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: The Startup Squad, by Brian Weisfeld and Nicole C. Kear

Weisfeld, Brian and Nicole C. Kear. The Startup Squad. (Startup Squad series, book 1). Imprint, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9781250180407. 172 pages. Ages 8-11. P7 Q7

Resa’s teacher, Ms. Davis, explains to the class about the sixth-grade trip and fund raiser. The class is going to Adventure Central and they will be selling lemonade for the fundraiser. The class is divided up into teams and each team will have their own lemonade stand. Resa’s best friend, Didi, is on her team, along with Harriet and Amelia. Harriet is energetic, colorful, optimistic, enthusiastic and full of ideas. Amelia is the new girl, who is quiet and logical. As the team works towards making their lemonade and selling it, Resa is very judgmental towards the others on her team and always wants things done her way. However, by doing things her way, they do not turn out as she expects. Resa learns that when working in a team, she cannot always have her way. Meanwhile, Val and her team of overachievers seem to be selling the most lemonade. Can Resa and her team regroup and win the contest? Will Resa learn the value of compromise? Resa can be a bit annoying since she goes too fast, does not have patience for others and focuses on their faults. The team members take time to talk to Resa and help her see how she is treating them. The illustrations on the cover show four girls of different races, showing diversity.

Verdict: Relationships are complex, especially when friends have different temperaments and strengths. The author did a good job of representing a wide variety of races and personality types. The overall message of compromise and seeing the strengths of others make this short chapter book one that will make the reader more open minded for having read it. I recommend it for public and school libraries.

February 2020 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: On the Night of the Shooting Star, by Amy Hest, illustrated by Jenni Desmond

Hest, Amy. On the Night of the Shooting Star. Illustrated by Jenni Desmond. Candlewick Press, 2017. Unpaged. $16.99. ISBN 978-0763691547. Ages 2-5. P9 Q9

This is an enchanting tale of two neighbors with a picket fence between them who have lived in their homes for a long time. They see one another, but hadn’t ever spoken. Then one night a wonderful event happens that they share, beginning a delightful friendship. The artwork is simple yet beautiful, creating the lovely story of these two neighbors.

VERDICT: This is a tale that needs to be read and enjoyed more than once. It has lessons of friendship that will delight young and old. Highly recommended.

December 2019 review by Lynne Wright.

Book review: Ebenezer Has a Word for Everything, by Chelsea H. Rowe, illustrated by Frank Dormer

Rowe, Chelsea H. Ebenezer Has a Word for Everything. Illustrated by Frank Dormer. Peachtree, 2018. 32 pages. $17.95. ISBN 978-1561458486. Ages 5-8. P9 Q9

Ebenezer loves words. He writes them all down and tries to share them with his family, who are not very interested. He keeps adding to his vocabulary, and each page shows the word and also the illustration. Finally, he finds someone who loves words as much as he does, and then they share many words, slong with the companionship of sharing this interest. The text is fun and has a great sense of humor, and shows how much fun unusual words can be.

VERDICT- This was immensely fun. I enjoyed the great sense of humor on the pages, which made learning the words fun and interesting. I think inquisitive children who enjoy words and exploring new things will find this book interesting and will learn some new words. There is even a list of Ebenezer’s words used in the book on the final page.

January 2020 review by Lynne Wright.

Book review: Spindrift and the Orchid, by Emma Trevayne

Trevayne, Emma. Spindrift and the Orchid.  Simon and Schuster, 2018.  ISBN 978-1-4814-6259-4.  $17.99.  256 pages.  Ages 11-13.  Q8 P8

Spindrift is a middle school student whose been orphaned since she was a baby.  Her grandfather has cared for her since the day she floated to shore in a boat by herself.  The ship her mother was captain of sinking in the distance.  The adventure begins when a man comes to her grandfather’s magical trinket shop asking for a black orchid.  Around the same time Spindrift’s grandfather shares letters to him from Spindrift’s mother detailing her parent’s quest to unite the orchids (7 orbs that contain the essence of a powerful sage.  Whoever controls the orb gains the power of the sage) and gain their power.  Ultimately ending in their demise.  On Spindrift’s quest to find the orbs to keep them from someone who would abuse their power, she follows in her mother’s footsteps.  On her journey she takes her two best friends who wouldn’t think of letting Spindrift go on such a dangerous mission alone.  Their friendship is challenged when it becomes apparent Spindrift is putting the quest for the orchids above their friendship.  All three have tough choices and have to ask themselves: Is power worth more than friendship and is forgiveness possible in the most unforgivable situation?

Verdict:  Lots of adventure, magic, and discovering the true meaning of friendship in this book.   A great addition to middle grade libraries.

December 2019 review by Terri Lippert.

Book review: Peg Up a Tree, by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson

Oxley, Jennifer and Billy Aronson. Peg Up a Tree. (Peg + Cat series.) Candlewick Entertainment, 2019. $14.99. ISBN 9781536209686. 31 pages.  Ages 4-6. P6 Q7

Peg has a problem! She is stuck in a tree, but Cat does not see her. While she is stuck, she plays with her yo-yo and hits Cat on the head. He tries to get her out with a ladder that he makes, only to find himself stuck up in the tree with Peg. Ramone comes to the rescue and describes how a ladder should be built. Can they work together to get Peg and Cat out of the tree? Typewriter style text with a nice amount of space between each word helps the reader read the book by themselves. This level one reader is based on the TV series Peg + Cat on PBS Kids. The illustrations of Cat + Peg and their adventure will keep readers engaged while giving them a sense of what is happening at the same time. This beginning chapter book is broken into three chapters.

Verdict: The style of writing is conducive to helping children read, however, this would not make a good read-a-loud since the sentences are a bit choppy. I recommend the book for emergent readers.

November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Scary Sleepover, by Ariel Bernstein, illustrated by Mike Malbrough

Bernstein, Ariel. Scary Sleepover. Illustrated by Mike Malbrough. (Warren & Dragon series, book 4). Viking, 2019. $14.99. ISBN 9780451481054. 90 Pages. Ages 6-10. P8 Q8 

What do you do when you have a fear and you are too embarrassed to tell your friend? Seven-year-old Warren has been invited to his friend Michael’s house for a sleep over. He fears that the scary stories will make him afraid and he will want to go home. Warren has a Dragon for a pet, but in reality, Dragon is a stuffed animal. With the help of his friend, Alison, he finds the courage to tell Michael how he feels. Will Michael make fun of him or understand? You will have to read the book to find out. The book has 12 short chapters, written from Warren’s point of view and is a quick read. Warren has a running outrageous word contest with Dragon throughout their adventures, which encourages readers to read nonsense words. When Warren refers to Dragon as his friend, the illustrations show Dragon larger than Warren. When other characters refer to Dragon, he is the size of a stuffed animal. Throughout the book , Michael refers to “one of his moms” which normalizes all types of families.

Verdict: Readers with fears or imaginary friends can relate to Warren. The theme of friendship, courage, imagination and respect come through clearly. LGBTQA+ inclusive with Michael having two moms. Readers will stay engaged and realize others have fears too. This is book 4 in the Warren & Dragon series, but it can easily stand alone. I highly recommend this book.

September 2019 review by Tami Harris.