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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Book Reviews: Overturned by Lamar Giles and The Histronauts: An Egyptian Adventure by Frances Durkin and Grace Cooke @LRGiles @Scholastic @HistoriaFrankie @JollyFishPress

Overturned
Lamar Giles
Scholastic Press, April 2017
ISBN 978-0-545-81250-4
Hardcover

I am always seeking books that will immediately intrigue ‘my’ students. Many times, I’ve been sucked into a suspense-filled, action-packed, heart-pumping mystery…surrounding a subject they could not care less about. Aptly, of course, young adults are not the intended audience—I am.

But.

Young adult readers deserve thrilling books.

Mr. Giles seems pleased to provide. And now, I may be the only person looking forward to school starting. I cannot wait to share Overturned.

The setting: the very casino where 16-year-old Nikki Tate works…as well as resides, stimulates the reader’s senses. At a blush, that life-style—for a high-school student—sounds kinda fabulous. And it was. Once.

Without her dad around to run things, the responsibility falls straight through her mother’s trembling fingers into Nikki’s own hands. She can handle it. Has to. Knowing, with her whole heart, that her father is not capable of murder doesn’t keep him off death row. Someone has to support the family—not just the three of them; the trusted and treasured employees of Cosmos matter, too.

Otherwise, she would never consider running her own after-hours, under-the-table card games. Which were not really a big deal. There’s only one human better at poker than Nikki and he’s not here right now. Gavin may still be in his teens, but his bulk makes him the perfect bouncer. Maybe he has a few butterflies when her invitations are extended to some shady characters, but Nikki knows she’s got this.

Until something even odder than the initial arrest and murder charge. New evidence, and an attorney more than pleased to represent Mr. Tate, appears. Conviction overturned and Mr. Tate is head of his casino once again.

Nikki’s delight with his return was fleeting. She once believed he was always there when she needed him. Now, his presence is so far past smothering, she seethes when they share the same space. Determined to make up for the lost time, and hoping to find the sweet, happy Babygirl he remembers; her dad dives deeper into her life.

Although Nikki doesn’t see it at first, Mr. Tate is not as angry as he is horrified and frightened by what he finds. As dad works diligently to get his daughter out of the quick-sand she doesn’t know she’s standing in, Nikki consistently (albeit unintentionally) blocks his way with a combination of teen-age infatuation and obligatory rebellion.

Overturned by Mr. Giles is absolutely every single thing I wish for when I want to wow ‘my’ students with a Book Talk.

Reviewed by jv poore, July 2019.

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The Histronauts: An Egyptian Adventure
Frances Durkin and Grace Cooke
Jolly Fish Press, January 2019
ISBN 978-1-63163-239-6
Hardcover

I don’t know if Ms. Durkin and Ms. Cooke colluded to create a tiny tome that would call to all; from the self-dubbed non-reader to the basic bookworm, but that’s exactly what this groovy graphic-novel does.

Filled with fascinating facts, in the same way a teeny car contains a multitude of clowns, this was a particularly pleasing read for me. An at-a-glance timeline from 5,000 BC through 30 BC took up only a tiny portion of a page, but was packed with information. I had no idea that Egypt was divided and reunited so many times! Nor could I have fathomed the complicated process of turning papyrus into paper.

The “novel” is in the narration. The Histronauts, a quirky crew, complete with a cat, needed an indoor activity on a rainy day. Their museum visit morphs into an adventurous Egyptian exploration. As the kids take in the sights and ask amazing questions, I am completely captivated, learning about ancient Egyptians and their way of life. And if all of that isn’t enough, there are even activities through-out. From making jewelry to flatbread or simply solving puzzles, these were engaging additions.

I believe that reluctant readers will enjoy this because of the tantalizing trivia and the graphic-novel-format seems to be more appealing for shorter attention spans. I think avid readers will be reeling from the intriguing information. I was totally into it. And truly, who knew there more than 2,000 ancient Egyptian gods? Or that music was such an imperative part of their lives?

The Histronauts also embark on a Roman adventure and I am already looking forward to joining them.

Reviewed by jv poore, December 2018.

Book Review: A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord

A Handful of StarsA Handful of Stars
Cynthia Lord
Scholastic Press, May 2015
ISBN 978-0-545-70027-6
Hardcover

Simply stated lessons about friendships, both fleeting and forming, blend beautifully with little lessons about tiny blue bees and Wabanaki blueberry legends.

