Book Review Tuesday

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


Blades of Freedom by Nathan Hale (graphic novel) (nonfiction)
Gr. 4-5. Framed around the sale of the Louisiana Purchase, the newest Nathan Hale title really explores the Haitian Revolution.

I liked this book a lot, though I don’t think the connection to the Louisiana Purchase was needed. Perhaps the author was trying to make a more direct connection to American history, but I think this book series is popular enough that the initial tropes don’t need to be followed as strictly. It does all tie together eventually, but I would have rather this book focused entirely on the Haitian people instead of suddenly tossing Thomas Jefferson into the narrative at the end.

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The Challenger Disaster by Pranas T. Naujokaitis (graphic novel) (nonfiction)
Gr. 4-5. Learn about the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in January 1986 through the eyes of school children living on a space station above Mars 400 years in the future.

This was enjoyable and approachable for kids with no background knowledge. Following a similar format to First Second’s popular Science Comics, this took a complicated and tragic situation and made it understandable and interesting for young readers. This is my second History Comics graphic novel, and I learned more from this one (and was engaged more in this one) than the Great Chicago Fire title. I was a bit confused about the computer system the kids were using–the holograms of the dead astronauts seemed to know about their lives, about the kids’ lives in the future, but not always about their own deaths, which felt odd.


Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas (teen)
Gr. 9+. We meet Maverick Carter before Starr is born–before Starr is conceived in fact. Maverick is trying to figure out high school while hanging out with his favorite cousin and dealing on the side for the King Lords. What he doesn’t expect is Iesha–the girlfriend of one his close friends–to get pregnant soon after they have sex. It was just one time, surely the baby can’t be his–but it is. And not just that, but on the day the paternity results come in, Iesha and her mom skip out on Maverick, leaving him with a squirming, adorable, poop-filled infant.

Maverick knows this baby is his responsibility, and he is willing to put in the work to do his best to take care of baby Seven while helping his mom stay afloat. He doesn’t want his child to grow up without a father, so he takes his chance to get out of drug dealing. But things are never that simple, and after the murder of a loved one and the possibility of a second baby on the way, Maverick has to grow up and make some hard decisions fast.

This was amazing, as expected. So much character development, and I really want more of this story, Maverick’s story. No THUG knowledge necessary to enjoy this, though there are a few call backs that fans of the first book will appreciate. This particular line sticks with me: “Because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?…it can roll away from the tree. It simply needs a little push.”

Everything Angie Thomas writes is phenomenal, but I feel like I can hear the progression in her writing from THUG to On the Come Up to Concrete Rose–and I’m thrilled to see what will come next.


Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai
Gr. 3-4. Henry Khoo is done being treated like a baby. He doesn’t need a chaperone, and he is going to prove it by flying halfway around the world to Singapore all by himself. Since his family has decided to cancel their summer trip, Henry is going to make the journey alone without anyone’s knowledge. He’s prepared: he is just old enough to fly alone, he knows the steps to get through the airport, and he even has an alibi to keep him covered until his plane lands. But everything goes wrong when he realizes that he knows someone on the flight–and not just any someone, but the very person that knows he is the creator of an anonymous gossip website about students at his school. Will Henry make it to Singapore in one piece? Or will his nemesis end his adventures early?

This was fun, though I think I missed a lot by listening to this. I didn’t see any of the illustrations, and there were definitely moments I was confused. Henry is full of energy, and while this does translate well over audio, it sometimes feels a little all over the place. However, I think this is a fun, diverse readalike for fans of Wimpy Kid, Terrible Two, and other fast, funny books.

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Oona by Kelly DiPucchio (picture book)
Gr. PreS-K. Adorable mermaid Oona loves collecting things. Sometimes her adventures lead her to trouble, but that doesn’t stop her from pursuing her biggest find yet: a shiny gold crown stuck at the bottom of a dark rift.

Absolutely gorgeous illustrations that complement the story while adding more details. And I absolutely cannot get over Otto the Otter companion, or how after finally getting the crown, it most obviously belongs around Otto’s stomach. How else could you wear it? Like so many other reviewers have said, more Black mermaids please.


The Ridiculous and Wonderful Rainbow Hat by Aaron Starmer
Gr. 3-4. Locker 37 adventures continue at Hopewell Elementary School. This time, fourth grader Riley needs help pulling off the most epic prank ever: dropping 10,000 ping pong balls from the ceiling ducts above the gym during the upcoming juggling-filled assembly. Locker 37 provides Riley with a magical hat that creates Riley clones. Surely a never-ending number of Riley’s can pull off such an elaborate prank?

More Locker 37 shenanigans. This series is a great readalike for fans of the 13-Story Treehouse, Terrible Two, and other tales filled with lost of humor and wry adventures. Quick pacing and a lot of action will appeal to reluctant readers.

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