Book review: Zog and the Flying Doctors, by Julia Donaldson, illustrations by Axel Scheffler

Donaldson, Julia. Zog and the Flying Doctors. Illustrations by Axel Scheffler. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2016. $17.99. ISBN 978-1-338-13417-9. 32 pgs. Ages 3-9. P9 Q9

A beautifully written and illustrated book from the creators of A Gold Star for Zog, and Superworm, Zog and the Flying Doctors is another sure to be hit. The story follows a young princess who is a doctor, a knight who is a surgeon, and a dragon who is wonderful at flying (but hasn’t yet perfected landing) on their adventures. Unfortunately when they stop to say hello to her Uncle, the King, he informs her that Princesses aren’t meant to be Doctors and locks her in the tower. Not content to spend her days sewing and wearing “frilly dresses” she sets out to prove to the King that Princesses can be anything!

Verdict: This book does a great job delivering a message in a fun way. The rhyming text and fun illustrations make it a quick and enjoyable read. It would be a wonderful read-aloud. I gave it a 9 for Popularity because it will engage readers for different reasons. Any child interested in knights, dragons, and princesses will enjoy it. Also, this would be a great book for a child who feels they aren’t accepted for who they are. The rhyming makes it an easy read and the humor is a plus as well. I found myself smiling as I read it more than once because it is such an engaging book. The rating of 9 for quality is due to the detailed illustrations as well as the placement of the text. Though the text was around the pictures I never felt as though I was searching for the words or missing any of them. I am excited to buy this book to add to my kids’ collection as well as reading it in the library during story time.

November 2017 review by Michelle Cottrell

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Book review: The 12 Days of Christmas, by Greg Pizzoli

Pizzoli, Greg. The 12 Days of Christmas. Disney Hyperion, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 978-148475031-5. 48 pgs. Ages 3-8. P9 Q8

A fun twist on an old favorite. The original text accompanies illustrations of a young elephant who is given gifts by another young elephant. Meanwhile the child’s parent watches on with increasing alarm as the gifts become more numerous and intrusive.

Verdict: I love the illustrations! They are simple yet full of wonderful expression, especially by the parent who isn’t too sure what to do with 10 lords a leaping or any of the other gifts. I found myself giggling throughout and enjoyed the story from a new perspective. I gave this book a popularity rating of 9 because of the illustrator’s other works which would make this a more desirable book fans of his work as well as the humor factor which make it a fun read aloud. I gave it a Quality rating of 8 because of the illustrations and fun perspective.

November 2017 review by Michelle Cottrell

Book review: The Truth about My Unbelievable Summer

Cali, Davide. The Truth about My Unbelievable Summer. Illustrated by Benjamin Chaud. Chronicle Books, 2016. Unpaged. $12.99. ISBN 9781452144832. Ages 6-9. P7Q8

I loved this book for its amazing pictures (I really liked the main character who looks like a hipster-kid). The typical back to school question elicits tales of a wild adventure including a treasure map, a trip to the beach, a hot air balloon and an unexpected twist. The story is a tall tale, and left me smiling!

VERDICT: Kids will like looking through this fun story for the wonderful pictures, and every kid will identify with being asked in school about what they did during the summer. The picture book format expands the rich, complex vocabulary of the story, making this a good conversation starter for elementary school students.

January 2018 review by Siletz Public Library volunteer.

Book review: Bobby Lee Claremont and the Criminal Element, by Jeannie Mobley

Mobley, Jeannie. Bobby Lee Claremont and the Criminal Element. Holiday House, 2017. 229 pgs. $16.95. ISBN 9780823437818. Ages 8-12. P8Q8

Bobby Lee Claremont, age 13, decides to leave New Orleans after losing his mother to consumption and realizing that he has no future in that city. He embarks on a life of crime by robbing the poor box at the Sisters of Charitable Mercy Orphanage. He buys a train ticket to Chicago, since it looks like the best bet for a clever kid who wants to join a gang and cash in on the illegal alcohol business that prohibition created. His plans don’t quite work out though- he gets thrown in with some nasty gangsters on the train, and finds that the life of crime may not be for him. Together with two quick witted African American boys (the grandsons of a train employee), Bobby Lee gets to the bottom of a murder mystery. I really enjoyed this fast paced adventure, with its villains, believable characters, jazz musicians, and train culture. Bobby Lee learns a lot about the Jim Crow laws that were in place at the time, and comes to believe that segregation and racism are very wrong. The author’s note gives further information about Jim Crow laws, segregation on trains, and gangsters in the 1920s.

VERDICT: I think young readers will find this a fast and fun read. It could be used in the classroom to provide background in a history class as well.

January 2018 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Otto and the Secret Light of Christmas, by Nora Surojegin, illustrated by Pirkko-Liisa Surojegin

Surojegin, Nora. Otto and the Secret Light of Christmas. Illustrated by Pirkko-Liisa Surojegin. Floris Books, 2016. English Version 2016. 101 pgs. $24.95. ISBN 9781782503231. Ages 5-10. P8Q8

Otto the elf goes on a quest through the dark forests of Finland looking for the Light of Christmas to brighten the dismal winter on the coast. This is a beautiful Christmas tale that is rich in references to Finnish folklore and culture, and the soft, intricate, glowing illustrations added so much to my appreciation of the story. I enjoyed the richness of the language. The descriptions of the forest, scenery, and characters are absolutely magical, and new vocabulary is used. I can imagine parents and children cuddled up, drinking hot chocolate and reading this book together over the Christmas holidays. The kindness and generosity that Otto encounters throughout the story are a nice reminder of how people should behave. The format of the book is pleasing too- it’s a large size with a sturdy cover. Every spread has an illustration, and the text is divided into short chapters that will help young readers keep pace with the story, and will make the book a good bed time story to read over the course of several nights. The author and illustrator are mother and daughter.  Originally published Finland in 2010.

VERDICT: I think this book will become a holiday favorite at my library in the years to come.

January 2018 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Stop Feedin’ da Boids!, by James Sage, illustrated by Pierre Pratt

Sage, James. Stop Feedin’ da Boids! Illustrated by Pierre Pratt. Kids Can Press, 2017. $16.95. ISBN 9781771386135. Ages 5-6. P7Q7

Swanda, new to her Brooklyn neighborhood, causes a problem for her neighbors when she begins feeding a few pigeons. A few quickly become a lot, and she seeks advice from different people- a pest control officer, a zoo keeper, and an exotic bird fancier- but their advice isn’t helpful. The neighbors get together and talk and finally realize that the solution is that, “Swanda, you gotta stop feedin’ da boids!” Once that crisis is averted, Swanda moves on to a fascination with fish…

Verdict: The illustrations are colorful, stylized, and full of contrast and texture. I think they give a good sense of the multicultural, busy nature of Brooklyn life. Recommended as an additional purchase for public and preschool libraries.

January 2018 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Bad Guy, by Hannah Barnaby, illustrated by Mike Yamada

Barnaby, Hannah. Bad Guy. Illustrated by Mike Yamada. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9781481460101. Ages 4-7. P8Q8

This is a book about competition between siblings. The main character prides himself on being a bad guy- he trapped superheroes in a cage with lions, ran the sheriff out of town, and ate his sister Alice’s brain- Alice is usually his victim. But after a visit to the library, the bad guy finds that Alice is a match for him in terms of deviousness, and that bad guys aren’t necessarily guys! I enjoyed the bold artwork, and especially liked how the shadows added to the depth of the pictures.

VERDICT: This book will be popular in any elementary school or public library. It would make a good read-aloud for a group of “bad guys” on a rainy afternoon.

January 2018 review by Carol Schramm.