Book review: The Startup Squad, by Brian Weisfeld and Nicole C. Kear

Weisfeld, Brian and Nicole C. Kear. The Startup Squad. (Startup Squad series, book 1). Imprint, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9781250180407. 172 pages. Ages 8-11. P7 Q7

Resa’s teacher, Ms. Davis, explains to the class about the sixth-grade trip and fund raiser. The class is going to Adventure Central and they will be selling lemonade for the fundraiser. The class is divided up into teams and each team will have their own lemonade stand. Resa’s best friend, Didi, is on her team, along with Harriet and Amelia. Harriet is energetic, colorful, optimistic, enthusiastic and full of ideas. Amelia is the new girl, who is quiet and logical. As the team works towards making their lemonade and selling it, Resa is very judgmental towards the others on her team and always wants things done her way. However, by doing things her way, they do not turn out as she expects. Resa learns that when working in a team, she cannot always have her way. Meanwhile, Val and her team of overachievers seem to be selling the most lemonade. Can Resa and her team regroup and win the contest? Will Resa learn the value of compromise? Resa can be a bit annoying since she goes too fast, does not have patience for others and focuses on their faults. The team members take time to talk to Resa and help her see how she is treating them. The illustrations on the cover show four girls of different races, showing diversity.

Verdict: Relationships are complex, especially when friends have different temperaments and strengths. The author did a good job of representing a wide variety of races and personality types. The overall message of compromise and seeing the strengths of others make this short chapter book one that will make the reader more open minded for having read it. I recommend it for public and school libraries.

February 2020 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Penny and Penelope, by Dan Richards, illustrated by Claire Almon

Richards, Dan. Penny and Penelope. Illustrated by Claire Almon. Imprint, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781250156075. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q8

Two girls have a playdate. Both children have a Penny doll. One of the Penny dolls is a secret agent who is looking for danger, the other is Penelope, a princess. One has a pony, the other has a turbocharged racing bike. They go on an adventure to capture werewolves; however, the adventure does not end as one would expect. At the end of the book enters Cyborg Penelope! Action packed illustrations keep the reader engaged. If one is an emergent reader, they would be able to follow the story by looking at the action-packed illustrations. The end pages show the Penelope doll as a cyborg, punk rocker, firefighter, secret agent, and fairy. The characters are racially diverse, showing inclusion. The text changes colors for the different dolls so the reader can keep track of which doll is speaking.

Verdict: With the theme of being true to oneself, being open minded and learning from others, this adventure will appeal to readers. By using dolls to express different strengths, the dolls become the main characters in the story instead of the two friends. I think children will be able to relate to the dolls. Since the Penny doll can be anything it wants, it encourages girls not to have to fit within any stereo type. It also shows that princesses can be smart and clever. That being said, playing with dolls can be a stereotype in and of itself. This would make a good book to read to a child to celebrate differences. I do not think it would be a good read aloud since the characters interact in such a way that one listening may be confused as to who is talking.

December 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The Awesome, Impossible, Unstoppable Gadget, by Kevin Kelly and Rebecca Kelly

Kelly, Kevin and Rebecca Kelly. The Awesome, Impossible, Unstoppable Gadget. Imprint, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781250195111. Unpaged. Ages 3-7. P8 Q8

Trixie O’Toole is at a science camp called Camp Create. One camp member, known as Professor Van Junk, encourages all the other campers to join with him to create the very best invention. The other camp members have scientist names such as Newton, Watson, Babbage, Bell, Hubble, Lovelace, Morse, Nobel, Tycho and Tesla. Trixie helps, but she wants to come up with her own cool device. She sets up a lab in her room since the main lab is so loud and crowded. She wants to quit, but she can figure it out, “what good is a brain if I choose not to use it?” Her invention works, but unfortunately it works in reverse. When Professor Von Junk and his team reveal their enormous machine, things go awry. The gadgets, gismos, and widgets are caught up in a tornado. Can Trixie help the team and save the day? The story is written from Trixie’s point of view as she is writing letters to her mom from Camp Create about her experiences. The illustrations show beaker, tubes, rough drafts and other scientific items. Illustrations are made of rich blue, orange, purple, green colors. While the reader will be entertained by the adventure, they will also learn a lot about the process of creating an invention. I appreciated that the main character is a girl. While the author encouraged one to think on their own and not follow the pack, in the end, Trixie helped her friends and was a team player.

Verdict: This year our local public library will be participating in the Invention Convention. This book is perfect to inspire future inventors. For readers who like to invent things, I highly recommend this book.

