she's supposed to be Torrey, sitting in front of a computer making multiple faces that represent her moods throughout the book.

I really enjoyed this book and I think it would make a great addition to a middle school library as a young, love, heartbreaking story. It has a lot of the aspects of what middle school is like, which is why I really think middle schoolers would appeal to this book right away. I would definitely recommend this book to my girlfriends, but like I said more towards middle to high school level readers would enjoy this book much more. Great read! 

Review by Kara Allison


By Eileen Cook
New York : Simon Pulse, 2015, Ages 14-18

Harper is a senior in high school who's got it all. She has a wonderful best friend, a serious boyfriend, a competitive horse, and loving, rich parents. Her father is the owner and founder of Neurotech, a company that administrates a procedure that "softens" the difficult memories that people cannot handle. When Harper's horse passes away, she cannot cope with the loss. Against her father's wishes, she sneaks into Neurotech and receives the treatment under a false name. Afterwards, she begins to start having strange visions that feel like memories and even begins to distance herself from her loved ones. She meets a boy, Neil, while he is protesting Neurotech and he causes her to begin questioning whether Neurotech is as great as she has always been told, or if there are dark secrets being kept from her.

The author's writing style perfectly matches the feelings of a high school female. The story is written from a first person perspective, revealing the innermost thoughts and concerns of Harper throughout the novel. The author's sarcastic comments, dramatic exaggerations, determined attitude, and identity confusion completely align with those of a teenage girl, which makes the book very relatable for high school students, especially females.

The front cover of the novel is of a teenage girl that is staring straight into the camera. The only aspect of the photo that is completely in focus is one of the girl's eyes. Everything else, including the title of the book, is faintly faded and blurry looking. This completely alludes to the feelings of Harper throughout the novel. She finds that it is difficult to remember certain things after her procedure, but begins to vaguely remember things at the same time. This causes her to feel lost and confused, which is captured by the cover of the book.
In my opinion, this book was very enjoyable. I believe that it would be perfect for teenage girls to read, although it might also be entertaining to anyone that has an interest in romantic interests, horses, procedures that wipe out memories, mysterious visions, and family secrets. The book can help teenagers learn not only how to deal with loss, but why it is important. Towards the end of the book, Harper realizes that it is important to deal with hardships, rather than push them aside. She begins to find out what is true in her life and not to take anything for granted, especially her best friend. I think that any teenage girl would love this book and could really learn a lot from the major themes. 

Review by Stephanie Dodge

Monday, April 06, 2015

Surrounded By Sharks

Surrounded By Sharks 
By Michael Northrop
New York : Scholastic Press, 2014, Ages 12-15

On the first day of a family vacation, a teenage boy, Davey, wakes up early and decides to take his favorite book outside to find a quiet reading area. He finds a secluded beach with an old, weathered sign that says, "No Sw mm ng!" Davey does not intend to swim, but ends up wading out into the water and being pulled out to sea by a rip current. When his family wakes up they are alarmed to find that Davey is not there.

The author writes each new chapter from the perspective of different characters in the novel. He explains how the story unfolds from Davey's perspective in the water. Then the perspective shifts to Brando, Davey's younger brother, and how he feels as his family is searching for his brother. The author also writes chapters from the perspective of Drew, a teenage girl vacationing on the same island, and even, the shark as it is searching the sea and competing for it's next meal.

The cover of the book is a deep blue color with many sharks swimming around the title. The dark, ominous cover could be very intriguing for the reader as it suggests the horrors that they would face if they were in that situation and encourages them to find out what the characters go through as they are "surrounded by sharks."

I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to others. I feel that children between seventh and ninth grade would probably enjoy this book the most; however, I feel it would be appropriate for other ages as well, considering that I am a college student that could not put the book down until I found out what happened next. It could teach children to not go anywhere without telling anyone where they are, whether they are on vacation, near home, or anywhere. This book is an all around great book. From the subtle foreshadowing that leaves one in suspense, fearing for Davey's life, to the devotion of the family to find him, anyone could love this story. 

