Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sam's Pet Temper

Sam's Pet Temper

Written by Sangeeta Bhadra; Illustrated by Marion Arbona

Kids Can Press, 2014, Ages 7-12

Sam's Pet Temper is about a young boy who discovers he has a pet temper. The pet temper pops up during a recess time, because Sam was tired of waiting for his turn on the playground equipment. Sam quickly finds out that his pet temper made way for him, because it cleared the playground. Sam thought this was a good thing ... at first. But Sam quickly realizes that his pet temper caused him to get in trouble - at school and at home. Sam thinks that the pet temper has control of him ... but he will soon find out that he, in-fact, has control over the temper! 

Sangeeta Bhadara's style of writing is playful but strong. Her wording is easy to read along with and would be easy to understand for a young reader.

The illustrations are friendly. Marion Arbona uses a lot of greys, reds, and blues throughout her illustrations. The drawings are very captivating to they eye of the reader.

I really enjoyed reading this book! I thought the idea of having a "pet temper" was a great way to explain the idea of a temper to a young child. I also like that it was a pet - the temper is not who we are - but it's something that we can have control over! This book was sitting on my coffee table one afternoon - and a friend of mine came over and noticed the book. She picked it up and started reading it - and said that this book would be perfect for her 5 year old! Overall, I think this book would be a great way to address the topic of anger or tempers with young kids. 

Review by Amanda Vaculik

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley

Written by Shaun David Hutchinson; Illustrated by Christine Larsen

Simon Pulse, 2015, Ages: Young Adult 13+

This book is about a character named Andrew whose family dies and he does not. He ends up living in a part of a hospital that had a wing that is abandoned during the renovations in the Roanoke Hospital. Andrew serves for the hospitals cafeteria and gets paid under the counter.He likes to spend his time in the ER or the pediatric department of the hospital. Even though Drew is not sick or needs treatment, he likes to be there because that is the last place that he was able to see his family.One day, a guy his age named Rusty was taken into the ER. He was burned by fire by his own classmates. Rusty had been bullied by his classmates for a while, but they took it very far. Drew is not sure why, but he feels some kind of connection with Rusty. Rusty and Drew are both characters that are gay too. Drew likes to hangout with many of the patients that have cancer. In Drew's world, everyone has seen to much suffering and also death.

This book was written in first person and was also written very well by the author. I felt that the writing style was very rich and just made the readers want to dive in and read it. She made the book easy to understand and you were able to feel the same feelings that the main character was having. It made you feel like as the reader, you were there in the book with them. The author's writing would not let you look away because he described, in detail, the humiliation that Rusty had to go through. It is sad to read, but the details make you want to read more because the author is very detailed throughout the book.

The book had a comic inside of it, which made the book even more interesting. I thought that the illustrations were creepy and were also gross. Even though my feelings about the illustrations were bad, the actual illustrations were very good. I believe they were perfect for this book, and Christine Larsen did a great job with them.

I thought that this was a great book. I loved reading it and felt interested and wanting to read more the whole time. I would recommend this book to others because it was very detailed and made you think a lot about being in the shoes of the main character, Andrew Brawley. The subject of the book is very intricate, it will make you want to keep reading because the writing is so good. I think that middle school students or even high school students would like this book because it had characters around their age that are very easy to connect with. There are also many realistic things about this book that students could connect to. 

Review by Hayley Sheffield

Stone Angel

Stone Angel 

Written by Jane Yolen; Illustrated by Katie May Green

Philomel Books, 2015, Ages 8 - 12 

This story is about a Jewish family fleeing their town during the Holocaust. 

The author writes in the language of a little girl. She refers to her mother as "Maman" and refers to the Nazis as "the bad men" and "the brown shirts". There is also a maturity to the girl's voice and language. When some men around her passed away, she narrates, "but I did not cry. I knew they had flown off to be with the angels." There is also repetition in the phrases "shadows of stars" and "angels".

The illustrations are very dark, depicting a dark time. They seem to be done in pencil.

