Funke, Cornelia. Lilly and Fin: A Mermaid’s Tale. Trans. By Oliver Latsch. Random House, 2017. $9.99. 83p. ISBN 978-1-5247-0101-7. Ages 7-10. P9Q9
Colorful illustrations help make this chapter book about wealthy “two-legs” determined to capture a pair of “merpups” a fun read that goes from the comfort of two friends enjoying a day to the danger of being stolen from their peaceful home in sunken shipwrecks. Funke has created both memorable monstrous humans, Mr. and Mrs. Snorkel who need a mermaid to complete their collection of every sea creature in the world and their marvelous metal invention that allows them to travel deep under the ocean surface. The merpups, Lilly and Fin, are typical children, adventurous and disobedient in their desire to explore the world beyond the parents’ definition of boundaries. The greatest twist in the plot is the merpups’ friendship with the giant kraken, a mythical giant sea monster that solves their problem. The award-winning German author is well known for her series Inkheart, but my favorite of her books is The Thief Lord. Lilly and Fin was first published in 2004 in Germany.
Verdict: The plot is straightforward and enjoyable, well-translated, and illustrations add to the humor. Funke has added quirky activities at the end, including patterns for knitting the merpups and kraken, a dice game to play with Lilly and Fin, and a search for tiny treasure chests in each of the book’s large illustrations. The size of the book is also appealing for smaller hands.
May/June 2017 review by Nel Ward.
Siegel, Mark and Alexis Siegel. The Sand Warrior. Illus. by Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun. (5 Worlds series, book 1) Random House, 2017. $18.99. 249p. ISBN 9781101935866. Ages 10-13. P8Q8
Three young people—wealthy but inept sand dancer Oona Lee, street urchin An Tzu, and famous sports figure Jax Amboy—find themselves together trying to save the Five Worlds from extinction by lighting five ancient beacons. It’s epic fantasy with flowing bright colors and non-stop action after their world of Mon Domani is attacked. The format moves from the traditional by bleeding dialog bubbles to the edge, and the vivid palette of colors is inviting.
Verdict: Characters develop into a greater understanding of themselves and acceptance of others, and the authors deal skillfully with income inequality and the shortage of resources on the world, even water. Illustrations of the female form are not stereotyped: although Oona is graceful, she isn’t a standard slim gorgeous girl found in many graphic narratives. The busyness of the plot sometimes makes it hard to understand, but the plot keeps readers moving.
May/June 2017 review by Nel Ward.
Bardugo, Leigh. Wonder Woman: Warbringer. (DC Icons series) “Advance Reader’s Copy.” Random House, release date August 29, 2017. $18.99. ISBN 9780399549731. [384 pages.] Ages 14+. P8Q7
Veteran YA fantasy author Leigh Bardugo takes on the Wonder Woman saga from the point of view of an 18-year-old, bullied Amazon princess curious about the world outside her secluded and protected island home. When Princess Diana ducks out of an important race to rescue shipwrecked Alia Keralis, she breaches the island’s protections and faces exile, taking on the quest to avert the doom carried by the Warbringer—Alia, a descendent of Helen of Troy. Combining Greek mythology with modern technology and teen snarkiness, Bardugo succeeds in making Wonder Woman a believable teenager.
Verdict: Recommended for young adult collections in high school and public libraries.
May 2017 review by Jane Cothron.
Leavitt, Lindsey. Illustrated by A. G. Ford. The Birthday Suit. (Commander in Cheese series, #4) “A Stepping Stone Book.” Random House, 2017. $4.99. 92p. ISBN 9781101931219. Ages 8-11. P8 Q8
This series featuring the Squeakerton mice family takes place in the White House. Now the mice are trying to surprise Gregory for his birthday, which also happens to be President’s Day. As a distraction, they visit the children’s presidential posters, but one of the children picks up Gregory because he looks like a dressed-up gerbil. The rescue comes from a friendship with a cat and the president’s two children. Initially, the use of presidents’ names for the children was confusing, but the situation was explained—children research real presidents and then dress up like their choices when making a presentation. Fun facts about presidents and clothing are included as well as Presidential Birthdays, About Presidential Birthdays, President’s Day, and Clothes of the Present.
Verdict: This enjoyable book is a good addition to libraries and classrooms or as a collectible for children.
March 2017 review by Deborah Gwynn.
Dr. Seuss. Daisy-head Mayzie. Random House, 2016. $17.99. ISBN 978-0-553-53900-4. 58 pgs. Editor’s Notes. Pre-school – early elementary ages. P9/Q10
Originally released in 1994, this is the classic Dr. Seuss tale of a little girl named Mayzie who suddenly at school sprouts a daisy from her head. The story tells of how she reacts and how the people react as well to the dilemma of a daisy growing out of a child’s head. It’s a comical tale that teaches of love and adapting to a sudden situation in a farfetched manner. The newly published version does have some differences. The illustrations have changed and the word type is a little smaller. There are editor’s notes in the back of the book that explain a bit of the history in the creation of the story and some of the differences between the two editions as well as the movie version of the story.
October 2016 review by Helyn Layton.
[Editor’s note: The publisher’s description notes that this edition has “all-new illustrations and a revised plot based on Dr. Seuss’s original screenplay and signature-style sketches.”]
Winick, Judd. Hilo – The Great Big Boom. (Hilo series, #3) Random House, 2017. $13.99. 208p. ISBN 978-0-385-38620-3. Ages 6-9. P8Q8
The intrepid trio returns in the third book of the series (The Boy Who Crashed to Earth and Saving the Whole Wide World), and when D.J. and Hilo follow Gina into another world where she has been sucked into a portal at the end of the last book. Much of the book pursues Hilo’s struggle to regain his memory of how he changed from a robot committing crimes against humanity while he was attached to the evil control Razorwark to a boy-like creature trying to help people.
Verdict: Like earlier books in the series, the colorful graphic novel is full of adventure but also deals with emotions and friendship. Hilo is complex, but likable, and the book provides ethnic diversity.
January 2017 review by Nel Ward.
John, Jory. Quit Calling Me a Monster! Illus. Bob Shea. Random House, 2016. unp. $17.99. ISBN:978-0-385-38990-7. Gr. 1+. P8 Q8
Everyone deserves the right to be themselves and not to be stereotyped because of how they look. Floyd Peterson is a person who just happens to have purple fur, long nails and very sharp teeth. Despite how he looks, he thinks he is a really a nice guy, if only others would see him for himself. The empathy that Floyd makes me feel will be felt by younger children too. The illustrations are in bright colors and they made me laugh as Floyd goes through a series of activities to help others see him for himself.
Verdict: A great book to help children, of all ages, to understand how people may look different but truly are wonderful. Acceptance is what we all want. This would be a great book to read aloud to younger children. It surely will spark discussions on how we see each other.
November 2016 review by Carol Bernardi.