Showing posts with label middle grade. Show all posts
Showing posts with label middle grade. Show all posts

Early Book Review: RWBY: Vol. 1 The Beacon Arc by Bunta Kinami

RWBYVol. 1 The Beacon Arc by Bunta Kinami is currently scheduled for release on July 21 2020. In the world of Remnant, monsters known as Grimm wreak havoc. They’re kept in check by Huntsmen and Huntresses, highly skilled warriors experienced in monster extermination who utilize their special abilities on the field of battle. Ruby takes her first step on the road to becoming a Huntress by enrolling at Beacon Academy, eager to take on the battery of tests, challenges and difficulties that follow. Ruby knows her talents will take her to her goal, but is she ready to clash with Weiss Schnee, haughty scion of the Schnee Dust Company?

RWBYVol. 1 The Beacon Arc is a solid start to an engaging story. A few very important characters are introduced and fleshed out in the midst of settling into school and a very dangerous mission. I think story did a great job of introducing the world this all takes place in, and the characters in their strengths and weaknesses. I liked the variety of personalities and skill sets and think that it does a good job of interesting readers that might never have heard of the series previously. The art is nearly perfect, although I will admit that I occasionally had trouble keeping track of who was who in some of the action scenes, because there was just so much going on. I think this promises to keep newcomers to the RWBY Universe and long time fans happy and entertained. 

Early Book Review: SuperSimple Chemistry and SuperSimple Biology: The Ultimate Bitesize Study Guide by DK Children

SuperSimple Chemistry: 
The Ultimate Bitesize Study Guide by DK Children is currently scheduled for release on June 23 2020. It is an aid for coursework, homework, studying for tests, and a comprehensive guide for grades 6-10. Each topic is fully illustrated to support the information, make the facts crystal clear, and bring the science to life. A large central image explains the idea visually and each topic is summed up on a single page, helping children to quickly get up to speed and really understand how chemistry works. Information boxes explain the theory with the help of simple graphics and for further studying, a handy "Key Facts" box provides a simple summary you can check back on later. 

SuperSimple Biology: The Ultimate Bitesize Study Guide
 by DK Children is currently scheduled for release on June 23 2020. This biology book for kids 12+ years old is ideal for home and school learning. From reproduction to respiration and enzymes to ecosystems, this guide makes complex topics easy to grasp at a glance. Perfect support for coursework, homework, and studying for tests. Each topic is fully illustrated to support the information, make the facts crystal clear, and bring the science to life. For key ideas, "How It Works" and "Look Closer" boxes explain the theory with the help of simple graphics. And for studying, a handy "Key Facts" box provides a simple summary you can check back on later. 

Both of these books are exactly what one would expect from the titles, and the publisher. They are crisp, clean, and bright looking resources with concise and well written text. The sections are well organized and the pages are formatted to keep readers focused. I liked the balance of illustrations, charts, text, and the key facts boxes. I think resources like this are well timed (although I know they have been around previously) with everyone learning from home for months, and the worries about losing ground with studies, and the possibility of more home learning in the future for many. This would be useful both as a personal resource to support classroom work, as a resource in the classroom, or independent study for those interested in the specific field of study. 

Early Book Review: The Screaming Hairy Armadillo and 76 Other Animals with Wild, Wacky Names by Matthew Murrie, Steve Murrie

The Screaming Hairy Armadillo and 76 Other Animals with Wild, Wacky Names,  written by Matthew Murrie and Steve Murrie, and illustrated by Julie Benbassat, is currently scheduled for release on June 9 2020. It is a a science-based illustrated celebration of creatures notable for their bizarre, baffling, and just-plain-funny names. Meet the Waxy Monkey Tree Frog, who lives high in the forests of South America—the “waxy” refers to its skin secretions and the “monkey” comes from its long, simian fingers, perfect for climbing. The White-Bellied Go-Away Bird—guess what its cry sounds like? Plus the Fried Egg Jellyfish, the Sparklemuffin Peacock Spider, the Bone-Eating Snot Flower Worm, and many more. While the names of these species are undeniably curious, the heart of the book is their just-as-curious habits, appearance, abilities—and the stories of how they acquired their unusual monikers. There are over 70 creatures in all,  with full-color illustrations and photographs and detailed text.

