Book review: A Voyage in the Clouds : The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785, by Matthew Olshan, illustrations by Sophie Blackall

Olshan, Matthew. A Voyage in the Clouds : The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785. Illus. Sophie Blackall. Margaret Ferguson Books, 2016. Unp. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0-374-32954-9. Gr.1+. P8 Q8

In 1783, Dr. John Jeffries and Jean-Pierre Blanchard thought up the adventure of the first international manned balloon flight between the nations of France and England, which took place two years later in 1785.  As I read the book, the illustrations were what really stood out. Sophie Blackall used a combined graphic novel style, with panels done in black and white, along with full-page watercolor illustrations. The costumes and dress in the illustrations are appropriate to the time of the great balloon race. As the race commences across the English Channel the reader will experience the ride, too, as they laugh at some of the funny antics that the author includes.

Verdict: A great book to read aloud to children. I would follow it up with historical happenings of the time too.

April 2017 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: No Tooting at Tea, by Alastair Heim, illustrated by Sara Not

Heim, Alastair.  No Tooting at Tea. Illustrated by Sara Not. Clarion Books, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9780544774742. Unpaged. Ages 3-7. P8 Q8.

Listing rules for having a perfect tea party becomes quiet humorous as “toots” repeatedly interrupt the hostess during her explanations to her two child friends, toys, and pets.  Colorful illustrations of the silly children, one with tights (leggings) on her head like a hat, bring joy to a reader.  The rule numbers are framed on a page with a fun patterned background illustration. A cat and a dog show emotions and express the feelings responding to the toots.  The butterflies are another beautiful touch bringing energy to the illustrations.

Verdict: It is a fun engaging book for a young reader and good addition to a library. 

June 2017 review by Deborah Gwynn.

Book review: Dark Shadows: Yes, Another Misadventure, by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin

Cronin, Doreen. Dark Shadows: Yes, Another Misadventure. Illustrated by Stephen Gilpin ; cover by Kevin Cornell. (Chicken Squad Adventures series, #4) Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2017. $12.99. ISBN 9781481450492. 115 Pages. Ages 6-12. P7  Q7.

Four chickens nicknamed Dirt, Sugar, Poppy, and Sweetie go on a vacation to visiting a farm full of chicken cousins which are all named starting with the letter B.  Sugar goes back to get jelly beans and meets a mysterious big bird called Buger. Then Poppy’s shoe goes missing and they are on the hunt to find the missing jellybeans and shoe. Illustrations engage the reader throughout the book.

Verdict: It is a great early reader chapter book with fun chicken humor.  It is silly and makes you laugh.

June 2017 review by Deborah Gwynn.

Book review: How to Find a Friend, by Maria S. Costa

Costa, Maria S. How to find a friend. Clarion Books, 2016. $16.99. ISBN 9780544926783. Unpaged. Ages 2-8. P8 Q8.

A squirrel, illustrated in blue, is looking for a friend.  A rabbit, illustrated in red, is also looking for friend.  Similar colored bugs try to give each of them advice on how to find a friend, but they keep missing each other.  Humor is in the pictures as the looks one way, and the outlined illustration reveals how they continue to miss seeing each other, but affect each other’s lives.  For example, the nuts fall off of squirrel’s wagon hitting the rabbit, who says, “Ouch!” Humor creates a wider age level group to enjoy the book.  Endpapers are maps; the beginning ones are unmarked, and the final endpapers show in red and blue dashed lines and silhouetted pictures where their paths crossed.

Verdict: It is an adorable and humorous addition to a library.

June 2017 review by Deborah Gwynn.

Book review: The Crazy Classroom Caper, by Tony Abbott, illustrated by Colleen Madden

Abbott, Tony. The Crazy Classroom Caper. (Goofballs series, #6). Illustrated by Colleen Madden. Egmont, 2014. $15.99. ISBN 9781606844496. 104 Pages. Ages 7-10. P7 Q7.

The Goofballs–Jeff, Mara, Brian, and Kelly– help solve a mystery in a school.  Supplies, furniture, and everything in the kindergarten classroom of their former teacher are disappearing.  The Goofballs pretend to be teachers to make closer observations and watch over the classroom.  Finally with the help of their dog Sparky, they find where everything went.  Illustrations throughout the book help students enjoy the humor.

Verdict: With suspense and relatable characters, students will enjoy reading this book.

June 2017 review by Deborah Gwynn.

Book review: Mr. Putter & Tabby Hit the Slope, by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard

Rylant, Cynthia. Mr. Putter & Tabby Hit the Slope. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. (Mr. Putter and Tabby series, #25) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. Unpaged. $14.99. ISBN 9780152064273. Ages 5-7. P7Q8

On a slow, snowy day, Mr. Putter remembers the long ago fun of sledding down hills. The adventurous neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry, has sleds in her garage. Mr. Putter, Tabby, Mrs. Teaberry and her dog, Zeke, head out for an adventure, riding sleds down hills in this twenty-fifth book in the series.  Much of the charm of the long-running series comes from the simple watercolor and goache paintings that show the varied emotions of the characters—Mr. Putter’s sadness in being left without a sled, Tabby’s worried terror  as Zeke pilots the two of them down the hill, the contentment on both Mr. Putter’s and Tabby’s faces as they have muffins afterward.

Verdict: Highly recommended for preschool, elementary, and public libraries.

January 2017 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Frogkisser!, by Garth Nix

Nix, Garth.  Frogkisser! Audible Audio Edition. Listening Library, 2017. $19.25. 11 hrs 6 min. Ages 10-13. P8Q8

Although my favorite Garth Nix books are the darker YA Abhorson series, I thoroughly enjoyed this humorous fairy tale. Spunky Anya is the younger princess of the kingdom of Trallonia. Her evil stepstepfather is a tyrant sorcerer who “transmogrifies” anyone who bothers him- that is, he turns them into frogs or other animals. Anya prefers to read in the library, but to help her sister and to escape from her stepstepfather, she reluctantly sets out on a quest to gather the ingredients for a magical lip balm that will allow her to kiss a frog (one of her sister’s suitors) and restore him to his human form. She is accompanied by one of the royal talking dogs and a want-to-be thief boy who has been turned into a newt. She finds diverse help along the way (though she says she won’t need help, because she’s not that kind of a princess), and learns some good lessons. I liked that while this was a light children’s story, there were some serious themes like how sometimes we don’t want to do something, but we must help when we can, that people have rights and responsibilities, and that being a leader means thinking about what is good for the people before doing what you want for yourself.

April 2017 review by Carol Schramm.