Review by Stephanie Dodge

Friday, April 03, 2015

Vivian Apple At the End of the World

Vivian Apple At the End of the World 
By Katie Coyle
New York, New York : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, Ages 12-17

This story is a Modern Day tale of how a church, Church of America, can take over the nation and make citizens believe that a Rapture is about to happen. This tale is about three seventeen year-olds who go on an adventure to find the truth of what exactly happened during the rapture. This tale is focused on Vivian Apple and her personal experience of the Rapture and how she finds the truth about her family and life through her driving cross country from Pittsburgh to California with her best friend Harp and a blue- eyed boy named Peter. The three ending up finding a truth that they were not expecting and thus causing a major plot twist.
The author Katie Coyle, made this story be an adventure for the reader. She used imagery very well in the text. The reader can imagine what is happening and feel the adventure occurring in the story. The author does an excellent job of incorporating humor in the story. The overall concept of the text is grim and with the humor, it makes it more appealing and intriguing to the reader. With this, the idea of friendship and courage is correlated together through the adventure of Vivian and Harp. Even though the book, overall, does not directly relate to the readers life, little parts of what the author writes does. The book focuses on Vivian's growth as a person, and this can relate to a student ages 12 to 17 well and how they can grow to be a stronger person no matter with what they are faced with. 
The only picture of the book is the cover. The cover shows a girl around Vivian's age wearing converse and a yellow dress. This would represent the main character Vivian. She is jumping looking like she is trying to find peace up above. Under her is pavement that similarly represents an X; with the background looking somewhat of an ocean. This background is also very vacant mostly focusing on the girl.This could foreshadow an adventure waiting to happen, where the ocean or somewhere around that area is where the final destination is.
In my opinion, this book is excellent. It is a thrilling adventure that makes you want to keep reading more. I was constantly on the edge of my seat while reading. I had no idea what would come next, and if I did, I was very wrong. The story shows how a young girl grows in a few short months to be a outspoken woman. I appreciated how the author focused on the the young girls being the main characters and the saving grace in the story. The theme that I liked most throughout the story was to take the road less traveled. The characters often did this, and it seemed very much so successful. 

Review by H. Gilbert

It's Raining!

It's Raining! 
By Gail Gibbons
New York : Holiday House, 2014, Ages 7-11

This story is all about the water cycle. First, the story begins by talking about the different states of water and provides examples of what each state looks like. Secondly, the story talks about the different kinds of clouds and what type of clouds indicate what type of weather is coming. Finally, the author discusses the different destruction that can occur from the different types of storms. Also discussed is the different ways that people can help to clean up after the destruction.

The author's writing style is easy to understand and follow. What grabbed my attention the most is the way the book flowed and was set up. The book talks about each step in the process of creating storms, types of storms, and what happens after damages occur from storms. I think my favorite line of the book is at the end where it says, "Sometimes while it's raining or just after it's rained there is a RAINBOW!" I think that this shows children that there can be a happy ending to a storm and that storms do not always cause destruction.

The primary medium is watercolor. She uses a variety of colors to be able to show depth in her pictures. This gives her pictures a sense of being real.

I really liked the book. I thought that this would be a good book to use in grades 3-5 because that is when we talk about the water cycle. This book would be a great engagement for students to learn about the water cycle. But, it would also give students an idea of how they can help out in their community if their community was ever hit with a bad storm.

Review by Stephanie Siegel 

A Math Journey Through the Animal Kingdom

A Math Journey Through the Animal Kingdom
By  Anne Rooney
St. Catharines, Ontario ; New York : Crabtree Publishing, 2015, Ages 8-13

This story has fifteen different scenarios which the student is to solve. On the first page of each activity, it is explained on how to solve a specific type of problem with an example. Then on the following page is an activity for students to complete with questions. 

The story is more vocabulary and activity based for students. Through reading this book students will be given vocabulary words and shown an example describing what the word means. For example, "The perimeter is the distance around the outline of a shape. The area of a shape is the space inside the perimeter." In the book every word but perimeter and area is bold so that way students know what the vocabulary word or words are for those two pages.

The illustrations are all pictures. I believe that all the illustrations are effective because all the activities use animals in their activity which will keep all students engaged.

I thought the book was fantastic. The activities in the book could be used for entrance slips or exit slips. But could also be used as test questions which students would enjoy because all the question are related to animals. I definitely recommend this book for grades 3-8. There is a variety of activities for all grades. 

Review by Stephanie Siegel

Baby's First Easter

Baby's First Easter 
By Dave Aikins
New York, New York : Grosset & Dunlap, 2015, Ages 0-2

This story is about a baby's first Easter and what happens that day. 

The author's writing style is short pages and engaging for baby's.

