Book review: The Startup Squad, by Brian Weisfeld and Nicole C. Kear

Weisfeld, Brian and Nicole C. Kear. The Startup Squad. (Startup Squad series, book 1). Imprint, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9781250180407. 172 pages. Ages 8-11. P7 Q7

Resa’s teacher, Ms. Davis, explains to the class about the sixth-grade trip and fund raiser. The class is going to Adventure Central and they will be selling lemonade for the fundraiser. The class is divided up into teams and each team will have their own lemonade stand. Resa’s best friend, Didi, is on her team, along with Harriet and Amelia. Harriet is energetic, colorful, optimistic, enthusiastic and full of ideas. Amelia is the new girl, who is quiet and logical. As the team works towards making their lemonade and selling it, Resa is very judgmental towards the others on her team and always wants things done her way. However, by doing things her way, they do not turn out as she expects. Resa learns that when working in a team, she cannot always have her way. Meanwhile, Val and her team of overachievers seem to be selling the most lemonade. Can Resa and her team regroup and win the contest? Will Resa learn the value of compromise? Resa can be a bit annoying since she goes too fast, does not have patience for others and focuses on their faults. The team members take time to talk to Resa and help her see how she is treating them. The illustrations on the cover show four girls of different races, showing diversity.

Verdict: Relationships are complex, especially when friends have different temperaments and strengths. The author did a good job of representing a wide variety of races and personality types. The overall message of compromise and seeing the strengths of others make this short chapter book one that will make the reader more open minded for having read it. I recommend it for public and school libraries.

February 2020 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, by Jason Reynolds

Reynolds, Jason. Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781481438308. 188 pages. Ages 10-14. P8 Q8

This book is a set of ten separate short stories, but the characters are connected; they all go to the same school. Each chapter is titled with the name of a street, and the stories are about the kids walking home to that part of the neighborhood. There are chapters about friends, bullies, family drama and first loves, all told through the eyes of young people. Some are laugh out loud funny, and others are heart breaking. On Placer St. we meet the the Low Cuts, four friends with many things in common including qualifying for free lunch, and parents who were cancer survivors. These shared experiences made them tough, yet we learn how leaning on friends makes tough times better. The stories capture the social lives of inner city middle school students perfectly. Verdict: a great book for middle school and the J Fiction section of the library. Friends play such a huge role in the lives of middle schoolers and this book focuses on those important relationships.

December 2019 review by Denyse Marsh.

Book review: Field Trip to the Moon, by John Hare

Hare, John. Field Trip to the Moon. Margaret Ferguson Books, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9780823442539. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7 Q8

A wordless moon picture book! Explorers travel on a yellow bus through the sky to the moon. They walk on the moon in their space suits, write in journals and rest. Oh no! one explorer has been left behind. The explorer finds itself surrounded by ……aliens! Will the explorer find its way home? The illustrations will keep the reader engaged. When the grown-up explorer returns to the moon, they make the young explorer clean up its mess. Even though the explorer has its helmet on, the reader can tell by the drooped shoulders that it is sad. It shows that one needs to clean up after themselves. However, to add comic relief and makes readers smile, the aliens have another idea! Even with the space mask, the illustrations show how the characters are feeling. Extremely well done.

Verdict: This amazing book tells a story without any words. Shows friendship, exploration and creativity. Readers will look at the book over and over. With the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, this is a perfect way to celebrate. I highly recommend this book.

November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Roll with It, by Jamie Sumner

Sumner, Jamie. Roll With It. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781534442559. 250 pages. Ages 10+. P7 Q8.

Ellie is not only the new student; she is in a wheelchair and lives in a trailer park. When Ellie and her mom move to a new town to take care of her grandpa, she has to figure out how to maneuver around classrooms that are not set up for students in a wheelchair. Fortunately, Coralee, her new neighbor in the trailer park, befriends Ellie and becomes her first true friend. While Ellie engages in many of the same activities as other children, she shares her struggles with using the school bathroom, not wanting an aide to follow her around, and the awkwardness of people staring at her. Meanwhile, Ellie’s grandpa gets confused and puts himself in danger at times. Ellie’s mom wants to put him in a home for elderly people, but this makes Ellie fear that maybe her mom will put her in a home someday. Ellie’s favorite show is the Great British Bake Off and Ellie loves to cook, which may add familiarity for readers who enjoy the show. Readers will gain insight on what it is like to live with challenges while being inspired by Ellie, who does not let her disability define her or limit her. Sumner’s son has cerebral palsy, which inspired her to write this book.

Verdict: The message that children who are confined to a wheelchair can have just as meaningful life as children who can walk comes through loud and clear. Readers can relate to the issues that Ellie has to deal with. I highly recommend this book for all libraries.

October 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: If Animals Went To School, by Ann Whitford Paul, illustrated by David Walker

Paul, Ann Whitford. If Animals Went To School. Illustrated by David Walker. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9780374309022. Ages 3-6. P6 Q7

What would it be like if animals went to school? From giraffes being used as slides and goats eating books  to beavers counting with sticks, this creative story is full of imagination and fun. Lunch time is just a tad bit different when animals go to school. Dive into this adorable book to find out more. A great read for a child first entering school and having first day jitters. This book shows that everyone does things a little different yet they can all come together to work and play as friends. The eye catching illustrations are full of the bright colors that children love.  This book is silly yet informative with a great message for young children.

Verdict: A well written and illustrated book for young children primarily preschool age and kindergarten. This book is short, sweet and full of animal cuteness. Would work great as a story time book.

November 2019 review by Melissa Roberts.

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.