The Screaming Hairy Armadillo and 76 Other Animals with Wild, Wacky Names was a really interesting read. I have always been a fan of learning about the weird and wacky of the world, so some of the animals described (like the naked mole rat and blobfish) were not new to me. However, most of the creatures were at least partially unknown to me- and frankly man of their names could double as awesome band names. The artwork was simply amazing. The images were very well done, with great detail, and added significantly to the book as a whole. The text was well written, and while some of the terminology was advanced definitions and explanations were woven perfectly into the text. I like that there was also a glossary at the end of the book, along with some resources for further reading and information on conservation. I also liked the use of text boxes and small commentary on almost every page. I found the balance of science and humor kept the reader's attention and interest which in turn keeps them reading. My daughter just might be getting this book for her next birthday.

The Screaming Hairy Armadillo and 76 Other Animals with Wild, Wacky Names is a fun and informative read that I think will be a favorite for middle grade and older readers.

Early Book Review: The Gryphon's Lair (Royal Guide to Monster Slaying) by Kelley Armstrong

The Gryphon's Lair is the second book in the Royal Guide to Monster Slaying series by Kelley Armstrong. It is currently scheduled for release on June 2 2020. I do recommend reading the series in order, mostly to understand the characters and how they relate to each other. However, a determined reader could catch up fairly easily and still enjoy the read.

Rowan is now the Royal Monster Hunter, and her twin brother, Rhydd, is destined to be king. But her mother's cousin Heward is still determined that his children be the ones to inherit the titles, and will stop at nothing to show that Rowan and Rhydd are too immature to properly lead. After the gryphon that Rowan captured in Book One gives birth but then dies, Rowan is left with a baby gryphon she knows she cannot keep. And it grows faster than anyone can imagine. In order to save face after an accident involving the troublesome gryphon, Rowan, with the help of her friends Dain and Alianor, along with an entourage of monstrous companions, must make a journey to the mountains to release the gryphon back into the wild. What starts off as a simple enough task soon becomes a dangerous quest, as the group encounters numerous rare and deadly monsters along the way, including wyverns and ceffyl-dwrs. 

The Gryphon's Lair is a book that is as much about Rowan and her friends coming together, and understanding each other and themselves, as it is the adventure of what to do with a young gryphon. I really liked the importance respect and compassion is given in this series. Rowan is trying to be a good member of the royal family, doing what is best for the kingdom while also thinking about understanding the monstrous creatures in the world rather than just killing them all. I laughed at some of he antic the crew she has assembled, cringed when those antics turned dangerous. There was action, heart to heart talks, amazing creatures, and a few heart wrenching moments. When I finished this story I was left with two thoughts. First, my daughter needs to read this series, as it is right up her alley, and second was that I hope there are more books set in this world coming because I am eager for more.

The Gryphon's Lair is a middle grade fantasy novel that has a near perfect balance of action and character growth. 

Book Review: The Mythics #1 Heroes Reborn by Philippe Ogaki; Patricia Lyfoung; Patrick Sobral

The Mythics #1 Heroes Reborn by Philippe Ogaki; Patricia Lyfoung; and Patrick Sobral is a children's graphic novel. In the ancient times of Gods and heroes, evil attempted to seize the world disguising themselves as six different gods. While they were spreading all their power of destruction, six heroes, each with extraordinary powers and brandishing sacred weapons, rose against these incarnations of evil. The evil was defeated and sealed in a secret place within the red desert on the planet Mars. Today, enter six young heirs: Yuko of Japan, Parvati of India, Amir of Egypt, Abigail of Germany, Miguel of Mexico, and Neo of Greece suddenly pulled from their everyday lives. About to face the greatest threat that the contemporary world has ever known, in a flash, they get to discover just how worthy successors they may be of the ancient heroes.

Heroes Reborn is a graphic novel telling three origin stories, with three more to come. The artwork is very well done and I liked the style. The stories were nicely varied, with different locations and the focus or each tale different in lifestyle and interests than the others. The action was good, and the stories were well told. My problem is that none of it was surprising. The twists as to who was the carrier of evil in each part was fairly predictable, as were the reactions of the teens discovering their powers and dealing with their guide. It felt like so many other stories, so many superpower or magic origin stories, that I started skimming the action scenes in ope that the next character development moment would wow me. It was not badly told but it was not extraordinary. It felt familiar and fun, but not as new or fresh as I was hoping. 

