Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Mystery Across the Secret Bridge by Harper Paris -- OPTIONAL

Paris, Harper The Mystery Across the Secret Bridge (Greetings from Somewhere #7), illustrated by Marcos Calo. 112 pgs. Little Simon (Simon & Schuster), 2015. $5.99. Content: G.

In the seventh book of the series, the world-traveling Briar family is off to Peru. While at Machu Picchu, twins Ella and Ethan volunteer to help a little boy find his lost toy snake -- and on the way, they see an ancient artifact their grandfather had mentioned in a recent email.

While one of the best parts of this series is that children learn about the places Ella and Ethan visit, this one seemed so jam-packed with information that it slowed the plot quite a bit. Also, despite the name there was very little mystery involved. Still, this is a nice addition to the series, especially if the next one picks up the pace again, and it will likely have some children yearning to explore Peru for themselves -- though hopefully without wandering off without their parents' approval as the Briar twins so often do.

EL -- OPTIONAL. Reviewer: Caryn

Let the Games Begin! by Jordan Quinn -- ADVISABLE

Quinn, Jordan Let the Games Begin! (Kingdom of Wrenly #7), illustrated by Robert McPhillips. 117 pgs. Little Simon (Simon & Schuster), 2015. $5.99. Content: G.

The Grand Tournament has come to the Kingdom of Wrenly, and everyone is preparing for it. But then a rude squire informs Prince Lucas's friend Clara that girls can't race horses or become knights; only boys are capable of those things. Clara is determined to prove him wrong.

Imaginative children will likely enjoy watching the tournament come to life, with its jousting knights, flying dragons, skillful jugglers, and more. The "people can do anything they set their minds to" and "girls can do anything boys can do" themes are not new, nor are the story and character arcs that support them, but they're still worth the repetition. Like the rest of the series, this beginning chapter book features simple language, a large font, and plenty of illustrations. Because of multiple references to previous books in the series, this one would work best if read in order.

EL (K-3) -- ADVISABLE. Reviewer: Caryn

Thursday, May 28, 2015

My Religion, Your Religion by Lisa Bullard –ADVISABLE

Bullard, Lisa My Language, Your Language Millbrook Press, 2015. $6.99 PICTURE BOOK
This book follows a young boy as he learns about religion. When he is invited to a church service at a synagogue by a friend turning 13, he worries he won’t know what to do. His dad helps him out and soon the boy is wondering about their own religion as well. He also meets people that don’t follow a religion, a Buddhist babysitter, and more.
This is a great book to start a discussion on the religions of the world, without delving too deeply. Despite the heavy topic, it manages to keep a youthful main character voice, and a childlike curiosity. It’s a perfect book for the school library as it features many religions and what is alike and different. The illustrations are simple and harmonious.
EL(K-3)  –ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

My Language, Your Language by Lisa Bullard –ADVISABLE

Bullard, Lisa My Language, Your Language Millbrook Press, 2015. $6.99 PICTURE BOOK
This short book follows a little girl as she explores the rich world of languages that saturate her everyday life. From her deaf brother, to her new friend that speaks Spanish, to her mom’s shampoo bottle, and much more. An array of simple words from a variety of languages are featured, including the A-Z American sign alphabet on page 22.
I really enjoyed this book and would use it right away to introduce the 400’s section of the Dewey. I absolutely loved the perspective on language that the main character had as she described different languages as singing, dancing, and swoops. She is enthusiastic and the book is incredibly positive and inclusive. I think it would be a good resource for teachers who are adding a student to their class who speaks another language. The illustrations are bright and cheerful but not my favorite.  
EL(K-3)  –ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Hippos are Huge! by Jonathan London - ADVISABLE

London, Jonathan Hippos are Huge!  Illustrated by Matthew Trueman  Candlewick, 2015  $16.99  PICTURE BOOK  Content: G.   

This book is an illustrated look at the many interesting characteristics of hippopotami.  Hippos are one of the largest land animals and are considered the most dangerous animal in all of Africa.  They are deadly, but the book also shows the way they take care of their babies.  They don’t swim, but push off the bottom of the river and they can hold their breath for five minutes.  Their skin is super sensitive and the bulls swat dung at each other when fighting.   

A lot of fun facts are included throughout this attractive book.  The illustrations grab the reader’s attention and my boys thought this book was fantastic.  My only complaint is that the author kept switching between proper noun and common noun, sometimes calling the animal “Hippo” and sometimes saying “most hippos…”, making it unclear if the story was going to be about a particular hippo or hippos in general.  In the end it was a big hit with my kids and they keep coming back to it.   

