Book review: Charlie Numb3rs and the Woolly Mammoth, by Ben and Tonya Mezrich

Mezrich, Ben and Tonya Mezrich. Charlie Numb3rs and the Woolly Mammoth. (Charlie Numbers series, book 3.) Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019. $17.99. 183 pages. ISBN 9781534441002. Ages 8-12. P7 Q7

Charlie is on a Cargo ship being chased and heading for freezing water. He has two choices; he can be caught or he can jump into freezing water. The adventure then goes back two weeks to when Charlie and his friends, all Whiz Kids, find a bone while they are on a field trip to the Boston Public Gardens. Stumped by what the object is, they take it to a science professor at Harvard to be identified. This discovery leads to more questions and new friends who are also scientists. The new friends include Janice and Rod. While Janice is sweet and kind, Rod is a bully and mean. They work together to solve the mystery of the “bone” and why it was found in Boston. The cast of friends include a black girl in a wheelchair (Janice), a Japanese boy, two redheaded boys, boys from a wealthy suburb and some from the city, which offer a diversity in characters. The friends use carbon dating, Boston trivia, and science factoids as they seek to figure out the mystery. Fossils and rocks are highlighted in the story and a rock is actually a clue to the origin of how the “bone” arrived at the Boston Public Gardens. While Rod is a bully, as the story develops, Rod’s backstory comes to light and the dynamics between the friends change in a positive direction. This is the third novel In the Charlie Numbers series, but can stand alone.

Verdict: If you have a child interested in fossils, rocks, carbon dating or science, they would enjoy this adventure.

The reader will learn a lot about fossils, Africa, elephant tusk trade and science as they read this mystery. While the book appears to be lighthearted, one will learn a lot. The themes of friendship, giving others a chance and looking beyond the obvious come through strongly in this book. This would be a great read aloud for a teacher or a good book for families to read together.

November 2019 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Found, by Jeff Newman, illustrated by Larry Day

Newman, Jeff. Found. Illustrator Larry Day. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781534410060. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P6Q8

Found is a heartwarming, wordless story about a sweet girl and a lost dog named Rosco.  They quickly become best of friends and spend every waking moment together. The main character, after noticing a lost and found sign for her new friend, encounter a heart wrenching dilemma, to return Rosco or keep him. The illustrations vividly display the agony the main character navigates as she wrestles with the decision to return Rosco to his rightful owner. After reuniting Rosco with his grateful owner, she is rewarded with a new friend, a dog from the local shelter. The illustrations are simplistic with bold black lines accented with bright colors highlighting the main characters.

Verdict: This book will be a good addition to any K-3rd grade classroom or library and can be used as a mentor text for lessons on small moments, doing the right thing even when it is hard, how a character changes through a story, illustrating emotions, drawing inferences, and the power of caring.

April 2019 review by Marcy Doyle.

Book review: Quiet, by Tomie dePaola

dePaola, Tomie. Quiet. Simon & Schuster, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781481477543. Unpaged. Ages 4-6. P5 Q6

In a world where everyone is in a hurry, being still and quiet may be a foreign concept. A grandfather points out to his two grandchildren how everything is in such a hurry; bees, birds, a dog, a dragon fly, and trees waving leaves. He invites them to sit quietly with him on a bench. He points out birds resting in a tree, dog resting, frog sitting, and the dragon fly stopped. The girl observes that she can think when she is quiet, the boy can see when he is still. To be quiet and still is a special thing. The book felt a bit generic, since the characters are referred to as boy, girl, and grandfather. With simple text and large calm colored illustrations, this gentle book showing the importance of being still and quiet. Even though it shows a balance of busy and quiet, it emphasizes that being quiet is more important than being busy. In life, I feel that one needs to have a balance of both and both are equally important.

Verdict: I can see adults reading this book to children to show them the importance of being quiet and still, but I do not see children picking up this book on their own to read. I do not think this is a book that children will want to read over and over.  That being said, I feel this book would be valuable in a public library. An adult could use this book to lead into an activity where children see what they notice when they are quiet.

