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.

Book review: A Story Like the Wind, by Gill Lewis, illustrated by Jo Weaver

Lewis, Gill. A Story Like the Wind. Illustrated by Jo Weaver. Eerdmans, 2018. 71 pages. $16.00. ISBN 9780802855145. Ages 8-14. P7 Q9

Strangers—refugees—fleeing a Middle Eastern war in a tiny rubber dinghy face the cold, windy, dark night on a restless sea and find solace in sharing their memories.   Monochromatic blue-green illustrations carry a feeling of loss, separation and chill as the strangers huddle together and share their scarce resources: food, drink, a shawl.  As his only contribution a boy plays his violin—his last possession—relating a Mongolian folk tale about the origin of the instrument, an abandoned white foal, the boy who saved him, and the tyrant who coveted and killed the white stallion he became.

Verdict: This book, originally published in 2017 by Oxford Children’s Books, uses the story-within-a-story frame to bring readers to understand the immense fragility of refugee life and also the resilience of the human spirit which can draw strangers together in the face of adversity.  This gorgeous book belongs in every public and middle school library.  Highly recommended.

June 2019 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: A Squirrelly Situation, by Jacqueline Kelly, illustrated by Jennifer L. Meyer

Kelly, Jacqueline. A Squirrelly Situation. (Calpurnia Tate Girl Vet series, book 5). Illus. by Jennifer L. Meyer. Holt, 2019. 100p. $15.99. ISBN 978-1-62779-877-8. Ages 8-11. P8Q8

Characters from Kelly’s Newbery Honor Book The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and the setting of early 20th century Texas have evolved into an easy series of chapter books in which Callie Vee, who wants to become a veterinarian, typically encounters wounded animals. In this book, her brother brings home an abandoned baby squirrel which is adopted by the family cat. The injury comes when Fluffy the squirrel breaks his tale in a slamming screen door. The book culminates in Emily’s discovery of why a small, lumpy squirrel weighs so much in the community contest to produce the heaviest squirrel.

Verdict: Fluffy’s escapade in the kitchen and the different reactions of family members to the new addition provide the humor in the book, and the black and white drawings enhance the delight of the book. A simple read with some adventure but not a lot of fright.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.