Heroes Reborn is a well drawn and entertaining graphic novel. 

Early Book Review: The Fantastical Exploits of Gwendolyn Gray by B. A. Williamson

The Fantastical Exploits of Gwendolyn Gray is the second book in a series by B. A. Williamson. It is currently scheduled for release on April 28 2020. While I do recommend reading the series in order, the author does a good job of giving newcomers a starting point, which helped remind this returning reader of what happened so far. 

Heroes never return from adventure unchanged, and Gwendolyn Gray knows this better than anyone. She faces a new darkness within herself—with no help or comfort from her friends Sparrow and Starling. On top of that, the City is only getting worse. When the Faceless Gentlemen return to menace her again, Gwendolyn escapes to the lands of the Fae. But even the dreamlike Faeoria holds dangers that even she could never have imagined. Gwendolyn must learn to master control her magic and manage her internal struggles if she ever hopes to defeat the villainous forces that control the City, find Sparrow and Starling, and save the people she loves.

The Fantastical Exploits of Gwendolyn Gray is a nice second book to a series, and I look forward to what will follow. It took me a few pages to remember which story this was, and who everyone was. However, I really liked that the author gave subtle hints and not so subtle summaries in the story, allowing newcomers to the story to catch up, and those of us with failing memories to remember what we have read previously. I also liked the narration breaking the forth wall, although there might be some readers that do not enjoy that style as much as I do. I thought the action and twists and turns of the plot were very well done, I just wanted to keep reading to see what would happen next. I also liked that none of the characters are perfectly good or evil, they are changeable and imperfect just like everyone in the real world. Gwen continues to grow up, and her realizations about herself, stories, other people, and life in general were engaging and  sometimes hard to read emotionally. I think the book was very well done and look forward to following the story in whatever book comes next.

The Fantastical Exploits of Gwendolyn Gray is a solid middle grade fantasy that will have readers looking for whatever might come next from Williamson.

Book Review: Once Upon a Word: A Word-Origin Dictionary for Kids—Building Vocabulary Through Etymology, Definitions & Stories by Jess Zafarris

Once Upon a Word: A Word-Origin Dictionary for Kids—Building Vocabulary Through Etymology, Definitions & Stories by Jess Zafarris shows readers of all ages that the English language is made up of words from different places, events, and periods of time. Each of those words has an exciting story to tell us about where, when, how, and why they came about. It has easy-to-understand definitions and awesome word-origin stories, helping readers understand the history and meaning of English words, improve vocabulary and spelling, and learn to play with language. Explore how weird words like gnome, fun words like zombie, and common words like caterpillar came to exist. Discover why some words sound funnier than others (like cacklesizzle, and twang) and why some groups of words start with the same few letters (like hydratehydrogen, and fire hydrant). 

Once Upon a Word is an accessible and entertaining resource for readers of all ages. I like that it uses the history of words, the building blocks of words, and how different languages have created and continue to change the English language. After the rundown on the building blocks and things that have shaped language starts the actually dictionary part of the book- explaining each word in detail. This is a great tool for gaining a better understanding of favorite or interesting words, but it is not the most entertaining part. I really enjoyed the two sections that follow, which explore food  and music related words. Since food and music are two of my favorite things I found this to be very interesting.  I think that this would be a good classroom or school library resource for middle grade readers and older. However, it might also be helpful to those approaching the high school horrors of standardized tests that seem to be very important to their adults. The understanding of the roots and building blocks of words that are laid out in the beginning of the book can help all readers with their vocabulary and the ability to guess the correct meaning of most words- especially in a multiple choice test. I thought that some of the color and formatting choices really broke up the text on the pages nicely, making the read book as a whole less intimidating to readers. 

Once Upon a Word is a well organized and written resources that will help its readers understand some of the building blocks and influences of the English language while offering some humor and interesting tidbits along the way.

