Friday, December 15, 2017

Brief Reviews Fall 2015 part 2

Fuzzy Mud This eco-thriller about genetically-engineered material that gets loose and infects a town is a fun read. I think it would be perfect for struggling readers because it's high interest, fast-paced, and short. It wasn't my cup of tea. It didn't spend enough time on the characters and the plot resolved too quickly for my tastes. It could have easily been a much longer novel without any filler and I found the glimpses of something more frustrating. There aren't enough good high-interest, low reading level books out there though so I appreciate it for what it is. Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar: buy it or check it out today!

These Broken Stars (Starbound, #1)
One of the benefits of being behind in my book reviews is that the distance gives me the chance to see which books really stayed with me. I remember enjoying this book, and I gave it four stars on Good Reads but I honestly could not remember a single thing about it. After reading other reviews, some things have come back, but not much. This is a good romance with a classic Pride & Prejudice plot. They misjudge each other & spend much of the story hating each other and trading barbs until they fall madly in love with each other. I don't remember there being anything specific that I disliked about the book. It's nothing ground-breaking or particularly memorable though. These Broken Stars by Amy Kaufman and Meagan Spooner: buy it or check it out today!

You and Me and HimI like the premise of this book, but I did not like the execution. All the characters were just so petty and mean-spirited. It makes me wonder why they were friends to begin with when they're so quick to throw each other away. In the end, I didn't like any of them and so I didn't really care what happened to them. You and Me and Him by Kris Dinnison: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Ice Breaker Review

Ice Breaker (The Hidden, #1)

Book talk: The Oyster has been sailing for 300 years without any contact from the outside world. If they had a purpose once, no one can remember it. The ship has broken down into three warring factions with parents passing their prejudices onto their children for generations. Petrel is the only one without a faction or a family. Her parents committed a great crime and were thrown overboard. She survives by knowing the ship and all its hiding places better than anyone else. She sneaks down secret passageways and steals to survive. Everything changes when they find a half-frozen boy abandoned on an iceberg. How he got out there is a mystery, but he will surely die if they don't take him aboard. Still, many want to leave this outsider to freeze. But not Petrel. She knows how it feels to be abandoned and alone, and she's determined to save him. If anyone knows how to survive and evade capture on the ship, it's her. This mysterious boy will put all her talents and her courage to the test.

Rave: I liked the hints at the dystopian world and how it came to be instead of a lengthy exposition that explains everything. The world of the ship is fascinating and has a gritty sense of something that's carried on long past its time and is hanging on by sheer force of will. The boy's inner conflict is well-portrayed and Petrel is an endearing character reminiscent of a scrappy, Dickensian street urchin. I love sailing stories and the ship is a great background for the twisting plot. There's a lot of meaty themes explored from identity to friendship to faith. The story takes a bit of time to really get going, but I'm looking forward to how it will unfold in the sequel.

Every book its reader:
I'd give this to students 4th grade and up with the patience for an adventure story that's slow to heat up.

Topics and Trends: robots, religion, ships

Source: school library

Ice Breaker by Lian Tanner: buy it or check it out today!

Monday, December 11, 2017



Book talk: Lord Blackheart has been plotting the downfall of the self-righteous do-gooder Sir Goldenloin for years. Ask anyone and they'll tell you that he's a powerful and nefarious villain. Not the type to take a teenage girl under his wing. That's exactly why Nimona wants to become his sidekick. She only wants to work for the best, most evil, scientist and she's determined to land the job. She has a few tricks up her sleeves: her penchant for crime, her bantering skills, and oh yeah, she's a powerful shapeshifter. Together, they'll show the world who's really evil.

Rave: This comic had me laughing from the first page. Even the character names make me giggle. Ambrosious Goldenloin? Come on! Who wouldn't want to take him down a peg? Honestly I'd have been satisfied if it was just hilarious but it has a real heart underneath it all that makes me adore it. I can't recommend it enough.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to students 4th &; up looking for a funny take on the superhero/archenemy trope.

Extras: This is comes early on and I believe it's the precise moment I fell in love with this comic:

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Source: school library

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson: buy it or check it out today!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

River Runs Deep Review

River Runs Deep

Book talk: Elias is dying of consumption, which is why his parents agree to send him deep into Mammoth Cave. There's a doctor there who claims that the atmosphere of the cave could cure the disease, and sure enough Elias soon starts to feel plagued by boredom more than consumption. Until he discovers that there's more hiding in the caves than even the doctor knows. Soon he's sneaking off to explore and help the runaways hiding in its labyrinthine corridors.

Rave: The historical facts behind this novel are fascinating from the tuberculosis sanatorium in Mammoth Cave to Stephen Bishop, the enslaved explorer who guided tourists and scientists through the cave's passageways. I wish Stephen Bishop had been the main character, but I liked Elias and found his struggles and inner dialogue believable. The plot kept plenty of suspense and adventure in the story and prevented it from becoming a dry historical recounting of events.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to students 4th and up looking for a historical adventure.