I do recommend this to children in later elementary school, as it portrays the struggles of Jews during the Holocaust without being gruesome. This is a good story for educating younger children about the Holocaust. Children who have dealt with some family struggles, which have made them mature early can definitely relate to this, while that is a more rare occurrence. 

Review by Kelly Holmes



Written by Pimm van Hest; Illustrated by Kristof Devos

Clavis Publishing, 2015, Ages 5 - 10

This story is about a boy who controls the weather. His emotions are tied to the weather. When he cries, it rains; when he's happy; the sun shines, and so forth. 

The author uses a lot of personification when it comes to the weather. For example, the author writes "the joyful sun beamed down exuberantly." There is also repetition with the word "want". Everyone around Weatherboy wants him to influence the weather the way they want it. One example of this is "I want sun! I want cold! I want snow!" There is also a parallel between Weatherboy and another character named Skateboy. Separately, they are doing the same thing. They are both going "farther and farther" away from where they live until they eventually meet up.

The illustrations have a large variety of color. These colors depend on Weatherboys emotions. If he is sad, the colors are very dark. If he is happy, the colors are bright. The illustrations seem to be done in colored pencils.

I do recommend this boy for any ages, but particularly any child between the ages of 5 and maybe even as old as 12, because of the lesson that is learned. The personification in this book makes it very engaging and cute. I think this age group can definitely relate to the struggles that Weatherboy experiences in this story. Everyone around him is expecting so much of him, and he struggles between trying to make himself happy and make others happy. I love that this book teaches kids that they can be themselves and they don't always have to please others.

Review by Kelly Holmes

Anastasia Again!

Anastasia Again! 

Written by Lois Lowry; Illustrated by Diane deGroat

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, Ages 11-14

The story is about a twelve-year old girl named Anastasia who is adjusting to the move from the city of Boston to the suburbs. Anastasia is initially unhappy with the idea of moving because she is afraid that people would not like her because she is from the city. However, Anastasia comes to learn that life and the people in the suburbs is not what she thought it was to be. She eventually adjusts to the move, and finds happiness in the new, unexpected friendships with the people that she meets.

The story is told in a third-person limited point of view with insight from the perspective of Anastasia.

The cover of the book appears to have been hand-drawn. It is colorful, and it depicts a scene of the character of Anastasia appearing to be thoughtfully reflecting on her family's move while sitting on the moving boxes. The rest of the book has very few pictures which appear at the beginning of each chapter in black and white.

I really liked the book. It was an easy read, and I think it is relatable to many kids who have had to adjust to a move or any other type of similar situation. The book really captures and creatively depicts the perspective of a pre-teen girl. I would recommend this book to older kids because it does mention topics such as sex that some people might feel is inappropriate for younger kids to read.

Review by Christine McBride

Twenty Two cents Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank

Twenty-Two cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank 
By Paula Yoo; Illustrated by Jamel Akib
New York : Lee & Low Books Inc., 2014, Grades K-6

Twenty-two cents is a biography on Muhammad Yunus and his life growing up in Bangladesh. Muhammad was one of the few people in Bangladesh that was not poor. He eventually moved to United states to attend college and received degree in economic related fields. Here was much strife in his homeland, and he would eventually return to Bangladesh. Many poor people in his country especially women could not receive loans from banks and would have to ask to get loans from loan sharks. Muhammad devised an idea of the Village Bank that would give small loans to groups of people so they could take out a loan together. The bank would have low interest rates so that everyone could pay back. Muhammad would eventually go on to win a Nobel Peace Prize for his work.

The author's style is very direct and easy to understand. She is very descriptive, and I could picture most of what she was talking about even without the illustrations. The book moved along at a good speed, the author paced the information well. I don't think there was any frivolous section either. Each page had something of value to the story. Pictures books are short as it is so there is no need for fluff.

I thought the illustrations were quite good and had to have been painted. The colors were vibrant, and I thought that the people pictured were very believable looking. I like that the author and illustrator worked together because the pictures always went along with the text on the page. I also liked how each page did not look the same as the last. When books have receptive pictures in the background I find it to be boring.