I would describe the illustrations as bold, bright, and textured with some shiny foil pages

My children ages 2 & 3 loved this book. As a parent I loved that we could interacted with the book. There was even a page where my 3 yr old was able to count eggs! I would recommend the book to others!

Review by Kaylene Kiefer

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul
By Jeff Kinney

Amulet, 2014, Ages 8-13

This book is the newest addition to a book series about a boy named Greg Heffley. It is currently summertime and Greg is looking forward to enjoying his time off from school. His mother however has an entirely different idea. She wants to take a family road trip because of a magazine that she reads that is all about family fun. Little does she know that the trip will turn into a trip they will never forget. Greg writes in his diary about all the crazy stuff that happens along the way.

The author wrote in a fun and creative way. His writing style also has a very laid back feel to it. It makes it very relatable to any modern day family with all the crazy stuff that happens while on vacation. You can tell that he is having fun writing the stuff that he does.

The pictures in this book are everywhere. Since it is technically Greg's diary, it appears as if you are reading a journal because the words are on lined paper and in a font that appears to be a kid's handwriting. Kinney also includes illustrations for many of the scenes that Greg talks about throughout the book. It allows the reader to picture what is going on.

I really enjoyed this book. I think it would be a great book to have in a classroom library. It is full of comedy and fun and all of the pictures really enhance that aspect. I enjoyed the theme because it made me think back to my old family vacations and all the crazy stuff that happens and how nothing ever goes exactly as planned. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that likes to read, but more specifically to middle school aged kids. It was a great read!

Reviewed by: Laura Shelley

Catch a Falling Star

Catch a Falling Star
By Kim Culbertson

Point, Scholastic Inc., 2014, Ages 12-17

Carter Moon lives in Little, California and is completely content with her quiet, rarely interesting life.

The author wrote in a very fun way that was also extremely easy to relate to for the audience. It was written in first person, through the eyes of Carter Moon, which I really liked. This aspect made it easier to see things the way Carter did, and it gave us insight we might not have gotten had it been in the third person style. The theme of the book was pretty generic in my eyes, but the storyline was fun and I found myself flying through the pages.
But when Hollywood actor and teenage heartthrob Adam Jakes comes to town to film one of his movies, everything about Carter's life changes — she just doesn't know if it's for the better or not. Every girl in Little is screaming and clawing to get to see Adam, everyone but Carter that is. She finds it annoying actually, which makes her the perfect girl in Adam's eyes... well, only for pretend though. Wanting to improve his public image, Adam hires Carter to be his fake girlfriend while he's in town, and for the sake of Carter's misguided brother who has left their family with money problems, Carter accepts the proposal. As the two grow closer and spend more time together, neither is who the other thought they would turn out to be. Lines are crossed, and become blurred between what's actually real, and what's just for the cameras sake. Can Carter figure out what she wants to do with the rest of her life, and does that include Adam Jakes?

There are no illustrations in this book except for on the front cover. It shows a young girl sitting outside at night looking out at a beautiful sunset and sky. The title "Catch a Falling Star" is in big, blue text and symbolizes Carter herself when she pretty much literally "catches" a star, in Adam Jakes.

I personally enjoyed this book, but I am a hopeless romantic, I must confess. The plot of the story is pretty cheesy; Hollywood actor meets small town girl and they fall in love, but it worked for me. I would recommend this to others, but probably not for college and high school kids. It's more of a young adult book, but if you're just looking for a casual read anybody can definitely read this! 

Reviewed by Kara Allison

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Game Over, Pete Watson

Game Over, Pete Watson
By Joe Schreiber, Illustrated by Andy Rash 
Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2014, Ages 10-13

The book was creative and had a fresh take on video games. The young boy lived his life like a video game. He would play video games over and over, even when he wasn't supposed to be playing. The whole book hilariously includes pictures of video games. The book was interesting to see what life as a video game looks like. The book was fun to read and interesting.
 The author wrote in a fun and fresh way. He made the book relate to the audience. The book was well written and the theme was fun. The author wrote in language that could be easily understood by the readers. The book had a good theme throughout the entire book.

The pictures were fun to look at. The pictures really showed what a video game looks like. The illustrations helped to keep the book interesting. All of the pictures tied together well with the words. The pictures and words were a good combination to make this book fun to read.  

I really enjoyed the book and thought it was interesting. The book was fun and silly, which made me want to read more. I would recommend this book to anyone. Middle school students would probably like this book the most. The book was fun and the theme was a good idea.  

