Book review: A Chip Off the Old Block, by Jody Jensen Shaffer, illustrated by Daniel Miyares

Shaffer, Jody Jensen. A Chip Off the Old Block. Illustrated by Daniel Miyares. Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Young Readers Group, 2018. Unpaged.$17.99. ISBN 9780399173882. Ages 4-6. P8Q7

Geological puns abound in this story of a pebble named Rocky who wants to make an impact like his rock star relatives—his Aunt Etna, his Uncle Gibralter, Great-Grandma Half Dome.  Rocky leaves his sedimentary home despite being told that he is too small and travels from California to Arizona, Wyoming to South Dakota.  He finally comes to rest after many adventures in a place just right for him.

Verdict: The cartoonish illustrations combine with rocky puns to make this a pleasantly humorous story.  I can see it being used in storytimes for kindergarten through first grade classes.  Students may not recognize some of the landmarks, giving teachers the chance to introduce  places as well as basic concepts of geology.  Recommended for kindergarten through elementary as well as public library collections.

October 2018 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Never Satisfied: The Story of the Stonecutter, by Dave Horowitz

Horowitz, Dave. Never Satisfied: The Story of the Stonecutter. Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Young Readers Group, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9780399548468. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q7

Stanley the stonecutter, a frog, notices a businessman and wishes he was a businessman. Suddenly, to his surprise, he is transformed into a businessman. Soon, he discovers that being a king would be really nice. As Stanley is transformed from one thing to another, he realizes he is never satisfied. The text and vivid cut-paper illustrations add depth and playfulness to the story. Stanley’s large frog eyes are prominent in every thing that Stanley is transformed into. The idea for this story was taken from a Chinese folktale The Stonecutter. The author was tired of writing, so he went back to school and became a paramedic. He told his co-worker about his journey and how he ended up being a paramedic. His coworker said it sounded like the Chinese parable the stone cutter. Horowitz wrote this story based on the folktale.

Verdict: Similar to the grass is greener on the other side, this story shows that while it may look like more fun to be something else, being yourself is good after all. I highly recommend this book for libraries with elementary age children.

September 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Amal Unbound, by Aisha Saeed

Saeed, Aisha. Amal Unbound. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018. 226 pgs. $17.9 ISBN: 978-0-399-54468-2. Gr. 6+. P8 Q9

Twelve year old Amal lives with her family in a small village in Pakistan. Amal dreams of becoming a teacher and studies hard to achieve this dream. Being the oldest in a family of girls comes with responsibilities. Her mother gives birth to a baby girl but does not rebound from the delivery. Amal must stay home taking on most of the household chores. A mishap in the streets with a local rich man puts her and her family in jeopardy. Amal’s dreams are dashed when she becomes a servant in the rich man’s home. She will be in service till he decides her debt is paid.  It is through Amal and those in service to the rich lord that the corruption is stopped and the War Lord is arrested.

Verdict: I loved this book which offers a window into the lives of the Pakistani people.

June 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: One of a Kind, by Chris Gorman

Gorman, Chris. One of a Kind. Nancy Paulsen/Penguin, 2018. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-5247-4062-7. Ages 5-8. P7Q7

In a first-person book about a child who wants to be different, the mohawk hairstyle and clothing of leather jacket, white tank top, and dark jeans depict someone who may not fit into the mainstream. The punk rocker drums and dances amidst a two-page spread in which the child crows, “I like being one of a kind.” Yet being alone can be depressing until the child finds others who also like feeling unique, and the new friends form a band. Black and white photographs are transformed into half tones with black shadows, and the narrative is on torn neon pink and yellow paper scraps.

Verdict: A minimalist book for lonely children seeking their own way, maintaining their own unique styles while finding connections with others.

April/May 2014 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon, by Annette Bay Pimentel, illustrated by Micha Archer

Pimentel, Annette Bay. Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon. Illus. by Micha Archer. Nancy Paulsen/Penguin, 2018. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-101-99668-3. Ages 5-8. P9Q9

Seventy years after the inception of the Boston Marathon, women were still prevented from participation. When 23-year-old Roberta Louise “Bobbi” Gibb applied to take part, she received a letter stating that “women are not physiologically able to run twenty-six miles and furthermore the rules do not allow it.” She had already spent years training and would not allow herself to be refused. Wearing a hooded sweatshirt, she jumped out of the bushes at the beginning and began the first woman to run the race. Archer’s illustrations of oil paint and collage with tissue paper and hand-stamped patterned papers show Gibb’s hard work as she literally ran across the country, her perseverance running in six Boston marathons before receiving official sanction, the speed of the runners, and encouragement from competitors and observers once they discover that a girl is running the race. The information in the book comes from Gibb, now an artist.

Verdict: Girl Running is a welcome companion to last year’s The Girl Who Ran by Kristina Yee and Frances Poletti, illustrated by Susanna Chapman because of its emphasis on the joy of running and details such as her shoes. Also of interest is the mile markers and elevation indications that demonstrate the runners’ struggles, especially at Heartbreak Hill. Heartwarming and inspirational.

January/February 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Les and Ronnie Step Out, by Andrew Kolb

Kolb, Andrew. Les and Ronnie Step Out.  Nancy Paulsen Books, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9780399546198. Unpaged.  Ages 6-10. P8 Q8.

Les is a “straight-laced” leg while Ronnie is opposite.  Things change after Ronnie has a skateboarding accident.  Les misses the fun ways of Ronnie.  Les works to cheer up Ronnie.  So, Les wears one of Ronnie’s shoes and then acts like him.  He learns the valuable lesson of what it is like to be in “someone else’s shoes.” The first set of end pages show pictures of plain brown tied shoes on one side and on the opposing page silly colorful untied shoes.  The final end pages show one out of place in the plain brown tied shoes signifying the change that takes place in the book.

Verdict:  It is a good fit book for young readers and teaching in understanding differences in people.  Also, it portrays the two personality types A and B. It is a fun book for libraries, reading aloud, and discussing.

November 2017 review by Deborah Gwynn.

Book review: Ben’s Revolution: Benjamin Russell and the Battle of Bunker Hill, by Nathaniel Philbrick, illustated by Wendell Minor

Philbrick, Nathaniel. Ben’s Revolution: Benjamin Russell and the Battle of Bunker Hill. Il. by Wendell Minor. Nancy Paulsen/Penguin, 2017. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-0-399-16674-7. Ages 7-11. P7Q9

The Battle of Bunker Hill, recounted in the author’s 2013 adult book about the 1775 British versus America encounter is the focus of this story of a 12-year-old boy who goes with his classmates to follow British troops toward Concord. His home in Boston is sealed off, and he becomes a clerk to the Revolutionary general Israel Putnam and watches the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Verdict: The narrative uses the myth that the Revolutionaries were protesting taxes instead of the opposition to the monopoly of the British East India Company, but the text is generally accurate and the story of Ben Russell entertaining, especially because the book is based on an actual person. Beautiful gouache and watercolor illustrations add to the depiction of the events, including the Boston Tea Party and the battles of Bunker Hill and Breed’s Hill in Charlestown. An excellent adaptation from an adult book to introduce young readers to an engaging person.

Summer 2017 review by Nel Ward.