Book Reviews

Book Review Tuesday

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

Agent Moose by Mo O’Hara (graphic novel)
Gr. 2-3. Agent Moose (aka Anonymoose) recently lost his credibility after claiming the moon was moon-napped during a lunar eclipse. Instead of solving his 100th case, Agent Moose and his assistant Owlfred became the joke of Woodland HQ. To make things worse, they both have to attend Camo Chameleon’s Party–celebrating Camo Chameleon’s 100th case solved! The party isn’t all play, however–Anonymoose and Owlfred also have to track down a missing animal, Terrance Turtle, a key witness in a recent robbery (solved by none other than Camo Chameleon). But when Anonymoose and Owlfred arrive at the party and start talking to witnesses of the turtle-napping, all is not as it seems…

Another great readalike for fans of Dog Man, Agent Moose is sure to be a winner with kids looking for animal crime-solving humor. Lots of fun disguises and puns paired with cute illustrations and an easy setup for a longer series. Will be recommending.

Grandpa Grumps by Katrina Moore (picture book)
Gr. PreS-K. Daisy is so excited to meet her Yeh Yeh (grandfather), visiting from China for the first time. She has so many great ideas for all of the ways they will have fun together…but he seems really grumpy. Daisy is about to give up on getting a smile from him before he goes home, when the two finally bond while cooking together.

Adorable depiction of family dynamics, especially when cultural differences are added to the mix. Sweet ending that may invite a welcome sequel.

I Am Brown by Ashok K. Banker (picture book)
Gr. PreS-1. Gorgeous! Stars brown children from around the world showing all of the different, amazing things that they do, the clothes they wear, the places they are from, the languages they speak, and more. Vibrant, warm colors keep the reader engaged. Holds a wonderful, uplifting message about the normalcy and awesomeness of being brown.

I Love Us: A Book About Family by Luisa Uribe (board book)
Toddler-PreS. Board book depicts various families having fun together. Features diversity in skin color and family makeup (kids raised by grandparents, single parent homes, possibly a family with two dads (not clear)). I would’ve preferred this book in a larger, picture book format, as the words and detailed illustrations would work well for a preschool storytime. Includes a mirror at the end, followed by a blank family tree encouraging readers to add the names of people they love.

In the Garden by Emma Guiliani (nonfiction)
Gr. 1-3. Siblings Plum and Robin explore and take care of their garden all year long. This physically giant book is filled with flaps for additional learning, letting readers see inside of fruits and flowers and get a peak underground. Plenty of interesting info on what tasks need to be completed in a garden during each season as well as how plants grow. Rare nonfiction book starring diverse kids.

Internet Animal Stars by Rebecca Felix (nonfiction)
Gr. 1-2. Simple facts about various animals, with a focus on their Internet popularity.

While this series is cute and definitely has cover appeal, I do wonder about their longevity. Animal facts are sparse, with not quite enough details to cover the required information for the average animal project. The design has a definite rainbows-and-cuddles Lisa Frank vibe without looking too dated (for the current moment anyway). I’m not sure how long that style, or the chapter starring animal memes (“meme break!”), will stay relevant. Still, it is pretty darn cute.

Jake the Fake Keeps His Cool by Craig Robinson and Adam Mansbach
Gr. 4-5. Jake’s mom is pregnant! Jake isn’t sure what this means for him–will his parent’s stop paying attention to him now that he will be the middle child? Will the baby keep him up all night? Will Jake have to share his room? Jake quickly gets distracted by a new, pretty classmate that Jake is desperate to impress, even if that means stretching the truth about his cooking and haircutting skills.

I still enjoy this series, even if neither sequel reached quite the same hilarity as the first book. This book felt a little more disjointed than previous titles in the series, with the baby storyline only appearing when it needed to make a point. Even with that, I appreciate any own voices books that are great readalikes for fans of Wimpy Kid and Big Nate.

