Book Review Tuesday

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

Camila the Star by Alicia Salazar (beginning reader)
Gr. K-2. Welcome to the world of Camila! I’m so happy with all of the own voices work done by Picture Window Books–these are all really needed, particularly among beginning readers, which are lacking in own voices titles. Camila is filled with spunk and heart that makes me want to read more, and the smattering of Spanish woven right into her stories is well done. Front matter includes a Spanish glossary, and back matter includes an activity idea, English glossary, and discussion questions.

Camila the Record-Breaking Star: Camila wants to make her mark on the world–by becoming a kid record breaker! But breaking a world record is tough. Will she ever achieve her dream?

Camila the Baking Star: Camila and her Papa are invited to perform in a parent-child baking competition. The winner gets to compete in Paris! But can Camila and her Papa win when Camila wants to do everything herself?

Camila the Stage Star: Camila is so excited to audition for a local play! She practices and practices and practices, but she gets assigned the role of the lead’s sidekick. Will Camila ever be able to play the lead?

Camila the Video Star: Camila has found another contest to enter–this time talking about her home city, Los Angeles. What makes Los Angeles special to her? She starts to list the famous landmarks everyone knows, but her sister asks her to stop and think. Does the Hollywood sign really mean that much to Camila? Why does Camila really like her home so much?

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Generation Brave: The Gen Z Kids Who Are Changing the World by Kate Alexander (nonfiction, biography)
Gr. 4-8. Learn about 27 young activists (or activist groups) stepping up and working to make the world a better place.

There have been a lot of these collective biography anthologies this year, but this one really stands out! The voices featured here were mostly new to me but particularly powerful because, unlike many of these types of books, these kids, teens, and young adults are making a difference now. Each passage contains a great overview of information on each individual and their chosen cause(s) in a fantastic, easy to read format, while also including information on how to personally get involved and follow the fight of each highlighted individual. An impactful book filled with plenty of immediate calls to action.


Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer (teen)
Gr. 8+ Pru is always ready to cast judgement on her classmates, especially her annoying, perpetually late lab partner Quint Erickson. When Quint and Pru can’t figure out how to work together, their end-of-year project reflects their lack of teamwork–and so does their end-of-year grade. Pru is determined to earn extra credit, but their teacher is adamant that they must work together to earn extra credit–a project just from Pru will not improve her score. So Pru tracks down where Quint spends his time, and she strikes a deal. She will help out at the local animal rescue center for a month, if he will work with her on their project. The rescue center needs the extra hands, so Quint reluctantly agrees, but Pru has a lot to learn–about sea animals, about her town, about making a difference, and, perhaps, even about Quint himself.

And on top of everything, after banging her head at a local karaoke night, suddenly Pru has magical powers. Pru can cast instant karma–good or bad–on everyone around her. Well, everyone except Quint. Why does the universe favor him so darn much?

This felt like a much different vein from Meyer’s other work. I connected with the characters in a much different way than the Cinder team. I genuinely liked the cast of Cinder, and while I didn’t like Pru, I saw way too much of her in me at that age. Oh boy, this would have been an interesting book to have read in middle school or high school. I think this will be a hit with anyone looking for another cute realistic romance with a touch of environmentalism–and there may be some others who may find Prudence a bit tough to take (and, well, a handful of folks who may learn a bit from Prudence’s journey too).

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Karen’s Worst Day by Katy Farina (graphic novel)
Gr. 2-4. Karen’s day started off bad–she fell out of bed after a bad dream and then couldn’t find her sparkly new jeans. But things just kept getting worse! She can’t play with her friends because of her cast, the household pets keep running away from her, and even the ice cream truck is out of her favorite flavor. And no matter what she does, nothing gets better–she ends up having 14 bad things happen to her in just one day! That has to be a record, right?

I have to admit, at first I wasn’t feeling much pity for Karen, until we receive the reminder that she is just six. I associate the Baby-Sitters Club with 12-year-olds, so when I picture Karen, for some reason I imagine her closer to 9-10. While this is a quick read with a simple storyline, it may appease the constantly-growing desire for the next Baby-Sitters Club graphic novel (readers are always, always asking for more!).


