Picture Book Mini-Reviews #2

earth-hourEarth Hour // by Nanette Heffernan
Illustrated by Bao Luu
Release Date: January 21, 2020

I loved all the different cultures from around the world that are featured in this book.  Scenes of famous landmarks (like the Sydney Opera House, the Pyramids, the Great Wall, and Christ the Redeemer Statue to name a few) are mixed in with quiet home scenes. There’s even a scene from Antarctica!

I really enjoyed the illustrations by Bao Luu. All the dark, nighttime blues⁠—just gorgeous!⁠—as we revisit the same landmarks. The text is simple and beautiful. This book introduces this as a celebration of sorts (albeit a quiet one!). It’s also a reminder that there are ways for our families to conserve energy. And sometimes that means shutting off the devices in our lives to spend some time just talking and enjoying each other’s company.  [4 stars]


marie-big-adieu

Marie’s Big Adieu // by Tamara Rittershaus
Illustrated by Giulia Iacopini
Release Date: February 1, 2020

Moving to a new place is so hard. I love how this book explores keeping the old friendships, but that making new ones is okay. I want such a wise friend like Lorelei!

My favourite line is when the dad helps Marie with trying to cope: “I’m sure there’s something we will love.” This is something my own mom did whenever we would move to a new place… try to find something about the house that was new and different and exciting. (One of our houses had its very own clothes-chute! Oh, the fun we had with that.) [4 stars]



going-upGoing Up! // by Sherry J. Lee
Illustrated by Charlene Chua
Release Date: April 7, 2020

This is a fun story about a girl and her dad who have been invited to a birthday party on the top floor of their apartment building. As they ride the elevator, more and more friends get on. There’s a little twist at the end (which I figured out, but kids probably won’t see it coming).

The only thing about this book for me was the fact that there seemed to be too many people on that elevator! Maybe it’s because I have a slight fear of elevators… Anyhow, I did like the neighbourliness of the people in the apartment. [3.5 stars]

**Note: I received a free copy of these titles from the people at NetGalley in exchange for honest reviews.**

Picture Book Mini-Reviews #1

Today I’m posting a list of mini-reviews for picture books I’ve read recently. These all happen to be ARCs from Netgalley.


Must-love-books
Help Wanted, Must Love Books // by Janet Sumner Johnson
Release Date: March 2, 2020

I loved this story! I loved the blend of realism with the world of fairy tales. The fact that this is a story about bedtime stories is pure bonus. Love how the story ends. A good reminder for all of us busy grownups! [5 stars]


stopwatch-for-grampa

A Stopwatch from Grampa // by Loretta Garbutt
Release Date: April 7, 2020

This is a beautiful story about a kid and the memories of a beloved grandfather. I love how it all revolves around the stopwatch. And while it seems obvious that the grandfather has died, the book doesn’t make a big deal about it. So, it could be read of the level of having a dear one who is no longer around, whether it be in a far-away country or at a nursing home. I loved all the onomatopoeia sounds incorporated into this book. [5 stars]


little-courage

A Little Courage // by Taltal Levi
Release Date: February 4, 2020

This picture book has a Borrowers-vibe to it. I like when the dark shadow is introduced (and how it progressively gets a little more obvious as to what it is!) Has a cute ending with the new shadow introduced on the final page. [4 stars]


grizzly-itch

A Grizzly Itch // by Victoria Cassanell
Release Date: May 5, 2020

The illustrations for this picture book are delightful! Love the friendship between Bear and Beaver. Although, Beaver, WHY did you cut down that one perfect tree for scratching! [4 stars]


**Note: I received a free copy of these titles from the people at NetGalley in exchange for honest reviews.**

ARC Review: The Sound of Silence

sound-of-silenceThe Sound of Silence // by Myron Uhlberg
Release Date: May 1, 2019
Genre: MG, Memoir

**Note: I received a free copy of this title from the people at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

My Thoughts: What an interesting read! I found this book fascinating. The subtitle is: Growing Up Hearing with Deaf Parents. And that’s pretty much the book in a nutshell. The story takes place in Brooklyn in the 1930s and 40s.

This is not your typical middle-grade read, however. The book is not plot-driven and is episodic in nature. Basically, it’s a slice of life. One of my favourite scenes was when he teaches his classmates how to sign.

I personally really enjoyed this book; not sure how kids will take it, though. I would probably recommend it for older kids who are interested in memoir, and also the subject of deafness and what it means to be deaf.

