Showing posts with label reluctant readers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reluctant readers. Show all posts

Book Review: Curse of the Were-Hyena by Bruce Hale

Curse of the Were-Hyena is the first book in the Monstertown Mystery series by Bruce Hale. Mr. Chu, the coolest teacher ever, has developed some very unusual habits, like laughing hysterically for no reason, sniffing people's homework, and chasing chickens. When best friends Carlos and Benny decide to find out what's happening to him, they get caught up in some moonlight madness. And it looks like just the beginning of the weirdness that has arrived in the town of Monterrosa.

Curse of the Were-Hyena is an entertaining read that will appeal to a wide audience. Carlos and Benny each get into a good amount of trouble as they do their best to save their teacher, unravel the mystery, and not become were-anything in the process. I like that they are fully aware of what they are doing and that the adults are not foolish. The adults might miss some things, but are not the clueless cutouts that are often found in children's books. Carlos' family is facing big changes, which gives the story an undercurrent of him trying to find his place in light of a younger sister with big things going on. Benny might be a little to reliable for the goofy option, but I still know people that think like his, so i still found his character to be realistic. The family dynamics play a role, and change as the story continues, which adds an extra dimension to the story. The mystery and supernatural elements kept me on my toes, and held a couple surprises for me. I was pleased to actually have some of the final twists to be unexpected, and in some cases completely so. While not a perfect story, it was well worth the read and I think  it will become a favorite series for many reluctant readers.

Curse of the Were-Hyena is a fast and fun story that will be a hit with middle grade readers. I think this is a series that might encourage more reluctant readers in that age range to follow the series and explore reading a little more.

Early Book Review: A Guide to the Other Side (Beyond Baylor) by Robert Imfeld

A Guide to the Other Side is the first book in the Beyond Baylor series by Robert Imfeld. It is currently scheduled for release on October 4 2016. There are a few things you should know about Baylor Bosco: He’s thirteen-years-old, he has a twin sister, and he really does NOT like ghosts…which is problematic because he’s a medium and sees ghosts everywhereOh, and his twin sister, Kristina? She’s a ghost too. They’ve been working as a pair for years, expertly relaying messages from ghosts to their still-living loved ones. Baylor’s even managed to come up with an introductory phrase—one that he has to use far too often. But when a strange ghost shows up close to Halloween, a grown man, covered in a sheet, with only his black leather shoes showing from the bottom, Baylor starts to wonder if something else has taken notice of him. And when his sister goes missing, somehow ghost-napped, he’s forced to figure out the truth about the Sheet Man and his sister’s disappearance, all without his usual ghostly ambassador.

A Guide to the Other Side is the story of a very special middle grade boy that has the ability to see and speak to ghosts. While dealing with the inopportune requests from the other side he still needs to get through school and family life without constantly freaking out other people with his abilities. The added complication of a ghostly twin acting as his companion, confidant, and protector make things more complicated. By the time readers join Baylor on his adventure he is well versed on blending in and feels fairly confident in his skills and place as messenger for the dead. However, things are about to get harder and Baylor needs to face his responsibilities and learn more all aspects of the world around him. I like that he has both scary moments, and some very emotional issues to face. While the mystery of the sheet man and the danger Baylor faces is a huge part of the story, I really love that his emotional growth and understanding- including empathy for his family and friends- is just as important to the story. This is not just a paranormal adventure full of mischief and mayhem, it is also a heartfelt coming of age story, I also enjoyed the fact that while the adults in Baylor’s life dogged upset with him for putting himself in harm’s way and breaking rules, they are also aware and intelligent characters rather than the bumbling adults that seem to frequent children’s fiction. 

A Guide to the Other Side is a wonderful middle grade novel with plenty of heart, excitement, and wonder for readers. I am very glad I read it and can think of many I would recommend it to. 