I would recommend this book for younger readers that want more of a challenge in a picture book. For being a picture book, it has a decent amount of writing per page and was longer then I expected. I would also recommend this book to anyone that enjoys history because it provides some information I did not know prior to reading the book. It is always cool to learn something new from history, and I never really new about the founding of Bangladesh and the book had some interesting information on the subject. 

Review by Mitchell Roth


By Raina Telgemeier with color by Braden Lamb
New York : Graphix, 2014, Grade 4-6

This story is about the author, her family and the road trip they are about to take to go visit her family in Colorado Springs. It goes through all the struggles that the family experiences along the way on this road trip. This story also shares some good memories (flashbacks) that have occurred causing the family to be at the point which they are at now. It takes you through the timeline of the trip and the visit with her family and nothing goes as planned.

The author's writing style is very detailed and fun. She does not back away form the bad stuff. The reader can see that she wants to include anything that could possibly happen on a family trip. She fills her story with emotions, both good and bad. Since this books is mainly pictures with little writing the illustrations do most of the talking. However, with as little words there are she does at great job at getting her point across!

The illustrations are wonderful! They are full of life and color. Every illustration fits the scene that is happening at that point in the book! The flashbacks that occur in this book are made in a more dull olden type color, which allows for easy knowledge of what parts of the story are from the past and which ones are current. Since it is written like a comic book, the illustrator and author have made it very easy to know what order to read the pictures in.

I personally loved this book! I myself have a younger sister, so I could relate to a lot of the conflict between the two girls in this book. I thought it was a very cute read. I also really enjoyed that the author used a more comic book style to write this book. For someone who doesn't like to read books that often like myself or prefers to look at pictures, this would be a great book to choose. I believe that it can be very relatable to any kid that has siblings and has ever ridden in a car for a long period of time with them. I would suggest this book to any kid grade 4-6 but I feel girls would enjoy it more then boys because it is centered around Raina in the book.

Review by Laura Shelley 

The Notebook of Doom: Whack of the P-rex

The Notebook of Doom:  Whack of the P-rex
by Troy Cummings
New York, NY : Scholastic Inc., 2014, Ages 8-11

The story is about a young boy named Alex who has recently moved to the small town of Stermont. He and his two friends, Rip and Nikki, are apart of the S.S.M.P- Super Secret Monster Patrol. On their way to school, they spot a trail of candy, and then Alexander trips into what he thought was a hole. Recovering from his fall, Alexander, Rip, and Nikki, realize that it is not a normal hole, but instead, the footprint, to a monster. Their town is trashed with candy, and buildings look stomped upon. It wasn't until they hear a loud vibration occur, and a loud roar that Rip saw the dinosaur. They gang tried to discover what did the candy have to do with this monster, and the finally realized that this wasn't any regular dinosaur, but a P-Rex! A pinata-saurus Rex!

The author is very descriptive throughout the book. He uses several literary devices, such as onomatopoeia, descriptive language, similes and metaphors, and personification. I believe the use of these literary devices makes the book appealing.

The primary medium for this book is pencil. It puts the reader in the mindset of reading a middle school student's notebook. The sketches aren't to scale, or realistic but more cartoon style. I believe this helps make the book engaging. My favorite illustrations in the book are the actual journal entries. When they finally discover the P-Rex, the put it in the S.S.M.P Notebook.. The entry includes a drawing of the monster, its habitat, diet, behavior, and other interesting facts about the monster.

I believe the book was very engaging. Even as a college student I was interested in trying to figure out how to get rid out that P-Rex. I believe this books falls under the higher spectrum of early childhood and the lower spectrum for middle. I could see myself having this book in my fourth grade classroom library. This book also integrates science and language arts topics. The S.S.M.P had to observe the evidence and then in detail explain what they observed. The first basic steps of a science lab report. By reading this book, I believe it could improve a students lab report writing skills. Overall, I really enjoyed the book, and plan to read the other 5 books in the series. 

Review by Kimyada Clanton 

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. The Mecha-Monkeys From Mars

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. The Mecha-Monkeys From Mars 

Story by Dav Pilkey; Art by Dan Santat
New York, NY : Scholastic Inc., 2014, Grades 3-5

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. The Mecha-Monkeys From Mars is about Ricky and his robot getting in trouble with his parents. After being grounded for wrecking their parents' car, a mouse in a spaceship says he needs help on Mars. Ricky's robot goes off to help but gets trapped by Mr. Monkey's evil monkey minions! Mr. Monkey takes off to Earth to enslave all of Mousekind!