Topics and Trends: historical fiction, enslaved people, #weneeddiversebooks, adventure, Mammoth Cave, explorers, consumption

Source: school library


River Runs Deep by Jennifer Bradbury: buy it or check it out today!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Thing About Jellyfish

The Thing About Jellyfish

Book talk: Suzy can't believe that her best friend has drowned. It just doesn't make any sense--she'd always been an excellent swimmer. How could something like this happen? Then she learns about jellyfish so small they're practically invisible and so venomous they could kill an adult. Sure they're usually found near Australia, but with climate change and sea temperatures rising, maybe their territory is expanding. Everyone keeps telling Suzy that she should move on, but she can't until she can prove the real reason her friend died isn't a simple case of drowning.

Rave: Benjamin has done such a beautiful job on this novel. The plot is emotional, the characters well drawn, and the prose is just gorgeous. The way she depicts the complicated, messy experience of grief and the images she draws form the scientific world are simply breath-taking.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to students 4th grade and up looking for an emotional story.

Extras: jellyfish, grief, tearjerkers, friendship

The publisher has put out a video and some quote images to promote the book:

Bonus Quotes:

“If people were silent, they could hear the noise of their own lives better. If people were silent, it would make what they did say, whenever they chose to say it, more important. If people were silent, they could read one another's signals, the way underwater creatures flash lights at one another, or turn their skin different colors.”

“It's peculiar how no-words can be better than words. Silence can say more than noise, in the same way that a person's absence can occupy even more space than their presence did.”

“There are so many things to be scared of in this world: blooms of jellies. A sixth extinction. A middle school dance. But maybe we can stop feeling so afraid. Maybe instead of feeling like a mote of dust, we can remember that all the creatures on this Earth are made from stardust.
And we are the only ones who get to know it.
That's the thing about jellyfish: They'll never understand that. All they can do is drift along, unaware.
Humans may be newcomers to this planet. We may be plenty fragile. But we're also the only ones who can decide to change.”

“The more fragile the animal, the more it needs to protect itself. So the more venom a creature has, the more we should be able to forgive that animal. They're the ones that need it most. And, really, what is more fragile than a jellyfish, which doesn't even have any bones?”

Source: school library

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin: buy it or check it out today!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

You are not my friend, but I miss you

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Book talk: Dog used to be monkey's friend. They used to play together for hours. They used to have so much fun. Not anymore. Dog stole monkey's ball and monkey stole it back. Now monkey has his ball, but who will he toss it to?

This short story is full of emotion and describes a common childhood experience. Monkey gets upset at his friend, Dog, but after a while realizes he misses Dog. All is forgiven and they're back to happily playing a game of catch. The pictures vary from close-ups of monkey to action sequences with multiple scenes depicted on a page. The emotions are clearly visible on all the animals and the background colors further emphasize the emotions. There's happy pastels in the scenes with friends playing and brown, blue, and red on the close-ups of an upset Monkey. The animals all have a fabric texture that makes you want to cuddle them. This would be great for sparking a discussion about friendship and sharing with young kids.

Every book its reader: I'd read this with students pre-school to 1st grade.

Topics and Trends: picture books, sharing, friendship


Daniel Kirk has a website where he describes the inspiration behind the book and some of the process of making it: "I have long been interested in writing a book where the main character has feelings and points of view that to us, the reader, are clearly wrong." He also includes a great list of questions for discussion and things to do after reading the book, "Try writing an 'I’m sorry' letter to someone. If there’s anybody out there you owe an apology to, try telling them in a letter. Even if you choose not to send it, it will help to see your thoughts and feelings in writing."

Source: school library

You Are Not My Friend, But I Miss You by Daniel Kirk

Friday, September 22, 2017

Somos como las nubes

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Book talk: 
We Sing

Since we left home
we haven't stopped singing.
My father says
if we keep singing,
we'll scare away all the tiredness
and the fear
and become a song.

Rave: This collection of poems tells the story of migration from Central America to the United States. The author himself grew up in El Salvador and came to the United States in the 1980's, fleeing war in his home country. The poems range from the specific story of an individual to describing the migrant experience as a whole. They move in time chronologically starting in Central America and ending in the United States. Each poem has both a Spanish and English version and they're accompanied by beautiful, dreamy acrylic paintings. The poems are short, but their impact is big and could easily spark longer discussions and more research into the migrant experience.

Every book its reader: This is a great for those looking for bilingual books as well as classroom teachers and parents who want to introduce the topic of migration.

Source: school library

Somos como las nubes /We Are Like the Clouds by Jorge Argueta & Alfonso Ruano