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5)

ARC Review: The Phoenix and the Carpet

phoenix-and-carpet

Book: The Phoenix and the Carpet (1904)
Author: E. Nesbit
Genre: MG, Magical Realism
Rating: 5 Stars

**Note: I received a free copy of this title from the people at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Basic Plot: The five children from Five Children and It are back! This time their magical adventures come in the form of a Phoenix and a flying carpet. And there may (or may not) be a special guest appearance by everybody’s favourite Psammead!

WHAT’S COOL…

1) It’s not often that the sequel is as good as the original, but this book is the exception to the rule. We get more great magical adventures featuring Anthea, Cyril, Jane, and Robert. And of course, the Lamb. How can you forget the Lamb!

2) I love the chatty Phoenix, so different from the grumpy Psammead from the first book. Also, the Carpet’s a nice, silent, companionable foil. Love how that works into the plot at the end of the story.

One of my favourite lines in the book:

“Then we’ve lost the treasure,” said Cyril.

And they had.

“But we’ve got the carpet and the Phoenix,” said Anthea.

“Excuse me,” said the bird, with an air of wounded dignity, “I do so hate to seem to interfere, but surely you must mean the Phoenix and the carpet?”

(The Second Chapter)

3) E. Nesbit is the queen of magical realism. The magic always has a bit of a twist or causes some sort problem for the children. I love how that works. (Even though it’s rather frustrating to the children!) It makes for a great story.

4) I love how the kids work together and bicker and tease. I love their adventurous natures.

5) My favourite episode is probably the chapters that involve the Topless Tower. (Treasure. Towers. What more could you ask for?) Although the bit with the Burglar near the end is also hilarious!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Can’t think of anything to put here!

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 5 Stars (out of 5) – This is a wonderful, magical tale. And it still holds magic even though the story was originally published over 100 years ago. This makes a great re-aloud.

ARC Review: Squint

SquintSquint // by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Genre: MG, Contemporary

**Note: I received a free copy of this title from the people at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Basic Plot: Squint has problems with his eyesight… but he isn’t letting that stop him from creating a comic for a contest. Except then his former friend plants the seeds of doubt. When he meets McKell, he’s introduced to her brother’s challenges, which is something that just might give him that lift to finish what he started.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I loved Squint. I definitely felt for him and his insecurities as he navigated through the rough waters of middle school. I was rooting for him the entire book.

2) The Danny subplot was really good, and I liked how it merged with Squint’s story. The authors were able to capture the hurt and emotion necessary to make this work. And yes, I cried at several parts in the book! And there’s a twist with regards to Danny and Squint’s eyes that I didn’t see coming…

3) I loved all the discoveries and the twists. I saw some of them coming, but there were others that I didn’t anticipate. However, once I read those parts I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it before!

4) I enjoyed how the comic (the story-within-a-story) worked with Squint’s real life. It was nice to see how Squint took the events of his world and worked them into his comic world.

5) The little “Rules” that Squint scattered throughout were a great addition to the story.

6) Also, what a roller coaster of emotions this book was! There’s a great scene with Squint and his grandfather. And then there’s McKell. There’s a stunning moment when Squint begins to wonder if he’s just an item for McKell to tick off her challenge-list. I liked how this book shows that friendship isn’t always easy.

7) And I liked how things don’t exactly work out in the most ideal way… that things aren’t perfect by the end of the book. And I think that is part of this book’s power. (Not that this story doesn’t have a satisfactory ending, but it’s more a realistic/happy ending.)

8) Love that book cover!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) While I liked the story-within-a-story, I did find was a skipping some of it a bit. I wonder if I would have liked it more IF it were actually the comic itself?

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 5 Stars (out of 5) – I don’t often give 5 starts. But this is probably one of the best MG reads I’ve read this year. Highly recommend it! 🙂

ARC Review: Earthrise

earthriseEarthrise // by James Gladstone
Release Date: October 15, 2018
Genre: Picture Book, Non-Fiction (Space)

**Note: I received a free copy of this title from the people at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Basic Plot: This is the story behind the photograph of the earth taken by the Apollo 8 astronauts back in 1968; and how such a photo led to a different view of our world.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I love that the illustrations evoke the 1960s. They are wonderfully done!

2) I love photography, so I found this story particularly interesting. It’s a little behind-the-scenes “snapshot” at how one of the most famous photographs of all time came to be.

