Book review: Exploring Space: from Galileo to the Mars Rover and Beyond, by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Stephen Biesty

Jenkins, Martin. Exploring Space: from Galileo to the Mars Rover and Beyond. Illus. Stephen Biesty. Candlewick Press, 2017. 59 pgs. Includes glossary and index. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0-7636-8931-5. Gr. 5+. P8 Q9

This oversized volume on space is one that I will gladly include in my middle school library. Jenkins has divided the book into sections: The solar system, astronomy, going into space and then returning, survival in space, aliens, crowded skies and the future of space. You are taken on a journey through time and space. The material that is presented is age appropriate and is not dry. It instead intrigued me. Biesty’s illustrations include clear, intricate drawings of cross-sections and cut-away sections of spacecraft and satellites.

Verdict: This book needs to be included in every middle and high school library. It will be a great addition to space collections.

June 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.


Book review: I’m a Duck, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand

Bunting, Eve. I’m a Duck. Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand. Candlewick Press, 2018. $15.99. ISBN 9780763680329. Unpaged. Ages 3-6. P7Q8

A duck afraid to swim stars in this rhyming picture book. An egg has rolled from the nest, and mother duck dives into the pond to rescue it. Once hatched, the little duck is afraid of the water. The story features several pond friends who offer encouragement and confidence to little duck. Finally, with the backing of friends and family little duck conquers his fear and jumps in! Full color pages beautifully illustrate the pond setting.

VERDICT: I recommend this book for both home and classroom. It would be a great book for young ones not only learning how to swim, but overcoming any fear.

May 2018 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Albert’s Tree, by Jenni Desmond

Desmond, Jenni. Albert’s Tree. Candlewick Press, 2016. $15.99. ISBN 9780763696887. Unpaged. Ages 3-8. P7Q7

Do you have a favorite tree? Well, Albert, a bear, does, and after a long winter’s nap he can’t wait to get back to it. However, something is different. Albert’s tree is crying. This sweet story follows Albert and his forest friends as they try to cheer the tree up. When nothing works, Albert is ready to try one last idea, he hugs his tree. In the calm the hug brings, Albert gets a big surprise: it’s not the tree that is crying, it is an owl in the tree. The two become friends, which makes the tree twice as good.

VERDICT: I can see this book being used in a classroom to talk about friends, and how friends can come in all shapes and sizes.

May 2018 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor, and Loki, by Kevin Crossley-Holland, illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love

Crossley-Holland, Kevin. Norse Myths: Tales of Odin, Thor, and Loki. Illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love. Candlewick Press, 2017. $27.99  ISBN: 0763695009. 225p.  Gr. 4-8. P4 Q8

Writing at a level that even young children can comprehend, Crossley-Holland has written yet another great book, retelling Viking folklore.  Love’s acrylic and ink illustrations add drama and help clarify the text and make the characters even creepier.  Contains a dictionary of terms.

VERDICT: Norse Myths are pretty odd to begin with and this book – which at times is disjointed and convoluted – pays homage to the weird.  Teachers would find this book helpful, however, for quickly summarizing some of the myths and the illustrations are engaging enough to make this a book preteens would like.

June 2018 review by Liz Fox.

[Editor’s note: Stark black and white illustrations add to the grim atmosphere and power of these Norse myths retold from the post-Christian Prose Edda.  Comparing this retelling with Neil Gaiman’s recently released Norse Myths finds this work more violent and lacking much of the humor often found in the stories, while Gaiman’s more conversational storytelling softened the raw power of the myths. Both titles are highly recommended for school and public library collections.]

Book review: Sail Away Dragon, by Barbara Joosse, illustrated by Randy Cecil

Joosse, Barbara. Sail Away Dragon. illus. Randy Cecil. Candlewick Press, 2017. unp. $15.99. ISBN: 978-0-7636-7313-0. Gr. K+. P9 Q8

This is the third book that the author Joose has written about the adventures of girl and the dragon. I have not read the other books but this one I loved. Girl and dragon both have the same dream which starts a new adventure for them. Dragon becomes a boat and he the girl sail away to “Far-Est Far Away.” On the journey they meet many different friends who join them on their journey.  The text itself is lyrical and funny as girl and dragon sail away for a year and day and has a whimsical tone as well. The illustrations are done in oils with a foggy misty feel, almost as if it this were a dream.

Verdict: This is an adventure that will draw the reader in. I have reread it many times.

July 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: The Orphan Band of Springdale, by Anne Nesbet

Nesbet, Anne. The Orphan Band of Springdale. Candlewick Press, 2018. $18.99. ISBN 9780763688042. 435 Pages. Ages 9-14. P7 Q8

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be an orphan back in 1941? With the Second World War looming and tough times in New York, Gusta’s mother is not able to keep her. Gusta is put on a bus by her German born, labor activist, fugitive father and sent to her grandmother who runs an orphanage in Maine. Gusta brings along a suitcase and a much-loved French horn. When she arrives at the orphanage, she meets Josie, the first and oldest orphan in the house. Gusta and Josie become friends and have adventures. Their grandmother values things that receive a gold ribbon, so Gusta and Josie decide to start a band so they can enter a contest and win a gold ribbon. This historical fiction is an easy read, full of adventure, family, secrets, bravery and standing up for others. Nesbet wrote this story based the stories her mother told about her life growing up. To make the fiction as true as possible, she spent some time at the Sanford-Springvale historical Society in Maine and read through old issues of the local paper. This book is true to life in the 1940’s.

Verdict: I recommend this book for public libraries. Readers will learn what life was like in the 1940’s along with teaching one to be brave, to include others, to stand up for themselves and the importance of kindness and family.

April 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Esos Zapatos, by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

Boelts, Maribeth. Esos Zapatos. Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones. Candlewick Press, 2018. $6.99. ISBN 9780763699796. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7

Children often want what is popular, whether it be designer shoes, clothes or toys. A boy asks his grandmother for pair of black high tops with two white stripes like all his friends have. His grandmother mentions that there is no room for “want” only for “need.” When his friends show off their new shoes, he feels left out. When one of his shoes falls apart the guidance counselor, Mr. Alfrey, gives him a pair of used shoes. All his friends, except for Antonio, laugh at him. His grandmother takes him to the store to look at the shoes, but they are too expensive. They go to a Thrift store and he finds just the pair he wanted! Even though they are too small, the boy uses his own money and buys them. He hopes the shoes will stretch, but they don’t so he has to wear his Mr. Alfrey’s shoes to school. Meanwhile, his grandmother puts new boots in his closet. One day, the boy notices Antonio’s shoes are taped up and his feet look small. The boy puts the new shoes on Antonio’s porch, rings the doorbell, and runs away. The next day at school, Antonio thanks the boy. Boelts does an accurate job of showing the inner struggle the boy goes through as he tries to figure out if he will give his shoes away or keep them. The illustrations match the text and shows the relationship between the boy and his peers and his grandmother. This is the Spanish version of the book Those Shoes.

Verdict: This is a heartwarming story of empathy, kindness and humility. This book is useful for teachers and children will want to read it on their own. Last year, we used the English version of this book during our 40-day character challenge. A few students asked to take the book home to read with their families.

April 2018 review by Tami Harris.