Early Book Review: What If Soldiers Fought with Pillows?: True Stories of Imagination and Courage by Heather Camlot, Serge Bloch

What If Soldiers Fought with Pillows?: True Stories of Imagination and Courage, written by Heather Camlot and illustrated by Serge Bloch, is currently scheduled for release on March 15 2020. What if the impossible were actually possible? What if we turned our dreams into action? What if our imagination could help solve real-world crises, like war, famine, and human rights violations? Through a series of seemingly whimsical questions, this middle-grade nonfiction book introduces readers to people and organizations that are subverting violence, war, and totalitarian power. What if soldiers refused to carry weapons? What if fighter pilots dropped seeds instead of bombs? What if music could be a creative force for democracy? None of these ideas are impossible—in fact, they are all true historical examples of ideas that have been put into action.

What If Soldiers Fought with Pillows? is an accessible look at how people that thought a little differently and asked the hard questions have been able to effect change. I liket hat while the questions are framed with a little humor the book does not ignore the dangers that some of these people faced in their efforts. Many of these stories were new to me, and even those I vaguely remember I was glad to read again or get more information on. I thought the text was well written and engaging. I think the illustrations were cartoony and fun. They did a great job of keeping some humor on each page, and keeping the interest for readers. Imagination, asking questions, and standing strong in your beliefs were key in each of these stories- and are great values to encourage in readers of all ages. It encourages readers to ask questions, especially the hard ones, and to try to find solutions that will help I like that the book also included a glossary and cited its sources in the backmatter. I might have liked a list of websites or reading materials for further reading, but that could very well be in the final version since I had a digital arc. 

What If Soldiers Fought with Pillows? encourages critical thinking and standing up for your beliefs and passions. I love the real stories from world history that are used to encourage readers of all ages to look past the obvious answers to find something more. 

Book Review: Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt: Egyptian Mythology for Kids by Morgan E. Moroney, Meel Tamphanon

Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt: Egyptian Mythology for Kids by Morgan E. Moroney features illustrated myths of incredible Egyptian gods and goddesses, these  twenty stories describe the magic each deity performed along the Nile. From the rising of the morning sun to the summer flooding of the Nile River, the ancient Egyptians believed powerful gods and goddesses ruled over every aspect of their daily lives. This Egyptian mythology guide explores the legends and how Egyptian mythology was a key part of ancient Egyptian culture, like pyramid building, the mummification process, and even the worshiping of cats. 

Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt is a book that helped me fill in some of my mythology knowledge gaps. I have read some Egyptian mythology before, but feel much less versed in it than Greek, Roman, Celtic, or even Norse.  Now I feel like I have a better understanding of the mythology, and I really enjoyed the read in the process. I thought the color choices for heading and text were bold, and as expected, and the illustrations by Meel Tampanon added a great deal to the read. I also liked the inclusion of photographs of artifacts from the culture, and photographs of the land. It really brought home the reality of the lives and beliefs of the people in ancient Egypt. I knew the basics of Egyptian mythology, and as I read I discovered new things and was reminded of details I had forgotten. While I still need to do an in depth look at the mythology to assuage my own curiosity, I think that this is a good introduction for young readers.I really appreciated the family tree, glossary, resources for further reading, and references that were included in the endpages. 

Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt is an accessible and engaging read. 

Book Review: Komi Can't Communicate, Vol. 1, by Tomohito Oda

Komi Can't Communicate, Vol. 1, by Tomohito Oda is a young adult magna. The journey to 100 friends begins with a single conversation. Socially anxious high school student Shoko Komi’s greatest dream is to make some friends, but everyone at school mistakes her crippling social anxiety for cool reserve! With the whole student body keeping their distance and Komi unable to utter a single word, friendship might be forever beyond her reach. Timid Tadano is a total wallflower, and that’s just the way he likes it. But all that changes when he finds himself alone in a classroom on the first day of high school with the legendary Komi. He quickly realizes she isn’t aloof—she’s just super awkward. Now he’s made it his mission to help her on her quest to make 100 friends!

Komi Can't Communicate is a graphic novel about finding your place in school, and I really like that it shows how different the way people feel can be from how they are perceived by others. I think readers of all ages can identify with Tadano on some level. He just wants to get through school unscathed, but things are not all that simple. In real life they never are either. Befriending Komi might not be good for flying under the radar, but it does help her start toward her own goals for school. I really liked that we get to see multiple perspectives, which gives the reader a bit of room to wonder how much of the story might be different from another view, and how much of their own worries or fears are fueled by similar assumptions and misperceptions. Aside from all that heavy stuff, there was also a good deal of humor and funny moments, and I found the read engaging and entertaining. I enjoyed the artwork very much, and think the line work did a great deal to add to the emotion and overall story through out. I thought the cast of major characters was well done and fun, and I look forward to seeing more. I did find the ending a bit abrupt, like maybe the last couple pages and back cover were missing from my digital copy, but that could have just been a clever hook to make me want the next installment even more. 

