Book review: Bug Off!: A Story of Fireflies and Friendship, Cari Best, illustrated by Jennifer Plecas

Best, Cari. Bug Off!: A Story of Fireflies and Friendship. Illustrated by Jennifer Plecas. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9780374380625. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q8

Maude has moved from the city to the country and she is fascinated with fireflies! She notices that her new neighbor has a Bug-of-the-Month club. She needs to give a speech about a bug to be invited to join. She excitedly researches and writes a report about fireflies. She can combine her love of fireflies and make new friends! Unfortunately things do not go as planned. Louise, the leader of the club is not kind and tells her to “bug off.” Maude is sad and mad and walks away from the group. The next night, there is a firefly show in Maude’s back yard and the other members of the club show up to find out more about fireflies. Readers will learn a lot about fireflies and what properties bugs have. Illustrations match the text and show the difference between fireflies and bugs. A note from the author, additional resources to learn more about fireflies, are included at the end of the book. This book was written based on the author’s love for fireflies. Like Maude, the author’s favorite insect is a firefly and she emphasizes that it needs a firefly friendly environment to live in. Illustrations show fireflies, friends and their adventures. There is a heart around Maude and Louise as they talk at the end.  The message of  being kind even when others are not kind to you is emphasized.

Verdict: Readers will learn a lot about fireflies and may become passionate about fireflies after reading this book. I learned a lot. With the theme of friendship, kindness and forgiveness, this book will be one the reader will want to read over and over.

February 2020 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Her Own Two Feet, Meredith Davis and Rebeka Uwitonze

Davis, Meredith and Rebeka Uwitonze. Her Own Two Feet. Scholastic, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781338356373. 199 pages. Ages 8-12. P7 Q8

Can you imagine being 9 years old and leaving your family, your country and all that is familiar to come to America alone to have a surgery that may give you a chance to walk? Rebeka, who lived in a village in Rwanda, was born with curled feet. This inspiring narrative tells Rebeka’s story through her eyes, with the help of one of her hosts, Meredith. The book is broken up into three parts: Rwanda, America, and back to Rwanda. Meredith’s husband, Clay, was in Rwanda and hopped in a van with a woman who was Medeatrece’s (Rebeka’s sister) sponsor. While there, Clay noticed Rebeka. He wanted to sponsor her, but she already had a family who sponsored her. Clay found out that Rebeka’s sponsor was a doctor! Through many conversations, it was decided that Rebeka would come to America and live with Meredith, who became her host family. Rebeka expected to be better after her first surgery. She didn’t realize that she would have to work hard and go through a lot of pain. Rebeka visited the hospital 58 times and wore 31 different casts on her journey to be able to walk. To get information for the book, Meredith interviewed her parents, teachers, headmasters, friends, and mama in her boarding school to find information about her life before she came to America and after she went home again. Black and white photographs show the reader Rebaka’s journey. The end of the book contains “A note from Rebeka,” “a note from Meredith,” “glossary of Rwanda words with pronunciation guide,” and “sponsoring kids through Africa New Life Ministries.”

Verdict: I found this book inspiring and encouraging. I have heard a lot about children who have been sponsored by people in America, but I have not heard of many who have actually went to the visit the children they are sponsoring. My daughter sponsors a child from Tanzania and this gives me hope that her money actually makes a difference for the child. Readers will be inspired by Rebeka’s journey to healing.

February 2020 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Crocs, by Bridget Heos, illustrated by David Clark

Heos, Bridget. Crocs. Illustrated by David Clark. (Just Like Us! series). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. $14.99. ISBN 9781328791924. Unpaged. Ages 5-10. P7 Q8

If you like crocodiles or want to know more about them, this is the book for you! Did you know that American alligators introduce themselves by bellowing? Through this growl, the alligator communicates its gender, location and size. Each page has a topic heading that is written in colorful bubble letters which sets the theme for the page. Each page includes a box that contains information emphasizing how crocodiles are similar to humans. The information is easy to read, yet the reader will learn a lot. Since each page has its own theme, the book does not have to be read from front to back, one can skip around to pages they are interested in. Cartoon illustrations along with photographs of crocodiles fill each page. The crocodiles have large round pop out eyes that make me smile. Crocodiles can be scary animals, but the illustrations make them fun. Contains a glossary and bibliography.

Verdict: This fun, informative crocodile book is sure to bring smiles to your face while teaching you a lot about crocodiles. If you are doing a unit on crocodiles or just like them, you will find this book valuable. Some books require the reader to have to wade through a lot of words to find facts, the facts in this nonfiction book are concise and easy to understand. I highly recommend it.