Review by Brooke Bennett

Heaven is Paved with Oreos

 Heaven is Paved with Oreos 
Catherine Gilbert Murdock  
Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2013, Ages 10-15

The young girl in the book had a best friend at school. She went and traveled a lot and wrote about it in her journal. She wrote a lot in her journal and enjoyed writing. She was an eight grader and seemed to be the typical eight grade girl. She enjoyed traveling and writing down what she saw. 

The author wrote in a format like most books, but also wrote in a journal style. She wrote how the girl would write in her journal. The journal writing format was interesting to read since it was different. The book was well written and had fitting language for the readers. The book had a good theme and was fun to read. 

 The illustrations were mostly in the journals. She would write about what she saw, but sometimes there would be pictures. The pictures tied in the story and the reader was able to see what she as talking about. The book was well put together and was interesting to read. The book had good pictures to demonstrate where she traveled.

I thought the book was interesting and it was nice to see pictures of other places in the world. It was interesting to see what the girl saw when she was traveling. I liked the theme of the book and wanted to know more about the places. I would recommend the book to anyone who likes to read. I would mostly recommend this book to middle school girls.

Reviewed by Brooke Bennett  

History's Greatest Disasters: Hurricane Katrina

History's Greatest Disasters:  Hurricane Katrina
Peggy Caravantes
Minneapolis:  ABDO, 2014, Ages 8-13

This book is about the tragic U.S. natural disaster that occurred in 2005 within New Orleans, Louisana, which is known as Hurricane Katrina. The author, Peggy Caravantes, wrote the book to inform the audience of the history of Hurricane Katrina, as well as the efforts taken after the event to rebuild the city of New Orleans. By breaking up the book into five chapters, One: A Storm Is Born, Two: Landfall, Three: Suffering In New Orleans, Four: Facing the Aftermath, and Five: Moving Forward, the audience is shown how the event of Hurricane Katrina and it's aftermath progressed from start to finish. To visually show this progression Caravantes uses a lot of charts, and photographs to show how Katrina started as a small scale storm, and eventually became a Category 5 hurricane.

I personally love the writing style Caravantes uses within the book because it is concise, as well as easy to read. The book is very factual so rather than making the book wordy, Caravantes rather just states facts. For example, the first sentence of Chapter Four states, "Eighty percent of New Orleans was underwater after Hurricane Katrina" (29). Making the text very clear and concise allows young adolescents to get the necessary information they need, which is an upside to the book. 

The primary medium being used as visual aids are photographs. Since Hurricane Katrina was a more recent event in our nation's history many photos can be found about the event and therefore many photographs are used within the book. Each photograph is placed appropriately and effectively to get the message across of what each page was trying to convey. The most effective photo that I believe develops the story as a whole is the aerial shot of the seating in the Superdome on page 14. I believe this is a very effective photo because it shows how many people were displaced due to Hurricane Katrina and therefore forced into shelters, such as the Superdome. 

 In my opinion, this book is fantastic! It is full of very detailed and factual information that is relevant to the topic of the book. I would definitely recommend the book to young adolescents interested in Earth Science or a child that is interested in History. I would recommend the book to young adolescents because the book is of shorter length with a basic level of text. Overall, I think History's Greatest Disasters: Hurricane Katrina is a very informative book that places emphasis on a very important event in our nation's history.

Reviewed by J. Gilbride

The Meanest Birthday Girl

The Meanest Birthday Girl
Josh Schneider
Boston: Clarion Books, 2013, Ages 9-11

This story is about a mean girl, Dana, who got everything she ever wanted for her birthday. Dana was very mean to this boy Anthony, so he decided to give her a white elephant for her birthday. This elephant took a lot of hard work to take care of and then this girl, Gertrude, started to be mean to her like she was to Anthony. When it was Gertrude's birthday, Dana decided to give the elephant to her as a present like Anthony did. 

The author used some dialogue with each character throughout the book. The book was separated into 5 chapters and each had its on little story for each chapter. The title for each described what that chapter was going to be about. 

The illustrations were very nice and colorful. Every picture on each page told the story and let you visualize what it actually looked like. The pictures really made the story come to life. The pictures showed great detail with the exact emotions and what the elephant looked like. 