November 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Small Walt and Mo the Tow, by Elizabeth Verdick, pictures by Marc Rosenthal

Verdick, Elizabeth. Small Walt and Mo the Tow. Pictures by Marc Rosenthal. “A Paula Wiseman Book.” Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781481466608. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P6 Q7

When a green car veers of the road and slides down a snowy embankment, landing in a ditch, Walt wants to rescue it. However, he is not able to do it alone. Gus, his driver, calls Mo and his driver Sue to help get the green car out of the ditch. Whimsical motor noises and repetitious texts make this story engaging. Characters including different ethnic groups along with a female as the tow truck’s driver makes this story inclusive. This is Small Walt and his driver, Gus’s second adventure. An eBook edition is available. Even though it is the second book in the series, it can stand alone. Readers will enjoy characters from the first book along with a few new characters, winter scenes, and retro illustrations.

Verdict: Verdick combines team work and perseverance to show children that we need others to help us at times. Children who like trucks will enjoy this book, however with the retro feel, it may not be as popular as other books.

November 2018 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Dragon’s Green, by Scarlett Thomas

Thomas, Scarlett. Dragon’s Green. (Worldquake, book one.) Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9781481497848. 369 pgs. Ages 9-12. P8Q7

This is a very enjoyable first book in the Worldquake series for middle grade readers. Effie Truelove spends a lot of time with her wonderfully eccentric grandfather, and tries to get him to teach her magic. He is reluctant to do that though, but when he has a mysterious accident and dies, Effie is left a magic ring and some other items (a letter opener, some spectacles, and more). Her grandfather has also written a codicil to his will for Effie, but her father has destroyed it, as well as selling the grandfather’s magical library, which Effie was supposed to receive. Along with a group of misfit friends from school, Effie takes on the role of hero in a dangerous magical adventure. This book has all the elements that make a kids’ fantasy story exciting- a heroic character, a dragon, a quirky school, villains, magic, and danger.  As I read, I wished at times that I knew more about some of the characters- maybe I will get this information as the series continues.

VERDICT: Middle grade students who like fantasy will like this book and its characters. I will be watching for the next one in the series (out in May 2018).

September 2018 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: A World Below, by Wesley King

King, Wesley. A World Below. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018. 261 pgs.  $17.99. ISBN: 978-1-4814-7822-9. Gr. 6+. P8 Q8

Mr. Baker has decided that this year the final class outing will be to the Carlsbad Caverns. This is something that the 8th grade class do not want to do. All other 8th grade classes have gone somewhere to dine and have fun. The caves trip they all feel is not going to fun. It is the beauty of the caves that makes several change their minds and they seem to enjoying the trip when a sudden earthquakes seals them inside. The class is plunged into a hidden world several hundred feet below where the tour started. This is a word of hidden dangers and people. A place where they overcoming their differences and new friendships are formed.

Verdict: The reader is left wondering what will happen to those that were left behind. It is also a story of survival and the wonders of what could be hidden below Earth’s surface.

June 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.

Book review: Zap!, by Martha Freeman

Freeman, Martha. Zap! Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017. 288 pgs. $16.99. ISBN: 978-1-5344-0557-8. Gr. 5+. P8 Q8

A sudden blackout happens at 8:40 in the morning leaving the small town in Hampton, New Jersey dark. School is canceled and as the days in the dark increase food and water become scarce. Gas, too, is needed by those who want to leave town. 12-year-old Luis is home alone because his parents had left before the blackout. His older brother, Reynaldo, is looking out for him. Luis comes from a poor Nicaraguan family where they speak Spanish and English. Spanish words are used in the story and the author has included a glossary. Luis and his friend Maura stumble onto what is really happening: the blackout was a political ploy. Luis and Maura also learn that only the poorer section of the city has no power while the richer sections have had power restored. The police seem to have deserted them and gangs are starting to run rampant in the dark neighborhoods.

Verdict: Even when times are rough we can overcome them and find a solution to it. It makes the reader think of what could happen in similar situations.

June 2018 review by Carol Bernardi.