Early Book Review: The Fox Who Ate Books by Franziska Bierman

The Fox Who Ate Books is a picturebook by Franziska Bierman which is currently scheduled for release on October 11 2016. Meet Mr. Fox, who loves books so much that every time he finishes one, he eats it! His appetite drives him to seek more and more books, until one day, he discovers the local library, where he can “devour” books to his heart’s content. Eventually, the librarian catches him “sampling” from the collection and bans him from the library. Down on his luck, the crafty Mr. Fox must find other ways to satisfy his cravings. However, his attempt to rob the local bookstore ends badly. Mr. Fox lands in jail, where he discovers a surprising way to satisfy his literary cravings (and become rich and famous).

The Fox Who Ate Books is a funny look at how much people can love reading. While the fox who literally devours his books takes it a bit too far, I can understand the desire to collect and not return books that strike you as special. However, I have never licked, bitten, or otherwise ingested any reading material, though I might have sniffed an old book or two in my day. I really like how the fox turns his love of words into something bigger and better than just devouring books, he shares the words inside him by writing them down for others to devour. Every writer I know started as a reader, and I think this a fun story that might encourage some children to attempt to read more, I think it will have a bigger impact on those who already love books and reading by encouraging them to write some stories of their own. 

Early Book Review: Narwhal: The Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton

Narwhal: The Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton is an early graphic novel that is currently scheduled for release on October 4 2016. Narwhal is a happy-go-lucky narwhal. Jelly is a no-nonsense jellyfish. The two might not have a lot in common, but they do they love waffles, parties and adventures. Join Narwhal and Jelly as they discover the whole wide ocean together is three silly and simply awesome adventures. First, Jelly learns that Narwhal is a really good friend. Then Narwhal and Jelly form their own pod of awesomeness with their ocean friends. And finally, Narwhal and Jelly read the best book ever, even though it doesn't have any words or pictures!

Narwhal: The Unicorn of the Sea is tremendous fun. At first I almost called this an easy reader- mainly because it had the feel of fun and friendship I get when enjoying an Elephant and Piggie book from Mo Willems, or the more recent Ballet Cat from Bob Shea. However, this book is about a narwhal- who does not love a narwhal? Particularly when one is so enthusiastically happy and willing to try just about anything, particularly if it will make his friend jelly happy. The three adventures are fun, and show the importance of friendship and trying new things, and imagination, just as much as they make readers of all ages laugh. As a bonus, there are some interesting bits of information about real narwhals tossed in with all the fun.

Narwhal: The Unicorn of the Sea is a great book to introduce young readers to graphic novels. However, if you are against graphic novels for some reason, just call it a picturebook or easy reader- because it could fit those descriptors easily as well. A delightfully fun book that will make fans of Bob Shea and Mo Willems very happy.

Book Review: Serafina and the Twisted Staff (Serafina, #2) by Robert Beatty

Serafina and the Twisted Staff is the second book in the Serafina series for middle grade and older readers by Robert Beatty. It begins a few weeks after Serafina and the Black Cloak ends. I do suggest reading the books in order, otherwise the relationships and natures of the returning characters will be hard to fully understand and it will take some time to catch up. 

n 1899, when an evil threatens all the humans and animals of the Blue Ridge Mountains, twelve-year-old Serafina, rat catcher for the Biltmore estate and the daughter of a shapeshifting mountain lion, must search deep inside herself and embrace the destiny that awaits her. She not only needs to protect the forest and discover what the danger is, but the darkness is inside the Biltmore as well.

Serafina and the Twisted Staff is an amazing sequel. The action follow close of the heels of the first book, so I do recommend reading the books in order (no hardship because the first book is wonderful) to fully understand Serafina, her childhood, and the struggles she faces in this book as she searches for her place in the world. She is not fully human, and does not quite fit in with the guests of Biltmore. However, she is not fully animal and is lacking certain skills and abilities that would aid her in surviving in the wild. She is struggling with who and what she is, and what she wants for her future. The danger she faces tests her on all fronts and she needs to come to terms with her past, present, and future. The mystery of who exactly the detective discovering a related murder is, the hooded figure that arrived as the animals fled, and animals acting in unnatural ways all come together in an unexpected way. While I did expect one of the twists, it was discovered in a fresh way that made the reveal and danger that much more intense.

