Book review: Amelia Earhart and the Flying Chariot, by Steve Sheinkin, illustrated by Neil Swaab

Sheinkin, Steve. Amelia Earhart and the Flying Chariot. Illustrated by Neil Swaab. (Time Twisters series, book 4.) Roaring Brook Press, 2019. $13.99. ISBN 9781250148995. 157 pages. Ages 7-10. P7 Q7

Abby and Doc have the ability to go back in time through a cardboard box in the library where their mom works. However, the box works both ways and people from the past are able to come to the library as well. When Abby finds a pair of goggles where her glasses were, this starts an adventure to visit the owner of the goggles, Amelia Earhart. As the adventure continues, it is obvious that someone is messing with time, who could it be? There are twists and turns which will bring the reader to interesting places in history. The ending is especially delightful. The illustrations are line drawings and spread throughout the book. The end of the book includes a section titled “Untwisting history” where the author includes true facts about Amelia Earhart. This book is unique in that it is nonfiction/fiction all in one. Even though this book is the fourth in the series, it can stand alone. The author references adventures from past books in the series in this book, which may spark the readers interest and encourage them to read the rest of the series.

Verdict: Readers who are interested in past historical figures but also like adventures and imagination will enjoy this time travel book. This is a fun way for readers to learn about historical figures. I recommend this book.

November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Time Sight, by Lynne Jonell

Jonell, Lynne. Time Sight. Christy Ottaviano Books, 2019. 404 pgs. $16.99. ISBN: 978-1-250-11767-0. Gr. 5+. P7 Q8

Will and his younger brother, Jamie, are sent to Scotland the day that they learn their mother, a doctor serving overseas, is missing. In Scotland they meet their aunt and uncle and cousin Nora, who are caring for them. Will discovers that by looking through his younger brother’s book he can see different time periods. Jamie falls through to a different time and Will and Nora must rescue him. Time moves as it should in present but in the ancient time it moves much faster. This was a fun story to read as this trio go back and forth through time, trying to set things right without changing history.

Verdict: This historical time travel adventure will appeal to history buffs in middle school. The different time periods could be bloody and violent, but they do capture the essence of the history of ancient Scotland.

October 2019 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: The Language of Spells, by Garret Weyr, illustrated by Katie Harnett

Weyr, Garret. The Language of Spells. Illustrated by Katie Harnett. Chronicle Books, 2018. 299 pages. $16.99. ISBN 9781452159584. Ages 11-14. P7 Q9

A dragon who spent much of his life transformed into a teapot and a sad, solitary girl become friends and take on the task of finding the missing dragons of Vienna.

Though born in 1803, the dragon Grisha spent most of his life frozen into a teapot by an evil sorcerer, able to hear and see, but unable to move or speak.  Released from the spell after what Grisha has only heard called the great war, he flies to Vienna to join the other dragons of Europe.  Forty years later, Maggie who lives with her poet father in a Viennese hotel, becomes friends with Grisha and the two together work through Grisha’s clouded memories and the menace of the Department of Extinct Exotics to find the missing dragons and face the menace of the sorcerer who captured Grisha.

Verdict: I cannot recommend this title too much.  Garret Weyr’s gorgeous flowing language carries this fantasy with its twinned themes–that magic carries a heavy price and that humans become incapable of seeing that which they do not believe—to a satisfying ending. Weyr excels in weaving emotions into the fabric of the story and Maggie’s conflict about her mother’s death is an important thread.

Though Grisha’s life encompasses the tumultuous 19th and 20th centuries of European history, his teapot imprisonment  prevents  him knowing more than hints of the horrors of the Holocaust, though careful readers will catch the references in Yakov’s letters to his family and in the evacuation of family and children to the English countryside. Likewise, the menace of the Department of Extinct Exotics and the sorcerer echo the threats of the Cold War and totalitarian governments of post-war Europe.