A mature little girl, Lily (because “Tigerlily” is a weed, not a name) spends her summers helping in her grandparents’ general store….which is to say the only store in a blueberry-harvesting Maine town busy with migrant workers, locals and tourists from America and Canada. Painting bee houses at her very own table, Lily earns money for an operation that may help her cherished Lucky see again.

“People want us to come and work, but they want us to be invisible.”

The beloved bond built on the unconditional love between girl and dog is artfully illustrated in this book. It is a vibrant thread throughout pulling Lily to Salma, the young migrant worker who shares the affinity for dogs and the sorrow of loss. The girls aren’t exactly alike. Lily’s bee houses are carefully stenciled where Salma’s are impulsive and colorful.

“That’s what I like about art. It lets me become more like myself, not more like everyone else.”

Lily is engagingly open-minded and inclusive with a bit of a stubborn streak. Her growth, while not monumentally exponential, is enlightening and reassuring. Realizations are sluggish; but sweet and hopeful, like a slowly waking rose bud bursting open to brilliancy.

While this is clearly a compelling, captivating story for young readers, it should not be pigeon-holed as a “children’s” book. I honestly and truly believe that every single person deserves to experience the magic of an unapologetically honest, delightful friendship and the benefit of shifting perceptions.

“(Tigerlilies are weeds) only because somebody said so. Lilies are proud and sassy. They don’t know they’re weeds.”

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2015.

Book Review: A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

A Snicker of MagicA Snicker of Magic
Natalie Lloyd
Scholastic Press, February 2014
ISBN 978-0-545-55270-7
Hardcover

Felicity is an intense happiness, a particular kind of joy….a wondrous joy, and the most fitting name for the charismatic main character of this happy, hopeful little tale. Having accepted the gypsy life-style as her mural-painting mom carries her and her young sister Frannie across the country; Felicity was surprised by the tug she felt entering Midnight Gulch, Tennessee, “A Proper Place to Call Home”. Granted, she knew this was her mother’s home and that they’d be bunking with her mother’s siblings, but it was more than that.

While most townsfolk will say that Midnight Gulch “used to be” a magical place, a few insist that a snicker of magic remains. A century-old curse holds that leftover magic dormant, until the riddle that evoked it has been solved. That snicker gently tugs at Felicity, seemingly soliciting her assistance. As she is inexplicably smitten and eager to bring back the Rain Conjurers, Shadow Catchers and families that could turn themselves invisible or bake secrets into pies, that made sense.

The splendiferous town captivated Felicity, but The Beedle mesmerized her. For half of a century, the anonymous do-gooder was a local hero, covering payments when someone fell behind, lifting spirits with kindness and spreading good-will. When The Beedle reveals himself to her, an immediate friendship is formed. Awe-struck and amazed by all of his good deeds, Felicity feels timid because her only talent is “catching poems”.

As some folks see auras, Felicity sees words. Whirling around, captured in thought bubbles, jumbled on top of one another; she collects the most appealing ones, just as someone else may collect marbles or baseball cards. Ironically, the very thing she treasures the most, stays stuck inside of her. When she opens her mouth to speak, her cherished words betray her. Not with Beedle, and certainly not when Uncle Jonah played his banjo, but still often enough for apprehension to envelop her.

Joy is quickly replaced by concern. Felicity spots the signs that warn: her wandering mother isn’t keen on staying. Desperate to establish roots, Felicity resolves to solve the riddle, unleash the magic and make a permanent home. Not just because she feels happy here; but her tiny family, Florentine with her bag of burdens ….every single person and the community as a whole, would benefit greatly. With the sweetest intentions and commendable selflessness, Felicity is utterly inspiring.


Ms. Lloyd
perfectly placed the irresistible Felicity as our narrator and in doing so, gleefully snatches the reader from reality straight into the heart of Midnight Gulch. The faint tinkling of wind-chimes will tease, a whiff of sugar wind tantalizes and the bluegrass music taps toes. Reading A Snicker of Magic is like visiting the grooviest small town you can think of…..noshing local delicacies, dancing “free as a mountain girl”, and discovering a secret….and my favorite part: “It’s possible to have a happy ending, even if the ending isn’t what you imagined.”

While this book is appropriate for and certainly appealing to third/fourth grade readers, it would be more than a disservice to limit the audience. I can’t imagine the reader (regardless of his age) that wouldn’t find this delightful, inspiring story worthy.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2015.