Book review: Little Bot and Sparrow, by Jake Parker

Parker, Jake. Little Bot and Sparrow. Roaring Brook Press, 2016. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN: 978-1-62672-367-2.  Ages 3-6. P7 Q8.

When Little Bot is discarded, he has nothing to do. Fortunately, along comes a sparrow who decides to take him under her wing. They explore the forest together and Little Bot learns about many new things, including bees, bears, and caves with beautiful secrets. When Sparrow must fly south for the winter, Little Bot learns that he can do impossible things in his dreams.

The illustrations in this tale of friendship are detailed and funny. The text is simple, and the illustrations fill in the rest. Children reading this story may be reminded of friends or relatives who have gone away, and the message that we keep our loved ones in our hearts.

VERDICT: A sweet tale of friendship with illustrations that will entertain little ones.

May 2018 review by Sudi Stodola.


Book review: The Watcher, by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Grimes, Nikki. The Watcher. Illustrated by Bryan Collier. Eerdmans Books, 2017. $17.00. ISBN 9780802854452. Unpaged. Ages 6-10. P6Q9

This unique book took me by surprise! It is written in a form of poetry called the golden shovel and uses Psalm 121 to create a compelling story about friendship by using the words from the psalm as the ending word on each page. The back and forth story between classmates, Jordan and Tanya, reveals fear and distrust between the two. Tanya acts like a bully, and Jordan wants to avoid her. Both characters have obstacles to overcome, and by the end of the story the two break down the barriers that have prevented friendship.

VERDICT: This book would be both a valuable addition to a classroom poetry unit, as well as a meaningful book on a library shelf.

May 2018 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Lucy Castor Finds Her Sparkle, by Natasha Lowe

Lowe, Natasha. Lucy Castor Finds Her Sparkle. Simon & Schuster, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9781534401969. 231 pages. Ages 8-12. P7 Q8

Lucy likes magic, nests, and her best friend Ella. When she comes home from summer vacation, life has changed. Her friend Ella has joined a dance troupe and no longer cares about magic. Lucy wants life to remain the same is not happy to find that her mother is expecting a baby. As Lucy adjusts to life in the fourth grade, with the help of her teenage neighbor, Chloe, she makes new friends and realizes change is not always a bad thing. Lowe’s use of descriptive words enhance the story. Describing the magic wands, she writes, “It was as if the magic had leaked out, and all Lucy could see now were two old sticks covered in glitter and bits of moss. Like a little kid’s art project.” This easy to read, engaging story will hold the interest of readers. There are a few twists and turns that keep the reader wondering how things will turn out. The relationships between the characters form and grow as the story develops. Friendships are found in unexpected places and it teaches one to not look at a person’s outward appearance, but to take the time to get to know people. This book is very well written.

Verdict: It is a fact that life changes and does not stay the same. This book explores the value of change and how it can add to one’s life, encouraging the reader to embrace life as it comes and find the good in situations they encounter. While this book is a good read for all children, it is especially helpful for children who do not like change or children who are an only child with a sibling on the way. I highly recommend it for elementary school, public, and home libraries.

March 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Bundle of Nerves: A Story of Courage, by Mari Schuh, illustrated by Natalia Moore

Schuh, Mari. Bundle of Nerves: A Story of Courage. Illustrated by Natalia Moore. Millbrook Press, 2018. $25.32. ISBN 9781512486452. 24 pages. Ages 4-8. P6 Q8

There are many events children can worry about in a day. How can you help children have courage? With three short chapters, “So Very Nervous,” “Being Brave,”, and “Facing my Fear,” Luis discovers that he can have courage by riding a bus, asking for help and making new friends. Not only does he realize he is courageous, he ends up having fun along the way. Illustrations of children showing racial diversity add to the depth of the book. Narrative boxes containing explanations, such as “It takes courage to ask for help” emphasize the courage aspect that is being shown on the page. Some phrases are highlighted in red for emphasis. This book is in the Cloverleaf books: Stories with Character series. There is a courage activity at the back of the book along with a glossary, index, and book titles and websites about courage.

