Book review: Words on Bathroom Walls, by Julia Walton

Walton, Julia. Words on Bathroom Walls. Random House, 2017. 304p. $17.99. ISBN: 978-0399550881. Gr. 8-12. P7 Q8

This book reminds me a lot of Neil Shusterman’s Challenger Deep, mostly because the lead characters are going through the same sort of schizophrenic struggles.  However, this book is a lot more humorous and easier to read because Adam, the main character, is very sarcastic and funny. There are unfortunately a lot of clichés in this book that make it not so great: the popular kids, bullies, hot guys, sexy chicks and shallow characters.  Of course, a lot of that is due to the fact that the whole story is told through Adam’s journal entries, so it’s a lot of teenage prattle and wanting people to relate to HIM, so it’s forgivable.  What is wonderful is that the author doesn’t stereotype Adam; there’s no miracle, cure-all drug for his schizophrenia. The big thing that bothered me about this book is that I found myself eating WAY too much when Adam takes up cooking to help him deal. The story is just that real.

April 2018 review by NHS student.

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Book review: Colette’s Lost Pet, by Isabelle Arsenault

Arsenault, Isabelle. Colette’s Lost Pet. Random House, 2017. $17.99. Unpaged. ISBN 9780553536591. Ages 3-6. P6 Q7

Colette, who has never been allowed to have a pet, has just moved to a new neighborhood. After inventing a lost pet, she enlists help from the local kids to find it. Her initial fib compounds as she spins the story of her imagined pet. How will her new friends react when they learn she was dishonest? We are told Colette’s tale through hand-lettered text that resides in dialogue balloons. The sketchy illustrations are deceptively detailed and have a pleasingly limited color palette.  While the book’s message champions imaginative play and community engagement, I am somewhat hesitant to recommend it.  There is no discussion addressing Colette’s dishonesty and its potential consequences.

Verdict: Colette’s Lost Pet is a good-looking book about childhood acceptance and understanding. The message is one of inclusion, celebrating individuality, and teamwork. A rejection of dishonest behavior would have been welcomed, as there is none. Nevertheless, it is recommended to fans of Arsenault’s previous works, as well as children experiencing a move.

April 2018 review by Lillian Curanzy.

Book review: The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, by Stacy McAnulty

McAnulty, Stacy. The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl. Random House, 2018. ISBN 978-1-5247-6758-7. $16.99 283 pages. “Advance Reader’s Copy.” Ages 8-13. P7 Q9

Lucy has not been the same since her near death experience when she was struck by lightning four years ago when she was 8 years old.  The experience left her with brain damage that enhanced her number sense to an amazing ability to recall numbers, make impressive calculations, and recite the digits of pi to the 314th decimal place!  Lucy lives with her grandmother after her mother died and her father disappeared. She would prefer to spend week after week without ever leaving the apartment; she has finished online school and is ready for college academically but lacks social experience.  Lucy’s gifted math mind finds a challenge in finding her way through the drama of middle school halls while she does make a friend or two to help her along. Numbers are routinely represented as numerals to highlight Lucy’s mathematical world. While I found this distracting; I recognized that this was the point.  

Verdict:  Readers will enjoy watching the problems flow into solutions that will remind them of experiences that they personally explore. The problems with group projects and friends will appeal to everyone.  Lucy’s grandmother is supportive which complemented Lucy’s determination and resilience. Very Nice! There are a few typographical errors that I hope are fixed in the published copy.

April 2018 review by Penny McDermott.

 

Book review: Imagine That!: How Dr. Seuss Wrote The Cat in the Hat, by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Sierra, Judy. Imagine That!: How Dr. Seuss Wrote The Cat in the Hat. Ill. By Kevin Hawkes. Random House, 2017. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-0-375-97429-8. Ages 6-9. P5Q7

Few people know that Theodor Geisel’s classic was written for curriculum with the requirement that the book use only a list of prescribed words; the total was only 236 words. After he finished The Cat in the Hat, he moved on to more early readers and Green Eggs and Ham, showing Bennett Cerf that he could write a book with only 50 different words.

Verdict: The artwork is 1950s Seuss style, and the narrative is a bit cutsy. Young readers will be more interested in Seuss’ books than how he wrote one to prove he could comply with curriculum requirements.

November 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Story of Barbie and the Woman Who Created Her, by Cindy Eagan, illustrated by Amy June Bates

Eagan, Cindy. The Story of Barbie and the Woman Who Created Her. Ill. By Amy June Bates. Random House, 2017. $17.99. unp. ISBN 978-0-399-55378-3. Ages 5-8. P6Q2

The famous adult-looking doll was created by Ruth Handler, owner of a “toy company.” The all-white male designers poo-pooed the idea, but she continued with her idea. Soft watercolors depict the evolution of Barbie from a nurse to one who runs for president.

Verdict: This puff PR piece skips almost everything about Barbie, including its inspiration from the German erotic novelty doll “Bild Lilli” based on a comic-strip prostitute who serviced German businessmen. There was also no mention about the effect on girls’ body issues from Barbie’s unrealistic shape. It’s a substance-free view of a past popular toy.

November 2017 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: A Mysterious Egg, by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Mike Boldt

McAnulty, Stacy. A Mysterious Egg. (The Dino Files series, #1) Illustrated by Mike Boldt. Random House, 2017. $4.99. ISBN 9781524701505. 128 pages. Ages 7-10. In the Dino Files series. P7 Q7

The Dino Files follows Frank as his paleontologist grandmother finds a fossil dinosaur egg. The fossil is found on a neighbor’s property and there is a dispute to who owns the fossil. When Frank and his cat, Saurus, hatch the egg, the fun starts.  The facts surrounding fossils are accurate. The story shows how friendships can develop and the importance of compromise. This book includes a glossary and a sneak preview for the next book in the Dino Files series. The illustrations are pencil drawings and add to the text.

Verdict: I recommend this book for libraries. Children who are interested in fossils will enjoy this book.

June 2017 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: All That I Can Be, by Mercer Mayer

Mayer, Mercer. All That I Can Be. Random House, 2017. $5.99. ISBN 9780399553776. Unpaged. Ages 3-7. P7 Q7

This book includes two previously published books, When I Get Bigger and When I Grow Up, from the Little Critter series. In When I Get Bigger, Little Critter imagines all the things he will do when he gets bigger. This ranges from spending his allowance on whatever he wants to looking both ways at a green light. It ends with him going to bed, because, as his mother says, he is not bigger yet. In the second book, When I Grow Up, Little Critter explores all the things he would like to do when he grows up. It shows a child’s imagination and all the things he things he will be. Children can relate to all the ideas.

Verdict: I recommend this book for young children’s libraries. Children will enjoy the colorful illustrations and how Little Critter views growing up.

June 2017 review by Tami Harris.