The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate (9780062991317)
Once again join the three friends Ivan, Ruby and Bob from The One and Only Ivan. Bob now lives with humans rather than in the gorilla enclosure in the mall with Ivan. He’s a dog who doesn’t want to be owned, though he does appreciate the soft blanket, regular food and even an occasional cuddle. He resents the clicker used to train him and still refuses to get into any vehicle after being thrown from a moving truck with his littermates as a tiny puppy. As a large hurricane approaches, Bob is visiting the zoo where Ivan and Ruby now live, separated by a wall. The storm hits the zoo directly, generating a tornado that has Bob airborne. As he deals with the aftermath and next wave of the storm, Bob discovers new wells of courage, his continued connection to his lifelong friends, and relocates a family he thought he’d never see again.
Told in Bob’s voice, this book is like snuggling with your favorite dog. The chapters are brief and inviting, sometimes only a few sentences long. They show the mind and life of a dog who may not easily trust people but loves so deeply when he trusts another creature. Applegate clearly adores dogs and really captures the way they might think in this story filled with scents, sounds and Bob’s own unique perspective on life.
While this book does follow the first book about Ivan, it would be possible to also read this one first. I can’t imagine that anyone reading it won’t insist immediately on knowing more about Ruby, Ivan and Bob.
Warm and funny with a remarkable canine hero. Appropriate for ages 7-11.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by HarperCollins.
Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen by Anne Nesbet (9781536206197)
Darleen has grown up in the movie industry, first appearing as a baby and now at age twelve as “Daring Darleen” in a series of silent films. It is 1914 and the trend is to have the worlds of film and real life converge, so Darleen’s uncles make a plan for her to be kidnapped from outside a movie theater while being filmed by them. Everything seems to be going to plan until Darleen is snatched by the wrong kidnappers and discovers that she has been taken along with Victorine, a girl just her age who is an heiress. The two must figure out how to escape, using Darleen’s natural penchant for heights and daring moves that her dead mother also had. Still, she had promised her father to keep her feet on the ground, but that’s hard to do as her adventures continue almost like being in a real screenplay.
There is so much to love here! Nesbet creates the daring and inventions of early film-making in this middle-grade novel. The chapters are meant to be episodes, some offering a great cliffhanger until the next installment. The series of adventures makes for a page-turner of a book with two girls at its center who form a grand friendship along the way and adore one another for being just who they are.
Darleen is a heroine through and through from her day job in front of the camera but even more so in real life as she skillfully figures out puzzles, finds ways to escape, and does it all with real courage. In many ways, Victorine is her opposite. She wants to tell the truth at all costs, knows all sorts of facts and loves books and travel. The two together form an unstoppable force. It is also great to see Nesbet pay homage to Alice Guy Blache by having her as a secondary character in the novel.
A grand adventure of a novel that will have readers enthralled. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Candlewick.
Enchanter’s Child: Twilight Hauntings by Angie Sage (9780062875143)
The author of the Septimus Heap series returns with a new fantasy world. Alex lives in Luma, where all magic is forbidden. She has a deck of Hex cards that come to life in her hands and show her images of the future. She’s always had them, given to her as a small child by the family that gave her away. But one jealous foster sister decides to name Alex as an enchanter and everything changes. Alex flees with her youngest foster brother into a world designed to hunt her down with magical hauntings. Her step mother is placed in jail for harboring her. As Alex escapes, she still doesn’t believe that she’s an enchanter’s child, though the Hauntings do target her. Meanwhile, her father who used to be an important enchanter, is searching for her. But it’s a large world, full of Hauntings that will kill them both, even though he designed them all.
Sage has a skill for developing entire worlds that click together beautifully as the story continues. Readers will wonder about why people don’t just flee the gloomy streets of Luma out to the countryside, and Sage has built dark and deadly reasons for them to stay behind the walls of the city. The entire world though is also piercingly beautiful with its citrus groves, deep woods, large meadows and turreted cities. Sage takes the time to fully build her world and its logic, allowing young readers to explore it alongside Alex.
Alex herself is a grand protagonist, figuring out that she actually is an enchanter’s child on her journeys. She is brave, forthright and clever. Happily, she is also joined by a large group of secondary characters who are all interesting as well. That includes her father, who was been hiding for years in the woods, eating snakes and spider eggs. He is joined by a person tasked with killing enchanters who just can’t bring himself to do it. Then you also have a family happy to help Alex, who have lost enchanters themselves.
