Book review: Bee the Change, by James Preller

Preller, James. Bee the Change. (The Big Idea Gang series). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. $5.99. ISBN 9781328973399. 76 pages. Ages 6-9. P7 Q7

Kym and her friends go to see a beekeeper, Ozzie Johnson, his farm, the Bee’s Knees, and his farm animals. They put on hats with veils, bright yellow jumpsuits, and thick gloves so they can check out the bee hives. Kym and her friends learn all about taking care of bees. This book contains eleven short chapters and a table of contents. Illustrations include the life of a bee from the egg to adult bee. Through Ozzie talking with the girls, the reader learns facts about honeybees. Meanwhile, Connor and Devon are in Devon’s basement creating a comic book. They try to come up with their very own superhero, but are having trouble coming up with something original. Kym is excited about all she has learned about honeybees which inspires Connor. They began feeling the beginning of an idea…Kym wants people to understand honeybees and to like them. Connor wants to create a superhero. You will need to read the book to see how they collaborate so they both end up reaching their goals. Children often want to make a difference in the world. To make a difference, one needs to convince others that change needs to happen. The book contains tips on how to make a claim and support the evidence. This book is in The Big Idea Gang series.

Verdict: This short chapter book is great for readers who are interested in honeybees. They will learn many bee facts and caught up in the story as well.

September 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Taming of the Shoe, by Sarah Darer Littman

Littman, Sarah Darer. Taming of the Shoe. Aladdin, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781534431577. 230 pages. Ages 8-12. P6 Q6

From the title, I thought this book was going to be a modern twist on the play, the Taming of the Shrew. However, once I started reading it, I realized that it was made up of fairytale characters, told in first person, from Arminita’s point of view. Arminita who goes by Minty, is the daughter of Cinderella. Her family is famous for supplying their superior cleaning products to royalty. Her aunts (her mother’s step sisters) own a Comfortably Ever After line where they sell comfortable–but ugly–shoes. Minty arrives at a new school and tries to make friends. Along the way she meets Dakota, whose dad is Hansel and aunt is Gretel. Nina and her popular friends befriend Minty, but even though she has been warned that they are not to be trusted, Minty has to learn it for herself. When her aunts take care of her for a week while her parents are out of town for a “global product roll out” her life spirals into disaster. This book was a bit different than I thought it would be. Since the characters are from fairy tales, it took me awhile to get into it. I almost stopped reading it, but I gave it another chance and actually enjoyed it. I felt the book was a bit disjointed because of the number of fairytale characters who were introduced without a lot of background or reference to why they appeared in the story. While the plot was good and the book tied up nicely, it was a bit hard to follow at times. The author is the winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award. This book is a follow up to Charmed, I’m Sure and Fairest of Them All. 

Verdict: I think the reference to many fairytale characters in modern day may appeal to some readers. You have to be able to think outside the box to be able to enjoy this book.

September 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Charlie Numb3rs and the Woolly Mammoth, by Ben and Tonya Mezrich

Mezrich, Ben and Tonya Mezrich. Charlie Numb3rs and the Woolly Mammoth. (Charlie Numbers series, book 3.) Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019. $17.99. 183 pages. ISBN 9781534441002. Ages 8-12. P7 Q7

Charlie is on a Cargo ship being chased and heading for freezing water. He has two choices; he can be caught or he can jump into freezing water. The adventure then goes back two weeks to when Charlie and his friends, all Whiz Kids, find a bone while they are on a field trip to the Boston Public Gardens. Stumped by what the object is, they take it to a science professor at Harvard to be identified. This discovery leads to more questions and new friends who are also scientists. The new friends include Janice and Rod. While Janice is sweet and kind, Rod is a bully and mean. They work together to solve the mystery of the “bone” and why it was found in Boston. The cast of friends include a black girl in a wheelchair (Janice), a Japanese boy, two redheaded boys, boys from a wealthy suburb and some from the city, which offer a diversity in characters. The friends use carbon dating, Boston trivia, and science factoids as they seek to figure out the mystery. Fossils and rocks are highlighted in the story and a rock is actually a clue to the origin of how the “bone” arrived at the Boston Public Gardens. While Rod is a bully, as the story develops, Rod’s backstory comes to light and the dynamics between the friends change in a positive direction. This is the third novel In the Charlie Numbers series, but can stand alone.

Verdict: If you have a child interested in fossils, rocks, carbon dating or science, they would enjoy this adventure.

