Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race

Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race by Chris Grabenstein is the third book in the Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series.

Mr. Lemoncello and his fantabulous library is back for another adventure filled with riddles, fun, facts and of course books. After escaping the library and competing in the Library Olympics what else is there for Kyle Keeley and his friends to do? Race of course!

Mr. Lemoncello is on the verge of revealing his new fabulous fact-finding frenzy game and in Lemoncello fashion, he is asking his friends of the library to compete in a race to see who will tour the libraries of the world and debut his new game. Of course Kyle and his friends can’t wait to compete!

But the race ends up being about more than just a game. Kyle Keeley and his friends find themselves in a race of another kind… a race to the truth.

It is just so much fun uncovering clues and reading/hearing quotes from books you’ve read. It’s like “Hey! I’ve read that book too!” People love that and Grabenstein is constantly referencing popular books and authors. This is definitely a series for book lovers.

The Lemoncello world is a world I want to visit. I’d love to ride around in book mobiles and race across the states to find clues and solve riddles. And the library just gets cooler and cooler with each book. Please take me to this library!!!

My only criticism of this one is that all of the Lemoncello books feel very familiar. Yes, the plots are different but the contests and fact finding games are all very similar. It is still a lot of fun though and I did enjoy that this one focused on doing research and not taking shortcuts.

Overall, this was another entertaining read by Chris Grabenstein. Grabenstein really does write some great children’s books. This one gets a high 3.5-4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

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Amina’s Voice

Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan is middle grade, realistic fiction chapter book. Amina is a sixth grade, Pakistani-American Muslim who is trying to navigate her way through middle school, while maintaining the traditions of her community.

Amina’s always been shy when it comes to speaking in front of people. She get’s tongue tied and nervous, so she’s always been okay with keeping to the background and hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. But sixth grade feels different. Soojin thinks boys are cute and her best friend is hanging out with someone knew and Amina is afraid she is going to be replaced. At home, Amina’s uncle arrived from Pakistan for a long visit and everyone is on edge, trying to be perfect and impress this very religious and opinionated relative.

When trouble strikes at school and within her Muslim community, Amina is overwhelmed and unsure. Can Amina find her voice and overcome these trying times?

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read that really does take into consideration many of this issues kids face today. Building and losing friendships, religious beliefs, hate crimes, parental/familial pressures and expectations, anxiety, pressure and more. Being a kid is tough and every child is different and deals with these differences differently and I think this book portrays this well.

Amina is an interesting main character. Her troubles and fears and completely relatable and yet she is a sweet-natured, well meaning girl. There were several instances where I would have thought most children would have lied but Amina instead tells the truth and continue to fret about her wrongs. She also asks questions when things get too big, rather then keeping her troubled thoughts inside. I like to think this is a realistic 6th grader buuut, I am not totally convinced that a sixth grader would be as sensitive as Amina. I am sure they are out there, I was just surprised by how good natured Amina is.

Amina’s Voice is a book about diversity, tolerance and the trials of everyday life for a middle schooler. Although I think this book would appeal more to girls, there are a few strong male characters as well. Definitely a book I would recommend for someone looking for realistic fiction with diverse characters.

This book gets a high 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Ghost

Ghost by Jason Reynolds is a fifth-sixth grade, juvenile fiction coming of age novel. Castle Cranshaw, aka Ghost, has always been good at one thing… running. Ghost always thought he’d play basketball, but he’s never tried out for the team. One day, Ghost impulsively challenges a track member to a sprint and the coach sees his potential and recruits him for the team. But Ghost has never been a part of a team before and the only this he’s ever really run from his past… his past and trouble.

Ghost is full of anger and is conflicted about letting the team in. Can he overcome his past, his emotions and tear down the barriers that keep him from being great?

I always try to read several of the Maryland Black Eyed Susan nominees after they’ve been announced. I like to do this because it’s a great way to read outside of your comfort zone and familiarize yourself with different genres of juvenile literature.

