Book review: The Astounding Broccoli Boy, by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Boyce, Frank Cottrell.  The Astounding Broccoli Boy.  Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins Publishers, 2015.  384 pages, $17.89. ISBN:  978-0-06-240017-8.  Ages 8-12. Grades 3-7.  P7 Q9

boyce-broccoli-boyThis book grabbed my attention from the first page.  Rory Rooney compares his life with that of a superhero.  He even has an arch nemesis.  On top of everything else he keeps referring back to a book Don’t be Scared, Be Prepared.  What could prepare him for turning green?  Even with all the uncertainty of being broccoli green, he seems to, at least in his mind, have super powers. Each chapter starts with phrases you would see in comic books.  Throughout the reading of this book, I was giggling and amused at all the shenanigans that Rory got himself into.  This book is recommended for grades 3-7.  This would be a great book for a whole class read in upper elementary.  And, I think even early high school would love this book.  The characters build throughout this story, the writing flows and the plot leaves you wondering what is going to happen next.  Frank Cottrell Boyce has also written Cosmic, Framed, and MillionsMillions was also made into a movie.

March 2016 review by Fawn Ferguson.

Book review: It’s a Wonderful Death, by Sarah J. Schmitt

Schmitt, Sarah J.  It’s a Wonderful Death.  Sky Pony, 2015.  328 pages. $17.99. ISBN:  978-1-63450-173-6.  Ages 12+.  P7 Q8

schmitt-wonderful-deathThe beginning of this book was quite comical.  With a girl calling the grim reaper a liar and making a mistake with her death, RJ goes through the story with her queen bee attitude, trying to prove herself worthy of going back to her life.  The familiar characters of the afterlife, each having their own strong personalities that add to the story and the interference of RJ’s goal, is written in modern time with the way the characters act, dress, and talk to each other.  This story is a reminder to all that read it that we do touch the lives of the people we meet and we can make a difference no matter how small to the ones around us.  There are some predictable outcomes throughout the book.  Towards the end, it just all wraps up into a satisfying conclusion to someone’s meaningful decisions in their life.  This book will appeal to older middle school and high school students.  There are social dynamics that many can relate to that allow the reader to form a bond with RJ.  I was definitely rooting for her by the end of the book!

March 2016 review by Fawn Ferguson.

Book review: Allergic to the Great Wall, The Forbidden Palace, and other Tourist Attractions, by Lenore Look, pictures by LeUyen Pham

Look, Lenore. Allergic to the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace, and Other Tourist Attractions. (Alvin Ho series, book 6)  Pictures by Pham, LeUyen.  Random House Children’s Books,  2014.  $15.99. ISBN 978-0-385-36972-5. 163 pgs.  6-10 years of age. Includes glossary. P9/Q8 

look-allergic-to-the-great-wallAnother story in the Alvin Ho series.  This time Alvin is heading to China and dealing with his fears of flying, heights, being crowded (China has a huge population), and the fear of the unexpected being in another country. The Alvin Ho series is funny and authentic.  The story shares about the Great Wall, the Clay Soldiers and references Chinese foods and some Chinese words as well.  In the back is a glossary that explains what some of the words mean. Readers will be entertained and also be exposed to Chinese culture.

October 2016 review by Helyn Layton.

Book review: Buddy’s Bedtime Battery, by Christina Geist, illustrated by Tim Bowers

geist-buddys-bedtime-batteryGeist, Christina.  Buddy’s Bedtime Battery.  Illustrated by Tim Bowers.  Penguin Random House,  2016. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-553-51339-4.  33 pgs.  Toddler to early elementary age. P7/Q8

What a great bedtime story book.  Buddy is a robot whose parents are getting ready to have him be “powered down”.  This is a great interactive book that a parent can read and do the step by step turn off switches for their own little robots.  It’s a fun way to get your child to wind down and be ready to go to sleep.  The illustrated pages are widely animated and fun.

October 2016 review by Helyn Layton.

Book review: Hensel and Gretel Ninja Chicks, by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, illustrated by Dan Santat

Schwartz, Corey Rosen and Rebecca J. Gomez.  Hensel and Gretel Ninja Chicks.  Illustrated by Dan  Santat. Penguin Random House,  2016.  $17.99. ISBN  978-0-399-17626-5. 33 pgs.  4-10 years of age. P9/Q8

This book is a fun spin on the classic Hansel and Gretel story. The children are little chicks, who have trained in the arts of ninja, I might add.  The witch is a sly fox and he has kidnapped their papa.  The author has cleverly and creatively made this classic fairy tale story fresh and entertaining for readers.  It is written with a rhyming flow that is full of humor as well.

October 2016 review by Helyn Layton.

Book review: Daisy-head Mayzie, by Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss. Daisy-head Mayzie. Random House, 2016. $17.99. ISBN  978-0-553-53900-4. 58 pgs.  Editor’s Notes.  Pre-school – early elementary ages. P9/Q10

seuss-daisy-head-mayzieOriginally released in 1994, this is the classic Dr. Seuss tale of a little girl named Mayzie who suddenly at school sprouts a daisy from her head.  The story tells of how she reacts and how the people react as well to the dilemma of a daisy growing out of a child’s head.  It’s a comical tale that teaches of love and adapting to a sudden situation in a farfetched manner.   The newly published version does have some differences.  The illustrations have changed and the word type is a little smaller.  There are editor’s notes in the back of the book that explain a bit of the history in the creation of the story and some of the differences between the two editions as well as the movie version of the story.

October 2016 review by Helyn Layton.

[Editor’s note: The publisher’s description notes that this edition has “all-new illustrations and a revised plot based on Dr. Seuss’s original screenplay and signature-style sketches.”]

Book review: Story Worlds: Nature, by Thomas Hegbrook

Hegbrook, Thomas. Story Worlds: Nature. 360 Degrees, an imprint of Tiger Tales, 2016. $24.99. ISBN 9781944530013. Unp. Ages 2+. P8Q8

hegbrook-natureStory Worlds: Nature is the first text-free publication by 360 Degrees. This oversized picture book is very much in the style of 360 Degrees’ other highly graphic, interactive books. The interactive process of Nature begins with observing the wordless illustrations of charmingly rendered natural scenes and devising a unique narrative for each. Many of the illustrations are self-explanatory; a wolf is howling at the moon or a fallen coconut drifts out to sea. However, some scenes have less familiar species or their behavior is more nuanced. Keep in mind, there is no correct narrative. This book, while appropriate for any age, can be beneficial to preschoolers who aren’t yet ready to read. After paging through and assigning meaning to the illustrations, the reader finds the “answer key” at the end of the book. The scenes are paired with a short explanation or fun fact that corresponds to each.

Verdict: Nature is a visually stimulating and cognitively illuminating book that can be enjoyed by both readers and non-readers. Each scene is a work of graphic art as well as an informative natural depiction. It will be an appropriate visual aid or prompt for elementary Earth Science, Ecology, Biology, or Creative Writing units.

 February 2017 review by Lillian Curanzy.