Komi Can't Communicate is a fun and engaging read. I think most middle schoolers through adults would find something entertaining and relatable in the read. 

Early Book Review: Don't Check Out This Book! by Kate Klise

Don't Check Out This Book! by Kate Klise is a children's book currently scheduled for release on March 10 2020. Consider the facts: Appleton Elementary School has a new librarian named Rita B. Danjerous. (Say it fast.) Principal Noah Memree barely remembers hiring her. Ten-year-old Reid Durr is staying up way too late reading a book from Ms. Danjerous's controversial "green dot" collection. The new school board president has mandated a student dress code that includes white gloves and bow ties available only at her shop. Sound strange? Fret not. Appleton's fifth-grade sleuths are following the money, embracing the punny, and determined to the get to the funniest, most rotten core of their town's juiciest scandal. 

Don't Check Out This Book! is a read full of punny names, and a healthy dose of humor. I really enjoyed the letter based format, and think that it portrayed the personalities and intent of the characters very well. I liked how well the different tones and voices were done, even with variation in stationary and handwriting to make them each stand out. I like that while some of the personalities seem over the top, I have actually met people like most of these characters. The story seems simple, but covers a lot of ground. THere is the importance of following the rules, but knowing that there is a time to question them and follow your own heart and mind to do the right thing. There is supporting others in doing the right thing, the importance of the perfect book, and how some people crave power and prestige more than the good they could do with it. The balance of humor and important ideas is so well done that it does not feel like preachy or heavy handed, which can ruin a read for some readers (like myself). I hope just as many parents, educators, and school board members read this as children because there were moments that felt all to real. I really enjoyed the read and was reminded how much I have enjoyed Klise's work. 

Don't Check Out This Book! was a great story that I think kids and adults can enjoy on their own and to spark conversations. 

Early Book Review: Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter

Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter is the first book in a middle grade series. It is currently scheduled for release on March 3 2020. 

April had absolutely no intention of becoming the only person who knows that Gabriel Winterborne, the missing-and-presumed-dead billionaire, is actually living in the basement of Winterborne House, sharpening his swords and looking for vengeance. Now it’s up to April to keep him alive. But there’s only so much a twelve-year-old girl can do, so April must turn to the other orphans for help. Together, they’ll have to unravel the riddle of a missing heir and a creepy legend, and find a secret key, before the only home they’ve ever known is lost to them forever. 
Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor is the first middle grade novel from this author- at least that I am aware of. I have read some of her young adult book which I enjoyed, and all the things I enjoyed in those books carried over nicely to this book. April is a plucky character, aware of her weaknesses and stubborn enough to keep moving forward. I enjoyed getting to know her and the other children, and found myself invested in their pasts and future welfare almost as soon as they were introduced. There are connections forged, quirky personalities, and interesting interactions that kept the story moving ahead and left no good spots to go cook dinner or do the things that needed doing in the real world. I am still intrigued by the characters and was left thinking about them after finishing the book and moving on to my next read. Even the adults have secrets and mysteries about them that need solving, some of which were left to drive us to read the next book. I  liked that the mystery of Gabriel was solved, and the bad guy brought to justice. I also liked that the question of who made it through the confrontation alive was answered- leaving no doubts who would be making return appearances in the series (although there is always room for surprises). I found the fact that the big questions of this book were answered- but the are still a great number of more mysteries and questions waiting for solutions- none that left this book feeling unfinished but just enough to make me eager to dive into the next. That is a hard balance to achieve and Carter hit the mark here.  I just realized I said nothing much about the plot- but I would hate to ruin any of the story for you, I enjoyed the ride too much to still that enjoyment for other readers even in the effort to encourage them to read the book. 

Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor has a good balance of adventure, mystery, and character development. I enjoyed the story and look forward to following this series.