Ghost is the perfect coming of age book for boys and it covers such a wide range of topics kids are dealing with these days. Just some of the themes that are addressed are: bullying, socioeconomic issues, family struggles, issues in right and wrong, building confidence, believing in oneself and so much more. Some of these themes can be sensitive like gun violence and drug abuse, but I think they hard handled very well and I personally would even recommend this book to a well read fourth grader.

This book definitely has a little of everything without feeling over done or overwhelming. One of the things I really liked about it was the relationship that develops between Ghost and Coach. It was very realistic and very real. In fact the whole book was just so believable and just very, very real.

Ghost definitely deserves to be a contender for the 2017-2018 BES award. It’s a great read for boys, especially those reluctant readers. I think everyone can find some aspect of Ghost to relate to.

Great read. This one gets five stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

Word of Mouse

Word of Mouse by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein is a middle school, juvenile fiction novel about a little mouse with a big heart. Isaiah is a very special mouse, not only is he “electric neon blue” but he is super smart, he can read, write and if you listen very carefully he can even talk!

Our story begins when Isaiah and his 96 multi-colored brothers and sisters attempt to break out of the “bad place” but something goes horribly wrong and Isaiah is the only one who makes it out. Now he is on his own in a world he knows nothing about, dodging cats, dogs and trying to make it alone.

But a mouse needs his mischief and Isaiah is determined to get his back. With the help of some very unlikely friends, Isaiah may just do that and find a little courage along the way.

Patterson and Grabenstein make a great team. This was such a fun, inspiring story the kids will love. Isaiah has an upbeat, positive attitude even when all seems lost. He is able to see the positive side of everything and he will do the right thing even if it isn’t easy.

Although there are a ton of lessons in this book, the biggest theme is that being different isn’t just okay, it’s great! Everyone is different and when we look past our differences we can see what’s really special in each and every one of us. Isaiah learns (and teaches us) that when you are told what to do and what to be that you can miss out on opportunities and hidden talents you never knew you had. This is something every parent, teacher and adult wants to (or should want to) teach our children and this book definitely gets that point across.

I listened to the audio book of Word of Mouse and it was fantastic. A really great one to bring with you in the car and probably an even better one to read out loud to your kids. I could also see this being a positive middle school book club pick.

I thought this was a really great read. This one gets a high 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Wolf Hollow

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk is another juvenile fiction book, with a historical feel, nominated for the 2017-2018 Maryland Black Eyed Susan Award.

For a town living in the shadow of WWI, Annabelle and her family live a quiet but peaceful live in small-town Pennsylvania. Annabelle and her two younger brothers walk to their one-room school every day from their family’s farmhouse. One day, things are shaken up in Wolf Hollow when a new student enters Annabelle’s life, Betty Glengarry.

Betty is a cruel and manipulative little girl who has her sights set on Annabelle. When Annabelle refuses to put up with Betty’s bullying, Betty threatens her younger brothers. Things only escalate when Toby, an eccentric WWI veteran who lives on the outskirts of society, gets involved.

As Betty’s malice turns toward Toby, things go from bad to worse in a hurry. Missing children, pointed fingers and more. Can Annabelle uncover the truth when no one will believe her?

Oh boy, I did not know what I was getting into when I started this one. This is a very serious book with serious themes and serious actions and repercussions. I read another reviewer’s comment that this is a middle school read… but not–and I feel the exact same way. I don’t think I would recommend this book to a sensitive reader.  Although, it is definitely a book that adults would enjoy and perhaps reading this one with your child (or at the same time) would be the way to go. But as a warning there is death, severe injury to children, lies and persecution in this book.

I think one of the main, positive, themes of this book is truth–telling the truth and not giving in to what everyone around you says/believes. Annabelle knows right from wrong and she pursues the truth with dogged determination, even if it means fibbing and blurring lines to get there. Annabelle’s family are well respected in her small town and even so, doing the right thing isn’t easy when lies are spurred on by gossip and too quick judgements.

This book is actually a prime example of how the best laid plans can devolve into chaos at rapid speed. I mean, the meat of this book takes place in only a matter of two or  three days at the most. And, for me, this was a realistic and important lesson. Things don’t always go as planned even if you have the best intentions at heart.

