Book review: The Library of Ever, by Zeno Alexander

Alexander, Zeno. The Library of Ever. Imprint, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9781250169174. 191 pages. Ages 8-12. P8Q9

Eleven year old Lenora is bored, bored, bored. As her rich parents are away traveling, Lenora is left in the care of a very inattentive babysitter. While the babysitter is on her phone at the public library, Lenora slips away to explore the rows of books. While roaming, she notices an archway that moments before had only been a blank wall. Lenora hesitates for a moment, then steps through the archway and enters the fantastical Library of Ever, with endless shelves, thousands of doors, and interesting characters buzzing about. The only way Lenora can stay in this ultimate library is to work there, so she is hired to be an assistant apprentice librarian. She swears to answer any question, no matter the challenge, and so begins the adventure. The job introduces Lenora to many interesting characters including a robot, lost penguins, an ant named Cinnamon, and space traveling tardigrades. All of these patrons seek knowledge which Lenora helps them find, going on a mini-adventure for each fact. But she realizes that a librarian’s job isn’t just about finding answers. Librarians are protectors of facts and knowledge too. Villains are lurking about and Lenora must battle the Forces of Darkness who discourage children from asking questions and demand that some information be restricted. Lenora stays true to the theme that knowledge is light and proves librarians are magical!

Verdict: A must for the library!  A great book to feature during Banned Books Week with its powerful message about the dangers of censorship. Also a perfect classroom read-aloud as the book features quickly resolved adventures that take up one to two chapters.

September 2019 review by Denyse Marsh.

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Book review: The Tree and Me, by Deborah Zemke

Zemke, Deborah. The Tree and Me. (Bea Garcia series, book 4). Dial Books for Young Readers. 2019 $16.99. ISBN 9780735229419. 154 pages. Ages 6-9. P7Q8

Bea Garcia is on a mission to save the beloved tree, which she has names Emily, that sits right outside her classroom window. Problem is, a particularly annoying classmate has turned the tree into a potential hazard and Bea is determined to show everyone how valuable Emily is. Bea takes on the role of activist and enlists her classmates in the cause, and in the end must find a way to reach out to the obnoxious boy who started the whole mess. Together, they show the reader that you are never to young to make a difference. Each page contains both text and pencil sketch pictures illustrating the story, with lots of bubble dialogue between Bea and her classmates.

Verdict: A perfect beginner chapter book with eleven short chapters and illustrated pages. Young elementary classrooms can benefit from the message that working together, even with kids who get on your nerves, results in great outcomes. A wonderful book for the library too.

September 2019 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Plants!, by Nick Forshaw, illustrated by William Exley

Forshaw, Nick. Plants! (Explorer series). Illustrated by William Exley. What on Earth Publishing, 2019. $14.95. ISBN 9780995577084. 38 pages. Ages 8-11 P6Q8

Plants! by Nick Forshaw and William Exley is the latest to join the Explorer series from What on Earth Books, and was produced with the assistance of experts at the Natural History Museum. Agent Ada Osprey has been given a mission to file a report on the entire history of plants. To do this she must go back in time, and you are invited to come! From plant origins, to plant discoveries, each four page chapter is full of facts and detailed sketches illustrating the text. After seven chapters, the book has a fun matching game, and a plant quiz, to see if you’ve been paying attention. The book ends with a fabulous six-foot timeline of plants.

Verdict: This book is full of informational text and ideal for late elementary to early middle grade readers. Not the type of book to read in one sitting, each chapter has just the right amount of interesting facts and pictures. Perfect for the classroom and library, be sure to pull out the timeline for maximum appeal!

September 2019 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: The Moonflower, by Peter Loewer, illustrated by Jean Loewer

Loewer, Peter. The Moonflower. Illustrated by Jean Loewer. Peachtree Publishers, 2019. $7.95 (paperback). ISBN 9781682631010. Unpaged. Ages 6-10 P7Q8

This children’s nonfiction book exploring nature’s nocturnal behavior is full of beautiful artwork and fun amazing facts. Originally released in 1997, the colorful acrylic pictures illustrate both plant and animal life accurately and vividly. The book begins with the Sun setting in the West, and allows the reader to stay up all night, watching the blooming of the moonflower.  Each page features a separate, updated sidebar with fascinating nature facts. There is an informative glossary and back matter at the end of the book, including instructions on how to plant your own moonflower.