Dav Pilkey's writing style tells you exactly what is happening in the story with no elements. The writing is not as important in this book because of the picture-driven story. Pilkey develops the character of the villain and brings the story full circle at the end of the book.

The illustrations are the most important part of the story. It would be possible to follow the storyline by just looking at the pictures on the pages, and not actually reading the words on the page. The medium of these illustrations are colored pencil drawings.

I recommend this story to anyone who is looking for a fun story. There is not much meaning in the book, however it is just a fun story for school aged children to read, or for a parent to read for their child. 

Review by Benjamin Swartz 

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. The Mutant Mosquitoes From Mercury

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. The Mutant Mosquitoes From Mercury
Story by Dav Pilkey; Art by Dan Santat
New York, NY : Scholastic Inc., 2014, Grades 3-5

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. The Mutant Mosquitoes From Mercury is the story about a small mouse who has created a giant robot friend. Mr. Mosquito is sick and tired of living on Mercury because of the hot days and the cold nights. Mr. Mosquito creates giant, mutant mosquitoes that he wants to use to take over Earth. As Mr. Mosquito attacks Earth with his mutant mosquitoes, Ricky and his robot must fight to save the planet!

The authors's writing style is very student friendly. Also, Pilkey is able to incorporate math content into his story when Ricky is taking his math test. He builds up the background of the villain and gives him a motive. There is no need to look deep into his writing because the writing describes what is happening in the illustrations. The illustrations in this book really drive the story.

The illustrations are the mainstay of this story. There are large illustrations on each and every page of this story. They drive the story. These pictures seem to be a crayon or colored pencil drawings. Due to that fact that there are illustrations on every page of the book, I do not believe that there is one illustration that is most effective in developing the story as a whole.

I enjoyed the book Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. The Mutant Mosquitoes From Mercury. I am a fan of his as I grew up reading some of his previous books like Captain Underpants. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to read a book for pure fun and enjoyment.

Review by Benjamin Swartz 

Can't Look Away

Can't Look Away 
By Donna Cooner
New York : Point, 2014, Ages 12-17

This book is about Torrey Grey, a widely famous internet sensation. Torrey loves to post videos about beauty and fashion, but when her sister is killed in an accident, Torrey can't help but think that it might be because of her videos. The only way Torrey knows how to grieve is through the internet, which doesn't go over well with her audience; they bash her because of it. At her brand new school, she doesn't know who to trust and who to stay away from, so when dark and brooding Luis catches Torrey's eye, she doesn't know what to do. With the ultimate help from Luis, and a surprising friendship she finds in Raylene, Torrey learns to accept who she is without the constant adoration from her internet site.

Donna Cooner wrote in such a way that I was entranced in this book from beginning to end. It was written with suspense, heartbreak, and love; some of my favorite things in a good book. There were quotes throughout from Torrey's vlogs at the beginning of each chapter, which I thought really tied in with the whole internet theme of the book. Overall I loved how I was waiting to see what was going to happen next at any point in the point due to her cues and points of suspense.

The only picture in the book is the front title, which is a collage of a girl, assuming she's supposed to be Torrey, sitting in front of a computer making multiple faces that represent her moods throughout the book.

I really enjoyed this book and I think it would make a great addition to a middle school library as a young, love, heartbreaking story. It has a lot of the aspects of what middle school is like, which is why I really think middle schoolers would appeal to this book right away. I would definitely recommend this book to my girlfriends, but like I said more towards middle to high school level readers would enjoy this book much more. Great read! 