EL (K-3)-ADVISABLE.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.   

Mortal Gods by Kendare Blake - OPTIONAL

Blake, Kendare  Mortal Gods (Goddess War, #2), 346 pgs.  Tor, 2014.  $17.99  Content: Language: R (94 swears; 8 “F”); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: R.   

Athena is gathering as many gods as possible in hopes to win the God war and remain immortal.  She is also trying to protect Cassi, a human who can see parts of the future and can kill the gods with the touch of her hands.  As Athena gathers her forces of gods, heroes and humans, she doesn’t expect to feel concern and love for her group of soldiers, but as she starts to care for them it makes her decisions to go to war harder.  And when an old enemy, that she thought was dead, is found still alive, Athena begins to wonder who could possibly end this war on top.   

This is an interesting take on the gods—it feels like normal characters have been given god names in a modern world.  The world isn’t believable and I didn’t relate to any of the characters.  The blood and gore is grotesque and violent and the language is not great either.  The ending is a total cliff hanger.  There are better series out there about the Greek gods.   

HS-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.  

Curious George Discovers Germs by Erica Zappy - OPTIONAL

Zappy, Erica  Curious George Discovers Germs  Illustrated by Peter Hirsch  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.  $6.99  PICTURE BOOK  Content: G.   

Curious George comes down with an illness and while he is sleeping, he dreams of going inside his body to check out the germs.  He finds germs having a rock party in his nose and George gets rid of them through a sneeze.  The man in the yellow hat gets sick next, and George takes care of him and then goes on a journey into the man’s stomach to see his germs.  When the man sneezes onto his hands he almost passes his sickness onto a friend, but that friend washes her hands.   

Curious George goes on a journey to learn more about germs, but it seemed a bit out there.  There are side bars throughout the book that explain more about germs and what the body is doing during an illness, but to stop and read the side bars takes away from the story and after the third side bar, my kids asked me to skip them.  It is a good idea, but it didn’t work very well with George as the character—it felt more like a Magic School Bus book, but not as well done.   

EL (K-3)-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Experiment with Photosynthesis by Nadia Higgins –ADVISABLE

Higgins, Nadia Experiment with Photosynthesis 932 pgs. Lerner, 2015. $24.99
This book starts with a simple explanation of how plants get food to eat and what they need to make the food they eat. Next follows three simple and easy experiments about light, chlorophyll, and oxygen. Each page features fun and bright back grounds, text variety and text bubbles to add clarification.
A fantastic book for both students and teachers. Its simple enough for a junior science fair project, or perfect for a teacher to use as part of a science unit for lower grades. This book did a great and enthusiastic job of explaining concepts in an understandable way. The photographs were modern, beautiful, and interesting.
EL (K-3), EL – ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author

Animal Pollinators by Jennifer Boothroyd –ADVISABLE

Boothroyd, Jennifer Animal Pollinators 24 pgs. Lerner, 2015. $14.99
A simple and easy explanation of what pollen is, what it creates, how a flower gets pollinated and a focus on different kinds of pollinators. Includes well chosen photographs on every single page. Also includes a glossary and index.
This very basic science concept book would be great for an instructional unit when used in conjunction with a teachers introduction. Students will enjoy the many photographs of animals that love to eat sweet tasting nectar.  This book is quite small, easy to hold for younger students hands. I would use books like this for lessons on index, glossary, and Table of Contents.
EL(K-3)  –ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Unbroken (Adapted for Young Adults) by Laura Hillenbrand- ESSENTIAL

Hillenbrand, Laura  Unbroken: (Adapted for Young Adults), 292 pgs.  NON-FICTION.  Delacorte Press, 2014.  $19.99  Content: Language: PG-13 (14 swears); Mature content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.   

In this book, Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner, survivalist, and prisoner of war, overcomes all obstacles and shows the reader what it means to be strong in spirit.  In Louis’ childhood he was a trouble maker, but his brother Pete turned all Louis’ energies to running and Louis excelled.  As a young man, Louis fought in the Pacific front and after his plane crashed he lived on a life raft with two other men until they were found by Japanese soldiers who imprisoned them.  As an adult, Louis had to overcome all of the heartbreak and trauma he experienced in the war and learn to forgive.   

This is an amazing story of one man who more than survived, but lived to help others and teach others of the power of love and forgiveness.  The content is war violence and it’s not pleasant, but it’s not gratuitous violence.  There is a picture of a starved P.O.W’s body among the many illustrations provided and it's disturbing.   

MS-ADVISABLE.  HS-ESSENTIAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.