Category: Elementary School

Weekends with Max and His Dad by Linda Urban

Weekends with Max and His Dad by Linda Urban

Weekends with Max and His Dad by Linda Urban, illustrated by Katie Kath (InfoSoup)

Max’s father has an apartment of his own now where Max spends weekends. On his first visit to the apartment, Max is amazed at how white and clean everything is. Everything except his bedroom which is filled with football things, even though Max doesn’t particularly care about football any more. He is much more into being a spy. So Max and his father spend their weekend getting to know his new neighborhood by dressing as spies, taking covert photographs, eating pancakes, and following a mysterious man. Following visits to his father’s apartment involve meeting the neighbors, walking dogs, doing some homework, having a friend over and buying a couch. As Max settles into his new weekend routines with his dad, he learns a lot about what makes a place a home.

Urban writes with a gentleness about this new circumstance in Max’s life. Max is refreshingly unburdened by guilt in his parent’s divorce. The focus instead is on the new place to live, figuring out the different relationship, and realizing that a person can happily have two homes. Throughout the book, real love and devotion is shown by both Max and his father. There is a beautiful flexibility from both of them in each story and also a willingness to listen and learn from one another. Each also takes care of the other emotionally, not wanting to hurt one another. Which is also a very nice change from children lashing out in books about divorce.

The illustrations by Kath make this book very approachable for young readers. They nicely break up the text, plus add to the humor. Readers can see Max’s father in his full spy disguise as well as enjoying the finished school project and the furry fun of two basset hounds. The pictures add to the warmth and love that exude from this book.

A loving book about father and son relationships after a divorce, this novel for young readers demonstrates that life and love continues. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

The King of Kazoo by Norm Feuti

The King of Kazoo by Norm Feuti

The King of Kazoo by Norm Feuti

When there is an explosion on Mount Kazoo someone must investigate. So King Cornelius who is quite vain and rather scattered and his magic-wielding daughter, Bing, set off with the royal inventor Torq to see what has happened. They take Torq’s latest invention the “gonkless carriage” to get there. As they discover a deserted village at the top of the mountain, the three realize that something much bigger than a natural phenomenon is going on. As they solve the mystery of the explosion, it will take all of their scientific and magic know-how to battle a villainous wizard who is risking the future of the entire kingdom.

This graphic novel has a zany appeal. It is filled with lots of action, plenty of one-liner jokes and three very appealing main characters. From the clueless king with his pride on full display to the two plucky companions, they all have lots of personality to move the story forward. The tension between magic and science also adds energy to the storyline of the book, creating a book where both wizard fans and science fans will find happiness.

The art casts all of the characters as rabbits with their ears high alongside hats and crowns. The art has a cartoon style with subtle coloring that makes the entire world rich with detail. The art and story work well together with the dialogue moving the story along nicely. Pacing is also done well with a rip-roaring and wild pace that will appeal to young readers.

Science, magic and mystery all in one graphic novel! Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

The Best Worst Thing by Kathleen Lane

The Best Worst Thing by Kathleen Lane

The Best Worst Thing by Kathleen Lane (InfoSoup)

Maggie is starting middle school and is getting more and more worried. She has rules to live by that keep the people she loves safe, but there is much more to worry about than that. There is the murderer who was loose in their neighborhood after shooting someone at a local mini mart. There is the boy at school who is going to get a gun for his birthday. There are the rabbits next door owned by a man who doesn’t seem to really love them. Plus there are issues in her own family with a teen sister who is pulling away from Maggie and her little sister and a father growing more and more distant too. Maggie starts to plan new ways to protect her family from danger as her fears mount, but it’s all too much for one person to try to control.

Lane has written an incredible novel for middle grades, particularly as a debut author. She captures the intoxication of danger, the thrill of fear, and then what happens when it becomes more than that, toxic and dark. She shows the problems with fear and worries, the way they mount and the intricate ways that children have of coping in a world where nothing seems firm and solid for them, not even their families. As Maggie copes with OCD tendencies, she is also courageous and caring, striving to control the uncontrollable around her.

Lane captures the real world with honesty here. Rabbits are sold for meat. Children are sometimes not cared for. Marriages have problems. Sisters withdraw. It is all there in this book, but there is more too. There are loving parents, helpful neighbors, friends, apple trees and baby rabbits. So not all is dark and dreary, there is light too and hope here. If only one can see it for the worries.

A bright new voice in children’s literature, this debut novel is delicious and rich. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown (InfoSoup)

A ship carrying crates of robots capsizes in the ocean. Some of the crates float, only to be dashed on the rocks of a small island. One crate though survives and is left safely on the island. Some curious otters explore the crate and accidentally turn on the robot inside. That robot is Roz, designed to ensure her survival and help people. Soon Roz is exploring the island, climbing high on the rocks to see her surroundings. As she explores, the animals of the island declare her a monster and avoid her. Roz begins to acclimate to the island, figuring out how to camouflage herself. It is by sitting still and hidden that she starts to learn the language of the animals around her. As time passes, Roz is no longer gleaming and clean and she can speak with the animals. It isn’t until a deadly accident happens though that Roz shows the island residents who she really is.

