Book review: Frankie Sparks and The Talent Show Trick, by Megan Frazer Blakemore, illustrated by Nadja Sarell

Blakemore, Megan Frazer. Frankie Sparks and The Talent Show Trick. Illustrated by Nadja Sarell. (Frankie Sparks, Third-Grade Inventor series, book 2). Aladdin, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781534430471. 116 pages. Ages 7-10. P7 Q7  

When Frankie meets Tatiana, a magician who has brown skin and curls, just like Frankie, she is mesmerized! Frankie decides that in addition to be the best third-grade inventor, she wants to be the best magician as well. She studies and practices with Maya, her best friend, as her assistant. They perform their first magic show in Maya’s living room. Frankie dreams of being a star in the upcoming school talent show. However, Maya has stage fright and it appears that she will not be able to be Frankie’s assistant. Will Frankie find a new assistant, drop out of the talent show or will Maya gain the courage to be Frankie’s assistant? The author includes how the characters are feeling and the struggles they go through revolving around Frankie’s goal of becoming a star and Maya’s fear of the audience. The text is printed in a larger font which is spaced out, which make it easier for children to read. This short chapter book includes a table of contents with ten short chapters. The end of the book explains “the design process” when one makes an invention, how to turn ”something old into something new,” and “your turn to be the inventor.” The author is a school librarian who has a BA from Columbia University. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in library science. Even though this is book 2 in the series, it can stand alone.

Verdict:  I think readers will be engaged with this book and be able to relate to the characters. It teaches readers about friendships and how to encourage others. Maya’s dilemma will show readers how to have courage and to take chances. I recommend this book for elementary aged readers.

February 2020 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The Boy Who Invented the Popsicle: The Cool Science Behind Frank Epperson’s Famous Frozen Treat, by Anne Renaud, illustrated by Milan Pavlovic

Renaud, Anne. The Boy Who Invented the Popsicle: The Cool Science Behind Frank Epperson’s Famous Frozen Treat. Illustrated by Milan Pavlovic. Kids Can Press, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9781525300288. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P8 Q8

Have you ever wondered how the popsicle was invented? Frank was always interested in inventing. He pondered questions, tinkered, tested, analyzed and scrutinized. At age 10 he masterminded his first invention, a handcar with two handles He loved experimenting with flavored soda waters. In 1905, when he was 11, he put his glass of soda water on the back porch and woke up with it frozen! This was before 1940 when the freezer became popular in North America. When Frank was unsuccessful with an invention, he kept trying. Science experiments are sprinkled throughout the book relating to the story. When talking about the freezer box, the experiment is how to make a frozen treat in 5 min. The backmatter contains the Author’s note which is a biography of Frank’s life, which include photos from 1907 of Frank’s family, Frank selling popsicles, and vintage popsicle advertisements. Having  9 children, he wanted to make extra money for his growing family. In 1924 he applied for patents for his “frozen confectionery” and his “confectionery-making apparatus.” In his lifetime, he invented many things, he even designed and built two of his homes, both of which were inspired by castles. The illustrations bring the reader back to the early 1900’s and show Frank’s imagination.

Verdict: This book stands apart from other biographies in that it includes science facts and experiments. Children will be inspired by Frank’s story and want to do the experiments, which are quick, easy and require common items that most households have. This story could be a catalyst for children to create their own invention. I highly recommend this book.

December 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The Boo-Boos That Changed the World: A True Story about an Accidental Invention (Really!), by Barry Wittenstein, illustrated by Chris Hsu

Wittenstein, Barry. The Boo-Boos That Changed the World: A True Story about an Accidental Invention (Really!). Illustrated by Chris Hsu. Charlesbridge, 2018. Unpaged. $16.99. ISBN 978-1580897457. Ages 5 and up. P9 Q8

The invention of the Band-Aid might not sound like a thrilling read, but this is actually an interesting story based on the true facts about the inventor, Earle Dickson, and how he came to invent, adjust and then mass produce something we have all used. Even adults will learn a fact or two, and there is a little humor in the author continually saying “The End” when the story evolves and continues. The end of the book has an interesting author’s note on the invention, and he also included a time line not only about the inventor’s life, but also other medical inventions created at the same 1920-1930 period.

VERDICT: This was interesting, and I learned a lot about something I have used my whole life. Everyone knows what Band-Aids are, but most of us don’t think about how they came to be. I think many ages will find the story interesting and the illustrations delightful.

January 2020 review by Lynne Wright.

