Book review: Dragon’s Green, by Scarlett Thomas

Thomas, Scarlett. Dragon’s Green. (Worldquake, book one.) Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9781481497848. 369 pgs. Ages 9-12. P8Q7

This is a very enjoyable first book in the Worldquake series for middle grade readers. Effie Truelove spends a lot of time with her wonderfully eccentric grandfather, and tries to get him to teach her magic. He is reluctant to do that though, but when he has a mysterious accident and dies, Effie is left a magic ring and some other items (a letter opener, some spectacles, and more). Her grandfather has also written a codicil to his will for Effie, but her father has destroyed it, as well as selling the grandfather’s magical library, which Effie was supposed to receive. Along with a group of misfit friends from school, Effie takes on the role of hero in a dangerous magical adventure. This book has all the elements that make a kids’ fantasy story exciting- a heroic character, a dragon, a quirky school, villains, magic, and danger.  As I read, I wished at times that I knew more about some of the characters- maybe I will get this information as the series continues.

VERDICT: Middle grade students who like fantasy will like this book and its characters. I will be watching for the next one in the series (out in May 2018).

September 2018 review by Carol Schramm.

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Book review: Roxie and the Hooligans at Buzzard’s Roost, by Phillis Reynolds Naylor, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

Naylor, Phillis Reynolds. Roxie and the Hooligans at Buzzard’s Roost. Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9781481437820. 188 pgs. Ages 7-10. P8Q8

Roxie has had real trouble with a group of hooligan bully kids at school. In the previous book, Roxie and the Hooligans, they tormented her and her friend Norman until they all had a run-in with some robbers. Roxie and Norman impressed the hooligans so much that they now want to hang around with them. Roxie thinks it’s better being friends than enemies, but wishes that they weren’t around quite so much. So, when her Uncle Dangerfoot takes her and Norman on a vacation, she’s unpleasantly surprised when the hooligans stow away with them. Once at the beach house Buzzard’s Roost, Roxie begins to feel that something is amiss- her uncle is behaving strangely, the landlady is very peculiar, and odd things are happening in the area. Along with the rough hooligans, Roxie and Norman get to the bottom of what is going on. This is a great summer book- it’s a very fast, lively read, the characters are funny and engaging, the hooligans are bullies but have some redeeming qualities, and the villain doesn’t get away with his mischief.

VERDICT: Kids who are looking for a fast, light adventure/ mystery will enjoy this book. It is the second in the series, but you don’t need to have read the first one to enjoy it.

September 2018 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: The Wild Robot Escapes, by Peter Brown

Brown, Peter. The Wild Robot Escapes. “Advance reading copy.” Little, Brown, March 2018. 246 pages. $16.99. ISBN 9780316382045. Ages 8-12. P8Q9

In this sequel taking place shortly following the events in Brown’s The Wild Robot, the now refurbished robot, Roz, has been sold to a farmer and programmed to use her skills in running and repairing the run-down dairy farm.  Roz’s experiences of living on a wilderness island after shipwreck have given her the skills to communicate with animals and she uses those skills to put together a plan to rejoin her adopted son Brightbill, a wild goose, and the other animals on the island. Unfortunately, self-determination in robots threatens humans and Roz’s long journey back to the wild island ends in recapture by the company which made her. Along the way, Roz is helped by animal friends like the pigeon who helps navigate through a mega city and hindered by the remnants of a pack of wolves.

Verdict: I read this sequel before I read The Wild Robot.  Both are fascinating adventure stories and both carry implied questions about who has the right to self-determination, how one identifies one’s own self, and how experience forms the person.  In The Wild Robot, a factory-fresh Roz is accidentally activated after being lost from a container ship and learns to fit into a wilderness environment.  In The Wild Robot Escapes, Roz builds on knowledge from the earlier experiences to adapt to a new, human environment. The Wild Robot Escapes examines how a fully-mechanized future might look, especially on smaller farms, while using language accessible to most 3rd and 4th grade readers. Highly recommended for elementary and middle school, as well as public libraries.