3) The story juxtaposes a tumultuous time (1968) with a photograph that is anything but tumultuous. It’s simple and beautiful and serene.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I feel like this could be made for older children with a little more text. Maybe explaining a few things. History-wise. This was the year that Martin Luther King was shot. And Robert Kennedy. And a war in Vietnam. They didn’t have to go into extreme detail, but maybe at least mention MLK.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – A wonderfully illustrated book about this moment in history. I’d recommend for 1st through 3rd grade. Maybe Kindergarten?

ARC Review: Anne Arrives

anne-arrivesAnne Arrives // by Kallie George
Release Date: September 25, 2018
Genre: MG Picture Book
My Rating: 4 Stars

**Note: I received a free copy of this title from the people at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Basic Plot: Mrs. Lynde is surprised when she sees her neighbour, Matthew Cuthbert, going to town. She discovers from Marilla that the Cuthberts are adopting a boy. Except, when Matthew gets to the train station, there’s only a girl. He brings her home, because what else can he do?

WHAT’S COOL…

1) The illustrations by Abigail Halpin are absolutely delightful. I adore them! I like how she captured Anne herself. She looks like Anne! I particularly like some of the illustrations that have just Anne in them. Like when she’s looking (sadly) out the window at the cherry blossom tree (the Snow Queen). Such a beautiful two-page spread!

2) This would make a wonderful introduction to Anne of Green Gables, especially for children who are ready for Chapter Books. This book is rather like a Chapter Book, in fact.

3) Oh, I teared up at the scene where Matthew comes to speak to Anne in the bedroom. (When she’s in big trouble with Marilla.)

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The title is a little weird. Why not Anne Comes to Green Gables, or something like that?

2) I know I raved about the illustrations. But it can be a hard thing to capture characters we love in drawings. Matthew and Marilla were a little off for me. Matthew’s long grey hair and brown beard were a little weird. And Marilla… Ah well, just personal opinion here. No major criticism.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I don’t often review picture books, but when I saw this one was about Anne of Green Gables, I was inspired to request it. It’d be a wonderful introduction to the world of Anne! I’d recommend it for Grade 2-3. And really, for any fan of Anne of ANY age.

ARC Review: Louisiana’s Way Home

Louisianas-Way-HomeLouisiana’s Way Home // by Kate DiCamillo
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Genre: MG, Historical (1970s)
My Rating: 4 Stars

**Note: I received a free copy of this title from the people at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Basic Plot:Granny wakes Louisiana up in the middle of the night, and they set off on a journey to rid themselves of the family curse. But Louisiana soon discovers that there’s more to her history than she realized. Suddenly, she finds herself left to her own devices in a small town in Georgia. And all she really wants is to find her way home again.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Louisiana’s voice as narrator is amazing! I love how she uses big words (because her grandmother uses big words). And she talks non-stop… but in a very pleasing way. (Kind of like Anne of Green Gables. And comparing Louisiana to Anne is probably the highest praise I can give!)

2) There are some great scenes… varying from the delightfully comedic (involving driving and dentists) to more serious moments (involving funerals and fainting). And then there’s the cast of quirky characters: The Burke Allens (all 3 of them), Miss Lulu (who can’t quite play the organ), and the walrus-like Reverend Obertask, just to name a few.

3) My suspicions about Louisiana’s family are confirmed in this book. (Something I suspected back in the first book.) This, of course, is revealed just at the right spots in the plot.

4) I love Betty Allen (Burke’s mom) and her cakes. I drew a big breath of relief when she and Reverend Obertask finally figure out a few things.

5) This story really is heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. DiCamillo hits all the right emotional chords just at the right moment. The ending brought tears to my eyes.

6) This is one book where I actually enjoyed the “sequel” more than the original. I liked the first book very much, but there’s something about Louisiana that is very compelling and endearing. She makes for a wonderful narrator and protagonist.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Some of the adults drove me crazy!! I wish they would take one look at Louisiana and realize that something is not right with her situation. (But I also understand that this is kind of important for plot reasons, so it not a major criticism.)

FINAL THOUGHTS
My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – For me, 4-stars means I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s worth the read just to hear Louisiana’s voice tell her story. She’s definitely a protagonist you will want to root for.

ARC Review: Skyward

skywardSkyward // by Sally Deng
Release Date: September 4, 2018
Genre: MG Picture Book, Non-Fiction (WWII)
My 
Basic Plot: This is the story of three Allied pilots during World War II… who all happen to be women. Hazel is from the U.S., Marlene is from England, Lilya is from the Soviet Union.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I loved the illustrations! Nicely done.

2) This is a history book that tells you the little things about history. (Like the fact that the women were given uniforms that were too big for them. Makes sense since the uniforms would have been originally made for men.) They had to use their sewing skills to make the uniforms wearable!

