Book Review Tuesday

Lots of great books this week! Read the book reviews below, and learn more about my favorite reads:

Astrid and Apollo by V.T. Bidania (first chapter)
Gr. 2-3. A fun new first chapter series featuring a Hmong family living in Minnesota. Astrid and Apollo go on everyday adventures that weave in elements of their culture (especially many yummy foods!). A glossary of Hmong words are included in the front, and backmatter contains facts about the Hmong people, popular Hmong foods featured in that particular book, a glossary of more challenging English words found in the story, and questions and activity ideas to continue learning.

Astrid and Apollo and the Fishing Flop: Twins Astrid and Apollo are camping for the first time! Apollo is thrilled to catch the biggest fish in the lake, but while Astrid keeps catching fish after fish, Apollo just manages to attract weeds and a shoe. When a storm rolls in, it looks like their fishing might be done for the day. Will Apollo ever be able to catch his dream fish?

Astrid and Apollo and the Starry Campout: Twins Astrid and Apollo are going on their first camping trip. Apollo is excited, but Astrid is nervous–about the dark, mosquitos, wild animals, and the horrors of a bathroom without a toilet that flushes. Once they arrive, things aren’t as bad as Astrid imagined–until they all turn off the lights and hear something crawling outside their tent.

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The Best of Iggy by Annie Barrows (first chapter)
Gr. 2-3. Iggy isn’t a bad kid–he has just done some bad things (which he is mostly, sometimes sorry for). Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances to consider when bad decisions are made…and sometimes poor decisions are just poor decisions. Get ready for three Iggy filled adventures:

  • one where we say we wish we hadn’t done a thing, but actually just wish we hadn’t gotten in trouble for the thing,
  • one where we wish we hadn’t done quite as much of the thing as we did, and
  • one where we really, completely wish we hadn’t done the thing we did.

This was surprisingly delightful! I meant to just read a few chapters but instead quickly read the whole book in one sitting. The story moves quickly and the humor in both the story and the narrator’s commentary made this so much fun. Hand to kids who love The Terrible Two (or kids who aren’t quite ready yet for The Terrible Two). Will be picking up the sequel soon.


Corpse Talk: Groundbreaking Women by Adam & Lisa Murphy (graphic novel)
Gr. 4-6. Join your host (and author) Adam Murphy in a talk show starring the corpses of astonishing women throughout history. Each star receives a two-page spread following the style of a typical talk show (including the standard puns and bad jokes) before another spread or two detailing an element of their time or life, such as the layout of the building Anne Frank lived in, an overview of Mongolian wrestling moves, or an explanation of the golden ratio. Features 17 women from an Egyptian pharaoh to empresses, queens, pirates, con artists, and more.

This was fun! I enjoyed the unique approach to a collection of short biographies (and putting this in graphic novel format makes it all the more interesting). While some women were well known, others were not, making this a more engaging read. I’m excited to explore other books in the same series.

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Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol: Beware the Werewolf by Andres Miedoso (first chapter)
Gr. 2-3. Desmond and Andres are back with a furry adventure! There is something strange about the local dogcatcher–dogs seem to love being caught! Is he just a dog person? Does he have them under some kind of spell? Or is something spookier going on? This is Kersville after all, and supernatural things happen every day.

Another fun Desmond Cole adventure filled with lots of adorable (and some not so adorable) pups. This series is a perfect amount of text for kids just starting to move from beginning readers into longer chapter books, with quick stories filled with just the right amount of spook to keep young readers engaged (but not scared).


Ellie Ultra: Super Spooked by Gina Bellisario (first chapter)
Gr. 2-3. Ellie is excited to go to a sleepover at her friend Hannah’s house. She is ready for all of the regular sleepover antics, but she has her own super secret–Ellie is afraid of the dark. Ellie’s parents give her a special bracelet to keep the darkness away, but the bracelet is no help when the evil super villain Fairy Frightmare stops by. She sprinkles the sleepover attendees in bad-dream dust, and suddenly the girls are trapped in their nightmares. The only way to escape? Conquer their biggest fears. Can Ellie help her friends and conquer her fear of the dark, all in one night?

Ellie is a cute, spunky young superhero. I prefer Mia Mayhem’s everyday adventures to this series, but, reading level wise, this is a good step up from the Mia Mayhem books. Lots of kid appeal, and I appreciate any diverse young superheroes.


Kitty and Dragon by Meika Hashimoto (reader)
Gr. 1-2. Kitty just wants everyone to be quiet! So she goes exploring, looking for a new, quiet home that isn’t so noisy. She eventually finds the home of the silent dragon (who everyone is terrified of)–but the dragon just wants a friend. Soon the two become roommates and best friends, having everyday friendship adventures like helping one another when they are sick and balancing out their clean and messy tendencies.

This is ADORABLE! I really wish I had read this just a few days earlier, as it definitely would have made it onto my 2020 Favorite Beginning Readers list (I will need to go back and add it). Bright, colorful, kid-appealing illustrations, simple text and vocabulary perfect for a beginning reader, and sweet stories about two friends who don’t talk much, but still have a wonderful relationship. Will be recommending!


Kondo & Kezumi Visit Giant Island by David Goodner (first chapter)
Gr. 1-3. Kondo and Kezumi are best friends who live on a lovely island together. They spend their days collecting fruit and exploring until one day something washes up onshore–a map! This map shows many other islands and a message: WE ARE NOT ALONE. After some convincing, Kondo joins Kezumi on an adventure in their makeshift boat to see what lies beyond their shores.

This is a pretty adorable story about friendship, adventure, and trying new things. Bright, colorful illustrations will help make this appeal to young readers just moving beyond beginning readers.