Serafina and the Twisted Staff is a wonderful book, and unlike more follow ups, surpasses the first book. Serafina grows in character and understanding, while the reader grows right along side her. I highly recommend this series to middle grade readers and older, including adults! Readers that enjoyed the first book will need to read this, and those that have not should get started now. We will let you to catch up. I can only hope for more to come.

Early Book Review: Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp is a picture book that is currently scheduled for release on October 1 2016. Madeline Finn DOES NOT like to read. Not books. Not magazines. Not even the menu on the ice cream truck. Fortunately, Madeline Finn meets Bonnie, a library dog. Reading out loud to Bonnie isn't so bad. When Madeline Finn gets stuck, Bonnie doesn't mind. Madeline Finn can pet her until she figures the word out. As it turns out, it's fun to read when you're not afraid of making mistakes. Bonnie teaches Madeline Finn that it's okay to go slow. And to keep trying. And to get support from a friend.

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog is a beautifully illustrated picturebook that tells the story of one young girl that does not like reading, mainly because it is a struggle for her and she does not want to be laughed at. The desire to do everything we try well, and to fit in, is universal. When Madeline gets the chance to read to a therapy dog at the library she learns that she can do it, she just has to be patient and kind to herself as her furry reading companion.A supportive audience make everything easier, and pretending to be reading to the library dog Bonnie helps Madeline conquer her fears at school. I think children can relate to Madeline even if they do not struggle with reading, but struggle instead with math, sports, or anything else.

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog is a wonderful way of showing struggling readers that they are not alone, and that they really can do it. It can also help other kids have more understanding for those that might be struggling. It would also be a good read for introducing a similar program the library. We had a dog program that was briefly a hit at our library, and would have been a long term winner if not for particular issues that had nothing to do with reading. 

Early Book Review: Doodle Adventure: The Pursuit of the Pesky Pizza Pirate by Mike Lowery

Doodle Adventure: The Pursuit of the Pesky Pizza Pirate by Mike Lowery is the second book in the Doodle Adventure series, which invites, no actually requires, readers to add their own artwork and ideas to the story. It is currently scheduled for release on September 6 2016. The first book is The Search for the Slimy Space Slugs, which I now own two copies of- because each of my children wanted their own. 

Doodle Adventures: The Pursuit of the Pesky Pizza Pirate! features Carl, the friendly narrator who happens to be a duck, and the reader, who is drawn right into the story—literally. Together, they embark on the very important mission of finding out who has been stealing all of the pizza in town. Could it be the Dread Pirate Slobberts, the meanest, nastiest pirate ever to sail the Seven Seas? And, more important, how are they going to get all that pizza back? The reader takes part in the adventure, filling in the blanks on each page and making the story their own, and ready to read again or share over and over again.

Doodle Adventures: The Pursuit of the Pesky Pizza Pirate! is a fun interactive story that appeals to readers that have big imaginations and enjoy more interactive stories. Each page offers a prompt for the reader to draw on object or finish a picture to help the story along. While the adventure of looking for a pizza thief would be enough to capture my son’s attention (since pizza only comes second to cake on the favorite food list) the interactive and adventure aspects of the story keep him interested and actively reading than most books. This is true for newly independent readers that are still getting comfortable with exploring chapter books, but more advanced readers as well. The creativity and fun factors will make this a hit for many. I am off to preorder my two copies now. 

Early Book Review: Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke

Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke is a graphic novel that is currently scheduled for release on September 6 2016. Jack might be the only kid in the world who's dreading summer. But he's got a good reason: summer is when his single mom takes a second job and leaves him at home to watch his autistic kid sister, Maddy. It's a lot of responsibility, and it's boring, too, because Maddy doesn't talk. Ever. But then, one day at the flea market, Maddy does talk, but only to tell Jack to trade their mom's car for a box of mysterious seeds. It's the best mistake Jack has ever made. What starts as a normal little garden out back behind the house quickly grows up into a wild, magical jungle with tiny onion babies running amok, huge, pink pumpkins that bite, and, on one moonlit night that changes everything, a dragon.