Brilliantly structured, beautifully described settings, and great characters bring this new series fully alive. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Katherine Tegen Books.
The Magnificent Monsters of Cedar Street by Lauren Oliver (9780062345073)
There are monsters in the world, though few people believe they are actually real. Cordelia and her father help monsters that get hurt, moving them into their house on Cedar Street. The house is bedraggled and unkempt, but the monsters love it, each one finding their own special space inside. The only place that no one is allowed to enter is Cordelia’s mother’s study which has been forbidden since her disappearance nine years ago. Cordelia is used to a house filled with weird noises, so when she awakens to silence one morning she knows that something has happened. Her father and all of the monsters have disappeared. The only ones left are hiding in the oven: a baby dragon and an old filch. As Cordelia sets off to find them, she is joined by Gregory, a boy who lives on the streets and has a monster of his own, a zombie puppy that Cordelia helped save. They must find the monsters and her father, rescue them and perhaps even expose a sinister organization that is targeting monsters of all kinds. It’s a harrowing journey for a girl, a handful of monsters and a new friend.
The book begins with passages from Cordelia’s mother’s book about monsters which explain the monster themselves and then also link them to how they evolved. This clever use of a book mentioned regularly in the story also allows Oliver to keep the story streamlined and not filled with monster exposition when each new one arrives. The story itself is animated and great fun with wild dashes of action, near catastrophes, kindred spirits and harrowing danger. It’s a story that could feel out of control, but Oliver keeps it pointed in the right direction even when the reader isn’t quite sure which way is up. She also asks larger questions about who the monsters really are and how humans become a true evil monster on the inside.
The characters are marvelous, each one unique and interesting. Cordelia is brave and creative, nicely solving some of their most dire situations. Gregory is a natural with the monsters and is always willing to lend a hand even if he might get nipped. The monsters are fascinating and varied with just enough similarity to other animals and creatures to be able to be pictured clearly in one’s mind. After all, who wouldn’t want a zombie puppy!
Fast paced fantasy with lots of monsters both wild and human. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by HarperCollins.
Old Rock (Is Not Boring) by Deb Pilutti (9780525518181)
Old Rock has sat in the same spot on the edge of a clearing in a pine forest for a very long time. Tall Pine, who stands next to Old Rock, thinks that being a rock must be very boring. Spotted Beetle and Hummingbird agree. Hummingbird talks about flying to different parts of the world. Old Rock then mentions that he flew once when he was erupted from a volcano. Spotted Beetle talks about what he can see from different vantage points. Old Rock then tells about watching dinosaurs walk past and riding a glacier. He even had a vantage point when the glacier left him high on the top of a ridge. Old Rock may never have danced, but he talks about somersaulting down from the ridge and meeting mastodons. And that’s when a very small pine tree started to grow next to him, and he met a beetle and a hummingbird too.
Pilutti pushes back against assumptions that could be made about rocks or others that are content right where they are. As the tree, bird and beetle brag about their own experiences, Old Rock can match them and share his own tales that are far more interesting. Old Rock’s clear contentment and stillness add a wonderful grounding to the book, even as he sometimes teeters on a ridge.
The illustrations are marvelous, filled with the emotions that go across the face of Old Rock. They contrast modern day with the past nicely using different color palettes for different times. Old Rock though stays solid and gray throughout.
A clever book that includes evolution, dinosaurs and a little rock and roll. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
The Iron Will of Genie Lo by F. C. Yee (9781419731457)
Fans of the first of the Genie Lo books will adore this second novel in the duology. Genie has been busy doing her job keeping the demons in the Bay Area under control and settling their disputes. Meanwhile, the Jade Emperor has disappeared just as Genie finally takes some time off to visit a college campus with her best friend. As supernatural things start happening on the campus, it is up to Genie, Guanyin and Quentin to try to keep things in line. But the disappearance of the Jade Emperor has opened up competition for his throne. Genie nominates Guanyin for the throne, but accidentally sets her friend up to take on an unstoppable force. As Genie and her friends set off into parallel worlds to battle the supernatural, they discover that their combined strength may not be enough to save the world this time.