In the background of most images–on Kondo and Kezumi’s island and other ilsands–there are a lot of what appear to be abandoned human objects (a bathtub, a guitar, and what looks like an alien spaceship). Are these easter eggs to keep kids engaged? Or is there going to be some long term message that this is some post-apocalypse earth (maybe after an alien invasion)? I’m not quite sure how some of those themes would work in a series for this age, so I am going to assume these are easter eggs.

Regardless, this was still a surprisingly pleasant read, and I am looking forward to more books.

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The Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar
Gr. 4-7. Betita’s father doesn’t pick her up from her after school program one day. The principal is sure that he just got caught up, but Betita has a bad feeling that proves to be true–her father was arrested by Immigrations Customs Enforcement (ICE) and deported back to Mexico. Betita is left behind, with her pregnant mom, in Los Angeles. They aren’t happy, but they think things will turn out okay–until, on a trip to visit their father at a beach on the US/Mexico border, their driver accidentally misses the exit. Suddenly, her family is on the Mexican side of the border, desperately trying to re-enter the US. Their asylum paperwork isn’t considered enough for re-entry by border patrol, and Betita and her mom are sent to a detention camp. While Betita desperately tries to keep hope through her drawings, poetry, and stories, the inhumane treatment and abuse towards herself, her mom, and her new friends makes hope nearly impossible. Will Betita and her mother survive? And if they do, will they ever see her father again?

A heartbreaking novel in verse that captures the horrific conditions many families face in ICE detention camps. Beautiful writing by author Salazar keeps the reader immersed in Betita’s voice, feeling her emotions rise and sink with each new horror. While there is a bit of hope at the end, this is a hard, though necessary, read.

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Pavi Sharma’s Guide to Going Home by Bridget Farr
Gr. 4-5. Pavi Sharma has spent most of her life moving between foster families, and she puts her knowledge to good use, running a “business” where she teaches new foster kids her tricks while also digging up some research on their new foster families. Pavi is doing well with her current foster family, and she gets along well with her foster brother Hamilton–but then she learns about Meridee.

Meridee is just five-years-old and new to the foster system, but she got placed at Pavi’s first, horrible, foster home. Pavi still has nightmares about that place, and she can’t bare to have anyone else get sent there too. No one believes Pavi’s stories–the house has been reviewed multiple times and is deemed safe. With help from Hamilton and a few new friends, Pavi is determined to do whatever she has to do to keep Meridee safe.

I really appreciate that this features a foster kid–something that is definitely missing in middle grade fiction, and something I need to read more of. However, this is not an own voices novel (in Pavi’s Indian American identity or of being a foster kid, from what I can tell from the author’s regular references to her extended family on her website). This shows. Pavi’s culture may not be a big part of of her life with how long she has been in the foster system, but elements of the foster system seem forced. Would Pavi really be able to run her business? (Probably not.) Would none of the adults in this active and otherwise responsive facility remotely treat Pavi’s complaints seriously? (Maybe.) Are the colors of these kids’ skins used as manipulation techniques throughout the book? (It feels like it.) Foster kids are almost exclusively diverse–Pavi is Indian, Santos is Latinx, and Meridee is black. Meridee feels more like a plot device than a character. The foster parents are white. I want to like this because Pavi is a great character and the book will have a lot of kid appeal, but I can’t really recommend.


Sofia Valdez and the Vanishing Vote by Andrea Beaty (first chapter)
Gr. 2-3. Sofia Valdez’s second grade class gets to choose a class pet! They will hold an election, and Sofia gets to serve as Election Commissioner. She needs to make sure that she doesn’t show any bias towards either of the final two candidates–Bird and Turtle–especially since her two best friends are campaigning against each other! Sofia makes sure the election is fair in every way, but when she counts the final votes, one vote is missing! Who could have stolen the vote? How will her class break the tie?

Another cute addition to The Questioneers chapter book series. This particular title was a fun look at elections and the importance of voting, though the teacher’s confusion was strange. After a while, I had to assume that she was faking her confusion to create a learning experience for her students, but that isn’t the way the story sells it? (She genuinely seems to think that if the class voted for a giant squid as a pet, they would get one? And she doesn’t think to set parameters on the type of pet until after the first round of voting has taken place?) Overall, however, this is a cute, fun read, especially before an elementary school class votes on their own class pet or student council representative.

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What Breathes Through Its Butt? by Emily Grossman (nonfiction)
Gr. 3-5. Learn the answers to all kinds of fascinating questions such as “What part of your body can’t feel any pain?”, “About how much does the internet weigh?”, “How much methane gas does one cow burp and fart in a day?”, and, of course, “Which of these animals can breathe through its butt?”. Each question presents four multiple choice answers, making it fun to guess before reading the entertaining explanations. Fun black-and-white doodles keep the reader engaged throughout.

This was so much fun! While I was initially disappointed this book wasn’t all about animal butts, the unique format and entertaining explanations kept me engaged. I learned a lot, and I would happily pick up more books in this format. Questions cover topics that are easy to include in a book talk, including a few questions that you could immediately test with a group of kids.

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When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors (memoir)
Gr. 10+. Patrisse Khan-Cullors’ memoir (young adult edition). Khan-Cullors is one of the cofounders of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. She shares her story–from her childhood experiences being raised by her mother and as a Jehovah’s Witness to watching her father and brother be arrested over and over and how her brother was even further tortured in prison due to the police and guard’s “treatment” of his mental illness. She lays out her experiences protesting, leading movements, and how she started the Black Lives Matter movement. Powerful, inspirational, hard to listen to, but necessary. I’m still processing this one, and I’m sure I will be for a long time.

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