Mighty Jack is an imaginative graphic novel that starts with a pair of siblings that are devoted to each other, but like all siblings get annoyed or frustrated with each other as well. While their mom is busy working so that family does not have to leave their home the trouble with the garden starts, and a new friendship begins. I really like the dynamics between Jack and Maddie, and then the neighbor Lilly. Jack both adores his sister and is frustrated with the level of responsibility on his shoulders. In other words he is an ordinary kid facing both perfectly normal, and some seriously unusual challenges.  I think we could have seen more of Lilly's time away from the siblings, since it was clear that she was hiding something. However, my real complaint is that that action really ramped up at the end, only to leave readers with a serious cliff hanger and needing to know what is going to happen next. As always the characters, story, and artwork are all wonderful just as I expect from Hatke. It was not quite as awesome as Zita the Spacegirl, but still an engaging read that fans of all ages will enjoy.

Mighty Jack is an engaging graphic novel, as I have come to expect from Hatke. My only complaint is that it is clearly the beginning of a series, and the ending leaves the reader hanging and waiting for more.

Book Review: Inspector Flytrap and the Big Deal Mysteries by Tom Angelburger, Cece Bell

Inspector Flytrap and the Big Deal Mysteries is an easy chapter book written by Tom Angelburger and illustrated by Cece Bell. On his first caper, Inspector Flytrap heads to the Art Museum’s Secret Lab to discover what important message lies in a mysterious glob on a recently discovered Da Vinci flower painting. The ingenious solution: Da Vinci was allergic to flowers, and the glob is, er, evidence of that ancient sneeze. Next Inspector Flytrap works on cases such as “The Big Deal Mystery of the Stinky Cookies” and “The Big Deal Mystery of the Missing Rose".

Inspector Flytrap and the Big Deal Mysteries is another funny and engaging story that will capture the interest of young readers. Inspector Flytrap is insistent on only working big deal cases, and his assistant and friend, a goat, is clearly not impressed with anything. Together they work cases, and sometimes cause more problems than they fix. I like that Inspector Flytrap is indeed smart and clever enough to solve the cases that come his way, and that in a silly but fun way show readers that his lack of mobility (he is a potted plant after all) is no barrier in making friends or solving cases. The characters and cases are silly on several levels, leaving readers entertained as they attempt to solve the cases before the detective. There is a running theme of friendship and working as a team through out the book along with wonderfully entertaining illustrations that keep readers interested.

Inspector Flytrap and the Big Deal Mysteries is a wacky book that will draw in reluctant and newly independent readers and keep them reading happily. The story and illustrations come together wonderfully to make readers laugh, think, and enjoy reading- which is the point, right? 

Book Review Summons (Fable Rangers #1) by A.L. Brown

Summons is the first book in the Fable Rangers series by A.L. Brown. This is a middle grade book that offers a fantasy story with pieces of stories you might think you already know. Twelve-year-old Casey doesn’t think life could get any more unfair. Plans for her special basketball tournament are tossed aside by her sister’s wedding plans.  All she wants is an escape, but she never imagined she’d be swept away to a world of Mother Goose rhymes, fairy tales, stories of Arabian Nights, and oh, by the way, all but one fairy godmother has been kidnapped. Casey learns she’s been summoned as the Fable Ranger to lead the search and rescue of the missing wish-makers. But she’s not the hero they want. In the world of fairy tales, damsels aren’t meant to swoop in and save the day. Now all Casey wants is to go home, but the veil between worlds is on lockdown. Taking fate into her own hands, she embarks on an airship flight to find the phoenix tears that can open her way home. Her journey would’ve gone as smooth as the perfect layup if it weren’t for that pesky bounty the evil Dovetail has placed on her head. If Casey fails, the Arabian Nights will disappear forever and she will be trapped in a world unraveling one fairy tale at a time.