Review by Kara Allison


By Eileen Cook
New York : Simon Pulse, 2015, Ages 14-18

Harper is a senior in high school who's got it all. She has a wonderful best friend, a serious boyfriend, a competitive horse, and loving, rich parents. Her father is the owner and founder of Neurotech, a company that administrates a procedure that "softens" the difficult memories that people cannot handle. When Harper's horse passes away, she cannot cope with the loss. Against her father's wishes, she sneaks into Neurotech and receives the treatment under a false name. Afterwards, she begins to start having strange visions that feel like memories and even begins to distance herself from her loved ones. She meets a boy, Neil, while he is protesting Neurotech and he causes her to begin questioning whether Neurotech is as great as she has always been told, or if there are dark secrets being kept from her.

The author's writing style perfectly matches the feelings of a high school female. The story is written from a first person perspective, revealing the innermost thoughts and concerns of Harper throughout the novel. The author's sarcastic comments, dramatic exaggerations, determined attitude, and identity confusion completely align with those of a teenage girl, which makes the book very relatable for high school students, especially females.

The front cover of the novel is of a teenage girl that is staring straight into the camera. The only aspect of the photo that is completely in focus is one of the girl's eyes. Everything else, including the title of the book, is faintly faded and blurry looking. This completely alludes to the feelings of Harper throughout the novel. She finds that it is difficult to remember certain things after her procedure, but begins to vaguely remember things at the same time. This causes her to feel lost and confused, which is captured by the cover of the book.
In my opinion, this book was very enjoyable. I believe that it would be perfect for teenage girls to read, although it might also be entertaining to anyone that has an interest in romantic interests, horses, procedures that wipe out memories, mysterious visions, and family secrets. The book can help teenagers learn not only how to deal with loss, but why it is important. Towards the end of the book, Harper realizes that it is important to deal with hardships, rather than push them aside. She begins to find out what is true in her life and not to take anything for granted, especially her best friend. I think that any teenage girl would love this book and could really learn a lot from the major themes. 

Review by Stephanie Dodge

Monday, April 06, 2015

Surrounded By Sharks

Surrounded By Sharks 
By Michael Northrop
New York : Scholastic Press, 2014, Ages 12-15

On the first day of a family vacation, a teenage boy, Davey, wakes up early and decides to take his favorite book outside to find a quiet reading area. He finds a secluded beach with an old, weathered sign that says, "No Sw mm ng!" Davey does not intend to swim, but ends up wading out into the water and being pulled out to sea by a rip current. When his family wakes up they are alarmed to find that Davey is not there.

The author writes each new chapter from the perspective of different characters in the novel. He explains how the story unfolds from Davey's perspective in the water. Then the perspective shifts to Brando, Davey's younger brother, and how he feels as his family is searching for his brother. The author also writes chapters from the perspective of Drew, a teenage girl vacationing on the same island, and even, the shark as it is searching the sea and competing for it's next meal.

The cover of the book is a deep blue color with many sharks swimming around the title. The dark, ominous cover could be very intriguing for the reader as it suggests the horrors that they would face if they were in that situation and encourages them to find out what the characters go through as they are "surrounded by sharks."

I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to others. I feel that children between seventh and ninth grade would probably enjoy this book the most; however, I feel it would be appropriate for other ages as well, considering that I am a college student that could not put the book down until I found out what happened next. It could teach children to not go anywhere without telling anyone where they are, whether they are on vacation, near home, or anywhere. This book is an all around great book. From the subtle foreshadowing that leaves one in suspense, fearing for Davey's life, to the devotion of the family to find him, anyone could love this story. 

Review by Stephanie Dodge

Friday, April 03, 2015

Vivian Apple At the End of the World

Vivian Apple At the End of the World 
By Katie Coyle
New York, New York : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, Ages 12-17

