Book review: The Fast and the Furriest, by Deanna Kent, illustrated by Neil Hooson

Kent, Deanna. The Fast and the Furriest. Illustrated by Neil Hooson. (Snazzy Cat Capers, #2.) Imprint, 2019. $13.99. ISBN 9781250143471. 211 pages. Ages 7-10.  P7 Q7

Ophelia is a cat burglar who works for the FFBI. Cat burglars treat each heist as an opportunity to hone their skills. They return what they take. Ophelia’s archenemy is Pierre von Rascal of Thievesylvania. When Opelia is sent on a mission, Pierre and CCIA dogs are hot on her tail. To add more humor, a fish is Ophelia’s inventor and works with her on the mission. Full of cat puns and cat related words this adventure will be sure to entertain and engage readers. Graphic novel style illustrations are interspersed throughout the book, making this a great book for graphic novel enthusiasts to transition to novels. This is book 2 in the series, but can easily stand alone.

Verdict: If you have a reader who likes graphic novels and cats, they will enjoy this book. The balance of chapter book and graphic novel is perfect. I recommend this book.

November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: TheTwilight Curse, by Kat Shepherd, illustrated by Rayanne Vieira

Shepherd, Kat. The Twilight Curse. Illustrated by Rayanne Vieira. (Babysitting Nightmares series, book 3). Imprint, 2019. $14.99. ISBN 9781250157010. 216 pages. Ages 8-12. P7 Q7  

What would it be like to be a famous actor who performs in a historical theater? Maggie wants to be famous and act, unfortunately, she is too young to perform in Macbeth, at the Twilight theater, which looks more like a palace than a theater. The play is put on as a fundraiser to preserve the Twilight, in Piper, Oregon. When Maggie innocently says “Macbeth” her friends are horrified and tell her the play was cursed and it is bad luck to say the name of the play inside the theater unless you are in the play. Since Maggie was not able to perform, she gets a babysitting job in the theater for June, a little girl whose mother is the actress playing Lady Macbeth. During rehearsal, when the lights go out, the carpenter gets hurt, and other events occur, Maggie wonders if they are an accident or a result of a curse. When more paranormal activity occurs, and June gets involved, things get tense. Will Maggie and her friends be able to figure out who is behind the activity? This mystery reminds me of the Scooby Doo books. The mystery is well written and middle grade readers can imagine themselves going along the adventure with Maggie. Readers will be able to relate with the characters in the story. Each of the Babysitting Nightmare books features one of the girls. This book focuses on Maggie. While it is book 3 in the series, it can stand alone.

Verdict: Reader who enjoy the Babysitter’s Club or Goosebumps series, ghost stories, horror fiction and paranormal series, will enjoy this book. It emphasizes friendships and is appropriate for middle grade readers. The mystery is not gory, but will keep readers on the edge of their seats. I recommend this book for elementary school and public libraries.

September 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The Library of Ever, by Zeno Alexander

Alexander, Zeno. The Library of Ever. Imprint, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9781250169174. 191 pages. Ages 8-12. P8Q9

Eleven year old Lenora is bored, bored, bored. As her rich parents are away traveling, Lenora is left in the care of a very inattentive babysitter. While the babysitter is on her phone at the public library, Lenora slips away to explore the rows of books. While roaming, she notices an archway that moments before had only been a blank wall. Lenora hesitates for a moment, then steps through the archway and enters the fantastical Library of Ever, with endless shelves, thousands of doors, and interesting characters buzzing about. The only way Lenora can stay in this ultimate library is to work there, so she is hired to be an assistant apprentice librarian. She swears to answer any question, no matter the challenge, and so begins the adventure. The job introduces Lenora to many interesting characters including a robot, lost penguins, an ant named Cinnamon, and space traveling tardigrades. All of these patrons seek knowledge which Lenora helps them find, going on a mini-adventure for each fact. But she realizes that a librarian’s job isn’t just about finding answers. Librarians are protectors of facts and knowledge too. Villains are lurking about and Lenora must battle the Forces of Darkness who discourage children from asking questions and demand that some information be restricted. Lenora stays true to the theme that knowledge is light and proves librarians are magical!

Verdict: A must for the library!  A great book to feature during Banned Books Week with its powerful message about the dangers of censorship. Also a perfect classroom read-aloud as the book features quickly resolved adventures that take up one to two chapters.