Summons is a story that many readers will relate to on some level, and enjoy. Casey feels that life is unfair, and that she is the one making most of the changes and sacrifices in her family. When she is sucked into a world of stories through a book she borrowed from her father she finds herself facing much bigger problems than anything she faced at home. Fairy godmothers have been kidnapped, stories are unravelling, and danger is lurking around every corner. When the people she is called to help see that they got a young girl rather than the trained man they expected everyone’s plans are changed. Dealing with gender biases and working to save an entire world, not to mention trying to secure a way home, Casey not only proves herself but comes to some important realizations along the way. The story was fast paced with good character development for both Casey and the main supporting characters. World building was also p[aced well, although the opening with Casey’s family made me wonder if I had missed something prior to the start ofd this story.

Summons is a well written middle grade novel. I think fans of the Lands of Stories, Tale Dark and Grimm, and other fairy tale based series or the Once Upon a Time television series will particularly enjoy the read. Not completely new territory, but it is a well done and entraining read.  

Book Review: Babak the Beetle by Fred Paronuzzi, Andree Prigent

Babak the Beetle is a picture book written by Fred Paronuzzi and illustrated by Andree Prigent. It was originally published in France.  When Babak the little dung beetle finds an egg, he s determined to find the owner. But he soon finds that this mysterious egg does not belong to the ostrich, frog, or snake. What kind of egg is it?! 

Babak the Beetle is a well done and highly entertaining book. Babak is a good hearted beetle that finds an egg in his travels. Even though the egg is bigger than him, he rolls it from area to are asking every creature he runs across if the egg is theirs, and who it might belong to. When he finds the rightful home of the white, dimpled “egg” Babak is determined to care for it himself. Sweet and silly all wrapped up with a bit of nature information that animal lovers like my daughter would quickly absorb. 

Babak the Beetle is a charming picture book that is well drawn and is sure to bring on chuckles and big smiles as Babak looks for the owner of his oddly dimpled egg. 

Early Book Review: Bera the One-Headed Troll by Eric Orchard

Bera the One-Headed Troll by Eric Orchard is a children's graphic novel that is currently scheduled for release on August 2 2016. Bera doesn't ask for much in life. She's a solitary, humble troll, tending her island pumpkin patch in cheerful isolation. She isn't looking for any trouble. But when trouble comes to find her, it comes in spades. A human baby has arrived in the realm of the trolls, and nobody knows where it came from, but Bera seems to be the only person who doesn't want it dead. There's nothing to it but to return the adorable little thing to its parents.

Bera the One-Headed Troll is a well drawn and written graphic novel for a wide variety of readers. Bera is a troll who is content with her little island and her job of growing pumpkins. her only companion is an owl, who is also her friend. When she finds a human baby she rescues it from a variety of creatures that either want it dead, or to give it to an evil witch. Bera is on a quest to find a hero to return the baby to its family, but in the process becomes a hero, discovers that things are not always what you expect, and finds her own little family in the process. The graphic novel has humor, adventure, some scary moments, and a nice amount of spooky fun. I like that the story shows that those considered heroes are not always what you might hope, but by doing the right thing even a one headed troll, rat, or goblin can become a hero in their own right. The artwork is detailed and expressed the mood and action of the story perfectly. Younger readers might get a kick out of hunting for the witch's spies and looking for clues in the background.

Bera the One-Headed Troll is a wonderfully spooky tale of coming of age, and becoming a hero while not trying. the message, art, and story are all quite delightful. I think readers of a variety of ages and reading levels could greatly enjoy this read. 

Book Review: Shadow Magic by Jashua Khan

Shadow Magic by Jashua Khan is a middle grade fantasy. Thorn, an outlaw's son, wasn't supposed to be a slave. He's been sold to the executioner Tyburn and they're headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire. Lilith Shadow wasn't supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her? Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky.