Leap Frog by Jane Clarke (picturebook)
Gr. PreS-K. Tiny Felix Frog is trying to make his way home across the jungle. Along the way, he runs into a variety of rainforest critters whose unique sounds make Felix jump! Help Felix make his way home by counting, bouncing, and repeating phrases before turning each page.

Vivid illustrations with bright colors make this a storytime standout. Turn the animal-sound reveals into a guessing game for preschoolers or kindergarteners, especially if paired with a non-fiction rainforest or jungle animal title.

Mia Mayhem and the Super Family Field Day by Kara West (first chapter book)
Gr. 1-3. Mia Mayhem finally gets to see her superhero parents in action when her Program for In Training Superheroes (the PITS) hosts a family field day. Mia knows everything is for fun, but she really would like to win that trophy…

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. We learn in this book that one of her friends has two dads. 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.

Mummy, What’s In Your Tummy? by Bernadita Romero (board book)
Toddler-PreS. In this board book, a child imagines what might be growing in his mummy’s tummy. Originally published in Chile in Spanish and translated to English. I wonder if the translation has to do with the inclusion of a whale as one of the animal guesses–a logical guess for a small child, but maybe not a word every expecting mom wants to use to describe her belly? (Or an elephant for that matter…) Diverse family featured throughout.

On the Way Home by A.H. Benjamin (picture book)
Gr. PreS. A girl and her grandfather are on their way home when they run into various animals. They copy the animals’ actions–jumping in a puddle, tap dancing, bouncing on a trampoline–helping them work up an appetite by the time they get home. Cute enough, with toddler storytime potential due to the easy-to-replicate animal actions. Read as an eARC.

Rockin’ Rockets: The Adventures of Allie and Amy by Stephanie Calmenson (first chapter book)
Gr. 2-3. Allie and Amy are are inseparable, until new girl Gracie moves into their neighborhood. Gracie doesn’t want to come between Allie and Amy, but when Gracie is only allowed to have one friend over at a time, she is forced to choose. When Gracie accidentally promises both Allie and Amy her extra ticket to the Rockin’ Rockets concert, suddenly Allie and Amy are fighting over who gets to go, and their status as best-friends-forever is in question.

The Allie and Amy series is cute, if a little shallow. I appreciate the diverse friend group and that the girls live in apartments (something not often shown in kid’s lit). I wish their friendship struggles had been more fleshed out in this book, as these kinds of fights do happen in real life, and they aren’t often resolved by getting an additional free ticket because your other neighbor just happens to be the mysterious new drummer in your favorite band. A good readalike for the more nuanced Craftily Ever After and Miranda and Maude series.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat: Sing Along with Me! by Nosy Crow (board book)
Baby-Toddler. Cute, though short, board book adaptation of the song Row, Row, Row Your Boat. The chunky sliders and pull tabs will appeal to babies and toddlers and are sturdy enough for repeated circulation. I prefer Jane Cabrera’s adaptation for storytime purposes, as it has very similar verses with larger, less dense illustrations. The interactivity and small details make this ideal for a one-on-one reading.

Séance Tea Party by Reimena Yee (graphic novel)
Gr. 4-5. Lora feels left out as all of her friends seem to be growing up without her. Lora doesn’t want to grow up, and she is thrilled to discover a new (though also old) friend living in her house. Ghost girl Alexa is around Lora’s age, haunting Lora’s house and just looking for a friend. The two become inseparable even as Lora begins to grow up on her own, and Alexa grows more and more curious about the past that she can’t remember.

Beautifully illustrated and filled with all the feels, Séance Tea Party is a sweet story about how friendships change, what it means to grow up, and keeping the magic of childhood alive. Be prepared for a bittersweet, authentic ending that may leave you tearing up.

Speak Up by Miranda Paul (picture book)
Gr. PreS-K. When you see something that doesn’t feel right, when you make a mistake, when you can help someone in need, use your voice and speak up!

While this book’s message is simple, it approaches kindness, activism, and using your voice in a tone perfect for preschoolers, kindergarteners, and first graders. The book shows real situations kids may face in school such as a teacher mispronouncing a classmate’s name, kids spreading rumors that mud on a child’s pants is really something else, litter covering the playground, classmates goofing around, and more. A diverse class reflects the faces of real kids who spoke up and made a difference, as shown in the last few pages along with brief information on how those kid’s made a difference in the real world. Perfect choice for a kindergarten storytime.

