Book review: I’m Done!, by Gretchen Brandenburg McLellen, illustrated by Catherine Lazar Odell

McLellen, Gretchen Brandenburg. I’m done! Illustrated by Catherine Lazar Odell. Holiday House, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9780823437054. Unpaged. Ages 4-7. P7 Q7

Perseverance is the key to getting things done. Little Beaver carries a twig to the stream and shouts, “I’m done!” Little Beaver runs off to play with his friends. Papa slaps his tail and tells Little Beaver he is not done yet. Beaver quickly finishes each task he is assigned and each time, his parent’s respond, “not yet.” When Little Beavers friends ask him to play, he responds, “not yet!” and his friends help him finish building the dam. Illustrations show Little Beaver as he makes the dam and as his friends help him finish it. It is realistic to how beavers make a dam.

Verdict: Children will relate to Little Beaver as he thinks he is done, but still has more to do. Children will learn the process that beavers go through to build a dam, while waiting for Little Beaver to finally finish so he can have fun with his friends. The theme of perseverance and team work shines through. This book helps facilitate a conversation about why it is important to finish what you start and how working together gets things done faster.

February 2019 review by Tami Harris.

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Book review: Who Has Wiggle-Waggle Toes?, by Vicky Shiefman, illustrated by Francesca Chessa

Shiefman, Vicky. Who Has Wiggle-Waggle Toes? Illustrated by Francesca Chessa. Holiday House, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9780823438648. Unpaged. Ages 2-5. P8 Q8

Who has wiggle waggle toes, knockabout knees, out-there elbows, and peekaboo hands? I do! Shiefman takes the reader on a journey exploring their energetic body parts, encouraging fun, interaction and movement. Colorful illustrations include children from all ethnic backgrounds, a child in an oversized cartoon wheelchair, children dressed up in costumes, stomping in the rain, and smiling children holding umbrellas. The illustrations evoke imagination and exploration. Whether read aloud to children or read as a one on one, this book will build bonds with the reader and child. This is the fifth book Shiefman, who was a public-school teacher, has written. Chessa, who lives in Italy, is an award-willing illustrator of more than forty children’s books.

Verdict: This read aloud will encourage toddlers to wiggle and move while learning at the same time. Children will learn self-regulation and focus while having fun. This book will bring a smile to a child’s face and children will want to read it over and over. I highly recommend this book for young children.

February 2019 review by Tami Harris.

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.