I really enjoyed this book. I liked how the author used an elephant to stop bullying. The elephant represented hard work and the time it took to take care of it. I think the elephant made Dana realize that she needs stop being mean to others because she didn't want to be treated that way either. I would recommend this book to upper elementary lower middle school around 9 to 11 year olds. This would be a great book to show kids that being mean to others is not the right thing. Also, it shows that if someone is being mean to you that you don't do the exact thing back. Being the bigger person is the right way to go. 

Reviewed by Josh Schneider

The Animal Book: A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest - and Most Surprising - Animals on Earth

The Animal Book: A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest - and Most Surprising - Animals on Earth
By Steve Jenkins
Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Books For Children, 2013, Ages 6-12

Steven Jenkins brings animals both living and extinct to life in this book of facts. Jenkins starts the book with a general definition of what an animal is, continues through the different animal's lives and deaths, and ends with the beginning of it all. The lucky individual that picks up this book will enjoy reading every page of it.

Jenkins writes this story full of enthusiasm and information. Reading about the different animals in this book, it's clear that Jenkins has a love for science. 

The images throughout this book give any young reader an appropriate and fun visual of what each named animal looks or looked like. With a section full of actual sized animals, any reader can find themselves looking into the face of a Siberian Tiger or comparing their hand to that of a gorilla's. Filled with a variety of diagrams, timelines, and general pictures, anyone reading this book of animals will find it difficult to tire from turning the pages.

Reading this book I found myself glued to the pages. Learning about animals I had never heard of had me searching for more information. The actual sized animals and their features section had me comparing my own eyes and hands to these monstrous beings. I would recommend this book to any child between the ages of 8 and 12. Though a younger reader might enjoy it as well, I think the older children will take away more. The facts listed throughout this book are interesting enough to make any child want to read more.

Reviewed by Kelsey Hadding

The Adventures of a South Pole Pig

The Adventures of a South Pole Pig
By Chris Kurtz, Illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt
Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013, Ages 10-13

The Adventures of a South Pole Pig by Chris Kurtz is about a adventurous pig named Flora. Flora tells the story from her point of view and while she is not like the other pigs she seeks a voyage out of the pig pen. Flora lives with her mother and siblings and one day gets the adventure she wants when she volunteers herself to be captured by a man wanting a piglet. She sees this as the start of an adventure but it is really a dangerous journey. She envisions herself finally getting to be a sled pig. Flora assumes she will be part of the sled dogs she is traveling with, but as the readers find out she is planned to be made into an entree. Flora meets many other friends, gets in dangerous situations and conquers many tasks along her journey on the ship.

Chris Kurtz writing style in this book was definitely a narrative style. He writes this novel to entertain and tell the story of Flora and her adventures. He writes in 38 fairly short chapters with much dialogue and some description. The characters are well-developed. 

The cover is Flora surrounded by her three friends and some of the other characters. There is white space and snow flakes where there is not illustrations or words. The criss-crossed font for the title and names of the author is a adventurous and will grab children's attention. The illustrations within the novel are in black and white and help to understand what is going on. While some take up half a page, others only take up a quarter of the page. The illustrations are placed randomly throughout the novel, but they enhance the children's understand of the book, as they did for me. 

I thought this novel was throughly entertaining and I enjoyed it. Although not realistic and I was not informed much on the South Pole or the type of pig that Flora was I enjoyed the story that this novel had to tell. I would recommend this book to any teacher trying to read aloud to their students in the classroom for entertainment purposes. The story demonstrates bravery, friendship and many other great qualities. It makes me think twice about eating pig meat. I do not usually enjoy hearing stories from an animal's point of view, but I thought this was a really good novel. 

Reviewed by Olivia Webb 

Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality

Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality
Elizabeth Eulberg
New York: Scholastic Books, 2013, Ages 14-18

Lexi, a junior in high school, works hard at her job to help support her younger sister, Mackenzie, and single mother, though she is frustrated with their expensive beauty pageant habit. Longing for the visibility enjoyed by the more popular girls at school, Lexi takes some hints from her younger sister's personal beautician and learns some lessons about what beauty means- and doesn't- along the way.

The novel is written in the first person, so readers know what Lexi is thinking. It is also entirely in the present tense, which is fairly unusual and gives a sense of being in the story as it happens. I like the realism of this book as a whole. The tension in Lexi's dysfunctional little family comes out loud and clear, particularly between Lexi and her mother. Lexi's character manages to sound put-upon without coming across as cloying or overly pessimistic, and the compassion she has for her younger sister shines through beautifully. Their love/hate sibling relationship rings true to me, even though I have never been in Lexi's particular situation, and I appreciate the author's ability to forge connections with readers.

