Book review: The Courage Test, by James Preller

Preller, James. The Courage Test. Feiwell and Friends, 2016. 212 pgs. $16.99. ISBN: 978-1-250-09391-2. Gr. 4+. P7 Q8

William Meriweather Miller, what a name–all due to his professor father who loves anything to do with the Lewis and Clark Expedition. William has plans for the summer, playing on the all-star baseball team. His mother and father are divorcing and his mother wants him to spend time with his dad. William, does not want to go on a road trip that follows the Lewis and Clark Trail, he wants to play baseball. Loaded with his essentials, phone, computer and his  iPod they start out. William is on a journey of growing up and coming to terms with himself, his father and a family crisis.

Verdict: This book would be a great read aloud to students who are studying the Lewis and Clark Trail.

April 2017 review by Carol Bernardi.

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Book review: Superhero Dad, by Timothy Knapman, illustrated by Joe Berger

Knapman, Timothy. Superhero Dad. Illustrated by Joe Berger.  Nosy Crow, 2015., unp. $15.99.                    ISBN:978-0-7636-8657-4. Gr.2+. P8 Q8

knapman-superhero-dadAs a little boy, my son Ryan idealized my husband. Ryan loved the Ghosts Busters and he and his dad would go out at night to look for ectoplasm. He would be excited as he came in as he found oil from our car on the cement and proclaimed it to be ectoplasm. I treasured these moments and the relationship that they had, Superheroddad offers the same experience to me once again as I saw the wonder that a small boy has towards his dad. It is the brightly colored illustrations that help to carry the wonder of the young boy who see his dad as a Superhero. It is the final page that made me cry as the father sees his own child as a superhero. Verdict: this book would be a great read aloud just before Father’s Day or for teachers to use in a unit on families.

November 2016 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: Talking Leaves, by Joseph Bruchac

Bruchac, Joseph. Talking Leaves. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016. $16.99. ISBN 9780803735088. 235 pgs. Ages 10+. P7Q8.

bruchac-talking-leavesUwahali, age 13, is excited when he learns that his father has returned to their hometown after being away for many years. When he begins hearing rumors that his father (the historical figure Sequoyah, developer of the Cherokee alphabet) is either crazy or a witch, he feels conflicted, but is determined to get to know his father and to try to understand his obsession with strange symbols. After learning that Sequoyah is trying to create a syllabary for the Cherokee language, and to help his people become literate in their own language, he realizes what a powerful and important idea this is. The novel works in Cherokee teaching stories, folklore, and information about the language in an accessible style. It delves into ideas about living without family, sacrificing for things you believe are important, and standing up to dangerous and ignorant people when necessary. At the end of the book, there is a list of the Cherokee alphabet with the corresponding sounds, a glossary, and a list of books for further reading. Verdict: This novel will provide good context for studies about Native American culture and the history of the Cherokee. It’s also an entertaining story and fast read about a young character that middle grade children will identify with.

November 2016 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Tell Me a Tattoo Story, by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

McGhee, Alison. Tell Me a Tattoo Story. Illus. Eliza Wheeler. Chronicle, 2016. $16.99. 32p. 9781452119373. Ages 4-7. P9Q9

McGhee Tattoo StoryAs a preschooler admires the tattoos that cover his father’s body, the man explains the history and memories of each—military service, the day that he met the pretty girl who he married, a book that he shared with the tyke’s mother, the instruction to “Be Kind,” and most important of all, according to the man, the date when the preschooler was born. The only voice in the picture book is that of the man, in the storytelling tradition of explaining personal experiences to small children in a way that demonstrates the love that he has for his family. India ink and watercolor illustrations are highlighted by the subtle colors of his memories. The book shows the love between father and son as well as the pride in an age-old tradition of tattooing.

April 2016 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: If You’re Reading This, by Trent Reedy

Reedy, Trent. If You’re Reading This. Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic Inc., 2014. 296 pages. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-545-43342-6. Ages 12+. P7Q8

Reedy If Youre Reading ThisThis novel follows the story of Mike who is trapped between his overprotective mother, the inspiration of his dead father, and his own drive to fit in at school. Seven years after his father died in the war in Afghanistan, sixteen-year-old Mike starts receiving letters from him full of advice about growing up and being a man. During this time he also decides to take a risk and secretly go out for the football team against his mother’s wishes. The story revolves around a boy learning how to grow up without a father and suddenly finding that missing advice that he has so desperately needed. Although the story is not as sad as I was expecting, it definitely has moments were it pulls on the heart strings and makes you stop and think.

September 2015 review by Beverly Minard.

Book review: Wall, by Tom Clohosy Cole

Cole, Tom Clohosy. Wall. Templar Books, 2014. unp. $16.99. 978-0-7636-7560-8. ISBN:978-0-7636-7560-8. Gr. 3+. P7 Q8

Cole Wall25 years ago the Berlin Wall was toppled, bringing together not only the city of Berlin, but the country of Germany. The Cold War, a term that students today don’t hear very often, ended. This picture book, designed for young children, has a high appeal for older students as well. I am planning on sharing it with my 8th grade history teacher. The story is told from the perspective of a young boy whose family becomes separated the night the wall is finally completed. His father is on the East side of the fence and he, his mother and little sister are on the West side. The pictures are very dark and were constructed digitally giving an emphasis to how dark this period of time was for the world. The final outcome of the book, tunneling to safety, brings the dangers that the people went through to be reunited with those that they were separated from.

September 2015 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: Lost boy, by Tim Green

Green, Tim. Lost Boy. Harper Collins, 2015. $16.99 ISBN 9780062317087   299pgs. Grades 5 and up, P7Q7

Green Lost BoyRyder’s mom is struck by a truck and ends up in the hospital with little chance of living. Ryder must figure out who his dad is and hope that his dad can help save his mom’s life.   This was a heart wrenching story and believable.   Ryder does find his dad, who happens to be a pitcher for the Braves, but instead of a happy reunion between father and son, we find that Ryder’s father is shocked over even having a son and initially doesn’t want to help.   This plot makes the story believable.   Ryder’s dad does provide the money that helps save his mother’s life, but also tells him that he can’t be his father.   There is no happy ending with Ryder’s biological dad, but other characters in the book step up to the plate to be Ryder’s father figure.   This book doesn’t have a fairy tale ending, but a believable ending.  May 2015 review by Jo Train.