Early Book Review: Bringing Back the Wolves: How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem by Jude Isabella

Bringing Back the Wolves: How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem by Jude Isabella is a nonfiction book for children that is currently scheduled for release on March 3 2020.  An unintended experiment in Yellowstone National Park, in which an ecosystem is devastated and then remarkably rehabilitated, provides crucial lessons about nature's intricate balancing act. In the 1800s, hunters were paid by the American government to eliminate threats to livestock on cattle ranches near Yellowstone National Park. They did such a good job that, by 1926, no gray wolf packs were left in the park. Over the following decades, virtually every other part of the park's ecosystem was affected by the loss of the wolves --- from the animals who were their prey, to the plants that were the food for that prey, to the streams that were sheltered by those plants --- and the landscape was in distress. So, starting in 1995, in an attempt to reverse course, the government reintroduced gray wolves to the park. Over time, animal populations stabilized, waterways were restored and a healthy ecosystem was recreated across the land. It's a striking transformation, and a fascinating tale of life's complicated interdependencies. Jude Isabella's thoroughly researched, expert-reviewed text and Kim Smith's beautiful nature art bring science to life in this captivating story of renewal. Readers will recognize just how complex an ecosystem is and learn about the surprising interconnectedness of its members. Biodiversity, ecosystems, the food chain, habitats, needs of living things and the importance of human stewardship of the environment are all covered through this real-life example, offering direct links to earth and life science curriculums. Food web infographics help reinforce the information. A glossary and index add to the book's usefulness.

Bringing Back the Wolves: How a Predator Restored an Ecosystem is a well researched and written book about the reestablishment of wolves at Yellowstone. I have seen a few documentaries on the subject, since my daughter has been obsessed with wolves for years. I had a general understanding of the subject, but that is not necessary to understand the book. The information is framed in narratives and written so that it is easily accessible and understood without talking down to readers or sounding condescending. The information was well paced, and the accompanying artwork added a great deal to my understanding and will be very useful for visual learners. I learned some information that was new to me, and was reminded of how small changes can have a large effect on the world. This is something that I think readers of all ages could learn and be reminded of on a regular basis. I was glad to see a glossary, resources, and an index in the endpapers. I think this book could be a good addition to public, school, and classroom libraries. 

Early Book Review: Dark Hedges, Wizard Island, and Other Magical Places That Really Exist by L Rader Crandall

Dark Hedges, Wizard Island, and Other Magical Places That Really Exist by L Rader Crandall is currently scheduled for release on March 3 2020. From a lost city in the desert to a cave alight with thousands of glowworms, learn about some of the most unusual places on earth and the myths, legends, and history behind each of them! Looking at places like The Skeleton Coast in Namibia, Wizard Island in the United States, and The Fairy Tale Route in Germany, This book takes young readers on a journey around the world to real places that sound straight out of fantasy. Featuring both natural and man-made wonders, this travel book combines history and storytelling to explore the far reaches of the earth.
Dark Hedges, Wizard Island, and Other Magical Places That Really Exist takes stories from history and legends and connects them to the places they are about. The history of castles, sieges, and wizard origins are shared with the information about the location you can visit that is tied into these stories. Some of these stories I had heard before, but many were new to me. I thought the tone was conversational and matter of fact, making the text accessible and enjoyable to readers. I liked that the locations were from all around the world, and no culture or group of people were set apart as bad or other- which often happens in historic or legend based text. The photography was stunning, and I adored the detailed bibliography- citing sources and encouraging further reading in the process always makes me happy even if I know a good number of readers are likely to ignore this section. 

Early Book Review: Shine Bright: A Color, Draw & Dream Book for a Beautiful Life by Lindsay Hopkins

Shine Bright: A Color, Draw & Dream Book for a Beautiful Life by Lindsay Hopkins is an activity book that is currently scheduled for release on February 14 2020.  This book is intended to build creativity and confidence. This book focuses on all of the awesome traits that make each reader special! Each chapter features patterns to color, fun drawing lessons, and ideas for writing about hopes and dreams. 
Shine Bright is a inspiring activity book for middle grade and older readers. It offers encouragement for readers to be themselves, be brave, and keep moving forward. I liked the stress put on the fact that no one is perfect, no one can do something perfectly the first time, and that bravery is really about doing the things you love and want to try even though you might be scared. The activities including coloring, drawing, and writing lists and ideas related to the chapter subject. Often times I find books with this intent to be a little cloying, but I really like the way it was done here. It was not all "hip hip hooray you are perfect!", but rather takes notice of the fact that we all get scared and make mistakes and encourages readers to keep trying and to be kind to others because they are doing the best they can too.  I think many young readers will enjoy exploring this book, and will hopefully come away from it with more confidence than before. 