Verdict: Perfect for the classroom, especially when studying life cycles. This book would be a great addition to the library as well. Science minded children would love to have this at home, but might need parent’s assistance with some of the vocabulary.

September 2019 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Summer, by Cao Wenxuan, illustrated by Yu Rong, translation by Yan Ding, adapted by Erin Stein

Cao, Wenxuan. Summer. Illustrated by Yu Rong. Translation by Yan Ding. Adapted by Erin Stein. Imprint, 2019. $18.99. ISBN 9781250310064. Unpaged. Ages 4-8 P7Q8

It’s a hot summer day, and animals and people alike are finding ways to escape the heat. However, on the savanna, relief is hard to come by  and all the animals are desperate for some shade. Thinking of only themselves, the animals quarrel as they try to cool off. When a human father and son walk across the dry grassland, creating a shadow, the animals suddenly become silent, and an idea is born. The middle pages of the book cleverly portray this idea as the animals find that cooperating and working together is the answer to their dilemma. The cut paper and pencil artwork in the book add to the overall message of the power of kindness and sharing.

Verdict: A fun book to read with a great message. Children will enjoy the novelty of the pages in the middle section of the book.

September 2019 review by Denyse Marsh.

[Editor’s note: The book, originally published in China, argues the benefits of cooperating to find solutions to mutual problems, but falls a bit short of the goal.  Though the illustrations show what appears to be an African savannah scene, the animals include a lynx and a brown bear–animals not found in Africa–and the solution leaves the largest animal still standing in the hot sunshine.]

Book review: Carter Reads the Newspaper, by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Don Tate

Hopkinson, Deborah. Carter Reads the Newspaper. Illustrated by Don Tate. Peachtree Publishers, 2019. $17.95. ISBN 9781561459346. Unpaged. Ages 6-10. P9Q9

Black History Month celebrates famous black heroes; in this book the author shares an important story of a hero we often forget. This biography highlights the “father of Black History” – Carter G. Woodson. Born just after the Civil War to parents who had both been enslaved, Carter faced hardships growing up, but also learned hope and pride from his parents. Only able to go to school four months a year, Carter learned to read, which became a foundation for his life. At 16, while working in the mines of West Virginia, Carter shared his reading skills with the men after a hard day at work, reading the daily newspapers aloud. He was inspired with knowledge, and the shared history of his co-workers. Carter had the chance to continue his education three years later, and eventually earned a Ph.D. from Harvard, this first and only Black American whose parents had been slaves to receive a doctorate in history. He led a life of finding, preserving, and teaching the whole truth about American History. In 1926 Woodson established Negro History Week, now known as Black History Month.

Verdict: A fascinating piece of history everyone should know is featured in this outstanding book. Open the book and find endpapers featuring little portraits of a number of black leaders with mini biographies in the backmatter, from Taharqa, an Egyptian pharaoh of 664 BC, to the Obamas, and even Colin Kaepernick. The illustrations are bold with soft colors, often using newsprint as a background. Libraries, classrooms, and homes would benefit from having this book and its important historical and timeless message for all to read.

September 2019 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Flora’s Tree House, by Gabriel Alborozo

Alborozo, Gabriel. Flora’s Tree House. Henry Holt and Company, 2019. $17.99 ISBN 9781627792264. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7Q8

Colorful digital illustrations bring this brother sister story to life. Flora likes to draw, and often retreats to her own treehouse to finish her sketches. Will likes to play, battling all sorts of imaginary creatures in the yard. They each do their own thing. One day, Will’s curiosity gets the best of him and he climbs the treehouse ladder, bypassing a “No Wills Allowed” sign to see what his sister is doing. The sibling rivalry melts away as the two discover they have more in common than they thought, and in the end begin a new imaginative adventure together. Verdict: A wonderful book for families as the theme of mild sibling rivalry is addressed. Also good for the classroom, as it illustrates the message that while we are different, once we get to know others we can find similarities. Finally, a good book for story time as it has big, beautiful pictures.

September 2019 review by Denyse Marsh.