Target: Earth (Klawde, Evil Alien Warlord Cat) by Johnny Marciano and Emily Chenoweth
Gr. 3-4. Klawde,–the Evil Alien Warlord Cat from Planet Lytterbox trapped on Earth as punishment–is moving on to another evil scheme. Klawde has decided to take over his new home–Earth. Using the technology skills of his evil minion cat, Klawde programs a new cybercurrency, Kitcoin, and uses his new wealth to buy virtual reality headsets that allow him to control Earth’s squirrels. Combine those headsets with a dozen or so satellites, and Klawde is on his way to world domination. Except, humans aren’t quite as easy to conquer as Klawde might believe.

Ridiculous and funny, this is a perfect step-up series for fans of Dog Man, Captain Underpants, and even Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The balance of Klawde’s evil villain commentary and Raj’s everyday concerns (and fear of and love for his all-powerful cat) keep reader’s engaged and eager to know what will happen next. Cute messages about friendship and technology make this series feel a little preachy, but that is easily pushed aside when paired with Klawde’s pure villainy. Looking forward to many more Klawde adventures.

Book Review Tuesday

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

Happy reading!

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson: 9780399545436 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson (novel in verse)
Gr. 4-7. ZJ’s football star dad isn’t his hero–he’s just ZJ’s beloved dad. Lately, ZJ’s dad struggles to remember things and sometimes gets really angry. ZJ’s mom explains that the memory loss has to do with all the head injuries and hits ZJ’s dad took during his professional football carer. The doctors can’t seem to help, and ZJ is scared of losing his dad forever.

Wow. This is an incredible book, told in verse, where, with such raw emotion. ZJ shows that the “ever after” isn’t always happy and life isn’t always okay. I hope this one receives lots of recognition at the youth media awards.

Dear Sweet Pea: Murphy, Julie: 9780062473073: Amazon.com: Books

Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy
Gr. 4-5. Sweet Pea is trying to figure out what her new life looks like. She still lives in her small town in Texas, but her parents don’t live together anymore. After the divorce, her dad moved in right next door, meaning Sweet Pea has two nearly identical houses, with nearly identical bedrooms. That isn’t all Sweet Pea has to think about–there is also her ex-best-friend who has moved on to prettier and skinnier new friends, a possible first crush, and the reason for that divorce, that her dad realized he’s gay.

When Sweet Pea’s eccentric neighbor, Miss Flora Mae, has to go out of town, she leaves Sweet Pea with a job: collect the letters Flora Mae receives from the newspaper and send them along to Flora Mae’s temporary address. Flora Mae is the town’s one and only advice columnist, and she wants to keep her trip a secret. Sweet Pea is excited by this new project, but when she finds a letter to Flora Mae from Sweet Pea’s ex-best-friend, Sweet Pea can’t help but reply to the letter herself.

Sweet Pea is an amazing kid, and an excellent, honest protagonist. I felt and understood every one of her decisions, even when I knew they would end badly. (I would have probably made the same decision if I had been caught in Sweet Pea’s sleepover dilemma.) This book is particularly wonderful because of its fat girl representation. Sweet Pea is fat, plain and simple, but this isn’t an issues book. Fat girl issues are mentioned, such as trying to find cute clothes in larger sizes and a fear that her old friend, Kiera, has moved on to skinnier friends. But the book isn’t about these things. There is a sense of self-acceptance in the book, but not about her weight, because Sweet Pea accepts and loves herself before this book even begins. Refreshing and sweet.

Amazon.com: Kodi (Book 1) (9781603094672): Cullum, Jared: Books

Kodi by Jared Cullum (graphic novel)
Gr. 2-3. During a summer stay with her grandma, Katya struggles to make friends until she rescues a hurt Kodiak bear. Affectionately named Kodi, the bear and Katya quickly become inseparable. When Katya has to return home early, both Katya and Kodi are heartbroken. Kodi is determined to be reunited with his friend, stowing away on a cruise ship and traversing the streets of Seattle until he finds Katya once again.