September 2019 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Summer, by Cao Wenxuan, illustrated by Yu Rong, translation by Yan Ding, adapted by Erin Stein

Cao, Wenxuan. Summer. Illustrated by Yu Rong. Translation by Yan Ding. Adapted by Erin Stein. Imprint, 2019. $18.99. ISBN 9781250310064. Unpaged. Ages 4-8 P7Q8

It’s a hot summer day, and animals and people alike are finding ways to escape the heat. However, on the savanna, relief is hard to come by  and all the animals are desperate for some shade. Thinking of only themselves, the animals quarrel as they try to cool off. When a human father and son walk across the dry grassland, creating a shadow, the animals suddenly become silent, and an idea is born. The middle pages of the book cleverly portray this idea as the animals find that cooperating and working together is the answer to their dilemma. The cut paper and pencil artwork in the book add to the overall message of the power of kindness and sharing.

Verdict: A fun book to read with a great message. Children will enjoy the novelty of the pages in the middle section of the book.

September 2019 review by Denyse Marsh.

[Editor’s note: The book, originally published in China, argues the benefits of cooperating to find solutions to mutual problems, but falls a bit short of the goal.  Though the illustrations show what appears to be an African savannah scene, the animals include a lynx and a brown bear–animals not found in Africa–and the solution leaves the largest animal still standing in the hot sunshine.]

Book review: Agent of Chaos, by Kami Garcia

Garcia, Kami. Agent of Chaos. (X-Files Origins series, book 1). Imprint, 2017. $17.99.  ISBN: 978-1250119568. 320p. Gr. 9-adult.  P8 Q7

I was so excited to read the backstory of one of my favorite shows, as I have been a fan of the X-Files for years.  I like the fact that this book wasn’t a retelling of plots from the series, but a ‘how Mulder became an obsessed agent.’ It was pretty cool to find him the same age as me (almost 18) and in high school.  Even then, he is driven to investigate everything, though he doesn’t believe in the supernatural at first.  The book doesn’t follow a storyline like the shows do, but it makes it more believable, almost like a biography.  Even then, there’s enough suspense and investigative drama to satisfy most hard-core X File fans.

May 2018 review by NHS student.

Book review: The Traitor’s Kiss, by Erin Beaty

Beaty, Erin. The Traitor’s Kiss. (Traitor’s Circle series, #1). Imprint, 2017. $18.99. ISBN: 978-1250117946. 352p. Gr.9-11.  P6 Q7

This is the first book in a trilogy, and I am really looking forward to reading more. It’s about a young woman who is an apprentice to a matchmaker, but who really is a spy. She’s sort of a smartass and doesn’t fit the mold that society wants her to.   It is almost historic, not fantasy, and I caught myself thinking “this could’ve happened” more than once.  The characters were really rich and very human and the plot was full of twists and surprises.  There was just enough romance to spice it up, but not enough that I felt it was a story motivator.  The one criticism I have is that it was hard to follow sometimes, a map would’ve clarified things a lot, because I couldn’t tell how the settings related to each other and where everyone was.

May 2018 review by NHS student.

Book review: Babies Ruin Everything, by Matthew Swanson, illustrated by Robbi Behr

Swanson, Matthew. Illustrated by Robbi Behr. Babies Ruin Everything. Imprint, a part of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, 2016. $16.99. Unpaged.  ISBN 9781250080578. Ages 3-5. P6 Q7

A new baby can really impact a family’s day-to-day, especially if the new baby is also a new sibling! Babies Ruin Everything is told from the point of view of an older sister after the arrival of a newborn. As we learn from the title, she is not pleased; yet she makes a good argument—babies aren’t very useful. They can’t catch a Frisbee, whistle, or stand on one foot! Eventually, however, she realizes that they both have a common enemy—their parents—and, thus, the unspoken sibling code is adopted again. Babies Ruin Everything is an accurate portrayal of the social, emotional, and intellectual pressure experienced by older siblings—with a comedic twist and an endearingly drawn, googly-eyed baby. The children are rendered in loud and colorful acrylics while the adults are inserted digitally—faceless silhouettes à la parents in cartoons for young children. This choice to emphasize the children works well to unite them visually as the story bonds them through common mischief.

Verdict: This is a great introductory book for a child expecting a young sibling—especially useful for the reluctant older brother or sister. It’s a worst case scenario story with a happy ending.

November 2017 review by Lillian Curanzy.