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: The Drone Pursuit, by Victor Appleton

Appleton, Victor. The Drone Pursuit. (Tom Swift Inventors’ Academy series, book 1). Aladdin, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781534436312. 130 pages. Ages 8-12. P8 Q8

Modern technology and spy stories collide to create a riveting adventure that will keep readers engaged to the very end. Tom Swift attends Swift Academy of Science and Technology, which his father funds. It is common to see drones and small robots in the halls. When Tom parks his drone out of sight, it goes missing. He is determined to get it back. However, along the way, he and his friends suspect that the custodian, Mr. Conway is actually a hacker who is wanted by the FBI. The author did a stellar job of incorporating technology relevant to tweens. Readers will be able to picture in their minds eye the events as they are unfolding. This series is a kid friendly relaunch of the Tom Swift series, when Tom comes back as a middle schooler. The Tom Swift saga comprises 6 series. The original series 1910-1941, the second series, Tom Swift Jr 1954-1971, the third series, Tom Swift lll 1981-1984, the fourth series, Tom Swift lV 1991-1993, the fifth series,  Tom Swift, Young Inventor 2006-2007, and lastly,  the sixth series, Tom Swift Inventors Academy 2019.

Verdict: If you like the Hardy Boys and Alex Rider, you will enjoy this adventure, told from Tom’s point of view. Full of intrigue, mystery, friendships, team work and twists and turns. From the cover that shows action to the very last page, readers will be enraptured. I highly recommend this book for all libraries.

September 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: The Sonic Breach, by Victor Appleton

Appleton, Victor. The Sonic Breach. (Tom Swift Inventors’ Academy series, book 2). Aladdin, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781534436343. 130 pages. Ages 8-12. P8 Q8 

Modern technology and mystery collide to create a riveting adventure that will keep readers engaged to the very end. Tom Swift attends Swift Academy of Science and Technology, which his father funds. Tom and his friends made their own robots for a robot battle in the gym during robotics class. The students are annoyed by all the pop quizzes their teachers are giving them. While Tom is in class, he hears mosquito ring tones. His friend Amy has created the Pop Chop app to alert other students when a teacher is going to give a pop quiz. However, what started out as an innocent app soon goes awry. This adventure will not only keep readers engaged, it also inserts advice such as, failing is not a bad thing, one can learn from mistakes, which enforces growth mindset. I learned that mosquito ring tones are a real thing, as the book describes. It has even been made into a cellphone ringtone so teachers can’t hear the teen’s phone ringing. This series is a kid friendly relaunch of the Tom Swift series, when Tom comes back as a middle schooler. The Tom Swift saga is comprised of 6 series. The original series 1910-1941, the second series, Tom Swift Jr 1954-1971, the third series, Tom Swift lll 1981-1984, the fourth series, Tom Swift lV 1991-1993, the fifth series, Tom Swift, Young Inventor 2006-2007, and lastly,  the sixth series, Tom Swift Inventors Academy 2019. There are two more books planned to be released in this series.

 Verdict: Another winning novel, the second in the Tom Swift Inventor’s Academy series, this book is able to stand alone. If you like the Hardy Boys and Alex Rider, you will enjoy this adventure. Themes of friendship, teamwork, honest, courage and following one’s moral compass are strong.  From the cover that shows action to the very last page, readers will be enraptured. I highly recommend this book for all libraries.

September 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Lego: The Building Bricks Behind the World’s Largest Toy Company, by Lowey Bundy Sichol, illustrated by C.S. Jennings

Sichol, Lowey Bundy. Lego: The Building Bricks Behind the World’s Largest Toy Company. Illustrated by C.S. Jennings. (From an Idea to… series). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. $15.99. ISBN 9781328954930. 116 pages. Ages 9-12. P7 Q7

Legos are popular and fun to play with, but do you know how they were invented? Ole Kirk Christiansen, who was born in 1891, created the Lego, but it was not his first invention. He started out as a carpenter, made wooden toys and eventually invented the Lego. Christiansen’s life was not easy and he had many setbacks and tragedies. This book includes eleven chapters and a timeline of Lego, how Lego bricks are made, source notes and a bibliography. Text boxes of Fun Facts and definitions are spread throughout the text. Even though the illustrations are black and white, they match the text, add interest and keep the reader engaged.

Verdict: My kids played with Lego’s so I found this book enlightening and inspiring. Christiansen did not give up when various disasters struck, which shows perseverance and growth mindset. Readers will learn how items are created and realize that a perceived dead end may just be the beginning of a new invention. If the illustrations were in color on glossy paper, I feel that the book would be more popular.

September 2019 review by Tami Harris.