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.

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Book review: The Only Fish in the Sea, by Philip Stead, illustrated by Matthew Cordell

Stead, Philip. The Only Fish in the Sea. Illustrated by Matthew Cordell. Roaring Brook Press, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9781626722828. Unpaged. Ages 3-6. P8Q8

This is a busy, funny, odd book. A boy races to tell his friend Sadie about Little Amy Scott, who received a goldfish for her birthday, told everyone that “Goldfish are Boring!” and dumps the plastic bag with the fish in the ocean. Sadie is appalled, so makes a very practical plan to rescue the fish (now named Ellsworth). She gathers her supplies (balloons, paint, headwear, fishing poles and nets, and her crew (a dozen feisty monkeys) and finds Ellsworth. The loose pen and watercolor illustrations are really fun- kids will enjoy looking at them to pick up additional details of the story.

VERDICT: This story has a great message about planning carefully and working together to help others, and a real sense of fun that will appeal to many children. There is a feeling of justice here too- the story ends with Little Amy Scott spending her birthday alone.

September 2018 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: The Serpent’s Shadow, by Rick Riordan, adapted by Orpheus Collar

Riordan, Rick. Adapted by Orpheus Collar. The Serpent’s Shadow. (The Kane Chronicles Graphic Novels series, book 3.) Disney Hyperion, 2017. unp. $21.99. ISBN: 978-148478132-6. Gr. 5+. P9 Q8

Apohphis, the chaos snake, is once again trying to conquer the world. First he first has to deal with Carter and Sadie Kane and those who follow them. It is up to the Kanes to save the world and defeat Apophis. I have enjoyed reading this series and I love the fact that students reading them are gaining so much information on Egyptian mythology. This adaption by Orpheus Collar is packed with action to the very end. Though it is the third book in the series, I had no trouble understanding what was going on. The simple language helps reluctant readers love this series. The illustrations are colored some more darkly that others but they do carry the reader through the story.

Verdict: This action-packed mythology book will appeal to followers of the Riordan Kane Chronicle books.

June 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: Deep Water, by Watt Key

Key, Watt. Deep Water. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2018. 264 pgs. $16.99. ISBN: 978-0-374-30654-0. Gr 5+. P8 Q8

Julie Simms is 12 years-old the summer she returns to the Gulf Coast of Alabama to spend time with her father. Her parents are divorced and she knows that her father struggles making a living running the Dive Shop. The divorce hinged on her father trying to find a secret artificial reef that divers would clamor to dive to. Julie books a dive soon after her arrival and the costumers are a demanding rich father and his son, Shane. The dive should be simple but complications arise when the father and son refuse to follow Julie’s orders. With 20 minutes of air remaining she makes her way slowly to the surface, so that the bends will not harm her. She sees that the anchor is missing and the boat too. This accident and the brewing storm result in Shane and Julie trying to survive the rough seas. This is a very fast paced adventure that teems with danger when diving.

Verdict: There were times when the plot seemed unbelievable because of the age of the Shane and Julie. This is due to two young children being able to pull off what I feel is more adult reasoning. Though through the expert training that Julie had it could happen.

June 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: The Eye of the North, by Sinéad O’Hart

O’Hart, Sinéad. The Eye of the North. Alfred A. Knopf, 2017. 346 pgs. $16.99. ISBN 9781101935033. Ages 8-12. P7Q7.

Emmaline grows up in a creaky old house, mainly kept company by the butler and house keeper. Her scientist parents are often away for work, but have now disappeared for real! She is put on a boat to Paris to ask a family friend for refuge, meets the stowaway boy Thing, and then the fun really begins! Criminals try to kidnap her, and she and Thing end up on a crazy adventure to the far north in an attempt to rescue Emmaline’s parents from the villainous Dr. Sigfried Bauer and his evil plan (which involves a kraken). The story is fast paced and exciting, and I enjoyed the watching Thing’s character develop. It has a bit of a steampunk quality in places, and a variety of interesting characters.

VERDICT: Middle grade readers will find this a fun adventure.

April 2018 review by Carol Schramm.

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: Bobby Lee Claremont and the Criminal Element, by Jeannie Mobley

Mobley, Jeannie. Bobby Lee Claremont and the Criminal Element. Holiday House, 2017. 229 pgs. $16.95. ISBN 9780823437818. Ages 8-12. P8Q8

Bobby Lee Claremont, age 13, decides to leave New Orleans after losing his mother to consumption and realizing that he has no future in that city. He embarks on a life of crime by robbing the poor box at the Sisters of Charitable Mercy Orphanage. He buys a train ticket to Chicago, since it looks like the best bet for a clever kid who wants to join a gang and cash in on the illegal alcohol business that prohibition created. His plans don’t quite work out though- he gets thrown in with some nasty gangsters on the train, and finds that the life of crime may not be for him. Together with two quick witted African American boys (the grandsons of a train employee), Bobby Lee gets to the bottom of a murder mystery. I really enjoyed this fast paced adventure, with its villains, believable characters, jazz musicians, and train culture. Bobby Lee learns a lot about the Jim Crow laws that were in place at the time, and comes to believe that segregation and racism are very wrong. The author’s note gives further information about Jim Crow laws, segregation on trains, and gangsters in the 1920s.

VERDICT: I think young readers will find this a fast and fun read. It could be used in the classroom to provide background in a history class as well.

January 2018 review by Carol Schramm.