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.

Book review: Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate

Applegate, Katherine. Crenshaw. Feiwel & Friends, 2015. 245 pgs. $16.99. ISBN 9781250043238. Ages 9-12. P7Q9

Applegate CrenshawHaving been homeless and sleeping in the family van, ten-year-old Jackson becomes anxious when he overhears his parents talking about money and setting up a yard sale to raise funds to pay the rent.  He tries to comfort his younger sister, but lacks the information necessary to waylay her fears.  Then, Jackson begins seeing Crenshaw, a six-foot black and white cat, and begins to worry that he is going crazy.  After all, why else would he again be seeing the imaginary friend who had disappeared from his life years ago?  Crenshaw shows the grinding, daily worries of financially distressed families, the fears of homelessness, and the effects of such worries on children, and still shows the importance of friends, both real and imaginary. Newbery Medal winner Katherine Applegate succeeds with this age-appropriate story on difficult topics of homelessness and poverty.  Highly recommended for elementary, middle school, and public libraries.

June 2016 review by Jane Cothron.