The reader will learn a lot about fossils, Africa, elephant tusk trade and science as they read this mystery. While the book appears to be lighthearted, one will learn a lot. The themes of friendship, giving others a chance and looking beyond the obvious come through strongly in this book. This would be a great read aloud for a teacher or a good book for families to read together.

November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The Spy Who Loved Ice Cream, by Sam Hay, illustrated by Marek Jagucki

Hay, Sam. The Spy who Loved Ice Cream. (Spy Penguins, book 2.) Illustrated by Marek Jagucki. Feiwel and Friends, 2019. $13.99. ISBN 9781250188588. 225 pages. Ages 7-10. P7 Q7

Penguins, spies, ice cream and a mom who was an award-winning store detective set the stage for an adventure. Jackson, otherwise known as Secret Agent 00Zero and his friend, Quigley go on a quest to figure out why his uncle is committing crimes. Will Jackson be able to solve the mystery before his uncle is arrested? Black and white illustrations enhance the text. Easy read, just the right amount of suspense to keep the reader wondering what will happen and be able to predict a few things that will happen. This is book 2 in the Spy Penguins series, but it can stand alone.

Verdict: This easy read will entertain and keep the reader captivated. I like the emphasis of believing in his uncle and working together to prove his innocence. This is a fun, lighthearted adventure that will keep the reader engaged.

November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The Fast and the Furriest, by Deanna Kent, illustrated by Neil Hooson

Kent, Deanna. The Fast and the Furriest. Illustrated by Neil Hooson. (Snazzy Cat Capers, #2.) Imprint, 2019. $13.99. ISBN 9781250143471. 211 pages. Ages 7-10.  P7 Q7

Ophelia is a cat burglar who works for the FFBI. Cat burglars treat each heist as an opportunity to hone their skills. They return what they take. Ophelia’s archenemy is Pierre von Rascal of Thievesylvania. When Opelia is sent on a mission, Pierre and CCIA dogs are hot on her tail. To add more humor, a fish is Ophelia’s inventor and works with her on the mission. Full of cat puns and cat related words this adventure will be sure to entertain and engage readers. Graphic novel style illustrations are interspersed throughout the book, making this a great book for graphic novel enthusiasts to transition to novels. This is book 2 in the series, but can easily stand alone.

Verdict: If you have a reader who likes graphic novels and cats, they will enjoy this book. The balance of chapter book and graphic novel is perfect. I recommend this book.

November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: It’s Me, by Jim Benton

Benton, Jim. It’s Me. (Catwad series, book 1). Graphix, 2019. $8.99. ISBN 9781338326024. 125 Pages. Ages 8-12. P8 Q7

Blumrp, an enthusiastic cat, annoys a cranky Catwad in this collection of short comic stories. Blumrp is overly energetic and sees the positive in everything. Catwad is like Grumpy Cat. When Blumrp asks Catwad if he likes him better than pizza, if it was covered in poison and toenails? Catwad replies that he guesses he would like him more. Blumrp says “OMG you are my best friend too!” Fast paced, brightly colored cartoons on glossy paper will keep the reader engaged. Includes a special preview of Catwad #2, which came out in September. Book three is scheduled to be come out in April 2020.

Verdict: Humorous, funny, where the cats feed off each other in their dialogue. The humor is zany and slapstick. I found myself laughing out loud while I read the comics. The perfect choice for reluctant readers. While one may think of comics being for young readers, this comic book is for a bit older reader due to its sarcastic humor. If you want to laugh, I recommend this comic.

November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The Tree and Me, by Deborah Zemke

Zemke, Deborah. The Tree and Me. (Bea Garcia series, book 4). Dial Books for Young Readers. 2019 $16.99. ISBN 9780735229419. 154 pages. Ages 6-9. P7Q8

Bea Garcia is on a mission to save the beloved tree, which she has names Emily, that sits right outside her classroom window. Problem is, a particularly annoying classmate has turned the tree into a potential hazard and Bea is determined to show everyone how valuable Emily is. Bea takes on the role of activist and enlists her classmates in the cause, and in the end must find a way to reach out to the obnoxious boy who started the whole mess. Together, they show the reader that you are never to young to make a difference. Each page contains both text and pencil sketch pictures illustrating the story, with lots of bubble dialogue between Bea and her classmates.

Verdict: A perfect beginner chapter book with eleven short chapters and illustrated pages. Young elementary classrooms can benefit from the message that working together, even with kids who get on your nerves, results in great outcomes. A wonderful book for the library too.

September 2019 review by Denyse Marsh.