This wasn’t a bad read but I worry that it might upset it’s intended audience. Yes, we need strong fiction with a variety of morals and lessons but I think we need to prepare young readers for this one. It definitely should be recommended but maybe with a caveat.

This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Wild Robot

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown is a juvenile fiction novel up for this years 2017-2018 Black Eyed Susan award.

When a shipment of robots crashes on a deserted island, one lone robot is left intact. When Roz is accidentally awoken by a curious otter, she opens her eyes for the first time, alone, on a remote and wild island. Not knowing anything about her whereabouts or how she got there, Roz does the only thing she can do, survive.

Slowly Roz begins to adapt to her surroundings. She watches and learns survival techniques from the animals around her. Eventually, Roz learns to speak the language of the animals but they are weary of the monster invading their island. When an accident causes Roz to adopt a baby gosling, the rest of the island begins to see Roz for the asset she very well may be.

This is a story of survival. A story of adapting to the world around you and working together to beat the odds.

You wouldn’t think a book about robots and wildlife would mesh well but it surprisingly does. You really do get a lot out of this book. We learn about different animal habitats and habits. You get to see the good and the bad parts of mother nature in ways that aren’t overly graphic for the kids and are done in an abstract, educational way.

There were also a lot of great lessons in this book. Team work, determination and never giving up, accepting ones differences and finding the beauty in even the worst circumstances. This is definitely a book for readers of all ages and quite appropriate for it’s intended 4th – 6th grade audience.

I actually chose to listen to the audio book of this one, so I only flipped through some of the images that accompany the book. What images I did see, really did add to the story. I can see this being a real appeal to reluctant readers who need a bit of a break here or there. As for the audio, I thought it was really well done. It was neat getting to listen to all of the different voices–this would make a really great road trip audio book for the kids. My only gripe about the audio is that the last 20 minutes or so had music accompanying it. It was really difficult to concentrate on the story with the music. I think maybe it was a little too loud.

I could see this being a very easy read that would appeal to both boys and girls. It would make an excellent book club choice. This one gets 4 high stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

PAX

Pax by Sara Pennypacker is a juvenile fiction book and a nominee for the 2017-2018 Maryland Black-Eyed Susan award.

Pax was taken in a just a baby fox by a human boy and his father. For seven years Pax and Peter were inseparable but the war in encroaching and Peter’s father enlists, forcing Peter to move in with his grandfather, where there is no room for a fox. Forced to separate, Peter leaves his fox deep in the woods where he hopes he will be safe. Almost instantly Peter regrets this decision and so begins a 300 mile trek into a war torn wilderness.

Pax is the story of two journey’s: Peter’s journey, alone to retrieve his friend and fulfill a duty all his own; and Pax’s journey to survive a world he has never known, to do more than survive… to thrive.

Being pregnant, I can’t seem to keep my eyes open at night lately but I really want to get through some of these BES’s, so I went to my trusty audiobook. This will actually be a good one to play in the car for your kids; the story has a good flow and the voices are quite captivating.

As much as many of my librarian friends really like this one, it faded for me a little about midway. A great story but a few too many branches in my opinion. This isn’t just Pax and Peter’s journey, it’s the father’s, Vola’s, Runt’s, etc. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but the middle lagged for me and I was craving some more details about the setting and a bit more background.

I also felt there wasn’t much resolution in the end. Peter and Pax’s journey ends but what about everyone else. Yes, Peter and Pax both grow throughout this book and we see how they’ve grown apart but still maintain their deep forged connection, but I still missed the rest of Peter’s story. There was so much build up about Peter’s family life that I felt a little cheated with what we get in the end.

I did love Pax’s narrative. Very believable that a fox was telling this tale. We get his scents and his worldview and the writing even felt almost animalistic in its telling.

Overall, this was a really good story and one I think the kids will like. It may open the door to conversations about nature, war, family relations and finding oneself and growing up. This is definitely a coming of age novel and reminded me a little (very little) of Call of the Wild.

This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-