Book review: Bug Off!: A Story of Fireflies and Friendship, Cari Best, illustrated by Jennifer Plecas

Best, Cari. Bug Off!: A Story of Fireflies and Friendship. Illustrated by Jennifer Plecas. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9780374380625. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q8

Maude has moved from the city to the country and she is fascinated with fireflies! She notices that her new neighbor has a Bug-of-the-Month club. She needs to give a speech about a bug to be invited to join. She excitedly researches and writes a report about fireflies. She can combine her love of fireflies and make new friends! Unfortunately things do not go as planned. Louise, the leader of the club is not kind and tells her to “bug off.” Maude is sad and mad and walks away from the group. The next night, there is a firefly show in Maude’s back yard and the other members of the club show up to find out more about fireflies. Readers will learn a lot about fireflies and what properties bugs have. Illustrations match the text and show the difference between fireflies and bugs. A note from the author, additional resources to learn more about fireflies, are included at the end of the book. This book was written based on the author’s love for fireflies. Like Maude, the author’s favorite insect is a firefly and she emphasizes that it needs a firefly friendly environment to live in. Illustrations show fireflies, friends and their adventures. There is a heart around Maude and Louise as they talk at the end.  The message of  being kind even when others are not kind to you is emphasized.

Verdict: Readers will learn a lot about fireflies and may become passionate about fireflies after reading this book. I learned a lot. With the theme of friendship, kindness and forgiveness, this book will be one the reader will want to read over and over.

February 2020 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Grown-Ups Never Do That, by Davide Cali, illustrated by Benjamin Chaud

Cali, Davide. Grown-ups Never Do That. Illustrated by Benjamin Chaud. Chronicle Books, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9781452131696. Unpaged. Ages 5-8. P9Q8

I loved this very funny book about all the things that kids get in trouble for doing- and adults are guilty of doing them too! Each page shows us things that adults never do, like being selfish, saying bad words, speaking with their mouths full, littering, etc. The illustrations are really elaborate and capture a lot of emotion and humor. Kids will enjoy looking for small details (like the man who is wasting time on his phone, ignoring the burning pot on the stove behind him).

VERDICT: I think this book could present a good opportunity for parents and children to talk about why some behaviors aren’t desirable, but that none of us is perfect, and we should all try to become better people. Even without this message, children will find this book a lot of fun.

February 2020 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: A Drop of Hope, by Keith Calabrese

Calabrese, Keith. A Drop of Hope. Scholastic Press, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9781338233209. 305 pgs. Ages 8-12. P8 Q8

Ernest, Ryan and Lizzy are middle school students in a small, struggling town in Ohio. When they learn about local folklore describing a “wishing well,” they find it and things begin to change! Calabrese does a great job of capturing the ambiance of a small American town, its school, and its diverse inhabitants. The story’s theme is how small actions can make change in ways we don’t even think of. The kids realize that people they know need help in various ways; they don’t know exactly how to approach the problems, but their good intentions and small actions do help greatly in the end. I liked that it isn’t clear if there is some magic going on or not (at least at first), that there is an old mystery that gets solved, and that odd combinations of characters end up developing positive relationships.

VERDICT: This is a wonderful book for readers who need to read something hopeful, kind and uplifting. I think we could all use more of this these days.

January 2020 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Dear Boy, by Paris Rosenthal and Jason Rosenthal, illustrated by Holly Hatam

Rosenthal, Paris, and Jason Rosenthal. Dear Boy. Illustrated by Holly Hatam. HarperCollins, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9780062422514. Unpaged. Ages 4-adult. P8Q9

Starting with the advice to believe in yourself, Dear Boy is full of words of wisdom for boys. Featuring a paper-white boy with round-dotted eyes, the pictures alone tell a story that is easy to understand, and is powerful in its message. Guidance like “Make friends with girls.” and “Yes means yes. Anything else means no.” are ageless, and one of the reasons I changed the recommended age from 4-8 to 4-adult. The double spread page with the little boy reading Peter Pan is just amazing, and offers the lesson that when you are alone with your thoughts, you’re never alone. While the main character is paper white, there are other characters on pages that are varying degrees of brown. The overall message in this book appeals to boys of all ages and affirms it’s ok to be you,  whether that is a boy who likes to play with trucks, dolls, or both. The book ends with an affirmation that the boy reading the book is loved.

