Book review: I Like My Car, by Michael Robertson

Robertson, Michael. I Like My Car. Holiday House Publishing, 2018. $15.99. ISBN 9780823439515. Unpaged. Ages 4-6. P6 Q7

Full of colorful, large illustrations, and repetitious text, “I like my __ car.” Each page shows a whimsical animal in an oversized car. There is a large amount of space around the text so it stands out. Readers can look at the color of the car to help them decode the text if needed. Arrows on signs show the directions the cars are traveling. On the last page, all the cars and animal drivers are included. Glossy pages with many different colors makes reading fun. In the I like to read series.  Guided B reading level, which is K-1. End pages have colorful, cartoon type car related illustrations.

Vedict: For children who are learning to read and who like cars, this book is fun. Since the book is repetitious, adult readers may tire of the book quickly. It is meant for children as they are learning to read.

November 2018 review by Tami Harris.


Book review: Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, by Carla Killough McClafferty

McClafferty, Carla Killough. Buried Lives: The Enslaved People of George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Holiday House, 2018. $24.99. 158p. ISBN 978-0-8234-3697-2. Ages 10-14. P5Q9

“The father of his country” who “led the fight for American freedom” owned ten slaves when he was only eleven years old and didn’t free any of the 123 slaves that he personally owned during his lifetime. McClafferty describes the lives of and experiences of six: William Lee, Christopher Sheels, Caroline Branham, Peter Hardiman, Ona Maria (Oney) Judge, and Hercules. They cared for Washington and his wife, Martha, sewed their clothes, made shoes, fought in the Revolutionary War, guarded his papers, and cooked for the hundreds of guests. The book finishes with the search for unmarked graves of slaves on the grounds of Mount Vernon, Washington’s home.

Verdict: This thought-provoking and meticulously research view of a usually ignored part of American history points out the ways that slaves and indentured servants eased the lives of their owners, who would go to any lengths to keep them enslaved. The archeological reclamation adds to the chapters about the six slaves along with drawings, maps, and documents. Oney Judge was featured in two recommended fictional books for young people, Ann Rinaldi’s Taking Liberty and Emily Arnold McCully’s The Escape of Oney Judge.

December 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The 48, by Donna Hosie

Hosie, Donna. The 48. Holiday House, 2018. $17.99. 382p. ISBN 978-0-8234-4856-3. Ages 12-15. P7Q7

Time travel and historical fiction merge as identical twins, Charles and Alexander of Cleves, travel from a future Canada to the time of Henry VIII with the goal of preventing the rise of Catholicism by protecting Anne Boleyn’s marriage to Henry and preventing his marriage to Jane Seymour. The twins’ mission is compromised with the unexpected arrival of Alice, fellow “Forty Eight” trainee and Charles’ former girlfriend, and further life-threatening danger comes from the treachery of a member of Forty Eight, a wealthy secret group with the mission to change history for their own purposes. The name comes from the age when all operatives are killed.

Verdict: The research of the time rings true, and the adventure is nonstop. Yet voices of the three points of view—the twins and Anne Boleyn’s ladies maid Lady Margaret—are similar enough that they are difficult to identify.

Fall 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Behind Closed Doors, by Miriam Halahmy

Halahmy, Miriam. Behind Closed Doors. Holiday House, 2017. 208p. $16.95 ISBN: 978-0823436415. Gr. 9+. P6 Q8

Josie and Tasha are from the opposite ends of the economic spectrum and don’t socialize at school. Tasha’s mom has a boyfriend who is trying to lure Tasha, and Josie is trying hard to intervene with her mom’s hoarding.  One night, after Josie’s mom is in jail, Tasha leaves her dangerous situation and moves into Josie’s crowded house. Suddenly, they find themselves stuck in similar situations and they need each other’s support.  This book was very relatable to me and gave me insights into real situations kids face every day. Though it was hard to read at times, the book ends on a positive note and shows how important friendship is.

