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Showing posts from August, 2016

Inspector Flytrap: Book 1, by Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell, 112 pp, RL 2

It's a very good time to be an emerging reader, especially because Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell, celebrity super couple of the kid's book world, have teamed up again! This time, the duo bring their weird, wacky senses of humor to Inspector Flytrap, a series of books featuring a hard boiled detective who just happens to be a Venus Flytrap.

Being a detective - and a plant - has its challenges. Happily, Inspector Flytrap (who is constantly correcting people who refer to him as Mr. Flytrap) has an assistant, Nina, who puts him on a skateboard and does all the driving whenever they need to get to a crime scene quickly. Nina is a goat, which has a few drawbacks since she will eat anything. As the Inspector says, "it's scary to have an assistant who eats everything, especially for a plant like me." Nina also has a standard flip response to almost everything, which is, "Big deal." 


The first Big Deal case (no small deal cases for him) readers get to see Inspecto…

The Infamous Ratsos by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Matt Myers, 64 pp, RL 2

The Infamous Ratsos is a rare little chapter book written by Kara LaReau and illustrated by Matt Myers. I say rare because it's not often that I get to read a book at this reading level that feels like a real chapter book, rather than a leveled reader. The Infamous Ratsos is written in simple but colorful language and is perfect for newly independent readers or even for a read out loud!
Louie and Ralphie Ratso are two brothers who hang tough, no matter what. They want to be just like their dad, Big Lou, who drives a truck and a forklift and sometimes a snow plow. There are two kinds of people in this world, says Big Lou, "Those who are tough and those who are soft." Louie and Ralphie get the message and want to make their dad proud, especially since they are trying hard not to think about Mama Ratso, who's been gone for a little while now.
Louie, who considers himself the smart one, confuses being tough with being mean, which gets the brothers into a lot of sticky situ…

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

In early 2014 I reviewed the picture book Some Bugs, written by Angela Di Terlizzi and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. A fantastic, rhyming book, Wenzel's illustrations were unforgettable, calling to mind Eric Carle with a goofy undercurrent. I have been following Wenzel's career since then and am so excited to be reviewing the first picture book written an illustrated, They All Saw a Cat.


They All Saw a Cat is a story of observation and perspective, the idea for the book coming to Wenzel several years ago when he was teaching art classes in Nepal, noting that, "if every kid in the classroom draws the exact same thing - say, a cat - they will come up with a unique image, depending on their perspectives on and experiences with cats, that puts the animal in a different, new light." They All Saw a Cat follows a cat as it walks through the world, each person and creature who sees the cat viewing it differently. They All Saw a Cat is simple and brilliant, living up to all t…

The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer by Davide Cali and Benjamin Chaud

The premise of David Cali and Benjamin Chaud's trilogy is simple, circular and deeply satisfying. Beginning in 2014 with I Didn't Do My Homework Because . . ., Cali and Chaud have taken readers on one detail packed adventure after another, starring our young hero in his pinstriped suit, red necktie and red socks, and his faithful, bug-eyed dachshund and his bespectacled, clever teacher. 


The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer begins with the inevitable question upon returning to school, "So, what did you do this summer?" Our hero responds, "Well, you may not believe this, but . . . " On a visit to the beach, he finds a message in a bottle and inside it is a treasure map! But, a magpie swoops in and pecks it out of his hands and the adventure begins. There are pirates, submarines and time travel that finds our hero floating down the Seine in his submarine as a bucket of slop is tossed on his head as he passes under the bridge in front of Notre Dame. Turns out…

Bera the One-Headed Troll by Eric Orchard, 128 pp, RL 3

Eric Orchard is the creator of Maddy Kettle, Book 1: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch in which eleven-year-old Maddy heads off on a quest after her bookstore-owning parents are turned into kangaroo rats by spider goblins. In Bera the One-Headed Troll, tables are turned as Bera, a troll, finds herself with a human infant she is trying to return to its parents. Bera's spare world is one of nighttime - if sunlight touches her, she will turn to stone - rendered in faded oranges and browns. And it is filled with ghosts, ogres with more than one head, benevolent rats, evil mermaids and hedgehog wizards that are a little creepy, a little goofy and entirely fascinating.