Mia Mayhem and the Super Switcheroo by Kara West (first chapter)
Gr. 2-3. Secret superhero Mia and her best friend (and regular kid) Eddie get caught in a strange thunderstorm that causes Mia’s powers to switch bodies. Mia no longer has powers, and Eddie is a superhero! Mia is nervous about whether she will get her powers back, but she embraces Eddie’s new skills and shows him the ropes, teaching him how to control his powers so he can keep his new identity a secret.

I adore the Mia Mayhem series SO MUCH. At their heart, these are well-written, fun first chapter books combining superhero antics with everyday elements of growing up, including friendship struggles, balancing home and school, overcoming challenges, wanting to win, and more. The diversity in our young superheroes is unparalleled, with Mia having close friends of not just different races, but a friend who is blind (with a super guide dog) and a friend who has two prosthetic legs. And its all so seamlessly included in the text that this series is far from issues books–they are just kids in everyday (superhero) situations.

I also really appreciate that, in this book, when the kids are faced with their superhero switcheroo, they talk to grown-ups about it, almost immediately. It is always frustrating when books and tv shows teach kids that they have to keep these big problems a secret–when, often, problems would be solved much faster with some adult intervention.


Sparkleton #3: The Mini Mistake by Calliope Glass (first chapter)
Gr. 2-3. Sparkleton the unicorn is back with more magical adventures. Sparkleton really, really wants his unicorn magic to appear before the big talent show, but instead of getting wish granting powers, a run-in with a magical mushroom makes Sparkleton and his friends super tiny! While the world looks pretty exciting from this new perspective–who knew spiderwebs make great trampolines?–Sparkleton will never earn his magic if he can’t get back to normal size soon.

Another Sparkleton tale! I appreciate that these reflect the age of their readers–they feature unicorns, magic, and glitter, but the friendship dynamics here are more relatable to what a child may be experiencing in 2nd-3rd grade. Sparkleton isn’t a perfect unicorn (and neither is seemingly perfect Twinkle, as we discover in this book). Sparkleton is ready to grow up fast–a feeling shared by many 7-8-year-olds readers. Lots of fun with a good mix of humor.


Song of the Court by Katy Farina (graphic novel)
Gr. 3-4. Arietta is determined to sell her family heirloom, her precious violin, to buy seeds for the garden. But on her way to the music shop, she is stopped by Princess Cassia. Cassia loves music, and she is so thrilled to meet a violin player. Won’t Arietta play at Cassia’s upcoming birthday ball? Arietta isn’t sure how to say no, so she agrees, even though she has never played the violin before.

Her friend tries to teach her, warning Arietta how hard it can be to learn a new instrument, but Arietta seems to be a natural. Not only does she play well, but she absolutely loves playing. She spends all her time practicing, and soon her garden is left in shambles. Can Arietta figure out a way to do everything she loves?

A fun read with vibrant illustrations (same illustrator as the Baby-Sitters Little Sister graphic novels). Arietta’s frustration and depression get a little dark at times–they are portrayed in a realistic manner, and all ends up well in the end, but it did occasionally feel a little dark for some of the 2nd-3rd graders who I’m sure will be devouring this book. Still, the colors and characters are adorable, and more in this universe would be well loved.

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Three Keys by Kelly Yang
Gr. 4-6. Mia is excited to continue her family’s motel adventures, and this time her family owns their place of business! Mia is sure sixth grade will be the best year ever, but things don’t turn out quite as she expected. Mia’s new teacher is not impressed with Mia’s writing. Plus, she keeps saying bad things about immigrants, and she treats Mia differently than the other students (the white students). Also, the motel isn’t bringing in that much money, and investors are starting to ask about getting their money back. And, on top of all that, a new immigration law is on the ballot. If it passes, then kids of illegal immigrants will not be allowed to go to school–including Mia’s best friend, Lupe.

I appreciate the continuation of Mia’s story, with more of a political mindset. Three Keys gives a great view into immigration issues and the current political climate, while also showing realistic ways that small actions and words can change minds. Mia’s actions don’t change the outcome of an election, but her growing relationship with her new teacher helps open the eyes of one person–a person who has a particular impact on so many others. I’m hoping for more books featuring Mia!

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