Book review: The Last Dragonfly, from the Gigantosaurus television series, based on characters created by Jonny Duddle

The Last Dragonfly. (Gigantosaurus series). From the television series created and produced by Cyber Group Studios and based on characters created by Jonny Duddle. Candlewick Press, 2020. $12.99. ISBN 9781536214000. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q8

When Mazu and her friends explore deep in the prehistoric jungle, they discover a rare dragonfly that is about to have babies. Totor and Cror, two raptors, take the dragonfly from Mazu. Mazu offers to trade them a scale from Giganto for the dragonfly. Will she be able to get the scale and save the dragonfly? Illustrations show depth, like seeing it on television. The illustration of the gigantosaurus takes up the whole page. The vibrant, rich colors of a jungle, and oversized illustrations are captivating. This picture book is based on the episode “Mazu Takes a Chance” from the television series Gigantasaurus, which includes characters created by Jonny Duddle. The illustrations were created digitally.  Cyber Group Studios successfully maintained the tv series into the book, showing the animation of the friends, colors, and jungle.

Verdict: Children who watch this series on Disney Junior will enjoy having a book where they can follow Mazu and her friends while learning about friendship, teamwork, courage and standing up for what you believe in. My favorite line in the book is “You can fail a bunch of times and still succeed.”

April 2020 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Welcome to Your World, by Smriti Prasadam-Halls, illustrated by Jaime Kim

Prasadam-Halls, Smriti. Welcome to Your World. Illustrated by Jaime Kim. Candlewick Press, 2020. $16.99. ISBN 9781536206227. Unpaged. Ages 2-5. P6 Q7

A mama is holding her baby, telling it all about the world around it. Using lyrical, rhyming text, the mama encourages the child to look at the sky, forest, ocean, mountains, and then back up at the stars. At the end of the story, the baby is now a toddler and the mama encourages the child to love the world. Each page features a place in nature and shows a grown and young animal in their natural habitat. The warm, colorful illustrations were created using watercolor and digital tools. It is a celebration of nature and a reminder to protect it.

Verdict: Nature has so much to offer. This read-aloud shares the positive qualities of nature with children and gently encourages them to take care of the world. The book leaves one feeling happy and hopeful.

April 2020 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Anywhere Farm, by Phyllis Root, illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Root, Phyllis. Anywhere Farm. Illustrated by G. Brian Karas. Candlewick Press, 2020. $17.99. ISBN 9781536210552. Unpaged. Ages 2-5. P6 Q6

Planting a garden does not have to be intimidating or take up a lot of space. All you need is soil, sunshine, water and a seed. Follow children in this lyrical rhyming book as they talk about where you can plant, what you can plant, and who might come and visit. Racially diverse children and friendships are shown in the earth tone illustrations. The illustrations were rendered in mixed media. A note to parents and teachers is included. Some books that rhyme do not make sense due to the need to rhyme. The author did a successful job and the rhyming was creative and added to the story.

Verdict: No everyone has access to a large plot of land to plant a garden. This simple picture book will demonstrate how to make a garden in a multitude of places, even a shoe! This is a valuable book for a unit on gardening. Creativity, growth mindset and friendship are woven throughout.

April 2020 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: They Didn’t Teach This in Worm School!, by Simone Lia

Lia, Simone. They Didn’t Teach This in Worm School! Candlewick Press, 2016. $14.99. ISBN 978 0 7636 9536 1. 182 pages. Ages 7-10. P7 Q7

Meet Laurence who believes he is a flamingo yet resembles a chicken and fast-talking worm named Marcus. Laurence longs to fly to Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya to join the flamingo flock.  The story starts with Marcus being dumped from a can in preparation for consumption by Laurence. Marcus’s quick thinking puts him on Laurence’s back instead of in his digestive system. The duo beatbox their way out of a pot intended for chicken/ worm stew for mole, crow, and squirrel. Ultimately, they find that they were able to navigate to Kenya in their sleep when they awake to find a zebra. The two discover that the Maasai Mara is quite organized with informative signs while readers will quickly assess the situation and know that they are actually in the local zoo.

Verdict: The simple pink and gray illustrations on nearly every page complement this story of friendship, kindness, and respect.

April 2020 review by Penny McDermott.


Book review: The Most Important Thing: Stories about Sons, Fathers, and Grandfathers, by Avi

Avi. The Most Important Thing: Stories about Sons, Fathers, and Grandfathers. Candlewick Press, 2019. $8.99.  ISBN 978 1 5362 0883 2. 215 pages. Ages 10+. P7Q8.

In seven short stories, award-winning author Avi displays the troubled, sensitive, heart-warming, fractured, and treasured relationships of seven different young men and their male family members. One son begins to understand his distant father after an unusual weekend with his estranged grandfather. Another story tells the paranormal experience of a dead father seeking one last moment with his mourning son.  These stories suggest that no father-son relationship is the same and that the best for your son is to hope that an adult is able to provide the tools to shape our youngsters into adults who will love and understand others.

Verdict: While this book certainly is written for boys and fathers, it connects with family dynamics in general.

April 2020 review by Penny McDermott.