A sweet and quiet read, this graphic novel focuses on friendship and perseverance. Great for younger readers and fans of books about kids and their dogs.

Amazon.com: Snow Place Like Home (Diary of an Ice Princess #1)  (9781338353938): Soontornvat, Christina: Books

Snow Place Like Home (Diary of an Ice Princess) by Christina Soontornvat (first chapter book)
Gr. 2-3. Princess Lina loves her magical life living in castle in the clouds, but she also dreams of doing regular things at a Groundling (human) school with her best friend Claudia. Lina convinces her parents to let her try out human school, but Lina still doesn’t have control of the wind powers she inherited from her mom. Whenever she feels strong emotions, Lina tends to make ice and snow appear in the world around her…and that ice and snow have followed her to her new school.

I read this series entirely out of order, though I am very happy to finally make it to the first book. This series is simply fun–with a great combination of humor, everyday school adventures, magic powers, and a lovely message of self-acceptance. Plus, this series stars a biracial main character, is written by a diverse author, AND is a fantasy series–a combination very hard to come by in first chapter books. Recommending to anyone and everyone.

Heroes Wear Masks: Elmo's Super Adventure (Sesame Street Scribbles): Sesame  Workshop: 9781728236599: Amazon.com: Books

Heroes Wear Masks: Elmo’s Super Adventure by Ernie Kwiat (picture book)
PreS-K. Elmo is about to start school, and his mom helps him prepare with tips about staying calm, handwashing, and mask wearing. More details and suggestions in the back for caregivers.

This is exactly what you would expect from Sesame Street, and a book that I’m sure is needed right now. Elmo sets a great example for kids everywhere, wearing his mask, keeping six feet from his friends, and still managing to have a great day at school.

Amazon.com: A Neighborhood Walk, A Musical Journey (9780807536704): Hill,  Pilar Winter, Duchess, Olivia: Books

A Neighborhood Walk, a Musical Journey by Pilar Winter Hill and Olivia Duchess (picture book)
PreS-K. Penelope and her mom travel through their city to a farmer’s market, discovering a variety of musicians along the way. Eventually, Penelope discovers a violinist at the farmer’s market, and Penelope falls in love with the sound.

A fun story combined with bright illustrations creates a glimpse into the diversity of city life (both people and locations). A simple introduction to different instruments and sounds that would pair well in a storytime focusing on music, perhaps where instruments or recorded sounds could be played on appropriate pages. Read as an eARC.

Amazon.com: ¡Brilla, brilla, pañalito! / Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You!  (Spanish and English Edition) (Small Talk Booksƒƒ‚ƒƒ‚‚&#) (9781595728944):  Ellen Mayer, Ying-Hwa Hu, Ying-Hwa Hu: Books

Twinkle, Twinkle, Diaper You! by Ellen Mayer and Ying-Hwa Hu (board book)
Baby. Mama changes baby’s diaper in this simple board book. While the action is straightforward, the book excels in modeling ways a caregiver can turn a small exchange, like changing a diaper, into a literacy-development experience by singing a modified version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, practicing animal sounds, identifying body parts, and more. Bonus points for featuring a diverse family.

Book Review Tuesday

You might have noticed from our weekly It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? posts, but I read a lot. I don’t typically read as much as I have been during pandemic times, but I have recently thrown myself into reading even more than usual. For a few months, I’ve been interested in writing brief reviews of some of the books I read, but I don’t want reviews to affect my reading pace. I like recording my thoughts about titles that really stand out to me, but I don’t feel a need to recreate a publisher summary for every book I’ve read this week.

Personally, I really appreciate It’s Monday! What Are You Reading posts to find new books that I haven’t heard of, so I don’t want to limit the number of books shared on my Monday posts. This has led me to a new feature for Book Cart Queens–Book Review Tuesdays.

