Book review: Taming of the Shoe, by Sarah Darer Littman

Littman, Sarah Darer. Taming of the Shoe. Aladdin, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781534431577. 230 pages. Ages 8-12. P6 Q6

From the title, I thought this book was going to be a modern twist on the play, the Taming of the Shrew. However, once I started reading it, I realized that it was made up of fairytale characters, told in first person, from Arminita’s point of view. Arminita who goes by Minty, is the daughter of Cinderella. Her family is famous for supplying their superior cleaning products to royalty. Her aunts (her mother’s step sisters) own a Comfortably Ever After line where they sell comfortable–but ugly–shoes. Minty arrives at a new school and tries to make friends. Along the way she meets Dakota, whose dad is Hansel and aunt is Gretel. Nina and her popular friends befriend Minty, but even though she has been warned that they are not to be trusted, Minty has to learn it for herself. When her aunts take care of her for a week while her parents are out of town for a “global product roll out” her life spirals into disaster. This book was a bit different than I thought it would be. Since the characters are from fairy tales, it took me awhile to get into it. I almost stopped reading it, but I gave it another chance and actually enjoyed it. I felt the book was a bit disjointed because of the number of fairytale characters who were introduced without a lot of background or reference to why they appeared in the story. While the plot was good and the book tied up nicely, it was a bit hard to follow at times. The author is the winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award. This book is a follow up to Charmed, I’m Sure and Fairest of Them All. 

Verdict: I think the reference to many fairytale characters in modern day may appeal to some readers. You have to be able to think outside the box to be able to enjoy this book.

September 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Frankie Sparks and The Talent Show Trick, by Megan Frazer Blakemore, illustrated by Nadja Sarell

Blakemore, Megan Frazer. Frankie Sparks and The Talent Show Trick. Illustrated by Nadja Sarell. (Frankie Sparks, Third-Grade Inventor series, book 2). Aladdin, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781534430471. 116 pages. Ages 7-10. P7 Q7  

When Frankie meets Tatiana, a magician who has brown skin and curls, just like Frankie, she is mesmerized! Frankie decides that in addition to be the best third-grade inventor, she wants to be the best magician as well. She studies and practices with Maya, her best friend, as her assistant. They perform their first magic show in Maya’s living room. Frankie dreams of being a star in the upcoming school talent show. However, Maya has stage fright and it appears that she will not be able to be Frankie’s assistant. Will Frankie find a new assistant, drop out of the talent show or will Maya gain the courage to be Frankie’s assistant? The author includes how the characters are feeling and the struggles they go through revolving around Frankie’s goal of becoming a star and Maya’s fear of the audience. The text is printed in a larger font which is spaced out, which make it easier for children to read. This short chapter book includes a table of contents with ten short chapters. The end of the book explains “the design process” when one makes an invention, how to turn ”something old into something new,” and “your turn to be the inventor.” The author is a school librarian who has a BA from Columbia University. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in library science. Even though this is book 2 in the series, it can stand alone.

Verdict:  I think readers will be engaged with this book and be able to relate to the characters. It teaches readers about friendships and how to encourage others. Maya’s dilemma will show readers how to have courage and to take chances. I recommend this book for elementary aged readers.

February 2020 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The Drone Pursuit, by Victor Appleton

Appleton, Victor. The Drone Pursuit. (Tom Swift Inventors’ Academy series, book 1). Aladdin, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781534436312. 130 pages. Ages 8-12. P8 Q8

Modern technology and spy stories collide to create a riveting adventure that will keep readers engaged to the very end. Tom Swift attends Swift Academy of Science and Technology, which his father funds. It is common to see drones and small robots in the halls. When Tom parks his drone out of sight, it goes missing. He is determined to get it back. However, along the way, he and his friends suspect that the custodian, Mr. Conway is actually a hacker who is wanted by the FBI. The author did a stellar job of incorporating technology relevant to tweens. Readers will be able to picture in their minds eye the events as they are unfolding. This series is a kid friendly relaunch of the Tom Swift series, when Tom comes back as a middle schooler. The Tom Swift saga comprises 6 series. The original series 1910-1941, the second series, Tom Swift Jr 1954-1971, the third series, Tom Swift lll 1981-1984, the fourth series, Tom Swift lV 1991-1993, the fifth series,  Tom Swift, Young Inventor 2006-2007, and lastly,  the sixth series, Tom Swift Inventors Academy 2019.

Verdict: If you like the Hardy Boys and Alex Rider, you will enjoy this adventure, told from Tom’s point of view. Full of intrigue, mystery, friendships, team work and twists and turns. From the cover that shows action to the very last page, readers will be enraptured. I highly recommend this book for all libraries.

