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.

Book review: The Cryptid Keeper, by Lija Fisher

Fisher, Lija. The Cryptid Keeper. (Cryptid Duology, book 2). Farrar Straus Giroux (BYR), 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9780374305567. 311 pages. Ages 8-12. P7 Q7

Clivo and his friends, the Myth Blasters, hunt and catch cryptids. They are on the hunt for the beast whose blood can make one immortal. Clivo uses a tranquilizer gun to stun the beasts so he can check their blood. When Clivo realizes that all the cryptids he has tested have gone missing, he wonders if he is the cause of their disappearance or if something more sinister is going on. The book is not realistic since Clivo is thirteen and flies on his own all over the world in search of the beasts. That being said, it is a fun adventure story that shows the humanity of the beasts and the kindness Clivo shows them. There are twists and turns along the way, but if you are reading carefully, you may be able to predict what will happen. This is the second in the series and is able to stand alone, but if you read book one, you will have a greater understanding of the back story in The Cryptid Catcher.

Verdict: With lots of “dude!” comments, this novel will appeal to tweens who like creatures and beasts. With the themes of friendship, courage, selflessness and teamwork, readers will be caught up in the adventure and will be wondering who the immortal beast is.

February 2020 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Spindrift and the Orchid, by Emma Trevayne

Trevayne, Emma. Spindrift and the Orchid.  Simon and Schuster, 2018.  ISBN 978-1-4814-6259-4.  $17.99.  256 pages.  Ages 11-13.  Q8 P8

Spindrift is a middle school student whose been orphaned since she was a baby.  Her grandfather has cared for her since the day she floated to shore in a boat by herself.  The ship her mother was captain of sinking in the distance.  The adventure begins when a man comes to her grandfather’s magical trinket shop asking for a black orchid.  Around the same time Spindrift’s grandfather shares letters to him from Spindrift’s mother detailing her parent’s quest to unite the orchids (7 orbs that contain the essence of a powerful sage.  Whoever controls the orb gains the power of the sage) and gain their power.  Ultimately ending in their demise.  On Spindrift’s quest to find the orbs to keep them from someone who would abuse their power, she follows in her mother’s footsteps.  On her journey she takes her two best friends who wouldn’t think of letting Spindrift go on such a dangerous mission alone.  Their friendship is challenged when it becomes apparent Spindrift is putting the quest for the orchids above their friendship.  All three have tough choices and have to ask themselves: Is power worth more than friendship and is forgiveness possible in the most unforgivable situation?

Verdict:  Lots of adventure, magic, and discovering the true meaning of friendship in this book.   A great addition to middle grade libraries.

December 2019 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Amelia Earhart and the Flying Chariot, by Steve Sheinkin, illustrated by Neil Swaab

Sheinkin, Steve. Amelia Earhart and the Flying Chariot. Illustrated by Neil Swaab. (Time Twisters series, book 4.) Roaring Brook Press, 2019. $13.99. ISBN 9781250148995. 157 pages. Ages 7-10. P7 Q7

Abby and Doc have the ability to go back in time through a cardboard box in the library where their mom works. However, the box works both ways and people from the past are able to come to the library as well. When Abby finds a pair of goggles where her glasses were, this starts an adventure to visit the owner of the goggles, Amelia Earhart. As the adventure continues, it is obvious that someone is messing with time, who could it be? There are twists and turns which will bring the reader to interesting places in history. The ending is especially delightful. The illustrations are line drawings and spread throughout the book. The end of the book includes a section titled “Untwisting history” where the author includes true facts about Amelia Earhart. This book is unique in that it is nonfiction/fiction all in one. Even though this book is the fourth in the series, it can stand alone. The author references adventures from past books in the series in this book, which may spark the readers interest and encourage them to read the rest of the series.

Verdict: Readers who are interested in past historical figures but also like adventures and imagination will enjoy this time travel book. This is a fun way for readers to learn about historical figures. I recommend this book.

