Book review: The Search for TK, by Bobbi J.G. Weiss

Weiss, Bobbi J. G. The Search for TK. (Ride series, #3) Candlewick Entertainment, 2018. $7.99. ISBN 9780763698577. 263 pages. Ages 12+. P7 Q6

Kit’s horse, TK has been taken away because he is dangerous. For Kit, who had to overcome obstacles to ride her horse, it is devastating. The main plot revolves around finding a way to get TK back. As Kit is doing research for a project, she realizes some information she knew about her mother (who passed away before book 1) is not true, which leads to some loose ends and a mystery that might be resolved in the next sequel. The first few chapters summarize what has happened in book one and two. Without reading the first two books the reader doesn’t fully grasp the relationships between the various characters. The book does not have a lot of substance; however, it will appeal to youth who like horses. Though the book is the third book in the series, it can stand alone. The book sets up for another sequel.

Verdict: Since the book is made from a Nickelodeon movie, it may be popular with teens. I found the book shallow and not of much substance.

November 2018 review by Tami Harris.

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Book review: Rocks, by Claudia Martin

Martin, Claudia. Rocks (Discover our World series). Quarto Publishing, 2018. $26.65. ISBN 9781682973974. 24 pages. Ages 7-10. P7 Q7

Have you ever wondered how rocks are formed? The reader will learn about rocks, sand, caves, minerals, metals, gems and fossils. Text boxes with facts are set in photographs showing a visual of the facts, engaging the reader and enlightening them further. The reader can move from chapter to chapter based on their interest, the book does not need to be read straight through. This format makes the book easier for children to read. In the Discover our World series, this book includes an index, table of contents and glossary.

Verdict: For children who are interested in rocks, this book provides many facts and photographs that will broaden their knowledge. I recommend this book for elementary school and public libraries. Teachers and homeschool families will find this book valuable.

November 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Blacklisted: Hollywood, the Cold War, and the First Amendment, by Larry Dane Brimner

Brimner, Larry Dane. Blacklisted: Hollywood, the Cold War, and the First Amendment. Calkins Creek, 2018. $17.95. 171p. ISBN 978-162091-603-2. Ages 12+. P6Q9

Eighty years ago, the House Un-American Activities Committee of the U.S. Congress attacked the beliefs of individual screenwriters and entertainers on the pretext of ferreting out Communists, but actually to destroy unions. Nineteen men, mostly screenwriters, were called to testify in a House hearing in violation of their First Amendment rights, an event which destroyed their careers. Black and white photographs highlight the people involved in the destruction of Constitutional rights, many of them becoming the nation’s leaders including President Richard Nixon.

Verdict: Careful research, extensive quotes, and strong visuals highlight the narrative of a tragedy that the U.S. is beginning to relive in its current anti-union ideology. The Sibert-winning author has written another book to show the dark belly of democracy during the 20th century, adding to earlier information books on black voter suppression and the fight for workers’ rights. Noteworthy is his note at the end, discussing the loyalty oath that he and millions of other U.S. citizens were forced to sign as a requirement of state employment, including teaching, a requirement that has lasted for almost 70 years.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Bluecrowne: A Greenglass House Story, by Kate Milford, illustrated by Nicole Wong

Milford, Kate. Bluecrowne: A Greenglass House Story. Illus. by Nicole Wong. Clarion, 2018. $17.99. 262p. ISBN 978-1-32846688-4. Ages 11-14. P8Q9

Eight years ago, Milford began writing books about her imaginary harbor town, Nagspeake, of the early 1800s, some of them self-published through Kickstarter. This prequel tells about the house where her father thought his daughter, 12-year-old Lucy, would be safe with her stepmother, Xiaoming, and younger half-brother, Liao, after her injuries while at sea with on her father’s ship, The Left-Handed Fate. He is sadly mistaken when the two children are caught up with two time-travelers who want to kidnap Liao to take advantage of the seven-year-old’s skill with creating fireworks. Bluecrowne brings together two series from Milford—Arcana and Greenglass House but easily stands alone.

Verdict: The suspense never stops in this meticulously researched, detailed thriller with blended creativity and magic, menacing villains, well-crafted plotting, Lucy’s poignant feeling of loss after separation from her father and her life on a privateer ship in lyrical prose. Readers unfamiliar with Milford’s other books will want to read them after experiencing Bluecrowne.

December 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Unsinkable Walker Bean and the Knights of the Waxing Moon, by Aaron Renier

Renier, Aaron. The Unsinkable Walker Bean and the Knights of the Waxing Moon. First Second, 2018. $18.99. 288p. ISBN 9781596435056. Ages 10-14. P8Q9

In the sequel to the graphic novel, The Unsinkable Walker Bean, Walker and the Jacklight’s pirate crew have survived a battle at sea complete with sea-witches and face more perilous adventures while shipwrecked on a deserted island with sparkly, shadowy creatures in a jungle. With friends Shiv and Genoa, Walker finds a secret passage leading to ruins and learns about the legend of an insane king and an aristocrat searching for a lost sister in a fallen civilization.

Verdict: The complexity of the plot, as Walker communicates with his grandfather and discovers the betrayal of his father, can be confusing, but the stunning illustrations by Sendak Fellowship winner Renier keep readers engrossed in the world that he has built, replete with shipbuilding, alchemy, hidden caves, two opposing ancient civilizations, and more. Renier provides enough backstory to clarify the plotting, but readers may want to return to the first book.

December 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Limitless: 24 Remarkable American Women of Vision, Grit, and Guts, by Leah Tinari

Tinari, Leah. Limitless: 24 Remarkable American Women of Vision, Grit, and Guts. Aladdin, 2018. $19.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-5344-1855-4. Ages 9-12. P7Q6

Each large, full-page graffiti-style face is accompanied by quotes of each woman to show boys that “women could be role models or heroes for them.” Each gouache drawing in black on white background is highlighted by a neon color—pink, green, blue, and orange. Brief biographies for these women born in the 19th and 20th centuries complete the book.

Verdict: Some of the quotes about the women are by men, and the book lacks diversity with the majority cis, straight, white, and not disabled. More of a coffee-table book, it is more useful for flipping through because the quotes don’t provide background information.

December 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Apollo 8: The Mission That Changed Everything, by Martin W. Sandler

Sandler, Martin W. Apollo 8: The Mission That Changed Everything. Candlewick, 2018. $24.99. 159p. ISBN 978-0-7636-9489-0. Ages 11-15. P7Q8

Competing with the Soviet Union’s push to land a person on the moon, NASA sent three human lunar landers for testing on an untried Saturn V rocket. The Apollo 11 moon landing is far better publicized, but The Apollo 8 journey offers a nerve-wracking adventure when the three men on the spacecraft—Bill Anders, Frank Borman, and Jim Lovell—lose communication with Earth. Photographs in both color and black & white include the famous 1968 shot of “Earthrise,” the first view of earth from space. The narrative, including first-person perspectives from the three travelers, are helped by sidebar histories and background that describe events of the time, the naming of moon features, people involved in the mission, and rocketry history. Also engaging are technical information about the navigation and the importance of the space travel’s cultural impact.

Verdict: The insets that sometimes cover several pages slow the pacing of the reading, but the book will be enjoyable for both studying the text and skimming through for the photographs. World events surrounding the mission such as the Vietnam War, protests, and the Cold War make this useful for a look of history during the second half of the 20th century.

December 2018 review by Nel Ward.