Book review: Judy Mood: Book Quiz Whiz, by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

McDonald, Megan. Judy Mood: Book Quiz Whiz. Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. (Judy Moody series).  Candlewick Press, 2019. $15.99. ISBN 9781536204841. 164 pages. Ages 6-9. P8 Q8

Judy Moody is at it again! This time she and her brother, Stink, are participating in the First Ever Book Quiz Blowout for Virginia Dare School. The team they are up against is really smart. Judy and Stink read, read, and read some more. They come up with strategies to remember what they are reading and to read faster. Some strategies work well, some do not. All is going well until their team, the Bookworms, hear that the other team has a fourth grader on it! The bookworms are discouraged and feel defeated. Judy encourages them saying, “We have the courage of Wilbur and the imagination of Pippi Longstocking. Pippi would say that to win, we have to first be able to imagine winning.”  Black and white illustrations match the text. The first page shows Who’s who, which gives the reader an idea of the characters in the story. The end has a section listing the books referenced in Judy Moody: Book Quiz Whiz, spoiler alert..there are 70! There is also a section listing books referenced by chapter. This is book 15 in the Judy Moody series.

Verdict: I was very pleased with this Judy Moody book. I love to read and the reference to all the books and characters was delightful. Our school has an OBOB (Oregon Battle of the Books) team where students read books and compete, similar to the Book Quiz Blowout in the book. Students will be able to relate to Judy Moody and find her adventure inspiring. I work as a librarian and will be adding this book to my collection of Judy Moody books. I already have a fifth grader who wants to check it out. I highly recommend this book for elementary and public libraries.

September 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Fergus and Zeke at the Science Fair, by Kate Messner, illustrated by Heather Ross

Messner, Kate. Fergus and Zeke at the Science Fair. Illustrated by Heather Ross. (Candlewick Sparks series). Candlewick Press, 2018. $4.99. ISBN 9781536208993. 43 Pages. Ages 5-9. P7 Q7

Fergus and Zeke are pet mice in Miss Maxwell’s room. Miss Maxwell announces that there is going to be a science fair. Students have to make a project or do an experiment. Fergus and Zeke do everything the students do, so naturally they want to participate in the science fair. Lucy creates a maze for the mice to run through, but Zeke does not want to be an experiment, he wants to create one. As Zeke and Fergus go through the maze, Zeke figures out a way to make an experiment out of Lucy’s project. Will it work and will they be able to train Lucy? This beginner chapter book is full of colorful illustrations that make up more than fifty percent of the book. The illustrations go along with the text, entertaining the reader and helping them decode the text. Large font and double spacing between lines make it easy to read. The illustrations will keep the reader engaged while helping them decode the text. This beginning chapter book contains a table of contents and four short chapters, it is in the Sparks series for new readers.

Verdict: I love reading and this is a perfect book to engage an emergent reader. The reader will like Fergus and Zeke, relate to their school day and be delighted with the outcome of the science fair. If teachers are going to have a science fair at their school, this would be a good book to read to introduce it. Readers will enjoy the glossy paper and how it feels when they read it.

September 2019 review by Tami Harris.


Book review: The Princess in Black and the Bathtime Battle, by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Hale, Shannon and Dean Hale. The Princess in Black and the Bathtime Battle. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. (Princess in Black series, book 7.) Candlewick Press, 2019. $14.99. ISBN 9781536202212. 89 pages. Ages 5-8. P8 Q8

Princess Magnolia smells a stinky smell! Princess Black comes to the rescue to get rid of the smell. Princess Black saves the day..or does she? Princess Snapdragon is trimming bushes when the stink blew into her garden. Princess Black appears and both of the princesses battle the smell. This goes on, with many more princesses getting involved until they come to the source of the stink. You will have to read the story to find out what is causing the smell and how they find a solution. The ending of the book is adorable!! Thick glossy pages, colorful illustrations with exaggerated facial expressions make this short chapter book engaging.

Verdict: With the theme of teamwork, girl power, perseverance and kindness, readers will be captivated from the beginning to the end of the book. Even though this is book 7 in the series, it is the first of the Princess in Black book that I have read. I will definitely read more in the series. I highly recommend this book for libraries for elementary aged readers.

December 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: On the Night of the Shooting Star, by Amy Hest, illustrated by Jenni Desmond

Hest, Amy. On the Night of the Shooting Star. Illustrated by Jenni Desmond. Candlewick Press, 2017. Unpaged. $16.99. ISBN 978-0763691547. Ages 2-5. P9 Q9

This is an enchanting tale of two neighbors with a picket fence between them who have lived in their homes for a long time. They see one another, but hadn’t ever spoken. Then one night a wonderful event happens that they share, beginning a delightful friendship. The artwork is simple yet beautiful, creating the lovely story of these two neighbors.

VERDICT: This is a tale that needs to be read and enjoyed more than once. It has lessons of friendship that will delight young and old. Highly recommended.

December 2019 review by Lynne Wright.

Book review: On Snowden Mountain, by Jeri Watts

Watts, Jeri. On Snowden Mountain. Candlewick Press, 2019. 193 pgs. $16.99. ISBN: 978-0-7636-9744-0. Gr. 7+. P8 Q8

Ellen loves her Baltimore school, the books, the subjects, all of it. In school she doesn’t have a lot of friends, they think she draws attention to herself as she always has the answer to the questions the teacher asks. When her father volunteers for active duty in World War II, just  as her mother has gone into another of her deep deep depressions, Ellen, out of options with no food or supervision, calls upon her distant Aunt Pearl for help.  Aunt Pearl takes Ellen and her mother to her remote home on Snowden Mountain, Virginia, a tiny city surrounded by trees and more trees. It is hard for Ellen to see the worth in this remote place without electricity or running water. This well written book deals with mental illness, child abuse, friendship, acceptance, and self discovery. Ellen learns that it is okay to be a young girl and accept the help that comes in many ways.

Verdict: The author writes with compassion of mental illness and with an understanding that the reader is able to connect to. The description of child abuse of one of the secondary characters was hard to deal with but when he finally stands up for himself I cheered.

October 2019 review by Carol Bernardi.