Book reviews are going to be brief, focusing on what I want to remember and books that stand out to me (these don’t replace professional reviews by any means).

Happy reading!

Class Act by Jerry Craft (graphic novel)
Gr. 5-7. New Kid was my dream Newbery winner, and the sequel does not disappoint. Readers get more detailed glimpses into the lives of Jordan, Liam, and especially Drew, with even a touch more character development from Andy. Drew takes center stage here, with a different perspective on his classmates than Jordan. So many real issues are discussed in ways that never feel preachy, with Craft’s appealing artwork balancing humor and reality (race, bullying, class differences, microaggressions, friendship, and more). Hoping for more books in this universe. Read as an eARC.

Amazon.com: Mary Had a Little Glam (Volume 1) (9781454932857): Sauer,  Tammi, Brantley-Newton, Vanessa: Books

Mary Had a Little Glam written by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton (picture book)
PreS-K. Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s illustrations shine here, bringing young Mary to life. Brantley-Newton sprinkles in details from nursery rhymes and fairy tales, going beyond the written words to add humor and a bit of sass to young Mary’s fantastic outfits (the sheep crossbody purse is my favorite). Between the fun illustrations and the rhythmic beat, there is a ton of storytime potential packed into this title.

I Am Not a Label: 34 disabled artists, thinkers, athletes and activists  from past and present: Amazon.co.uk: Burnell, Cerrie, Baldo, Lauren Mark:  9780711247444: Books

I Am Not a Label: 34 disabled artists, thinkers, athletes and activists from past and present written by Cerrie Burnell and illustrated by Lauren Mark Baldo (nonfiction, biography)
Gr. 3-5. This gorgeously illustrated collective biography features the stories of 34 disabled individuals who are artists, musicians, athletes, innovators, activists, and more. While there have been a plethora of collective biographies in recent years, this one’s focus on people with disabilities (a group very underrepresented in children’s books) is refreshing, along with its well thought out collection of diverse people from around the world with a variety of types of disabilities.

Nana Akua Goes to School: Walker, Tricia Elam, Harrison, April:  9780525581130: Amazon.com: Books

Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker and April Harrison (picture book)
Gr. 1-2. Zura is nervous about bringing her Nana Akua to school for Grandparent’s Day. Nana Akua is Zura’s favorite person in the world, but Nana Akua also has tribal markings on her face from a family tradition from her childhood in Ghana. Sometimes, those marks scare strangers when Zura and Nana Akua go to the park or the store. What will Zura’s classmates think?

Zura’s nerves won’t feel unusual to children hesitant to share their own familial differences with their classmates. The blend of designs and patterns in the artwork make this story shine, helping teach readers about empathy and accepting people’s differences.

Astronaut Training

Astronaut Training written by Aneta Cruz and illustrated by Olivia Aserr
PreS. Astrid wants nothing more than to be an astronaut, but her Daddy seems to think she isn’t quite ready yet. After some bedtime adventures send Astrid to distant planets where the residents are a bit too big or a bit too small, Astrid returns home for a father-daughter space adventure that feels just right.

Brightly colored, playful illustrations capture Astrid’s real and imagined worlds while managing to stay away from standard little-green-alien imagery. A fun read for preschoolers dreaming of the stars. Read as an eARC.

Dog Man: Grime and Punishment: From the Creator of Captain Underpants (Dog  Man #9) (9): Pilkey, Dav, Pilkey, Dav, Pilkey, Dav: 9781338535624:  Amazon.com: Books

Grime and Punishment (Dog Man 9) by Dav Pilkey (graphic novel)
Gr. 2-4. I’m a Dog Man fan through and through. Dav Pilkey never ceases to amaze with the themes and messages he can pack into a series that is considered by so many to be slapstick superhero books. Petey’s character progression-from standard villain to caring papa-is a personal favorite, and the newest title doesn’t disappoint with lessons about forgiveness, love, and happiness as well as an ending that left me a little teary eyed. Looking forward to Book 10 and excited to keep recommending this series to young readers.