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: The Five Forms, by Barbara McClintock

McClintock, Barbara. The Five Forms. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9781626722163. P8Q9

A free book on Chinese martial arts leads a young girl into a wild adventure as she practices the poses.  Though the described moves are accompanied by the warning that each should only be done with an experienced teacher, the girl successfully creates the form, only to find that her shadow becomes the embodiment of the creature which inspired that form.  The chaos builds as first a crane, then a leopard, snake, and finally a dragon come to life, spilling books, tipping furniture, pulling pictures from the walls.  Only the girl’s successful completion of the final form dispels the visitors and brings order back to the house.  The author’s note credits her son’s ongoing martial arts practice for the story’s inspiration.

Verdict:  Stories beginning with a chance encounter that result in cascading chaos because a novice steps into forbidden knowledge or areas not yet mastered are often found in folk tales.  This fun, clever, humorous story integrates simple illustrations, heavily outlined in black, to create an introduction to Chinese martial arts. Highly recommended for preschool, kindergarten, elementary and public libraries.

March 2018 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild, by Lawrence Anthony and Graham Spence, adapted by Thea Feldman

Anthony, Lawrence, and Graham Spence. The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild. Adapted by Thea Feldman. Henry Holt and Company, 2017. $18.99. ISBN 9781627793094. 248 Pages. Ages 10-14. P7 Q7

Do you ever wonder how animals are chosen to live in a game reserve? Anthony, a conservationist in South America, recounts his adventures on the Thula Thula Game Reserve and how he rescues a group of unruly elephants. As I read the book, I wondered what the elephants would get into next. Living with the elephants, Anthony shows courage, perseverance, success and failure. He does not give up on the elephants, even though they cause a lot of problems. The book was interesting, but a bit slow paced, it could have included the same amount of information in a shorter book. A lot of emphasis was placed on him keeping the elephants from being shot, but the bond he developed with the elephants was remarkable. Since it is a true story, the ending is not predictable. This book contains short chapters, glossy color photographs in the middle of the book, a glossary, and Zulu terms. This story was from 1999.  Adapted for young readers from the book originally published in 2009.

Verdict:  This easy to read and engaging true story will help children learn more about animal reserves and elephants. I recommend this book for middle school and public libraries.

February 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Little Tails in the Savannah, by Frédéric Brrémaud, illustrated by Federico Bertolucci

Brrémaud, Frédéric. Little Tails in the Savannah. Illus. by Federico Bertolucci. (Little Tails Wildlife Adventures). Magnetic Press, 2017, $14.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-942367-38-3. Ages 3-7. P9Q8

The puppy Chipper and squirrel Squizzo have come back in a third adventure, an African safari, as green and white cartoon panels and drawings in a cardboard airplane are laid on top of rich paintings featuring different animals, their habitats, and behavior. More details and illustrations about eight of these creatures are provided at the end.

Verdict: Charming and delightful, the book provides facts and humor for young readers. Other settings in the series are forest, jungle, and prehistory.

January/February 2018 book review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Bad Guys in The Furball Strikes Back, by Aaron Blabey

Blabey, Aaron. The Bad Guys in The Furball Strikes Back. (Bad Guys series, book 3) Scholastic, 2017. $5.99. 140p. ISBN 978-1-338-08749-9. Ages 6-10. P9Q9

After rescuing 10,000 chickens in Mission Unpluckable, the motley crew of “bad” guys turned into “The Good Guys Club” led by Mr. Wolf face more danger from Dr. Marmalade, the evil mad scientist guinea pig, was wants revenge for the chicken rescue. Mr. Wolf is captured along with the snake and the shark, leaving the piranha and tarantula to save the day. Fortunately, the ninja-like Special Agent Fox steps in to help, but Mr. Wolf’s crush on her may cause more problems. The simple illustrations on large, sometimes full-page panels, are full of shouting in bold, all caps type that contribute to the excitement.

Verdict: Well laid out and simple, the drawings clearly show the different creatures, and the crazy humor, including the group’s in-fighting dialog, is non-stop. Although the graphic novel can be read without the first two books in the series, reading those two books first would enhance the enjoyment. A wonderful sequel by the Australian author with a short taste of the crew’s fourth adventure against an army of zittens—zombie kittens.

December 2017 review by Nel Ward

Book review: The Only Lonely Panda, by Jonny Lambert

Lambert, Jonny. The Only Lonely Panda. Tiger Tales, 2017. ISBN 978-1-68010-065-5.  $16.99.  32 p.  Ages 3-7.  Q7P8

I love the artwork in this book!  Panda wants to be friends with the other Panda so badly, but doesn’t know where to start.  He tries to mimic the animals around him to get her attention.  Dancing like flamingos, bouncing like lemurs, or stomping like the blue-footed booby doesn’t seem to help.  In the end, sharing a meal does!  I really like the message that sharing helps make friends.  I was not so happy that Panda only wanted to be friends with the other panda.  There were lots of other animals around him that could have been fun to meet.


Verdict:  A beautiful book with a nice message, unless you look too deep.  For the younger kids an explanation may be needed why Panda doesn’t consider being friends with the other animals in the book.

December 2017 review  by Terri Lippert.