Book Review: Miss Dirt Turtle’s Garden Club by Daniel Boyd @HeadlineBooks

Miss Dirt Turtle’s Garden Club
Daniel Boyd
Illustrated by Hector Mexia
Headline Books, November 2021
ISBN 978-1-951556723
Trade Paperback

The last day of elementary school was certainly celebratory for five best buds who had gone through every single grade together. The summer stretched out before them, packed with possibilities. Admittedly, growing a garden with the elderly Black lady the neighborhood kids dubbed “Dirt Turtle” hadn’t made the quintet’s to-do list.

When the motley crew of mean kids spotted the students standing outside of Dirt Turtle’s yard, the friends scattered. Except for Chatter. Fixated on the woman working the soil, he slipped through the gate in the chain-link-fence.

Silently, he watched. Mum, she worked on. Chatter soon joined in, mimicking her movements.

His pals returned, stunned at the sight. They immediately began teasing him. Unflappable, Chatter continued until each of his friends, excepting Marty, had joined him in the yard. For the four friends, there was something soothing and satisfying in the work and they asked if they could come back.

The jubilant mood dampened, though, when report cards were received. One of them would not be making the move to Middle School without passing English over the summer. The first hurdle Marty would need to clear this summer was definitely dismal. Particularly since he didn’t read well. Having a police officer and a social services worker show up to take his mom to rehab was downright discouraging.

Turns out, tending the plot, alongside Miss Dirt Turtle, brought out the best in everyone. Like the seeds they planted and nurtured, the children grew and blossomed, individually as well as a united, take-on-the-town, team.

I wish I could add Miss Dirt Turtle’s Garden Club to every Elementary School Library. The authentically diverse cast of characters captured my heart as they morphed from wise-cracking kids to a caring and inspired group of go-getters. The illustrations accompanying the narrative are absolutely awesome and aptly convey the kids’ emotions, in a slightly exaggerated, comical kind of way, making this treasured tome the total package.

This review was written by jv poore for Buried Under Books,
with huge thanks to the author for providing copy to donate to
my favorite Elementary school classroom library.

Reviewed by jv poore, August 2021.

Book Review: The Adventures of Wandala by Daniel Boyd @HeadlineBooks

The Adventures of Wandala
Daniel Boyd
Illustrated by Hector Mexia Sanchez
Headline Books, November 2020
ISBN 978-1951556266
Trade Paperback

Wandala is resigned in Centralia while everyone else exists in a comfortably-content ignorance. She isn’t ungrateful, or jealous; she simply seeks something…more. Her dreams display a bridge to everywhere: North, East, South and West.

So silly. Since the big Boom-Boom, citizens have happily convinced themselves that their home is truly the only place on the planet. They are the only people.

But. Super Eddie doesn’t doubt or dissuade Wandala and he was once a Wiseman. It only takes one (intelligent and thoughtful) person to agree with the potential of her plan. Wandala simply will not accept intentional isolation. Instead of wondering, she and her constant canine companion, Rodney, wander.

Explorations bring new experiences and emotions. Bitter cold to desert heat. Excitement upon meeting someone new. Confusion; each boy the pair encounters initially speaks with haughty authority, despite his overall lack of knowledge.

She remains steadfast in her goal and eventually creates a conversation; hope. Sadness when he concurs, yet refuses to join her. Still, Wandala will exhaust every option. Perhaps she will see her patience and perseverance pay off; but it may not be in the way she expects.

Wandala is every child with her open-acceptance, alongside curiosity and determination. Wise-cracking Rodney proves to be amazingly adaptable, in truly transformative ways, as he accompanies his human on her quest.

The Adventures of Wandala written by Daniel Boyd, illustrated by Hector Mexia Sanchez, introduces a quietly confident, inquisitive girl. Young readers will admire her under-stated spunk as they thoroughly enjoy her adventure. Older readers may get an eerie, this-fiction-doesn’t-feel-too-far-off, vibe as they appreciate the tenacity and resolution of someone who learns to keep her head, but follow her heart.

Reviewed by jv poore, July 2020.

Book Reviews: Yay for Vacay by Flora Ahn and Heart Horse by Kelsey Abrams @funaek @Scholastic @JollyFishPress

Yay for Vacay
Pug Pals #2
Flora Ahn
Scholastic Press, January 2019
ISBN 978-1-338-53131-2
Trade Paperback

Sunny and Rosy are a couple of content canines. They enjoy time with their human and time together. The pugs are particularly fond of their daily routine.