This story is a Modern Day tale of how a church, Church of America, can take over the nation and make citizens believe that a Rapture is about to happen. This tale is about three seventeen year-olds who go on an adventure to find the truth of what exactly happened during the rapture. This tale is focused on Vivian Apple and her personal experience of the Rapture and how she finds the truth about her family and life through her driving cross country from Pittsburgh to California with her best friend Harp and a blue- eyed boy named Peter. The three ending up finding a truth that they were not expecting and thus causing a major plot twist.
The author Katie Coyle, made this story be an adventure for the reader. She used imagery very well in the text. The reader can imagine what is happening and feel the adventure occurring in the story. The author does an excellent job of incorporating humor in the story. The overall concept of the text is grim and with the humor, it makes it more appealing and intriguing to the reader. With this, the idea of friendship and courage is correlated together through the adventure of Vivian and Harp. Even though the book, overall, does not directly relate to the readers life, little parts of what the author writes does. The book focuses on Vivian's growth as a person, and this can relate to a student ages 12 to 17 well and how they can grow to be a stronger person no matter with what they are faced with. 
The only picture of the book is the cover. The cover shows a girl around Vivian's age wearing converse and a yellow dress. This would represent the main character Vivian. She is jumping looking like she is trying to find peace up above. Under her is pavement that similarly represents an X; with the background looking somewhat of an ocean. This background is also very vacant mostly focusing on the girl.This could foreshadow an adventure waiting to happen, where the ocean or somewhere around that area is where the final destination is.
In my opinion, this book is excellent. It is a thrilling adventure that makes you want to keep reading more. I was constantly on the edge of my seat while reading. I had no idea what would come next, and if I did, I was very wrong. The story shows how a young girl grows in a few short months to be a outspoken woman. I appreciated how the author focused on the the young girls being the main characters and the saving grace in the story. The theme that I liked most throughout the story was to take the road less traveled. The characters often did this, and it seemed very much so successful. 

Review by H. Gilbert

It's Raining!

It's Raining! 
By Gail Gibbons
New York : Holiday House, 2014, Ages 7-11

This story is all about the water cycle. First, the story begins by talking about the different states of water and provides examples of what each state looks like. Secondly, the story talks about the different kinds of clouds and what type of clouds indicate what type of weather is coming. Finally, the author discusses the different destruction that can occur from the different types of storms. Also discussed is the different ways that people can help to clean up after the destruction.

The author's writing style is easy to understand and follow. What grabbed my attention the most is the way the book flowed and was set up. The book talks about each step in the process of creating storms, types of storms, and what happens after damages occur from storms. I think my favorite line of the book is at the end where it says, "Sometimes while it's raining or just after it's rained there is a RAINBOW!" I think that this shows children that there can be a happy ending to a storm and that storms do not always cause destruction.

The primary medium is watercolor. She uses a variety of colors to be able to show depth in her pictures. This gives her pictures a sense of being real.

I really liked the book. I thought that this would be a good book to use in grades 3-5 because that is when we talk about the water cycle. This book would be a great engagement for students to learn about the water cycle. But, it would also give students an idea of how they can help out in their community if their community was ever hit with a bad storm.

Review by Stephanie Siegel 

A Math Journey Through the Animal Kingdom

A Math Journey Through the Animal Kingdom
By  Anne Rooney
St. Catharines, Ontario ; New York : Crabtree Publishing, 2015, Ages 8-13

This story has fifteen different scenarios which the student is to solve. On the first page of each activity, it is explained on how to solve a specific type of problem with an example. Then on the following page is an activity for students to complete with questions. 

The story is more vocabulary and activity based for students. Through reading this book students will be given vocabulary words and shown an example describing what the word means. For example, "The perimeter is the distance around the outline of a shape. The area of a shape is the space inside the perimeter." In the book every word but perimeter and area is bold so that way students know what the vocabulary word or words are for those two pages.

The illustrations are all pictures. I believe that all the illustrations are effective because all the activities use animals in their activity which will keep all students engaged.

I thought the book was fantastic. The activities in the book could be used for entrance slips or exit slips. But could also be used as test questions which students would enjoy because all the question are related to animals. I definitely recommend this book for grades 3-8. There is a variety of activities for all grades. 

Review by Stephanie Siegel

Baby's First Easter

Baby's First Easter 
By Dave Aikins
New York, New York : Grosset & Dunlap, 2015, Ages 0-2

This story is about a baby's first Easter and what happens that day. 

The author's writing style is short pages and engaging for baby's.

I would describe the illustrations as bold, bright, and textured with some shiny foil pages

My children ages 2 & 3 loved this book. As a parent I loved that we could interacted with the book. There was even a page where my 3 yr old was able to count eggs! I would recommend the book to others!

Review by Kaylene Kiefer