Bera is the troll with one head is the official pumpkin gardner of the Troll King. Living on a tiny island in a secret cove with just her owl, Winslowe, and her the ghost of Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Aunt Dota, who resides in a jar, she is happy with her quiet life. As she heads back to her house after the annual…

Ogres Awake! by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost, 40 pp, RL 1.5

Ogres Awake! is the third book in the Adventures in Cartooning Jr. series (the mini-me of the Adventures in Cartooningseries)and, as with Sleepless Knight and Gryphons Aren't So Great, authors Sturm, Arnold and Frederick-Frost present yet another silly story as the manic Knight and his steed, Edward, rush headlong into a new adventure. As always, the endpapers provide readers with instructions on how to draw the characters from the story. From high atop a parapet where the Knight is playing fetch with Edward, the duo discover that what they thought was thunder is the snoring of ogres, one of whom is using a sheep for a pillow. Ready for a battle, the Knight and Edward gallop off to the King, who is calmly reading a comic book, naturally. This day has been foreseen - a plan is in place!

What is the plan? You just have to read Ogres Awake! to find out! But, the illustrations - and garden gnomes - just might give you a clue or two...

Source: Review Copy





Sleepless Knight
Gryphons Aren'…

Compass South by Hope Larson, illustrations by Rebecca Mock, 224 pp, RL 4

Compass South is the fantastic first adventure in the Four Points series of graphic novels written by Hope Larson and illustrated by Rebecca Mock. As I finished reading this book, I felt like I had read a complete novel, there are so many details, world building and character diveristy in this book. In fact, I was reminded of S.E. Grove's trilogy that begins with The Glass Sentence, although Larson's book is set firmly - so far - in real, not an alternative, historical landscape. Mock's illustrations, which are filled with warm earth tones, packed with movement and energy. At times, I had to remind myself of which twin was which, but, in all fairness, this is a story with two sets of redheaded twins!

Set in 1860, Compass South begins with a prologue that explains how and why twins Alexander and Cleopatra Dodge made it from Ireland to New York City with two very special items - a compass and a pocket knife. Twelve years later, the only father they have ever known (but not th…

Compass South by Hope Larson, illustrations by Rebecca Mock, 224 pp, RL 4

Compass South is the fantastic first adventure in the Four Points series of graphic novels written by Hope Larson and illustrated by Rebecca Mock. As I finished reading this book, I felt like I had read a complete novel, there are so many details, world building and character diveristy in this book. In fact, I was reminded of S.E. Grove's trilogy that begins with The Glass Sentence, although Larson's book is set firmly - so far - in real, not an alternative, historical landscape. Mock's illustrations, which are filled with warm earth tones, packed with movement and energy. At times, I had to remind myself of which twin was which, but, in all fairness, this is a story with two sets of redheaded twins!

Set in 1860, Compass South begins with a prologue that explains how and why twins Alexander and Cleopatra Dodge made it from Ireland to New York City with two very special items - a compass and a pocket knife. Twelve years later, the only father they have ever known (but not th…

Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash, 272 pp, RL: TEEN

Honor Girl is Maggie Thrash'sgraphic memoir that was released last year and garnered awards and attention. Thrash chronicles the summer at an all girls camp where, having just turned fifteen, she falls in love for the first time.

Maggie's mom and her grandma went to Camp Bellflower, set deep in the Kentucky Appalachians. Every summer, on the first night of camp, the Honor Girl, chosen on the last night of camp the summer before, is serenaded. At the end of the song, the Honor Girl's candle is used to light the candles of all the other campers. Thrash writes, "the criteria for Honor Girl were vague, with no particular definition. It was just the one who seemed, in an unmistakable way, to represent the best of us." Maggie is reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, her favorite Backstreet Boy is Kevin Richardson and she wears a leash at night that tethers her to her bed and keeps her from sleepwalking. The details of 15-year-old Maggie's life are mundane yet…

REX by Simon James

Simon James has long been a favorite in my house, although rarely reviewed here. In my review of his book Nurse Clementine back in 2013, I talked about how much we loved and still love (I read it in the library to my students) Dear Mr. Blueberry and shared more of his work in that review, which I hope you'll check out. What James does best, time after time, is pair sweet with silly, creating poignant and playful picture books that truly hold up with time.

With Rex, James takes on dinosaurs and daddies with charmingly cartoonish, colorful illustrations filled with sharp teeth and erupting volcanoes. Rex starts off, "Once upon about 65 million years ago, there lived a terrifying tyrannosaurus." Fierce as this guy is (he scared "every saurus he saw!") he stomps off each night looking for a cave to sleep in and no one dares wake him. But one night, something does wake him. 

Little Rex imprints on the big dinosaur and even calls him Dad. As the big dinosaur tries to g…