February 2020 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The Startup Squad, by Brian Weisfeld and Nicole C. Kear

Weisfeld, Brian and Nicole C. Kear. The Startup Squad. (Startup Squad series, book 1). Imprint, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9781250180407. 172 pages. Ages 8-11. P7 Q7

Resa’s teacher, Ms. Davis, explains to the class about the sixth-grade trip and fund raiser. The class is going to Adventure Central and they will be selling lemonade for the fundraiser. The class is divided up into teams and each team will have their own lemonade stand. Resa’s best friend, Didi, is on her team, along with Harriet and Amelia. Harriet is energetic, colorful, optimistic, enthusiastic and full of ideas. Amelia is the new girl, who is quiet and logical. As the team works towards making their lemonade and selling it, Resa is very judgmental towards the others on her team and always wants things done her way. However, by doing things her way, they do not turn out as she expects. Resa learns that when working in a team, she cannot always have her way. Meanwhile, Val and her team of overachievers seem to be selling the most lemonade. Can Resa and her team regroup and win the contest? Will Resa learn the value of compromise? Resa can be a bit annoying since she goes too fast, does not have patience for others and focuses on their faults. The team members take time to talk to Resa and help her see how she is treating them. The illustrations on the cover show four girls of different races, showing diversity.

Verdict: Relationships are complex, especially when friends have different temperaments and strengths. The author did a good job of representing a wide variety of races and personality types. The overall message of compromise and seeing the strengths of others make this short chapter book one that will make the reader more open minded for having read it. I recommend it for public and school libraries.

February 2020 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: Tiny-Tricera Troubles, by Dustin Hansen

Hansen, Dustin. Tiny-Tricera Troubles. (Microsaurs series, book 6). Feiwel and Friends, 2019. $14.99. ISBN 9781250090386. 212 pages. Ages 7-10. P6 Q6

It is exciting for Lin and Danny to go through the Expand-O-Shrink-O-Portal and shrink to fit inside a Microterium to interact with Microsaurs. But it is quite another adventure when Bruno, a puppy-saurus falls through the Expand-O-Shrink-O-Portal and two more Microsaurs follow him! They end up full size in the middle of the town’s annual Tomato Festival. Lin and Danny follow the dinosaurs, trying to keep them safe and return them to the Microterium. The characters use their imaginations to explain the presence of the dinosaurs, coming up with many different explanations. The illustrations are black and white drawings of the characters, which add a nice element to the story. This book is a quick, easy read. Even though this is book 6 in the series, it can stand alone. I lowered the Q rating because I felt like it dragged a bit in the middle of the book, making it feel like the author was trying to stretch out the book.

Verdict: Readers who like dinosaurs will enjoy this adventurous book. The characters work together to save the Microsaurs, teaching readers about teamwork and thinking about others. If you are a fan of the first 5 books in the series, you will enjoy this book as well.

February 2020 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Ready for Action, by Brian Lynch, illustrated by Edwardian Taylor

Lynch, Brian. Ready for Action. Illustrated by Edwardian Taylor. (Toy Academy series, book 2). Scholastic Press, 2019. $14.99. ISBN 9781338149166. 185 pages. Ages 7-10. P7 Q7

Tempest Boomcloud, an action figure, has been forgotten and is in a carton next to discarded toys. She uses her battle glove to tear through the packaging to escape. Meanwhile, at the Toy Academy, students are getting ready for a parade to celebrate Elite Action Force Now’s twenty-fifth anniversary. A vital part of being an action figure is being a sidekick. Grumbolt, a stuffed animal, gets chosen to be Rex’s sidekick. Rex is a bully and no one wants to be his sidekick. Grumbolt decides to be the very best sidekick so that Rex will appreciate him. No such luck! Rex adores his van and doesn’t care about Grumbolt. Key Bee, a key chain, is the action figure and Micro is his sidekick. Micro does not respect or believe that Key Bee can amount to anything since it is a key chain. When Tempest enters Toy Academy and steals Rex’s van with Key Bee in it, the true adventure begins. Written from the action figures’ points of view, with short chapters and line drawings, this book realistically shows to what an action figure might feel and go through.

Verdict: With themes of facing your fears and being an upstander, this creative adventure will keep readers engaged, especially ones who enjoy action figures. Readers will be captivated until the end!

February 2020 review by Tami Harris.