September 2018 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Jasmine Toguchi: Drummer Girl, by Debbi Michiko Florence; pictures by Elizabet Vukovic

Florence, Debbi Michiko. Jasmine Toguchi: Drummer Girl. (Jasmine Toguchi series, book 3) Pictures by Elizabet Vukovic. Farrar, Straus, Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2018. $5.99. ISBN 9780374308360. 116 pages. Ages 6-9. P7 Q8

Have you wanted to be really good at something, but others seem to excel more than you? Jasmine’s class is having a talent show and she wants to perform, but she isn’t sure what talent she has that she can share on stage. Her mother used to play the taiko, a Japanese drum. When her mom played the drum, she felt free, strong and happy and feels that Jasmine may feel the same way. Maggie, a classmate brags about how good she is, which makes Jasmine feel bad about herself. In the end, Maggie messes up on stage and Jasmine is a success. Jasmine encourages Maggie and makes her feel good about herself. Jasmine’s mom encourages her to practice, and if she makes a mistake, to keep on going. Told from Jasmine’s point of view, this book is in the Jasmine Toguchi series, but can stand alone. It contains simple Japanese words and Japanese culture. Illustrations are simple line drawings that add interest to the story. The end of the book contains the Author’s note explaining the history of the taiko, a Japanese drum. It also includes instructions to make your own hachi-maki, a headband worn to catch sweat and keep it from running into one’s eyes. There is a short sneak peak of the next book in the series.

Verdict: Rich in Japanese culture, fun and relatable, this story encourages one to practice, not give up and to find out what talent they have. It also shows forgiveness and reaching out to others, even if the other person has not been kind. I highly recommend this book for elementary school and public libraries.

May 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Boying Up: How To Be Brave, Bold, and Brilliant, by Mayim Bailik

Bailik, Mayim.  Boying Up: How To Be Brave, Bold, and Brilliant. Philomel Books, 2018. $18.99. ISBN 9780525515975. 200 pages.  Ages 12+. P7 Q9

The journey through puberty can be awkward, embarrassing, and confusing. Do you wish you had a handbook to guide you through it? Well now you do! Bailik writes in a simple relatable way, but at the same time, she packs the book full of helpful information. She covers how boys’ bodies work, how they grow, learn, love, cope, and matter. She includes the importance of education and why school is valuable, but at the same time she validates a variety of paths boys can take after high school including college, military, trade school, and work. I appreciate the fact that she emphasizes that boys need to have consent before they engage in sex, which is important. Illustrations include realistic simple sketches of a variety of penises and scrotums, the male and female reproductive systems, and different body types. This book is very well rounded. While scientific, it is still easy to read and understand. The last chapter delves into how boys’ matter, featuring six men who matter and how they made the world a better place. Bailik writes, “Part of the process of Boying Up and becoming a young man who is compassionate, kind and confident involves finding ways to make impacting others in a positive way a significant part of your life.”

Verdict: I don’t know if boys would actually pick up this book and read it, but if they did, it would provide them with valuable information. Parents may want to read it with their boys as they are starting the journey through puberty. I highly recommend this book for personal libraries, middle school and high school libraries along with the public library.

May 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Exploring Space: from Galileo to the Mars Rover and Beyond, by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Stephen Biesty

Jenkins, Martin. Exploring Space: from Galileo to the Mars Rover and Beyond. Illus. Stephen Biesty. Candlewick Press, 2017. 59 pgs. Includes glossary and index. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0-7636-8931-5. Gr. 5+. P8 Q9

This oversized volume on space is one that I will gladly include in my middle school library. Jenkins has divided the book into sections: The solar system, astronomy, going into space and then returning, survival in space, aliens, crowded skies and the future of space. You are taken on a journey through time and space. The material that is presented is age appropriate and is not dry. It instead intrigued me. Biesty’s illustrations include clear, intricate drawings of cross-sections and cut-away sections of spacecraft and satellites.

Verdict: This book needs to be included in every middle and high school library. It will be a great addition to space collections.

June 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: The World Cup: Soccer’s Global Championship, by Matt Doeden

Doeden, Matt. The World Cup: Soccer’s Global Championship. (Spectacular Sports series.) Millbrook Press, 2018. 64 pgs. Includes glossary and index. $26.66. ISBN: 978-1-5124-2755-4. Gr. 6+. P10 Q8

I am always looking for soccer books as it is becoming a very popular sport in our community.  This book was one that I will include in my library. In 1900 soccer was played in the Olympics for the first time. “Soccer was on its way to world domination,” the author states. In 1930, the World Cup, soccer’s international championship tournament, was created. Wanting to be the place it was held also became a great honor, an honor that was often won through bribes to the officials of those on the championship board. The history of the sport, women’s competition, players, and even trophies were just some of the topics that were presented. There are black and white photographs which helped show the history of the sport. The color photographs are clear action shots of players in several games and World Cup championships.

Verdict: This book should be included in all public and middle and high school libraries. The information is presented in clear, easy to understand language. It does not read like a text book.

June 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.