Shadow Magic is a complex and interesting tale that has humor, adventure, and mystery through out the story. Thorn is sold as a slave, and despite trying to keep some secrets about himself is an honorable and fiercely capable young man. Lily is dealing with more responsibility that she wants, and more restrictions on her actions than she can tolerate. The only support she has is her maid and an alcohol fueled uncle. When an unwanted finance comes on the scene, with a political prisoner in tow and more than enough pride and ill temper Lily is at the end of her patience. However, a unique bonds between three young people and each of them discovering their true strengths are the true force that keep the action of the story moving forward. Lily’s magic and the mystery of her parent’s death is only one small part of the story, but the part that offers the most suspense. I really enjoyed the balance of strength in both male and female characters, and how moments of humor and character growth kept popping up when least expected.

Shadow Magic is a delightful coming of age story for both Lily and Thorn. It is also story of fantasy, mystery, and friendship. There is seriously a little something for everyone and I think this would be a great read for middle grade readers, and adults as well.

Book Review: The Black Dragon (The Mysterium #1) by Julian Sedgwick

The Black Dragon is the first book in the The Mysterium series for middle grade readers by Julian Sedgwick. Twelve-year-old Danny Woo is half-Chinese, half-British. His parents are performers in the Mysterium. Following their death in a mysterious fire, Danny is sent to live with his aunt Laura, an investigative journalist. When Danny's school is closed after an explosion, he joins Laura on a trip to Hong Kong. She is researching the Triad gangs; he is trying to understand more about his cultural background. But Laura disappears, and Danny is plunged into a dangerous quest to find her - which opens the door on the past he could never have imagined, and which leads him to question everything he has ever known about his past.

The Black Dragon is a book that offers mysteries during the present and the past. Danny is still questioning the death of his parents, and the explosion at his school that has him joining his aunt and a fellow circus member on the trip to Hong Kong. Nothing is what its seems and Danny is good at spotting the people and moments that seem a little off. Danny’s skills come in handy, as do his powers of observation. There is a great cast of secondary characters- but very few are who they claim to be and everyone is keeping something back. The adventure is dangerous and full of interesting clues and hints to the search for Laura, the triad organizations, and secrets about Danny’s father. Never a dull moment, and never an obvious solution or ally, keeps the reader on the edge of their seat throughout the read.

The Black Dragon is a high paced and entertaining ready. There was never a point that I could predict what might be coming next. I think readers that seek high action, complex mysteries, and interesting characters will quickly become fans of the book, and in turn the series.

Book Review: Red: the True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Shurtiff

Red: the True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Shurtiff is a new middle grade to young adult novel. Red is not afraid of the big bad wolf. She’s not afraid of anything, except magic. When Red’s granny falls ill it seems that only magic can save her and Red is forced to confront her one weakness. With the help of a blond, porridge-sampling nuisance called Goldie, Red goes on a quest to cure Granny. Her journey takes her through dwarves’ caverns to a haunted well and a beast’s castle. All the while, Red and Goldie are followed by a wolf and a huntsman, two mortal enemies who seek the girls’ help to defeat each other. And one of them just might have the magical solution Red is looking for.

Red: the True Story of Red Riding Hood is a delightful take on the world of fairy tales. red is an adventurous young lady that loves her grandmother deeply and only really fears her own disastrous attempts at magic. It is only when her grandmother is ill that Red considers attempting magic again, and so sets forth on an adventure to do whatever necessary to save her grandmother. I like that Red is a character that is very capable, but also has her own flaws and fallibilities. She is no cookie cutter characters, nor are any of the other characters that she runs across on her journey. Goldie is a unique character that would have tried mt patience as much as she did Red's. The high adventure and twists to well known stories kept my interest high, as did the unusual characters and knowledge that nothing was going to fit preconceived notions. The self sufficiency of the characters and the running theme that nothing is quite what it seems, or what you expect it to be, made the read exciting and fun.