 November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Meet the Team, by Summer Greene

Greene, Summer. Meet the Team. (Rainbow Rangers series.) Imprint, 2019. $4.99. ISBN 9781250190314. 30 pages. Ages 3-6. P7 Q6

Do you know all the Rainbow Rangers and their super powers? The Rainbow Rangers are nature’s superheroes who live on a magical land on the other side of the rainbow. Through the Mirror of Marvels, they are able to see what is happening on earth. When there is trouble, the Rangers come to the rescue. This thin paper book introduces all the characters, their superpower, and what makes them unique. Since they live on the other side of a rainbow, it adds imagination to rainbows. The colorful rainbow illustrations will keep the emergent or beginning reader engaged. This is a good companion book to go along with the other Rainbow Rangers books since it introduces each character in-depth. The title, Meet the Team, describes the book perfectly.

Verdict: If your reader is a fan of the Rainbow Rangers animated series on Nick Jr. they will enjoy this book, introducing the characters. The thin pages and paperback cover may not hold up to a classroom or library, but would be good for a reader’s personal library.

November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: To the Rescue, by Summer Greene, illustrated by Joshua Heinsz

Greene, Summer. To the Rescue. Illustrated by Joshua Heinsz. (Rainbow Rangers series.) Imprint, 2019. $4.99. ISBN 9781250190253. Unpaged. Ages 3-6. P7 Q6

A baby polar bear has floated out to sea away from its mother and the Rainbow Rangers set out to save it. Will the Rainbow Rangers be able to save the polar bear before the ice melts? For those not familiar with the animated Nick Jr. Show, there is a short introduction featuring each rainbow ranger, its name, color and power. One page shows the rangers transforming into their ranger outfits. Each page has a background of blue, pink or yellow. Colorful illustrations are in boxes or circles with the text above, beside or under them. This thin, paperback version includes a punch-out wearable Kaleidocom which is made out of firmer paper.

Verdict:  The quality of the book may not hold up in a classroom or library. Children will love the Kaleidocom to wear around their wrist, but if the book is in a classroom or library, I imagine the first child checking it out will make the Kaleidocom and others will be disappointed they don’t have one as well. That being said, I recommend it for children to have in their own personal libraries. This colorful adventure is a quick and to the point and will hold the interest of small children.

November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The Quest for the Confetti Crystal, by Summer Greene, illustrated by Joshua Heinsz and Maxime Lebrun

Greene, Summer. The Quest for the Confetti Crystal. Illustrated by Joshua Heinsz and Maxime Lebrun. (Rainbow Rangers series.) Imprint, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781250190338. Unpaged. Ages 3-6 . P7 Q7 

What is more fun than rainbows, parties, balloons, crystals and friends working together? Floof, a prismacorn, usually goes on missions with the other Rainbow Rangers, but this time he has his very own mission. He has to guard the Confetti Crystal while the rangers go on their 100th mission. When Floof realizes the Kaleidocove does not look festive, he makes bubbles and strings bright streamers. Unfortunately, the crystal rolls away, sending it on an adventure full of Fluttercups, Rainbow tunnels, Rainbow halls and a Bunnysus. Will Floof lose the crystal and fail his mission? This picture book was inspired by the animated series on Nick Jr. The Rainbow Rangers names are alliterations and some of the words are filled in with rainbow colors. The background colors are soft, which allows the bright Rainbow Rangers vibrant colors to stand out.

Verdict: Readers who have watched the animated series as well as readers who enjoy rainbows and unicorns will enjoy this adventure. With the theme of teamwork, creativity and inclusivity, this book is on the reader will look at over and over. I recommend it.

November 2019 review by Tami Harris.


Book review: The Weight of the Stars, by K. Ancrum

Ancrum, K. The Weight of the Stars. Imprint/Macmillan, 2019. 378 pages. $18.99. ISBN 9781250101631. P7Q7

Ryann Bird’s ambition of exploring space had to take a back seat to caring for her younger brother and his infant son following their parents’ accidental deaths.  Sheer determination keeps the family together, living in a trailer in the poor part of town.  At the affluent school she attends, Ryann coasts through her senior  year classes, spending time with her collection of misfit–sometimes delinquent–friends.  A sympathetic teacher assigns Ryann the task of befriending a new girl, the involuntary celebrity daughter of one of the first astronauts to go on an all-woman manned deep space exploration.  Ryann’s attempts at friendship fail and a nighttime visit leads to a life-threatening injury.  Ryann then takes on Alexandria’s self-appointed task of listening for radio communications from her star-bound mother.

Verdict:  What begins disguised as a contemporary realistic problem novel transforms by turns to a love story, a caper novel, and a science fiction space opera with a fully characterized butch lesbian protagonist and a heartbreaking romance.  I appreciate the rare inclusion of a butch lesbian as the protagonist, but I was not gripped by the story itself.  In some ways, the cross-genre switches threw me from the story.  I needed more words for the sections to flow from one form to the next.  Despite this, the story reverberated through my thoughts over several days after I finished reading the book.  I will look for future books by this author.  The design of the book jacket is unusual and appealing. The wave pattern on the jacket repeats in the foredge decoration.  Recommended for high school and public library collections.

June 2019 review by Jane Cothron.