So, when their lady came home early and began packing, they were puzzled. When she put them in the car, they were not pleased.

But Sunny soon recognized the route to “Grandma and Grandpa”. She could not wait for Rosy to meet them!

Romping around Grandma’s garden was simply spectacular. Rosy and Sunny tuckered themselves out, then slept soundly in sun. When Sunny awoke, it felt like she was having a bad dream.

Angry Grandma glared at the pair and pointed to her half-eaten garden. Even though they didn’t do it, there will be no more gardening for them.

Unwilling to be punished for someone else’s crime, the pups decide to be dog detectives. They even include their new friend, the gopher. Can they catch the thief and prove their innocence to Grandma?

I loved Sunny and Rosy so much in Ms. Ahn’s Two’s a Crowd (Pug Pals #1), I immediately donated my copy to my favorite elementary classroom library. Students were fast fans, so I’ll follow up with my copy of Yay for Vacay (Pug Pals #2).

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2021.

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Heart Horse: A Natalie Story
Second Chance Ranch
Kelsey Abrams
Jolly Fish Press, January 2019
ISBN 978-1-63163-260-0
Trade Paperback

Patience has paid off for Natalie Ramirez. Having outgrown her beloved barrel-racing pony, she has been searching for a horse. She was thrilled to learn the beautiful, brilliantly skilled Apocalypse would be available. A young champion is hanging up her hat and heading to college. Natalie is the perfect person to give her horse a new home.

While the Appaloosa needs no competition training, Natalie understands the amount of time and attention the energetic equine will require. She hasn’t forgotten the sweet, gray mare she helped save from a meat market (growing up on Second Chance Ranch has benefits). Natalie is a competent and capable twelve-year-old. She can be instrumental in the healing and care of Eleven while still giving Apocalypse a warm welcome.

Training for the coveted gold buckle was rigorous and rewarding. Providing food, first-aid and comfort for Eleven was…something indescribable. As Natalie teaches her new wards, she learns a few valuable lessons herself.

I was so happy to revisit the Second Chance Ranch and the Ramirez family. Each book has been an engaging, easy read, filled with animal facts that are second nature to the four sisters, but new to me.

Reviewed by jv poore, May 2020.

Book Reviews: Hatchling Hero by J. A. Watson and Two’s a Crowd by Flora Ahn @JollyFishPress @funaek @Scholastic

Hatchling Hero
A Sea Turtle Defender’s Journal
J.A. Watson
Jolly Fish Press, March 2018
ISBN 978-1-63163-161-0
Trade Paperback

The move from Puerto Rico to North Carolina was not an easy for one twelve-year-old Clarita. It wasn’t just geography, or missing friends; there was a life-style change as well. With both Mama and Tio having such busy schedules, Clarita felt isolated and in-charge-of her younger brother, Hector.

So, while she wasn’t particularly pleased to be forced into anything, this Science Squad thing that Mama insisted on might be a good idea after all. When the team chooses to track sea turtles for their project, Clarita is excited to finally find a familiarity. With her first American school-year behind her, she is starting to think that summer with the Science Squad should be fun.

With the recently laid eggs so close to their new home, Clarita and Hector were happy to host their fellow turtle lovers. But when keeping check on the nearby nest turns to witnessing criminal activity, the Sea Turtle Defenders are going to require adult assistance.

Not only did I (a Not-Young-Adult) enjoy this story, but it was educational in a sneaky way. I’m fairly certain I had not seen the word “skeletochronology” before. Now, I know what that means. Although the tiny tome is incredibly informative, it is in no way intimidating or complicated. And, while there’s no doubting the Sea Turtle Defenders’ outstanding deeds, deliberately disobeying rules will not be overlooked.

J.A. Watson’s Hatchling Hero: A Sea Turtle Defender’s Journal will absolutely appeal to Middle-Grade readers, but I kind of want everyone to read it.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2020.

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Two’s A Crowd
Pug Pals #1
Flora Ahn
Scholastic Press, January 2018
ISBN 978-1-338-11845-2
Hardcover

Sunny lives the perfect pug life. When her human goes to work, she does, too. She has her yoga and Mr. Bunny to tend to. She needs nothing.

So, Sunny was far from pleased when her human came home with another pug. The human calls the spastic pup Rosy. Sunny has nothing to say to wiggly, happy, fuzz-ball following her around.

Until Rosy accidentally loses Mr. Bunny. And then Sunny loses Rosy!