There are no illustrations except for the cover. The title is written in dark red lipstick against a white background. The lipstick tube lies at the bottom, and symbolizes the extent to which appearance is emphasized in the book, whether it is in Mackenzie's beauty pageants, her mother's insistence on appearing like she has everything together, or with Lexi herself.

Since the protagonist of the book is halfway through high school, I would recommend this book to upper junior high students and high school students. Those who are interested in beauty pageants (positively or negatively) will probably enjoy this character's "outsider" take on them. One of her friends, Benny, is gay, but to be honest, the character feels token and out of the blue, as though he is only in the book because Ms. Eulberg's editor strongly recommended that a gay character be added in order to emphasize awareness. That said, the author manages to devote too much time to Benny's subplot to the point of taking away from the main storyline, and those who are uncomfortable may shy away from that part of the story. Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was heartfelt and funny and sad, sometimes all at once.

Reviewed by Abigail Kruse

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pink: Pop Singer & Songwriter

Rebecca Rowell
Minneapolis:  ABDO, 2014, Ages 10-16

This story is about a troubled teen named Alecia Moore and how she matured and became the pop star Pink. Pink was not always the pop star that she is known as today, but this book gives her fans some insights into the sort of person Pink really is. This book tells of the defining and life changing moments in Alecia Moore /Pinks career. There are a lot of things that could have changed Pinks career for the good or bad, but since Pink always stayed true to who she was and gave it her all she has always made it out on top and has been successful. 

The writing style is very easy to read and pulls the readers in with nice details. It reads similar to a captivating magazine article.

There were no illustrations in this book but there were many pictures that were excellent quality that helped tell Pink’s story. 

I really enjoyed this book it was very informational and had great pictures. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that has interests in music or likes learning about people. This book is a great read and it could capture the attention of non-readers too with its great graphics, interesting facts, and great writing style. I feel that this book is best for ages 10 and up, it would not be appropriate for anyone younger than the age 9 because it does talk about pinks troubled past. 

Reviewed by Rebecca Rowell

Eight Dolphins of Katrina: A True Tale of Survival

Eight Dolphins of Katrina:  A True Tale of Survival 
By Janet Wyman Coleman, illustrated by Yan Nascimbene
Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013, Ages 11-15

This story is about eight dolphins who survived the disasters of Hurricane Katrina. These eight dolphins lived and were raised at the Marine Life Oceanarium in Mississippi. Before the storm hit the trainers moved some of the dolphins to safer locations but the last eight dolphins had no other place to go and had to be left. When Katrina hit it destroyed the Oceanarium and those eight dolphins were washed back into the Gulf. The trainers were worried they would not be able to survive on their own but insisted on searching the Gulf for them. Miraculously, all eight of them turned up and were healthy and unharmed because they stayed together.

This is a nonfiction book and written as an expository. This means that the book was written to share an event that happened and it was not written in first person but has a lot of details. Coleman did not experience this situation first-hand but she interviewed the doctor and trainers and got the information first-hand. Along with gathering a lot of first-hand information, the author does a great job at capturing emotion and keeping the readers interest. It is an easy read but because of the knowledge the reader must have about what Hurricane Katrina was, I think it was meant for a 4th or 5th grade student. 

While the book had a great story line, I think what I liked best was the pictures. The book's cover shows a real picture of two dolphins in the water smiling up at you. This picture is what pulled my attention to the book in the first place before I even read the title. The book starts off as illustrated drawings and they are perfectly portraying what is happening in the story. They are vibrant, detailed, and really grab the reader’s attention. The pictures even do a good job at capturing the emotion that the trainers and readers must be feeling about these missing dolphins. At the end it also includes real pictures of the dolphins, trainers, rescue helicopter and the Oceanarium to give the readers an exact picture.

In my opinion, this book deserves 5 stars. I think that it shares a lot of content about what really did happen during Hurricane Katrina, gives a good story line and provides a lot of detailed pictures. The book for me was easy to read and kept my interest the entire time, which is why I think it would appeal to lower middle level students. The only reason that the book may not appeal to some readers is if they did not know what Hurricane Katrina was, how big of an impact it had, and how incredible it was that the dolphins were actually rescued.

Reviewed by Amanda Monschein