Book review: The Treasure of Pirate Frank, by Mal Pete and Elspeth Graham, illustrated by Jez Tuya

Peet, Mal and Elspeth Graham. The Treasure of Pirate Frank. Illustrated by Jez Tuya. Nosy Crow, 2018. $15.99. ISBN 9780763696443. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P8 Q9

If you love color, adventure and surprise endings, you will love The Treasure of Pirate Frank. Written in the format of This is the House that Jack Built, a boy wants to find the treasure of Pirate Frank. He follows a treasure map through the sea that must be sailed, the island of spice and gold, the snowy mountain, the forest where monkeys swing, the swamp where bullfrogs sing, the steps that go higher, the volcano that spits out fire, the tree that marks the spot, and then he runs into Pirate Frank. But Pirate Frank is not what he expected! Quick, Run! And he runs all the way back into his ship, where he dreams about his adventures. Children will be delighted as “Frank” chases the boy all the way back to his ship. The front cover has the treasure in shiny gold. The map inside the book accurately shows the path the boy follows to find the treasure.

Verdict: Children will enjoy the adventure the boy goes on to find the treasure and will be delighted to find out who Pirate Frank is. I highly recommend this book for elementary age libraries. With bright and colorful illustrations and repetitive text, children will want it read over and over.

April 2018 review by Tami Harris.


Book review: Words and Your Heart, by Kate Jane Neal

Neal, Kate Jane. Words and Your Heart. Feiwell & Friends, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9781250168726. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P8 Q9

The old saying, “Sticks and stone can break my bones, but words will never hurt me” may be used as a comeback to people speaking negative words towards us, but it simply is not true. Our words have power and can be used to build others up or tear them down. We can use our words to look after each other’s hearts and make the world a better place. Using black, white and red simple illustrations, Words and your Heart follows a child and cat as they dance, hug, and explore the power of words. The child and cat’s facial expressions portray their feelings accurately. Neal brings us a whimsical, but powerful message about the importance of words.

Verdict: This is one of the best books written about the power of words. Neal wrote this book in response to observing verbal bullying in school. It is powerful because it gives specific examples of kind words and hurtful words. The book ends with a challenge to make someone’s day better.

April 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Leaf Litter Critters, by Leslie Bulion, illustrated by Robert Meganck

Bulion, Leslie. Leaf Litter Critters. Ill. by Robert Meganck. Peachtree, 2018. $14.95. 55p. ISBN 978-1-56145-950-6. Ages 8-12. P8Q8

In this small, easy-to-hold book, Bulion introduces the reader to creatures from beetles to bacteria that break down the duff—the decaying plant parts and animal wastes under new fallen leaves on top of the humus layer. Each two-page spread about a different “recycler” in the “brown food web” provides a whimsical poem, colorful drawings, and factual science notes.

Verdict: Highly colored illustrations are delightful, and verbal details are geared to the audience, for example comparing the size of some organisms to a comma or period. Readers can spend hours pouring over the details of the book.


May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Sisters and Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams, by Howard Bryant, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Bryant, Howard. Sisters & Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams. Illus. by Floyd Cooper. Philomel, 2018. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-0-399-16906-9. Ages 7-9. P8Q8

Sports journalist Bryant brings the story of two tennis champion siblings by describing the importance of their parents, the obstacles of their home in the “real tough, sometimes scary part of Los Angeles,” and their race and lower economic class. Yet the sisters won Olympic gold medals and became the #1 ranked women in tennis.

Verdict: Although many of readers will know about the sisters’ competition, the narrative describes their closeness, and Cooper depicts the worry as they struggle against each other. The mixed media illustration uses a subtractive process that creates primarily browns and sepia.

May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Abraham’s Dueling Words, by Donna Janell Bowman, illustrated by S.D. Shindler

Bowman, Donna Janell. Abraham’s Dueling Words. Illus. By S.D. Schindler. Peachtree, 2018. $17.95. unp. ISBN 978-1-56145-852-3. Ages 6-9. P8Q8

A whimsical true tale of Abraham Lincoln in 1842 when he was challenged to a duel by an opponent shows how he tried to use his wit to avoid violence. Notes in the back give more information, including the political careers of protagonists Lincoln and James Shields.

Verdict: The humorous watercolors depicting the period highlight the cheerful side to a sad hero who met a tragic end. The book can also be used to demonstrate how a simple minor experience can become a full-blown story with the addition of details that reveal characters. An easy and fun read.

May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Drawn from Nature, by Helen Ahpornsiri

Ahpornsiri, Helen. Drawn from Nature. BBP/Candlewick, 2018. $22.00 60p. ISBN 978-0-7636-9898-0. Ages 8+. P9Q10

Without the illustrations, this book is a lyrical tribute to the four seasons, each treated in a separate chapter. The paragraphs on each of the double-page spreads demonstrates knowledge and passion about the subjects without making it too complex although some of the explanations—for example, photosynthesis—might be more difficult for younger readers. It is the artwork, however, that makes this book stand out. The British author/illustrator who became known on Etsy has used her usual illustrations from tiny hand-pressed leaves, seeds, and flower petals for the images of animals and plants without lines and set against white and black backgrounds.

Verdict: Harvest mice in the meadow, swallows swooping, crickets chirping—lyrical language matches the exquisite illustrations in an amazing blend of science and art that leads to long periods of savoring the book’s contents.

May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Doing It!: Let’s Talk about Sex, by Hannah Whitton

Witton, Hannah. Doing It!: Let’s Talk about Sex. Sourcebooks Fire, 2018. $16.99. 352p. ISBN 978-1-4926-6503-8. Ages 14+. P10Q10

Only 24 states provide sex education in schools—and some of that is only abstinence-only teaching—which leaves young people on their own to learn about what might be the biggest influence in their lives. Witton has filled in this gap with her videos and blog posts before her book was published in Britain last year. A concentration on the myriad of topics—consent, virginity, contraception, rape, sex shaming, porn, etc.—is on healthy relationships and respect for people. Highly inclusive, the book covers both straight and LGBTQ+ relationships, allowing others to provide the information who might have more insight to it.

Verdict: Whitton’s funny, insightful book may be the best one on this subject for youth ever published. Her honest voice goes from formality and casualness to combine education with a conversation in a book designed to develop confidence in the reader. The topics she addresses can be difficult for some people, but the nonjudgmental approach escapes a sense of pushing guilt on the reader. Witton concludes: “I’m still learning, and the world is still learning, and that makes me really excited.” She addresses everything that young people wish could be included in the sex education curriculum.

May 2018 review by Nel Ward.