Verdict: The situations portrayed in this book are similar to what most children in school experience. Both relevant and relatable to children, I recommend this book for elementary school libraries. I will be using this book in my Character Ed class to teach courage. From a teacher’s perspective, this book is valuable in a classroom setting, once read to children, they will be more apt to pick it up and read it themselves.

March 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: My Best Friend is a Goldfish, by Mark Lee, illustrated by Chris Jevons

Lee, Mark. My Best Friend is a Goldfish. Illustrated by Chris Jevons. Carolrhoda Books, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781512426014. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P8 Q8

Do friends need to be play together all the time, enjoy the same things, and always get along? A boy is an astronaut and his friend is a pirate. When he realizes that he does not always get along with his best friend, he looks for a new friend elsewhere. He tries to be best friends with his dog, cat, hamster, and goldfish while doing everything they do. It is comical to see how the boy tries to eat from a dog dish and be the same as his animal friends. He discovers that friends do not need to be exactly alike to be best friends. Just as cookies and milk are different, friends can be different also. The illustrations match the text and add to the boy’s adventure, drawing the reader into his imaginative world.

Verdict: This lighthearted, colorful, slightly comical story would be a good addition to any children’s library. Children often want their friends to only play with them and to play the same things they want to play.  In a humorous way, readers will learn the importance of accepting others even if they are not exactly like them.

March 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Somewhere Else, by Gus Gordon

Gordon, Gus. Somewhere Else. Roaring Brook Press, 2017.  $17.99.   ISBN: 9781626723498   Unpaged. Gr. PK-1. P7Q10

“George Laurent wasn’t like most birds.” George misses the lesson on how to fly so he doesn’t migrate like other ducks. Instead, George learns how to make “the most astonishing pastries”, does yoga, and makes friends with Pascal, a bear who moves into George’s warm den for the winter.  When Pascal learns George can’t fly, he attempts to help him learn, with several creative but unsuccessful attempts.  When George sees an ad for a hot air balloon in Pascal’s newspaper, the two launch on making one big enough to carry both of them around the world. They travel to Paris and elsewhere but find “something was missing:” George’s homemade pie.  So, they travel back home and enjoy a freshly baked pie together as a sweet ending to this book.

Verdict: This book is fun to read, and the illustrations – done in watercolor, pencil, crayon, and collaging lots of interesting antique paper.  This would be wonderful to show a class and have them create their own “mini-stories,” using the same illustration techniques.

March 2018 review by N.H.S. students, edited and compiled by Liz Fox.

Book review: The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, by Stacy McAnulty

McAnulty, Stacy. The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl. Random House, 2018. ISBN 978-1-5247-6758-7. $16.99 283 pages. “Advance Reader’s Copy.” Ages 8-13. P7 Q9

Lucy has not been the same since her near death experience when she was struck by lightning four years ago when she was 8 years old.  The experience left her with brain damage that enhanced her number sense to an amazing ability to recall numbers, make impressive calculations, and recite the digits of pi to the 314th decimal place!  Lucy lives with her grandmother after her mother died and her father disappeared. She would prefer to spend week after week without ever leaving the apartment; she has finished online school and is ready for college academically but lacks social experience.  Lucy’s gifted math mind finds a challenge in finding her way through the drama of middle school halls while she does make a friend or two to help her along. Numbers are routinely represented as numerals to highlight Lucy’s mathematical world. While I found this distracting; I recognized that this was the point.  

Verdict:  Readers will enjoy watching the problems flow into solutions that will remind them of experiences that they personally explore. The problems with group projects and friends will appeal to everyone.  Lucy’s grandmother is supportive which complemented Lucy’s determination and resilience. Very Nice! There are a few typographical errors that I hope are fixed in the published copy.

April 2018 review by Penny McDermott.