In Sunny’s search for Rosy, she finds fault in her own behavior and vows to make some changes. If she can only find that perturbing puppy.

I absolutely adore this Juvenile Fiction chapter book, but you don’t have to take my word for it. I spoke to the first-grader currently reading it and she says “it’s great” and that Sunny’s yoga poses are “so funny”.

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2020.

Book Review: The Giggler Treatment by Roddy Doyle

This is an old review, slightly updated. Twenty years ago,
it made
me laugh…no, cackle out loud…and it’s every bit
as funny today.
Maybe more so since we can all probably
think of at least one person
these days who could
be a perfect target for The Giggler Treatment
🤣🤣🤣

 

The Giggler Treatment
Roddy Doyle
Arthur A. Levine Books, September 2000
ISBN 978-0-439-16299-9
Hardcover

From the publisher—

When grownups are mean to children, they get a visit from the mischievous Gigglers–elfin creatures who punish wayward adults–in a delightfully rude, laugh-out-loud adventure. Mr Mack’s dog Rover sells his own poo to the gigglers – small creatures who take revenge on any adult who treats children unfairly by making the unsuspecting adults step in poo. When the gigglers set out to exact punishment on Mr Mack, Rover knows he doesn’t deserve it, and the race is on to get to him before he takes that fatal step. A cheeky tale of revenge, dogs and poo by a seriously famous writer.

Laugh Alert!! Seldom do I actually laugh out loud when I’m reading but, not only did I do that with this book, I also had to keep interrupting myself to read a passage to someone else. Have you ever wished something yucky would happen to a grownup who is mean to a child? You know the type, the guy who tells a kid something tastes like chicken when it doesn’t. Well, here’s where you can find out all about the secret revenge of the Gigglers, small little furry critters who change colors like chameleons.

This is one of those books that are meant for children but appeal to all ages. Silliness runs rampant throughout the story — even the chapter headings are comical — and the illustrations by Brian Ajhar are wonderful. Please, run to your favorite bookstore and buy this book. Buy two so you can give one away! Better yet, buy all four books starring Rover!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2000.

Book Review: Halloween Monsters by Eric Guth and How to Handle a Narcissist by Theresa Jackson @guthbooks

Halloween Monsters
A Guide of Spooky Facts & Faces
Eric Guth
Eric Guth, July 2020
ISBN 979-8667180388
Picture Book

Halloween Monsters: A Guide of Spooky Facts and Faces by Eric Guth is so remarkably good, I’m downright giddy. Immediately intrigued upon hearing about this upcoming Children’s Picture Book with truths and origins of some spooky creatures, I was over-the-top enamored with the actual tome. Engaging, fresh and fascinating fast-facts, such as when witches were depicted with black-pointy-hats, rather than hair of smoke and fire; alongside confirmation of the familiar, result in a groovy bigger-picture.

Speaking of pictorial representations, I absolutely adore the collage-style pictures. The author uses an incredibly cool concept, wherein he maximizes the common accessories associated with each mythical being, but in a minimalist-kind-of-way. A few bats; a couple of garlic bulbs, stakes and mirrors—with a coffin tossed in—magically morphs into the face of a vampire.

Halloween Monsters is one of those rare treasures that I expect to appeal to all types of readers. Self-professed “non-readers” may like facts over ‘a silly story’ and this presentation makes for a very quick and easy read. Voracious readers tend to love trivia, particularly when it is timely. Learning a little monster-history as autumn approaches is fitting. Finally, for those youngsters that may be a bit more than apprehensive about the freaky-frights frequently spotted in October; reading how they came to be may make them a little less scary.

Huge thank-you to the author for the sneak-peek-copy to donate to one of my favorite classroom libraries.

Reviewed by jv poore, July 2020.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

How to Handle a Narcissist
Understanding and Dealing with a Range of Narcissistic Personalities
Theresa Jackson
Theresa Jackson, May 2017
ISBN 978-1521339978
Trade Paperback

I was wrong.

I thought I had a basic understanding of what it means to be a narcissist and—here I am so embarrassed for me—I was neither particularly empathetic nor sympathetic to the why. Which is not only disappointing, but stupidly hypocritical. My feathers will ruffle whenever I hear a misunderstanding about clinical depression stated as a fact.

Without rebuff, Ms. Jackson brings the facts. For example, we are all somewhere on the narcissistic scale. At the top of that scale looms Narcissistic Personality Disorder. A lofty sense of self and need to be admired are typical characteristics of NPD. For everyone else, personality traits are developed to handle narcissistic tendencies.

