Book review: Bundle of Nerves: A Story of Courage, by Mari Schuh, illustrated by Natalia Moore

Schuh, Mari. Bundle of Nerves: A Story of Courage. Illustrated by Natalia Moore. Millbrook Press, 2018. $25.32. ISBN 9781512486452. 24 pages. Ages 4-8. P6 Q8

There are many events children can worry about in a day. How can you help children have courage? With three short chapters, “So Very Nervous,” “Being Brave,”, and “Facing my Fear,” Luis discovers that he can have courage by riding a bus, asking for help and making new friends. Not only does he realize he is courageous, he ends up having fun along the way. Illustrations of children showing racial diversity add to the depth of the book. Narrative boxes containing explanations, such as “It takes courage to ask for help” emphasize the courage aspect that is being shown on the page. Some phrases are highlighted in red for emphasis. This book is in the Cloverleaf books: Stories with Character series. There is a courage activity at the back of the book along with a glossary, index, and book titles and websites about courage.

Verdict: The situations portrayed in this book are similar to what most children in school experience. Both relevant and relatable to children, I recommend this book for elementary school libraries. I will be using this book in my Character Ed class to teach courage. From a teacher’s perspective, this book is valuable in a classroom setting, once read to children, they will be more apt to pick it up and read it themselves.

March 2018 review by Tami Harris.

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Book review: We All Have Value: A Story of Respect, by Mari Schuh, illustrated by Mike Byrne

Schuh, Mari. We All Have Value: A Story of Respect. Illustrated by Mike Byrne. Stories with Character series. Millbrook Press, 2018.  $25.32. ISBN 9781512486506. 24 pages. Ages 5-8. P6 Q8

Respect is something we wish to instill in children, but how can we help them understand the importance of treating others with respect? With three short chapters, “Waiting our Turn,” “Thinking of Others,” and “Showing Respect,” Idil and her friends discover what it means to be respectful. The illustrations of racial and ethnically diverse children are large and take up a large portion of the page, which shows the importance of the children and their relationship with each other. The facial expressions on the children shows how they are feeling. Narrative boxes containing explanations, such as “letting everyone join in is respectful” emphasize the respect aspect that is being played out on the page. Some phrases are highlighted in red for emphasis. This book is in the Cloverleaf books: Stories with Character series. There is a respect activity at the back of the book along with a glossary, index, and book titles and websites about respect.

Verdict: The situations portrayed in this book are similar to what most children in school experience. It is relevant and relatable for children. I will be using this book in my Character Ed class to teach respect. In addition to respect, it also encourages children to show empathy. From a teacher’s perspective, this book is valuable in a classroom setting, once read to children, they will be more apt to pick it up and read it themselves.

March 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Nick the Sidekick, by Dave Whamond

Whamond, Dave. Nick the Sidekick. Kids Can Press, 2018. $14.99. 48p. ISBN 978-1-77138355-4. Ages 6-9. P7Q5

In this debut to a probable series, Nick grows tired of his peers’ ridiculing his oversize ears and decides that his phenomenal hearing abilities should make him suitable as an “assistant” to Super Fantastic Guy. The hero of the book is a jerk, and Nick must save him by rescuing Super from a bank vault.

Verdict: Bright colors are inviting, and some may consider the plot cute. Unfortunately, both main characters are self-centered and unlikable.

March 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Gordon: Bark to the Future, by Ashley Spires

Spires, Ashley. Gordon: Bark to the Future. (P.U.R.S.T. Adventure series). Kids Can Press, 2018. $15.99. 72p. ISBN 978-1-77138-409-4. Ages 6-8. P5Q6

With Binky the Space Cat captured, Gordon the pup takes center stage in a time-travel journey to save the house from encroaching aliens. The “bug” in the time machine has changed its setting, and Gordon finds himself five years earlier than expected with no support system.

Verdict: The story has a flat feeling with no dialog and the narration placed between the graphic panels, primarily in sets of three. Only bits of red (the pet’s food bowl), fuchsia, and the green of the aliens relieve the mostly black and brown tones.

March 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths, by Graham Annable

Annable, Graham. Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths. First Second, 2018. $17.99. 119p. ISBN 978-1-6267-2561-4. Ages 5-8. P9Q9

Peter and Ernesto are the odd couple of sloths. One wants to hang around in his tree with the other sloths, and the other wants to see the sky from every part of the world. The separation between the two of them stretches their limits as Peter decides to follow Ernesto despite quaking when he crosses the swinging bridge and meets the scary tapir. Ernesto loves his adventures—a ride on a whale and seeing the aurora borealis—but meeting the polar bear convinces him to return home. The alternating adventures between the two friends show the fretting Peter perched on a monolith where he finds help from crabs and monkeys to guide Ernesto back to the fold. The safety may not last long, though; the planned sequel for the two friends is The Lost Sloths.

Verdict: Clear Photoshop panels with simple artwork in the graphic novel show the movement, body language, and diversity of animals throughout the adventures. Silly charm highlights the value of friendship and concern about each other without being didactic. Absolutely delightful!

March 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Otto and the Secret Light of Christmas, by Nora Surojegin, illustrated by Pirkko-Liisa Surojegin

Surojegin, Nora. Otto and the Secret Light of Christmas. Illustrated by Pirkko-Liisa Surojegin. Floris Books, 2016. English Version 2016. 101 pgs. $24.95. ISBN 9781782503231. Ages 5-10. P8Q8

Otto the elf goes on a quest through the dark forests of Finland looking for the Light of Christmas to brighten the dismal winter on the coast. This is a beautiful Christmas tale that is rich in references to Finnish folklore and culture, and the soft, intricate, glowing illustrations added so much to my appreciation of the story. I enjoyed the richness of the language. The descriptions of the forest, scenery, and characters are absolutely magical, and new vocabulary is used. I can imagine parents and children cuddled up, drinking hot chocolate and reading this book together over the Christmas holidays. The kindness and generosity that Otto encounters throughout the story are a nice reminder of how people should behave. The format of the book is pleasing too- it’s a large size with a sturdy cover. Every spread has an illustration, and the text is divided into short chapters that will help young readers keep pace with the story, and will make the book a good bed time story to read over the course of several nights. The author and illustrator are mother and daughter.  Originally published Finland in 2010.

VERDICT: I think this book will become a holiday favorite at my library in the years to come.

January 2018 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Grumpy Cat & Pokey in the Grumpus!, edited by Rich Young and Anthony Arques

Grumpy Cat & Pokey in the Grumpus! (Grumpy Cat series, book 3) Ed. by Rich Young & Anthony Arques. Dynamite Entertainment, 2017. $12.99. 104p. ISBN 978-1-5241-0246-3. Ages 6-9. P8Q7

Five authors and six illustrators produce nine graphic short stories in the lives of a cranky cat and her cheerful brother. Plots include their being lost in the woods, offered a job at the circus, caught up in witch’s scheme, coping with the disappearance of all humans, and dealing with visitors who bring their dog.

Verdict: The collection is uneven because of different illustrators, but all the stories reveal the catness of the characters. Each story in the third of this series is brief enough for easy reading. The stickers in the back of the book may make the book more suitable for individual purchase.

December 2017 review by Nel Ward