3) None of these women are famous. And while I like reading about famous people who did great things, I also love reading about the regular people who did their part to win the war. (According to the author’s note, Hazel from the U.S. seems to have been a real person. Not sure about the other two. But I’m sure she did her research to get their experiences.)

4) I did like that we get three different experiences with these three different women, each from a different part of the world.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) At times I was a little confused about which woman was from where. Especially at the beginning of the story. It starts with Hazel and then moves on to Marlene and for some reason, I thought they were the same girl. I wish there had been tags or something to remind us that Hazel was from the U.S., Marlene was from England, etc.

2) Hazel is of Chinese heritage, however, this wasn’t very clear in the book. It’s only hinted at when she and her friend (who happens to be black) are thinking of  joining the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots). One of them says: “A Chinese American and an African American want to join? They will think us crazy and laugh in our faces.” I’m pretty sure the term African American would not have been used in 1942-3. Little things like that do bother me, especially since it’s in dialogue of people from the era. If it had been the narrator, I’d be okay with it.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I enjoyed this look into the history of women pilots in World War II. I’m pretty much a sucker for anything to do with WWII, so this was right up my alley. It’s a picture book, but it’s definitely meant for older kids (as there’s a lot of text).

ARC Review: The Button War

button-warThe Button War // by Avi
Release Date: June 12, 2018
Genre: Upper MG, Historical (WWI)
My Rating: 4 Stars

**Note: I received a free copy of this title from the people at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Basic Plot: It’s August 1914 in a small village in Poland. The Great War has begun, but Patryk and his six friends are caught up in their own Button War… to see which boy can find (read: steal) the best button from the uniforms of the various occupying soldiers. Little do they know that this war is going to have deadly consequences.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Thank-you, Mr. Avi, for putting “August 1914” before the first chapter. It set the scene right off the bat. I knew exactly what time period I was reading about.

2) I love learning something new. This story takes place in Poland at the outset of the First World War. The inciting incident involves an aeroplane dropping a bomb. Now, I always associate bombs with WWII, not WWI, so I found this an extremely interesting plot point. (And I did some research. Yes, bombing did happen during WWI.)

3) The bickering between the boys. I love how this is portrayed, especially early on in the book. I reminded me of Stand by Me… the Polish version! The sausage-eating Wojtex… Drugi, the one who asks all the questions… Jurek who keeps telling everybody that he’s the descendant of King Boleslaw… and the narrator, Patryk, who’s trying to keep everything balanced.

Next moment, Wojtex said, “My father told me that more Russain soldiers were coming. Maybe Cossacks.”

Jurek said, “Love to see them.”

“Why?” asked Drugi.

Jurek said, “They’re the best fighters in the world.”

Drugi asked, “Who are the Russian going to fight?”

“Germans,” said Wojtex. …

There was a moment of silence. After which Drugi asked, “What’s the war about?”

We were silent. No one knew the answer.

(Chapter 7)

4) The buttons! Maybe because I’ve always had a thing about buttons, I loved the collecting and the descriptions.

5) I love how the button contest echoes what happening with regards to the Great War. The boys are vying to be Button King, just as the nations of Europe were going to war to be king of the world. You have Jurek, the bully who will stop at nothing to be king, dragging the rest of the boys into the Button War, whether they want to or not. And then, really bad things happen.

6) The foreshadowing is just… wow. I didn’t catch all of it, but peeking back at earlier chapters after completing the book, I definitely saw various instances of foreshadowing. Like the the mention of the Cosacks… And the fierce look in Jurek’s eyes after Patryk throws away the first button.

7) The ending is very sad. Although, it’s not necessarily an “unhappy” ending. The last quarter of the book or so, there’s a lot of bloodshed (off screen). Jurek’s claim at the very end is troubling; sad because it’s also so empty. Like, doesn’t he realize what has happened.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The super short chapters. Argh! I don’t understand why authors choose to write super short chapters.

2) I found the names to be difficult at times. I could not always remember who was who. This might have been partly because of all the Polish names I wasn’t familiar with, but it’s also because there are seven boys. And not all the boys are as important to the story as the others are, so it was sometimes hard to keep track of who was who.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I really enjoyed this book, if “enjoyed” can be a word to describe it. The book deals with some very troubling aspects of war. Actually, come to think of it, it has some overtones of Lord of the Flies. Very interesting on the historical side of things and I would recommend this to anybody who wants to read something something a little different about World War I. Definitely this book is meant for a more mature reader.