April 2018 review by NHS student.

Book review: Washington, D.C.: Our Nation’s Capital from A-Z, by Alan Schroeder, illustrated by John O’Brien

Schroeder, Alan. Washington, D.C.: Our Nation’s Capital from A-Z. Illus. by John O’Brien. Holiday House, 2018. $17.95. 32p. ISBN 978-0-8234-3678-1. Ages 7-10. P6Q9

From “Act” to “Zorapteran” (an insect in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History), Schroeder explores lesser-known historical and current facts about “the central star of the constellation which enlightens the world” from trivia to monuments. The main entries are enhanced by quotes from famous people such as John F. Kennedy’s comment, “Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.”

Verdict: Some of the material will go over the heads of the intended audience such as Kennedy’s satirical remark and the quote from VP Dan Quayle, “I stand by all the misstatements that I’ve made.” Yet the book will be useful for social studies, and teachers can use it for more creative projects. Humor adds to the diverse information, both in narration and the whimsical ink-and-watercolor cartoon-style illustrations, and the end papers provide an excellently detailed map of downtown Washington. The plethora of useful information mostly overcomes such omissions as Eleanor Roosevelt’s part in black contralto Marian Anderson’s concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Two earlier books from this duo—Benjamin Franklin: His Wit and Wisdom from A-Z and Abraham Lincoln: His Wit and Wisdom from A-Z—received stars in Kirkus Reviews.  

March 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: No Kimchi for Me!, by Aram Kim

Kim, Aram. No Kimchi for Me! Holiday House, 2017. Unpaged. $16.95. ISBN 9780823437627. Ages 3-7. P7Q8

I enjoyed reading this book about Yoomi, who hates kimchi (a fermented vegetable condiment very common in Korea). Her brothers tease her about it and call her a baby, so she tries to make herself eat the fiery side dish by hiding it on other foods like chocolate chip cookies and pizza. But to no avail- she really hates it! But then Grandma and Yoomi try another idea- they make a kimchi pancake, and amazingly, she likes it! I liked the idea that having Yoomi participate in making the dish helps her to like it. I lived in South Korea for a year, and had a hard time with kimchi at first too- and also learned to like it. The endpapers are bright and fun- at the beginning there are vegetables that commonly go into kimchi, and at the back various styles of kimchi. There is also a recipe for kimchi pancakes for kids who want to try something new.

VERDICT: I think that many children will identify with Yoomi in hating a food that others expect her to like- it brought back memories of trying to make myself eat Lutefisk (a Norwegian Christmas tradition in my family).

February 2018 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Bobby Lee Claremont and the Criminal Element, by Jeannie Mobley

Mobley, Jeannie. Bobby Lee Claremont and the Criminal Element. Holiday House, 2017. 229 pgs. $16.95. ISBN 9780823437818. Ages 8-12. P8Q8

Bobby Lee Claremont, age 13, decides to leave New Orleans after losing his mother to consumption and realizing that he has no future in that city. He embarks on a life of crime by robbing the poor box at the Sisters of Charitable Mercy Orphanage. He buys a train ticket to Chicago, since it looks like the best bet for a clever kid who wants to join a gang and cash in on the illegal alcohol business that prohibition created. His plans don’t quite work out though- he gets thrown in with some nasty gangsters on the train, and finds that the life of crime may not be for him. Together with two quick witted African American boys (the grandsons of a train employee), Bobby Lee gets to the bottom of a murder mystery. I really enjoyed this fast paced adventure, with its villains, believable characters, jazz musicians, and train culture. Bobby Lee learns a lot about the Jim Crow laws that were in place at the time, and comes to believe that segregation and racism are very wrong. The author’s note gives further information about Jim Crow laws, segregation on trains, and gangsters in the 1920s.

VERDICT: I think young readers will find this a fast and fun read. It could be used in the classroom to provide background in a history class as well.

January 2018 review by Carol Schramm.