Book Review: Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist by Sylvia Acevedo

Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist by Sylvia Acevedo is a memoir for young readers about a Latina rocket scientist whose early life was transformed by joining the Girl Scouts and who currently serves as CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA. A meningitis outbreak in their underprivileged neighborhood left Sylvia Acevedo’s family forever altered. As she struggled in the aftermath of loss, young Sylvia’s life transformed when she joined the Brownies. The Girl Scouts taught her how to take control of her world and nourished her love of numbers and science. With new confidence, Sylvia navigated shifting cultural expectations at school and at home, forging her own trail to become one of the first Latinx to graduate with a master's in engineering from Stanford University and going on to become a rocket scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Path to the Stars is a memoir that talks about family problems, and other issues that Sylvia faced in her life, but does not focus on them. Nor does it have a bragging tone to it, which sometimes happens. Insted, this is an honest and straightforward story of one person's life and how hard work and encouragement can make a difference. I was a Girl Scout myself, so I was very interested to see how something that played a role in my own life affected someone else, particularly someone with such amazing accomplishments. I was not disappointed with this read in any way. I liked the honest way she shared her childhood, laying no blame on her parents but sharing the way their family life and particularly her father's beliefs affected her. I liked seeing how she worked for changes in her own life, and her own future, that varied from the beliefs that she did not agree with. A good deal of the book focuses on those formative years, which makes sense since this book is aimed at the middle grade market, but I would love to see a later book for young adults, and new adults, that focuses more on the college years and later. I also have to say that I liked her not to the readers at the end of the book, and the information about the Girl Scouts that she included afterword. I also like the pictures that she included.

Path to the Stars is a wonderful memoir for middle grade readers, and everyone else.  

Early Book Review: Snapdragon by Kat Leyh

Snapdragon by Kat Leyh is a magical realist graphic novel about a young girl who befriends her town’s witch and discovers the strange magic within herself. It is currently scheduled for release on February 4 2020. 

Snap's town had a witch. At least, that’s how the rumor goes. But in reality, Jacks is just a crocks-wearing, internet-savvy old lady who sells roadkill skeletons online—after doing a little ritual to put their spirits to rest. It’s creepy, sure, but Snap thinks it’s kind of cool, too. They make a deal: Jacks will teach Snap how to take care of the baby opossums that Snap rescued, and Snap will help Jacks with her work. But as Snap starts to get to know Jacks, she realizes that Jacks may in fact have real magic—and a connection with Snap’s family’s past.

Snapdragon was so much more than I expected. When I first started reading I thought I was going to get a typical story about a young adult dealing with fitting in and finding friends, with a dose of not judging a book by its cover. That is all there along with so much more. Snapdragon is trying to find her place in a new school and makes a friend that is struggling to find their place just as much as she is. Being yourself and standing up for yourself and others is fully in play here and very well done. I was worried that the town witch story line was going to by typical, but I should have known better. Jacks is different, no question about that. I loved watching Jacks and Snap forge a connection and each get more out of the friendship than they expected.  I really enjoyed how frank and openly the LGBT aspects of the story were handled- it was refreshing. I loved the art style, and think that the colors and motion on each page added a great deal to the feel of the story. I just really enjoyed this read and already have a few young readers that I would like to recommend it to.

Snapdragon is a great graphic novel for middle grade and older readers. I love the way a variety of subjects were covered and blended together. It is a wonderful read.