Red: the True Story of Red Riding Hood is a wonderful middle grade novel that will also appeal to older readers. I now need to go back and read Rump (which was already on my to be read list) and keep my eyes peeled for more from this author. 

Early Book Review: Max & Charlie by Zack Lieberman & Louis Neubert

Max & Charlie is a children's graphic novel by Zack Lieberman & Louis Neubert. It is currently scheduled for release on May 5 2016.  In this romp through New York City readers follow our reluctant but imaginative young hero (Charlie!) as he chases his silly beagle pup (Max!) through a beautiful dreamed day in the city. But there's something a little strange about this place.

Max & Charlie is quite the adventure. It begins with Charlie deep in his imagination and only reluctantly taking Max out o play in the park. When Charlie's imagination takes over again max takes off and the chase begins. What really makes the book so unusual is that readers never really know how real what they are seeing on the page is. Is Charlie's original play sequence the truth, or is the 'normal' boy and dog that we expect the reality. As the pair race through the city readers see hints of both worlds, via Charlie's eyes. Characters often seem odd or alien, but readers are left to wonder if that is because of Charlie's view of the world or something else entirely. In any case the artwork is consistently stunning, and tells most of the story. Even if you do not care for the open ended or creative type of story contained on the pages, it is worth flipping through the book for the artwork alone.

Max & Charlie is a unique graphic novel that will greatly appeal to some, and the artwork will appeal to most. I do think that some readers might find themselves lost or confused, particularly if they do not like stories that are more existential or open to a variety of interpretations. 

Book Review: Plip Plap Plop The Beginning Series: Fazo's Junk by Ibk Akin

Plip Plap Plop The Beginning Series: Fazo's Junk by Ibk Akin is a transitional or easy chapter book. Uncle Fazo is not your typical Uncle. He was a crazy scientist that invented lots of funny and random things for the fun of it. Zach, his nephew, and Miranda loved to test them out. When Zach's Uncle passes away Zach inherits all of his stuff. Readers join the brave best friends, Zach and Miranda, as they discover some insane inventions like the mute wand, ice cube ray gun, a talking robot and oh' did I mention a teleporting device that takes them anywhere in the world in seconds, where they can discover secrets of old times, solve mysteries and outsmart goons of all sorts? Keeping things action packed the pair need to worry about the evil overlord Tain who has a mission to destroy the very things Zach and Miranda try to save, words.

Plip Plap Plop The Beginning Series: Fazo's Junk is an adventure for readers just starting to read chapter books on their own. When I first started reading the book I was very interested. I wanted to check out of of Uncle Fazo's gadgets and see what kind of trouble they could cause. When the real adventure began, traveling through time and space to save words or help them come into existence I was still on board. The gadgets and adventures still held great promise. then it got a little more complicated, and then a little more so, and then I felt like the original thread of the story that had me hooked was gone. I think some young readers might get set adrift like I felt, while others with revel in the adventure and complexity of the story. It was still fun, and interesting, but not what i had been hoping for when I opened the book.

Plip Plap Plop The Beginning Series: Fazo's Junk is a good beginner chapter book for those looking for high adventure. Readers with an  interest in language or inventions will particularly enjoy the book.

Early Book Review: Doodle Adventures: The Search for the Slimy Space Slugs! by Mike Lowery

Doodle Adventures: The Search for the Slimy Space Slugs! by Mike Lowery was an interactive read for middle grade readers. It is currently scheduled for release on May 17 2016.This is the first book in a lighthearted fantasy stories where the reader first draws him- or herself into the story, and then continues by following prompts and adding more illustrations and doodles. Set in space, the book invites the reader to join Carl, a duck and member of a super-secret international group of explorers, on a journey in search of a very important grail-like object; a jar with an artifact that's gone missing.

