Book review:The Boy Who Went to Mars, by Simon James

James, Simon.  The Boy Who Went to Mars. Candlewick Press, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9780763695989. Unpaged. Ages 6-10. P7Q8.

When Stanley’s mother has to go away overnight for a short business trip, Stanley climbs in a box to voyage to Mars.  Upon the return to earth, a little Martian is exchanged for Stanley. The Martian explains that he doesn’t wash his hands, brush his teeth, or have a bedtime. All is working well for the little Martian until his best friend argues that he isn’t convinced with the Stanley replacement. The upset Martian responds by shoving and consequently has to spend the remainder of the morning at the principal’s office thinking about his behavior.

Verdict: the pen and watercolor illustrations complement the imaginative playing well.

May 2019 review by Penny McDermott.


Book review: The Mouse Who Wasn’t Scared, by Petr Horăĉek

Horăĉek, Petr. The Mouse Who Wasn’t Scared. Candlewick Press, 2018. $15.99. ISBN 9780763698812. Unpaged. Ages 6-10. P8Q9

Little Mouse disregards Rabbit’s warning about playing in the woods and even asks the big scary wolf, bear, and moose to play.  However, all of these big scary animals respond with silence and indifference. Ultimately, Little Mouse locates a little house and creeps up to take a look.  There is a cute, fluffy kitten who asks the speechless Little Mouse to play. This sends Little Mouse all the way out of the woods back to Rabbit where she declares that it is not the big, scary animals that frighten her but the cute, fluffy ones that do!

Verdict: the illustrations are bright and complement the story well.

May 2019 review by Penny McDermott.

Book review: Surprise!, by Caroline Hadilaksono

Hadilaksono, Caroline.  Surprise! Arthur A Levine Books, 2018.  $17.99. ISBN 978-1-338-13919-8. Unpaged. Ages 4-10. P7Q8.

A story about longtime friends, Bear, Raccoon, and Squirrel who find themselves bored and decide to add some excitement by seeking new friends…. which isn’t always easy. Finally, the opportunity knocks when city folks arrive for a visit.  The three friends devise a plan to convince the visitors to stay. Raccoon delights in the splendid foods that they will share by upending the guests’ cooler and digging in; squirrel joins in by providing entertainment, of course. Bear adds decorations by plastering his massive footprints in hues formed with mixing ketchup and mustard.  “SURPRISE!” Things did go as planned; their guests were perfectly shocked. This is where the effect does not go as planned; the new friends flee with the animals crying, “Don’t leave!”

Verdict: The digital illustrations capture the beauty of friendship and the comic-like speech bubbles add to the silliness and drama.

May 2019 review by Penny McDermott.

Book review: The Poesy Ring: a Love Story, by Bob Graham

Graham, Bob. The Poesy Ring: a Love Story.  Candlewick Press, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-7636-9884-3. Unpaged. Ages 5-10. P6Q7

Nearly two centuries ago a young woman throws a poesy ring inscribed with “Love never dies” into a meadow near the sea as she gallops off with her tears drying on her face.  The tale follows what happens to the ring, for this woman is never seen again. The ring is tossed with erosion and time and ultimately caught in a deer’s hoof and deposited in a meadow near the sea. More time passes before a magpie picks it up to only drop it into the depths of the ocean where it is swallowed by a fish that is caught by a fisherman who takes it to a pawn shop in New York City.  A couple who earn money performing in the subway purchase the ring in 1967 where it is inferred the ring is to this day. The quiet continuous passage of time is complemented well with the soft ink, watercolor, and pastels used in the illustrations.

Verdict: time and love are concepts that are difficult to understand yet represented in a manner to explore in this interesting tale.

May 2019 review by Penny McDermott.

Book review: Princess Arabella and the Giant Cake, by Mylo Freeman

Freeman, Mylo. Princess Arabella and the Giant Cake. (Princess Arabella series.) Cassava Republic Press, 2018. $16.95. ISBN 978-1-911115-66-3. Unpaged. Ages 4-8: P8Q7.

Princess Arabella returns with her royal friends to create the yummiest and biggest cake for her grandmother’s birthday.  This book was originally published in Belgium. There is rich diversity in the characters: Arabella is dark with many pigtails or braids. Ling and Ushio are Asian.  Prince Mimoun is Muslim. Princess Sophie is white. Each young character makes an extravagant cake for Grandma. Prince Mimoun notices that each individual cake is much smaller than Princess Arabella’s cake and suggests to Princess Ling and Princess Sophie that they combine their cakes to compensate for this disparity. Princess Arabella is missing in action until she reveals that she is hidden inside her magnificent cake.

Verdict: this story has the potential to lead to celebrating cultures and ethnicities through continued studies.

May 2019 review by Penny McDermott.

Book review: Babies Nurse, by Phoebe Fox, illustrated by Jim Fox

Fox, Phoebe. Babies Nurse. Ill. Fox, Jim. Platypus Media, 2018. $9.95. ISBN 978-1-930775-71-8. 32 pages. Ages 4-10. P7Q8.

This book displays different baby mammals all sharing one commonality by nursing from their mothers. In rhyming bilingual English and Spanish text with watercolor illustrations, readers are introduced to thirteen nursing babies. Each animal family is shown while nursing.  Students will enjoy the extra information about the animals in the back of the book. “Holy clam and cuttlefish; I am a mammal too!” says Boris the whale to Amos the mouse in a book by William Steig.

Verdict:  This book is an excellent addition to a science unit on mammals.  It would pair well with William Steig’s Amos and Boris.

May 2019 review by Penny McDermott.

Book review: Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes, by Eva Chen, illustrated by Derek Desierto

Chen, Eva.  Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes.  Ill. Derek Desierto. Feiwel and Friends, 2018. $18.99. ISBN 9781250297266. Unpaged. Ages 6-10. P6Q7.

Not unlike a typical Monday morning, Juno was late for school and could not find her favorite shoes. Yet this day is quite unusual as Juno discovers a portal to a cornucopia of shoes in the darkest, dustiest depths of her closet.  Juno experiences walking in the shoes of fourteen groundbreaking women. Juno’s experience leads to inspiration to amend her own shoes. Snippets about Cleopatra, Frida Kahlo, Queen Elizabeth, Anna Wintour, Jane Goodall, Yayoi Kusama, Oprah Winfrey, Gloria Steinem, Lady Gaga, Maria Curie, Serena Williams, Sally Ride, Misty Copeland and even Cinderella compiled in the back of the book.

Verdict: the book is sure to inspire young readers to learn more about these groundbreaking women and encourage them to take steps in going to their very own individually special places.

May 2019 review by Penny McDermott.