Verdict: This sweet book encouraging boys to be true to themselves would make a perfect gift to any male you love.

June 2019 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Frog and Beaver, by Simon James

James, Simon. Frog and Beaver. Candlewick Press, 2017. ISBN 978-0-7636-9819-5. $16.99. 32 pages. Ages 3+. P8Q8

I love all the messages in this book!  Beaver’s work ethic to build the biggest dam!  He won’t give up!  Frog’s bravery to talk to beaver when it becomes clear the Beaver’s biggest dam is the worst thing for all the other animals on the river.  The other animal’s willingness to change their homes, even though their original home was “perfect”, to accommodate Beavers grandiose dreams.  Forgiveness when the worst happens caused by Beaver.  Beaver’s willingness and enthusiasm to make things right for those whose homes he destroyed.  The illustrations are done in ink and watercolor in soft hues that capture the story throughout.

Verdict:  Fun story about forgiveness when one is too selfish among many other positive messages.

June 2019 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Flamingo Keeper, by Debbi Michiko Florence, illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic

Florence, Debbi Michiko. Flamingo Keeper. (Jasmine Toguchi series, book 4). Illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2018. $5.99. ISBN 9780374308377. 112 pages. Ages 6-9. P7 Q7

What is the best pet in the world? A flamingo of course! Jasmine and her sister, Sophie receive Daruma dolls from their grandmother who lives in Japan. The girls are not excited about the dolls until they hear that if you color one of the eyes and make a wish, the wish will come true. Once the wish comes true, you can color the other eye. Jasmine wishes for a flamingo. When she talks to her grandmother via the computer, she realizes that the doll does not exactly grant wishes, it helps you set a goal and then you have to work for the goal. Jasmine does all her chores and researches flamingos in hopes of getting her very own pet flamingo. Through Jasmine’s journey to acquire a flamingo, her bond with her sister deepens and she realizes flexibility is important. Florence intertwines Japanese words and culture into this chapter book, which is the fourth book in the Jasmine Toguchi series. Each book in the series recaps what we have already learned about Japanese culture and adds to it. The illustrations are simple line drawings that go along with the text. The end of the book contains an Author’s note explaining the history of the Daruma, Japanese doll. It also includes instructions to make your own Daruma.

Verdict. Rich in Japanese culture, fun and relatable, this chapter book encourages one to set goals and work to complete the goal. It also helps children be able to adjust their expectations when situations do not work out exactly as planned. I recommend this book for elementary school and public libraries. It received the Chicago public library best book of 2018 award.

February 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Giraffe Asks for Help, by Nyasha Chikowore, illustrated by Janet McDonnell

Chikowore, Nyasha. Giraffe Asks for Help. Illustrated by Janet McDonnell. Magination Press, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781433829468. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q8

Gary is so excited, he is turning six and he thinks he will finally be tall enough to reach the best leaves from the giant acacia trees. When Gary realizes he still cannot reach the leaves, he is discouraged and upset. He tries many different ways to reach the leaves by himself. His friends come along-side him and tell him that they have to ask for help when they need it. When Gary asks them for help, they work together to help him reach the leaves. The colorful whimsical illustrations of animal friends working together are sweet and draw children in. The illustrations are accurate, including the giraffe with a black tongue. The book includes Notes to parents and caregivers on the importance of help-seeking, identifying potential helpers, model help-seeking and encourage empathy.

Verdict: This picture book emphasizes asking for help from a friend or family member. It also has the themes of perseverance, problem solving, friendship and teamwork. I highly recommend this book for elementary school and public libraries.

January 2019 review by Tami Harris.