Book review: Lilly and Fin: A Mermaid’s Tale, by Cornelia Funke, translated by Oliver Latsch

Funke, Cornelia. Lilly and Fin: A Mermaid’s Tale. Trans. By Oliver Latsch. Random House, 2017. $9.99. 83p. ISBN 978-1-5247-0101-7. Ages 7-10. P9Q9

Colorful illustrations help make this chapter book about wealthy “two-legs” determined to capture a pair of “merpups” a fun read that goes from the comfort of two friends enjoying a day to the danger of being stolen from their peaceful home in sunken shipwrecks. Funke has created both memorable monstrous humans, Mr. and Mrs. Snorkel who need a mermaid to complete their collection of every sea creature in the world and their marvelous metal invention that allows them to travel deep under the ocean surface. The merpups, Lilly and Fin, are typical children, adventurous and disobedient in their desire to explore the world beyond the parents’ definition of boundaries. The greatest twist in the plot is the merpups’ friendship with the giant kraken, a mythical giant sea monster that solves their problem. The award-winning German author is well known for her series Inkheart, but my favorite of her books is The Thief Lord. Lilly and Fin was first published in 2004 in Germany.

Verdict: The plot is straightforward and enjoyable, well-translated, and illustrations add to the humor. Funke has added quirky activities at the end, including patterns for knitting the merpups and kraken, a dice game to play with Lilly and Fin, and a search for tiny treasure chests in each of the book’s large illustrations. The size of the book is also appealing for smaller hands.

May/June 2017 review by Nel Ward.


Book review: Mr. Putter & Tabby Hit the Slope, by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard

Rylant, Cynthia. Mr. Putter & Tabby Hit the Slope. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. (Mr. Putter and Tabby series, #25) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. Unpaged. $14.99. ISBN 9780152064273. Ages 5-7. P7Q8

On a slow, snowy day, Mr. Putter remembers the long ago fun of sledding down hills. The adventurous neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry, has sleds in her garage. Mr. Putter, Tabby, Mrs. Teaberry and her dog, Zeke, head out for an adventure, riding sleds down hills in this twenty-fifth book in the series.  Much of the charm of the long-running series comes from the simple watercolor and goache paintings that show the varied emotions of the characters—Mr. Putter’s sadness in being left without a sled, Tabby’s worried terror  as Zeke pilots the two of them down the hill, the contentment on both Mr. Putter’s and Tabby’s faces as they have muffins afterward.

Verdict: Highly recommended for preschool, elementary, and public libraries.

January 2017 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Mae and June and the Wonder Wheel, by Charise Mericle Harper, illustrated by Ashley Spires

Harper, Charise Mericle. Mae and June and the Wonder Wheel. Illustrated by Ashley Spires. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. $15.99. ISBN 978-0-544-63063-5. 120 pages. Ages 6-10. P6Q7

June loves to play with her dog Sam, particularly because the two are able to communicate unbeknownst to others. When her grandmother sends her a big chalkboard on a wheel,  June is thrilled.  She and Sam are entertained with completing the suggested tasks. It’s even more fun when a new girl moves in next door and ends up in the same class. Mae seems really nice, but classmate April is bound and determined that Mae will be friends with her and not June. The girls have to learn to get along, and eventually become fast friends.

Verdict: This is a very positive, fun story for beginning readers. The illustrations add to comprehending the story. Other nice touches are June’s grumpy teenage sister, the fact that Mae is a character of color, and the adventure of the wonder wheel.

May 2017 review by Penny McDermott.

Book review: We Love You, Rosie!, by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Linda Davick

Rylant, Cynthia. Illustrated by Linda Davick We Love You, Rosie! Beach Lane Books, 2016. $17.99. ISBN 9781442465114. Unp. Ages 2-6. P8 Q8

Rosie, a family’s pet dog, helps us understand opposites in We Love You, Rosie! Sometimes Rosie is good, sometimes she is bad. She comes in the house, then goes out. Her toy is lost, then found. Each pair of opposites is colorfully represented through Rosie’s interaction with the children in her family. Cynthia Rylant uses repetition and capitalization to make important vocabulary words stand out. Bold illustrations and bright colors will appeal to young readers. The choice to depict an underrepresented minority family enjoying a pet, makes this book exceedingly approachable to a variety of young readers.

Verdict: The story is relatable and repetitious enough to aid new readers.

April 2017 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: Sniff a Skunk!, by Mary Amato, illustrated by Ward Jenkins

Amato, Mary. Ward Jenkins, ill. Sniff a Skunk! (Good Crooks series, Book 3) Egmont, 2015. $4.99. ISBN 9781606845998. 122 pgs. Ages 7-9. P7Q7.

Amato Sniff a SkunkFans of the Good Crooks series will be happy to see book #3. This time, Billy and Jillian do their best to help an orphaned baby skunk, and entertain hospital patients while causing some fun chaos. And of course, they have to prevent their crook parents from committing a robbery. The story is (after reading the first two) predictable, but still a lot of fun. This will be a fast read even for reluctant readers.

January 2016 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: The Notebook of Doom series, books 6 & 7, by Troy Cummings

Cummings, Troy. Flurry of the Snombies. (The Notebook of Doom series, book 7.) Branches /Scholastic Inc., 2015. 90 pages. $4.99. ISBN 978-0-545-79550-0. Grades 1-3. P7Q8

Cummings, Troy. Pop of the Bumpy Mummy. (The Notebook of Doom series, book Branches /Scholastic Inc., 2015. 90 pages. $4.99. ISBN 978-0-545-69898-6. Grades 1-3. P7Q8

These books are quick and enjoyable reads for my higher students and also great for the readers with less confidence because they include a lot of pictures with the story lines.

Cummings Flurry of the Snombies


In Flurry of the Snombies, Alexander and his friends have gone to summer camp but are interrupted by a freak snowstorm and an attack from zombie snowmen. They must once again save the world from the monsters, not just once, but twice during the story.





In Pop of the Bumpy Mummy, Alexander and his friends are excited to spend the Cummings Pop of the Bumpy Mummynight at the museum. But when a precious gem suddenly disappears, Alexander must fight the monster who comes out for revenge.

September 2015 review by Beverly Minard.

Book review: Saving the Sun Dragon, by Tracey West, illustrated by Graham Howells

West, Tracey. Saving the Sun Dragon (Dragon Masters series, book 2). Illustrated by Graham Howells. Branches/Scholastic, 2014. $15.99. ISBN 9780545646260. 90 pgs. Ages 6-8. P8Q8.

West Saving the Sun DragonThe story continues as the sun dragon, Kepri becomes sick and the dragon trainers look for a cure. Worm finds the answer in the end, and as in the first book, we are left with more questions (both factual and ethical)… I will have to buy books 3 & 4 to find out what happens!

April 2015 review by Carol Schramm.