September 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The Sonic Breach, by Victor Appleton

Appleton, Victor. The Sonic Breach. (Tom Swift Inventors’ Academy series, book 2). Aladdin, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781534436343. 130 pages. Ages 8-12. P8 Q8 

Modern technology and mystery collide to create a riveting adventure that will keep readers engaged to the very end. Tom Swift attends Swift Academy of Science and Technology, which his father funds. Tom and his friends made their own robots for a robot battle in the gym during robotics class. The students are annoyed by all the pop quizzes their teachers are giving them. While Tom is in class, he hears mosquito ring tones. His friend Amy has created the Pop Chop app to alert other students when a teacher is going to give a pop quiz. However, what started out as an innocent app soon goes awry. This adventure will not only keep readers engaged, it also inserts advice such as, failing is not a bad thing, one can learn from mistakes, which enforces growth mindset. I learned that mosquito ring tones are a real thing, as the book describes. It has even been made into a cellphone ringtone so teachers can’t hear the teen’s phone ringing. This series is a kid friendly relaunch of the Tom Swift series, when Tom comes back as a middle schooler. The Tom Swift saga is comprised of 6 series. The original series 1910-1941, the second series, Tom Swift Jr 1954-1971, the third series, Tom Swift lll 1981-1984, the fourth series, Tom Swift lV 1991-1993, the fifth series, Tom Swift, Young Inventor 2006-2007, and lastly,  the sixth series, Tom Swift Inventors Academy 2019. There are two more books planned to be released in this series.

 Verdict: Another winning novel, the second in the Tom Swift Inventor’s Academy series, this book is able to stand alone. If you like the Hardy Boys and Alex Rider, you will enjoy this adventure. Themes of friendship, teamwork, honest, courage and following one’s moral compass are strong.  From the cover that shows action to the very last page, readers will be enraptured. I highly recommend this book for all libraries.

September 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: How to Trick the Tooth Fairy, by Erin Danielle Russell, illustrated by Jennifer Hansen Rolli

Russell, Erin Danielle. How to Trick the Tooth Fairy.  Illustrated by Jennifer Hansen Rolli. Aladdin, 2018. ISBN 978-1-4814-6732-2. $17.99. 40 pages. Ages 4-8 years. P5Q5

This is beautifully illustrated with oil paint on brown craft paper.  Bright colors on every page illustrate the story in a fun whimsical manner.  I’m on the fence regarding the story, though.  Kaylee loves to play pranks and has met her match with the Tooth Fairy.  Fun right?  Well, Kaylee’s pranks are often mean:  scaring her sister at night, dropping water balloons on her friends walking to school, marbles on the floor to trip Santa, and that’s in the first couple of pages.  Ok – the dog toothpaste in the sandwich cookies was kind of funny.  Then comes the Tooth Fairy!  She’s just as aggressive!  After much pranking and counter pranking Kaylee and the Tooth Fairy come to terms that they’ve gone too far.  Love that they agree AND clean up their not-so-insignificant messes.

Verdict:  I cannot recommend a book that ends with a little girl and the Tooth Fairy throwing water balloons from a tree at unsuspecting children below them.

June 2019 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Bonnie and Clyde, by James Buckley, jr.

Buckley, James Jr. Bonnie and Clyde. (History’s Worst). Aladdin, 2018. $18.99. 147p. ISBN 978-1-4814-9549-3. Ages 9-12. P7Q5

For three years, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow traveled throughout Texas and Oklahoma, robbing people and killing when they were cornered until they died in an ambush at the ages of 23 and 25. Buckley chronicles the childhood of the perpetrators, their meeting, their adventures, and the ending. A final chapter describes the media attention for the following 80 years.

Verdict: Earlier books in the series include Adolf Hitler and Jack the Ripper; this subject doesn’t fit with them as the Worst. Better choices for criminals in the 1930s might be Al Capone or Baby Face Nelson. Colloquial language and out-of-date slang intended to entice younger readers feels inappropriate. No index and incomplete list of resources according to those mentioned in the text. Cover artwork is distorted and unpleasant, and Buckley’s comparison to current times is sometimes inaccurate.

January 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Keith: the Cat with the Magic Hat, by Sue Hendra

Hendra, Sue.  Keith: the Cat with the Magic Hat.  Aladdin, 2012.  $14.99. ISBN 978-1-4814-9035-1.  Unpaged. Ages 2-7. P8Q7

A dripping catastrophe or a magic hat? It all depends on how you interpret an ice cream cone dropped on your head.  The other felines mock Keith until his chocolate stick (magic wand) appears to take a life of its own. The reader and Keith are aware of the line of ants in this ploy yet Keith’s audience remains awestruck.  Keith marvels at the attention and continues the magic show by beckoning a family of rabbits from its burrow. Keith’s magic is put to the test when a dog threatens the cats. The cats take refuge in a tree. The motion of climbing the tree dislodges the magic hat from Keith’s head for an unexpected solution to the menacing dog.  Hendra first published in the UK in 2012though this silly story is new in the US.

Verdict: the vibrant digital illustrations with wide-eyed characters are impossible to pass up.

September 2018 review by Penny McDermott.