To me, this is the quintessential “How To” story. I appreciated Ms. Jackson’s straightforward explanations and I love that she worked so hard to help us understand that, while it may seem quicker and more effective to go through life with a yes-or-no/black-or-white view, it is actually inaccurate.

The case-studies, assessments and apt advice on understanding and associating with a person high on the narcissistic scale are invaluable. I am amazed by all that I learned in this quick, easy-to-follow guide and, although humbled, I truly feel that I will behave better.

Reviewed by jv poore, April 2019.

Book Reviews: Colombiano by Rusty Young, Abby in Wonderland by Sarah Mlynowski and Otherwise Known As Possum by Maria D. Laso @SarahMlynowski @Scholastic

Colombiano
Rusty Young
Havelock & Baker, August 2017
ISBN–AU 9780143781547
Havelock & Baker, February 2020
ISBN–US 978-0648445319
Trade Paperback

You can’t truly know what someone else is going through without walking in his shoes. Unless Mr. Young writes about it. In Colombiano, those of us fortunate enough to be far removed from any war zone, see exactly what living amid battles entails; in day-to-day life, as well the overall impact it has on absolutely everything.

Certainly, most people know that the Guerilla evoke evil with their aggressive cocaine manufacturing and distribution. The gross misunderstanding is that the Guerilla are fighting the army and law enforcement; not citizens. Leading to the false conclusion that, if folks go about their business, there’s no real reason for this pesky fighting to bother them. The carefully controlled propaganda supports this theory. Even having the place of worship utterly obliterated by “errant” fire is only an unfortunate consequence.

Pedro has listened to placates until he thought his head may explode. Papi made sure he contained, or at least properly channeled, his rage. There was Camila to consider. Rounding out the small group of people close to Pedro is the somewhat goofy, undeniably adorable, Pallilo. Pedro can push his anger aside for them.

Right up until the Guerilla descended on his father’s farm. In front of his disbelieving eyes, Papi is surrounded as accusations are hurled. The feisty fifteen-year-old cannot watch the depraved tirade and hold his tongue. Boldly, stupidly, Pedro demands an explanation. His father’s crime was revealed with a hint of glee. The farmer had the audacity to allow soldiers from the army to drink water from his well.

The resulting punishment is a defining, dividing moment for Pedro. There are men like Papi. Those who believed, as people of God, it was never right to deny a thirsty man a drink. And there are monsters masquerading as men—the Guerilla.

The situation that Pedro is forced to face is tragic. His retaliatory actions, atrocious. And yet…the author manages to demonstrate how a furious and yes, frightened, adolescent can morph into a ruthless mankiller—all the while reminding the reader that Pedro remains, essentially, a boy.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2019.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Abby in Wonderland
Whatever After Special Edition #1
Sarah Mlynowski
Scholastic, Inc., October 2018
ISBN 978-0-545-74667-0
Trade Paperback

Sustaining a series is no simple task. Inserting a special edition story that is somehow as fresh and fun as the very first book seems insurmountable. Except to Ms. Mlynowski.

This fairy-tale-esque fantasy adds adventure and humor absolutely appropriate for younger readers, while maintaining a subtle, something-more; making it compelling and quirky enough for older audiences as well.

I enjoyed being the proverbial parrot-on-the-shoulder as four friends share a day off from school. Per usual, Penny’s parents are not around, but her house is huge and her nanny is happy to host. Penny has planned the entire day and she is not going to let a little cold air or a brisk breeze ruin the card game on the patio.

But when the wind whipped a card across the yard and into the neighboring golf-course, Abby abruptly abandoned the game to give chase. The other three follow until Frankie falls into a hole. Penny’s agenda is pushed aside. The girls have a real problem to solve.

Reviewed by jv poore, March 2019.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Otherwise Known As Possum
Maria D. Laso
Scholastic Press, August 2018
ISBN 978-0-545-93196-0
Trade Paperback

Possum, to me, is kind of a country Pippi Longstocking. Both young girls are wise to the ways of the world, if not properly educated. Tough, fiercely independent with lasting loyalty and a heart bigger than her small body should be able to hold, Possum is another exemplary young lady.

Certainly a smile-through-tears kind of story combining spunk, mischief and intuitive, undeniable kindness, I thoroughly enjoyed the bitter-sweet reflections from the late 20th century in this captivating Juvenile Fiction from Ms. Laso.

Reviewed by jv poore, December 2018.