Early Book Review: The Bat Book by Charlotte Milner

The Bat Book by Charlotte Milner is a children's nonfiction book currently scheduled for release on February 4 2020. From the way they fly, to how they communicate with one another, how they hunt, and why they sleep upside-down, each of the world's 1,300 types of bat is unique and utterly fascinating. Bats are also incredibly important to the environment. As well as gobbling up pests, and spreading seeds through the forests, they also pollinate more than 500 different species of plants throughout the world, including some of our favorite fruits such as mangoes and bananas.
The Bat Book is a book with a nice balance of illustrations and text. The text is interesting and accessible to readers from a wide range of skill levels. I love bats, and thought I knew a great deal about them. While Much of the information was a refresher for me, I still learned a great deal about bats- particularly those that do not live in my area. I really like that Milner talked about habitats, included where people and bats overlap, and how we can make it easier for bats to live. I think this would be a great addition to classroom, school, and public libraries. 

Early Book Review: The Mystwick School of Musicraft by Jessica Khoury

The Mystwick School of Musicraft by Jessica Khoury is a middle grade fantasy currently scheduled for release on January 21 2020. Amelia Jones always dreamed of attending the Mystwick School of Musicraft, where the world’s most promising musicians learn to create magic. So when Amelia botches her audition, she thinks her dream has met an abrupt and humiliating end—until the school agrees to give her a trial period. Amelia is determined to prove herself, vowing to do whatever it takes to become the perfect musician. Even if it means pretending to be someone she isn’t. Meanwhile, a mysterious storm is brewing that no one, not even the maestros at Mystwick, is prepared to contain. Can Amelia find the courage to be true to herself in time to save her beloved school from certain destruction?

The Mystwick School of Musicraft has a nice blend of middle grade angst, mystery, and magic. Amelia has more questions than answers about her late mother, and just wants to be like her as a way to connect with what she has lost. In a world were music and magic go together, that means making music with her mother's flute- and following in her footsteps. Like in most fantasy worlds, magic comes with risk and cost which are not always apparent at first glance. Readers learn this lesson along side Amelia as she also has to deal with fairly typical middle school angst, imposter syndrome and self doubt, and mysterious weather and tricks that make everything even harder. I really enjoyed that while a boarding school of magical music makers is fantasy, the fears of he characters were completely realistic. I found how the characters acted, interacted, and reacted to everything to be consistent with what I have seen in real people. This holds true in actions that I agreed with, and those that left me shaking my head or cringing. The hearts of the characters were very real, even when they were acting badly. I really enjoyed the world and character building and hope that this story continues as a series, because I want to know more about Amelia's adventures. 

The Mystwick School of Musicraft is a solid middle grade fantasy with action, relatable characters, and a good dose of mystery and magic. 

Early Book Review: Jinxed by Amy McCulloch

Jinxed by Amy McCulloch is a middle grade series starter that is currently scheduled for release on January 7 2020. Lacey Chu has always dreamed of working as an engineer for MONCHA, the biggest tech firm in the world and the company behind the “baku”—a customizable “pet” with all the capabilities of a smartphone. But when Lacey is rejected by the elite academy that promises that future, she’s crushed. One night, Lacey comes across the broken form of a highly advanced baku. After Lacey repairs it, the cat-shaped baku she calls Jinx opens its eyes and somehow gets her into her dream school. But Jinx is different than any other baku she’s ever seen…He seems real. As Lacey settles into life at school, competing with the best students in a battle of the bakus that tests her abilities, she learns that Jinx is part of a dangerous secret. Can Lacey hold on to Jinx and her dreams for the future?

Jinxed is ba well written start to a new series. Lacey is a smart and determined middle school girl, who has her faults and makes mistakes but tries to to the right and best thing. The world and character building is well done, feeding readers the information they need at a good pace, neither overwhelming them with too much information at once or making them wonder if they missed something. I liked Lacey's character and the relationships she maintains or builds with those important to her- even if she makes some mistakes along the way. I liked the premise and the execution of it.  I thought that the technology in the story is well done, and not unrealistic when the story on how and why it was developed in considered. I would not be surprised if someone was already working on something of this nature. The implications of the technology is also well thought out and positioned in the story to be game changers.The characters are all complex, and even the ones we only see in passing feel complex and multi layered- leaving them plenty of room to play major roles in the upcoming books. My only complaint with the story is that it does end with a cliffhanger. The majority of the story is wrapped up and crisis managed, but there is a big new problem to deal with. I cannot wait for the next book so I can read all about what happens next. 

Jinxed is a very well written middle grade novel with great series potential. I am eager to see where Lacey and the other characters go from here.