Doodle Adventures is a fun book that I think my middle grade reader will absolutely love. The book often prompts readers to draw something that is absolutely necessary to the story, but leaves the exact content of the artwork up to the reader. There is some silly humor, plenty of action, and lots of fun. The illustrations that are already in the book, of Carl the Duck and the action, are fun and well done so that they catch the eye and ad to the story. However, they are also simple enough not to discourage the reader from adding their own ideas and artwork to the story. Readers that enjoy illustrated chapterbooks, graphic novels, and drawing will all enjoy this book. The only issue I can see is with readers that might not remember that library books and other books are not fill in the blank or for addition additional artwork too. However, I have faith that most parents that have children with that inclination will already know and handle the issue appropriately.

Doodle Adventures is on pre-order for my son, and I think any reader that needs to feel fully involved in the story, or really loves to doodle, will adore this book. I think this will appeal to readers that like interaction with the story, silly humor, and fast paced stories. I think this would be a good pick for less confident or reluctant readers, as long as they know not to write in their other books. 

Book Review: The Genius Factor: How to Capture an Invisible Cat by Paul Tobin

The Genius Factor: How to Capture an Invisible Cat is a middle grade novel written by Paul Tobin and illustrated by Thierry Lafontaine. Every Friday the 13th, 6th grade genius and inventor extraordinaire Nate Bannister does three not-so-smart things to keep life interesting. This time, he taught a caterpillar math, mailed a love letter, and super-sized his cat Proton before turning him invisible. As Nate and his new (well, only) friend Delphine race to stop Proton from crushing everyone and everything in town, they come face-to-face with Sir Jakob Maculte (the twenty-seventh lord of Mayberry Castle and leader of the nefarious Red Death Tea Society). Known for its criminal activity, killer tactics, and impressive tea brewing skills, the Red Death Tea Society will do anything to get in their way.  Nate and Delphine must pull out every mind-blowing gadget, half-perfected invention, and unproven but theoretically sound strategy they've got up their sleeves in order to survive to see Saturday the 14th!

The Genius Factor: How to Capture an Invisible Cat is quite an adventure. The story begins with Delphine being the quirky girl she is. She is bubbly and interesting and even though she is far from boring and often gets herself into trouble she makes friends easily with just about everyone. Nate tends to disappear into the background even though he is a genius. I liked his awkward brilliance, and how he thinks well outside of the box. The very different kids come together in friendship and work together to solve a giant, invisible problem, and manage to cooperate even when they do not completely understand each other. I like that while to two become friends, their relationship is as unique as the two in it rather than becoming instant and forever best friends. The action was fast, sometimes silly and other times made me nervous for the characters. The story was very creative and the characters unique while not being difficult to relate to, which is a tough balance to find. I believe this is the start of a series, and am looking forward to seeing what Nate does on the next Friday the 13th as well as what further fiascos from the Red Death Tea Society has in store.

The Genius Factor: How to Capture an Invisible Cat is a fantastic adventure with great characters and action. I think it will capture the attention of a wide variety of readers and might become a fast favorite for many.

Book Review: On the Sapphire’s Trail by Katherine and Florian Ferrier

On the Sapphire’s Trail is the second graphic novel in the Hotel Strange series by Katherine and Florian Ferrier. The characters of Hotel Strange are busy planning a music festival and Kiki is too lazy to help anyone. While Marietta tries to convince Kiki to help they stumble upon a monster who wants to sing in the festival. Marietta looks for a quiet place for the Arrgoyle to practice, but on her way home, she is kidnapped by thieves! The thieves are looking for the people who stole their sapphires. Soon Marietta and her friends are working to solve the mystery of the missing sapphires while the thieves hold Mr. Leclair hostage. Can they solve the mystery of a missing sapphire to save their friends, and the festival!

On the Sapphire’s Trail is an interesting graphic novel, with the same charms and problems as the first book, Wake Up Spring. THe illustrations are well done and colorful. They add most of the details and some additional humor to the story. The characters hold to their established characters in their strange little world, which is always a plus. I think that the story included a good variety of unusual creatures, most of which we met in the previous book, but the story was a little scattered. It almost had too much going on, but never completely crossed that line. I think the transitional and newly independent readers that are in the target age group will enjoy the read.