This book is entirely magnificent. It is a book about nature, its beauty and grandeur and danger. It is a meditation on the outside, the power of it to change even a robot’s life. It is a look at the importance of listening and learning and finding one’s own way forward in unexpected circumstances. But most of all, it is a book about love and life and the way that finding someone to love transforms each of us.

There is something achingly beautiful about this book. Yes, there is more than enough action and humor to keep the book moving and of interest to children. Yes, the characters are brilliantly created and their relationships are drawn with skill and attention. Yes, its pacing is exceptional. It that ache though, that makes this book exceptional. The way that it is allowed to just be there, loneliness and acceptance, loss and love.

Truly an exceptional read created by a picture book author in his first foray into middle-grade books. Wow. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

 

Cloth Lullaby by Amy Novesky

Cloth Lullaby by Amy Novesky

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (InfoSoup)

Louise grew up alongside a river that wove through her life. Her mother restored tapestries and from age 12, Louise helped too by drawing in the missing bottom edges of tapestries. At her mother’s side, Louise learned about weaving and patterns. Louise eventually went to school in Paris and studied mathematics and cosmography at university. While at college, her mother died and Louise turned to art to express her feelings. She created enormous spiders out of metal and stone, naming them “Maman.” She took the fabrics of her life and cut them apart, working to put them back together in new ways. It was a tribute to her mother and her childhood expressed in art.

Novesky’s picture book biography keeps the magic of Bourgeois’ childhood intact. The book ends with an image of the artist and one of her spiders as well as a quote that speaks to her never having lost touch with the magic of her childhood. That quality weaves throughout the book where both the river and the restoration work create moments of inspiration and amazement. There is such beauty in the quiet work of restoration as well as the knitting activities of spiders. Readers will immediately understand the connection of wool and web in her art.

Arsenault’s illustrations are alight with that same magic and inspiration. In one image of Louise’s mother, there is a certain spider-ness there, subtle but also clear as she works with her black wool. All of the illustrations in the book celebrate pattern and weaving. There is a limited palette of reds, blues and grays that evoke the richness of tapestries and the excitement of art.

A top pick for picture book biographies, this book pays homage to a female artist that many may not know. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson (InfoSoup)

Topher, Brand and Steve know that they have one of the best teachers in Ms. Bixby. She is the sort of teacher that everyone hopes to have. But then she announces that she is sick and will have to leave without finishing the school year. She tells the class when her last day is, however her health worsens and she doesn’t make it to her planned final day. That’s when the three friends decide that they must follow through and give Ms. Bixby the final day she has dreamed of. Even if it means skipping school, taking the city bus, buying a very expensive dessert, finding a perfect book, and even illegally buying some wine. Ms. Bixby would do that and more for them, so they must do this for her. As the boys tell their stories of what Ms. Bixby did for each of them, readers too will see that this is the sort of teacher you break all the rules for.

Wow. This book is incredible. It is one that teachers will adore, showing how one teacher can impact so many of her students on a personal level. It is one children too will love, showing their own dedication, bravery and heart. It is a book that skirts along the line of heartbreak and hope, allowing readers to soar at times, fall down and smash like a backpack filled with cheesecake, and then soar once more. It’s a wonderful roller coaster of a book filled with so much emotion and connection.

The three lead characters are all wonderfully depicted. Their voices are unique from one another and stay separate and distinguished. Though they are friends, they have secrets from one another, ones that Ms. Bixby is part of and they all have connections to her that the others don’t know about. It’s a look at the harshness of childhood, the ways that adults can help and the importance of one teacher.

A powerful read that calls on all of us to be heroes in each other’s lives. Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Walden Pond Press.

 

The Long Dog by Eric Seltzer

The Long Dog by Eric Seltzer

The Long Dog by Eric Seltzer (InfoSoup)

Dog after dog appear in this easy reader that is reminiscent of the classic Go, Dog. Go! The very simple text shows opposites. There are hot dogs and cold dogs. Wet dogs and dry dogs. Dirty dogs and clean dogs. Each shown with a simple illustration that will help new readers decode the words. Throughout the book, a particularly long dog appears again and again, adding a touch of whimsy and humor. This is a simple yet very engaging beginning reader with tons of appeal.

Seltzer uses very simple sentences throughout his book, appealing directly to new readers. The use of opposites also helps with new readers figuring out the words as well as the repeating simple sentence structure. The illustrations have a winning cartoon style that is simple as well. Each sentence is clearly matching to a corresponding image aiding in new reader skills. The added touches of humor throughout make for a book that is fun to read as well.

A nice pick for beginning reader collections, this is simple, easy and full of humor. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.