I did not find that Katie Harnett’s illustrations added to my enjoyment of the story.  Her style of illustration, while pleasant, did not match the elegance of Weyr’s prose.

Other books by the author (published under the name Garret Freymann-Weyr) include My Heartbeat (a 2003 Printz honor book), Stay with Me, After the Moment, When I Was Older, and French Ducks in Venice.

I find this one of the best books I’ve read recently.  I recommend it for all middle grade, high school, and public, libraries.  I can only hope that it becomes available as an audiobook.

Book review: Dactyl Hill Squad, by Daniel José Older

Older, Daniel José. Dactyl Hill Squad. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9781338268812. 256 pgs. Ages 8-14. P7Q8

What do you do when you are on your way to the theater with a few fellow orphans, riding in a triceratops wagon, and a riot breaks out? You fight back of course! Thus begins the story of Magdalys, a 12 year old girl from Cuba, orphaned and living in New York City during the Civil War. In this story, dinosaurs and humans coexist, and both the North and the South use the dinosaurs for transportation, to deliver mail, and to fight. Magadalys discovers she can communicate with the dinosaurs, and becomes involved with the war effort. During the Draft Riots, the Colored Orphan Asylum is burned down, and all the orphans who were not on the field trip have been captured by Richard Riker, an evil, white city magistrate. With no home to return to, Magdalys and crew flee to Brooklyn and settle in the Dactyl Hill neighborhood where black and brown New Yorkers have set up an independent community. Knowing they must help their mates, they form the Dactyl Hill Squad. A plan is set to rescue the orphans left behind, and with the help of Magadalys’ dinosaur connection the adventure begins! With historical facts woven throughout the story, this fantasy novel is fun and informational at the same time. By the end of the story the orphans have been safely rescued from Riker and the Kidnapping Club, but a new journey is on the horizon. Magdalys’ brother, Montez, has been injured after joining the Union Army and the Dactyl Hill Squad is heading south to find him.

Verdict: This story has it all! A lively adventure with a brown heroine, set during the U.S. Civil War where dinosaurs still exist! What a great book to read to a middle age classroom to ignite their interests on so many relevant topics. I highly recommend this book for the classroom, for the library, and to have at home.

February 2019 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Mark of the Thief, by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Nielsen, Jennifer A. Mark of the Thief [Mark of the Thief series, Book 1]. Scholastic, 2015. $$17.99   ISBN 9780545561549   339pgs. Grades 5 and up, P7Q8

Nielsen Mark of the ThiefA Roman slave named Nic discovers the lost treasures of Julius Caesar. He is then marked with the Caesar mark which gives him magical powers.   All Nic wants it to be a free person and keep his sister safe.   Nic must battle for his freedom and make a huge decision in the end. This is a great start to a new series for Nielsen. Nic is a loveable character that readers can get behind and hope that he comes out on top.   The plot has many twists and turns. Once you think that you figured something out, the author reveals another surprising layer. After reading the end, I said to myself, “I didn’t see that coming.” I can’t wait for the next installment and put this on my bookshelf for my students to start reading.   If you like this book, then I suggest Nielsen’s Ascendance Series. May 2015 review by Jo Train.

Book review: Bad Luck Girl, by Sarah Zettel

Zettel Bad Luck GirlZettel, Sarah. Bad Luck Girl. (American Fairy Trilogy, book 3) Random House, 2014. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-375-86940-2. 354 pgs. Ages 14 up. P8Q8

Callie Leroux was born in the early 1930’s, she was raised by her mother alone, her father disappeared before she was born. She grew up “human”, never knowing her father was a prince of the Unseelie fairies. This book follows Callie as she tries to come to terms with her fairy side, while at the same time trying to fulfill the prophecy that she must save the whole of the fairy world. She was born with a special power to open or close gates and the warring factions are all trying to get her to join them so that their gate remains open. The end battle is fought between Callie and her Grandfather, the king of the Unseelie fairies, who will win, hmmm?  March 2015 review by Kris Cooper.