November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book reviews: The Portal, by Kathryn Lasky

Lasky, Kathryn. The Portal. (Tangled in Time series, book 1). Harper, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9780062693259. 361 pages. Ages 8-12. P7 Q8

You know that feeling you have when you are holding a book that has a magical adventure just waiting for you? From the cover until the last page, I was drawn in and enraptured. This historical fantasy follows the life of Rose who is orphaned and sent to live with her grandmother. Unfortunately, her grandmother does not always know who she is, which adds to Rose feeling displaced and not connected with family. Her grandmother’s greenhouse becomes a refuge for Rose. Unbeknownst to Rose, the greenhouse contains a portal which transports her back in time five hundred years to Hatfield palace. While living in the past, she meets Franny who has secrets of her own. I enjoyed the mix of present day and past intertwining. While Rose is in present time, she has to deal with three mean girls and her few friends band together to stand up to the girls. In the past, she finds a locket with her mother, a man and herself. Could this locket be a clue to her past and could it affect her future?  The three illustrations are black and white and include Queen Elizabeth’s dress, shoes, and an old bag and dress. I checked the facts about King Henry VIII and princess Elizabeth and the facts in the novel are true. This is book 1 of two in the Tangled series by Lasky, a New York Times bestselling author. The sequel, Tangled in Time : The Burning Queen, was released October 29th, 2019.

Verdict: Historical fantasy is one of my favorite genres and this novel delivered. With a balanced blend of the present–cell phones and texting–along with past, this novel is sure to keep a readers’ interest. Themes of mean girls, being an upstander, searching for one’s biological parent, and trying to find one’s place in life flow through this historical fantasy.

October 2019 review by Tami Harris.


Book review: Tin, by Padraig Kenny

Kenny, Padraig. Tin. Chicken House/Scholastic, 2019. 275 pages. $16.99. ISBN 9781338277555. Ages 8-12. P7 Q8

An orphan, Christopher lives and works in Mr. Absalom’s mechanical shop, helping fix and build robotic children.  Christopher’s robotic friends are fashioned outside the norms of the human form: small, often grotesque, readiliy identifiable as mechanical beings instead of illegal replicas of human beings.  Yet, when Christopher is revealed as a perfect robotic replica of a human child and confiscated by government agents, his mechanical friends set out to find and rescue him.

Verdict: Tin crosses genres into science fantasy with a steampunk atmosphere and will intrigue young readers who are ready to advance to more dystopian young adult fiction.  The book is a first novel by an Irish author, originally published in England, now released by Chicken House, an imprint of Scholastic.  American children may find the language more involved than in novels generally published for this age group in this country, but the story is worth the effort.  Highly recommended for middle school and public library collections.

December 2019 review by Jane Cothron.


Book review: The Bookwanderers, by Anna James, illustrated by Paola Escobar

James, Anna. The Bookwanderers. Illustrated by Paola Escobar. (Pages and Co. series, book 1). Philomel Books, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9781984837127. 281 pages. Ages 8-14. P8 Q8  

What would it be like if characters came out of books and you had the ability to enter adventures in a book? Eleven-year-old Tilly is raised by her grandparents who own a bookshop. Tilly’s mother disappeared soon after she was born. As Tilly explores the bookshop, she meets a character who reminds her of Anne Shirley. As the story progresses, she finds out that she can enter books, but there are dangers along the way. Tilly tells her friend Jack about her adventures, but he doesn’t believe her until he is caught up in the books along with her. The author does an authentic job of keeping the words that Anne speaks true to her speech in Anne of Green Gables. When Tilly encounters characters from Alice in Wonderland, they also give you the same feel as the book. The adventures Tilly goes on are engaging with some surprises, danger and suspense. Tilly’s relationship grew out of the author’s very close relationship with her paternal grandparents. The end pages reproduce pages from a variety of books. Some of the text slants and uses different fonts and sizes to emphasize words in the book. Black and white illustrations are scattered throughout the book adding interest. This debut novel is book 1 of in a trilogy. Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales will be the UK title of the next book by London-based author, Anna James.  Book 2 will be released in the US in May 2020. She is currently writing book 3.  U.S. reprint of 2018 U.K. edition published by HarperCollins under the title Tilly and the Bookwanderers.

Verdict: Tilly’s adventures could easily match one that a person could have if they entered books. There was enough intrigue, twists and turns to keep the reader interested. If you are a lover of books, you will enjoy this adventure. I highly recommend it. It could easily become your new favorite book.

September 2019 review by Tami Harris.