Impressively, three years after the first book, readers will be able to simply pick up this sequel and start reading without needing to go back to review the first. Yee doesn’t backtrack much but carefully constructs his sequel so that the names and characters fall effortlessly into place for the reader. Yee’s characters are so vividly drawn. Add in the setting of a college campus and partying and you have a great setting for this second book.
It is great to also see growth in Genie herself as she explores what she wants to do after high school, despite being a Guardian now. Genie remains as irreverent and sarcastic as in the first book, as well as being a great friend to those around her as well. She is brave, ferocious and full of tenacity, but it may take all of her cleverness to win rather than brute strength this time.
Smart, funny and full of great fights, this novel is the second in a marvelous pair. Appropriate for ages 13-16.
Reviewed from copy provided by Amulet Books.
The Hike by Alison Farrell (9781452174617)
Three girls head out on a hike together. It’s their favorite thing to do. They bring along a notebook, a flag and some feathers. At the beginning, they run as fast as they can, stopping only to eat some thimbleberries. They make leaf baskets to try to bring some berries along with them, but end up eating too much. They get lost, pull out maps and find their way again. They get tired, get carried, and eventually make it all the way to the peak. That’s where they let the feathers go on the wind. Then they head back down and back home.
Farrell captures all of the stages of a hike from the initial burst of energy at being in nature to the discovery of things in the forest to startling deer to making it to your destination after being quite tired by the walk. She adds all sorts of details into her book, offering images and names of some of the most common items children will find on their own hikes. The book ends with images from the notebook brought along on the hike, that show even more information about what the characters have seen and experienced.
The illustrations serve as a merry invitation to join the three friends on their hike. Filled with labels and details, they are worth taking the time to pore over with a child and have discussions about what you may have seen before and what is new. Various animals, plants and birds are labeled on the pages which are also filled with the exuberance and friendship of the three girls as they all take turns leading and solving issues.
Any day is a grand day to take this hike. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Penny and Penelope by Dan Richards, illustrated by Claire Almon (9781250156075)
When two very different girls get together for a play date, it turns out their dolls are just as different. Penelope is a very sweet princess with a tea set and a pony. Penny is a secret agent with a motorcycle. When danger arrives outside the castle, Penny rushes forward. She defeats the crocodile in the moat and then moves on to take out the werewolf lurking in the woods. Soon Penny and Penelope are riding together on the motorcycle trying to escape, but the werewolf makes its way into the castle tower. It turns out that a princess might be just right for taking out a werewolf as long as she has a cunning plan!
Written entirely in dialogue between the two girls, this book has a breezy quality that makes it perfect for reading aloud. Their voices merge with those of their dolls, and are shown on the page in different colors and fonts. There is a certain amount of doubt in the beginning about whether they want to play together, but as their imaginations take over the adventure begins and both dolls are right in the mix of things. The notion that girls can be secret agents, princesses, robots and more resonates clearly here, and the book celebrates all of the options equally.
Almon’s illustrations are bright and bold. They celebrate both the dazzling gown of the princess doll and the slick leather of the secret agent. The action is captured nicely as are the differences between both girls and their dolls.
This playful picture book is just right for your little princess or secret agent. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Rabbit and the Motorbike by Kate Hoefler, illustrated by Sarah Jacoby (9781452170909)
Rabbit is the sort of creature who stays close to home, never venturing far from his home in the wheat fields. He does dream of leaving at night, but never does. He also loves to hear about Dog’s adventures on his motorbike. Dog is older now and doesn’t ride any longer, but his stories are wonderful and carry Rabbit far from his home. When Dog dies, he leaves his motorbike to Rabbit. Rabbit tries to make it part of his life, leaving it in his garden, taking it inside his house, but never riding it. Then one day, he decides to just ride the bike to the end of the road. But roads are long, and soon Rabbit is off on his own adventure that echoes that of Dog, who he can feel riding along with him at times.
Hoefler’s skill at poetry is apparent on the pages of this picture book. Her words here loop the reader into the quiet of Rabbit’s wheat field, the beauty of his dreams at night, and the reluctant return to his regular life after listening to Dog’s stories. The longing in the story is beautifully drawn out, lingering across the wheatfield and whispering stories of the road as Rabbit weaves the motorbike into his everyday life.
That same emotional tug is shown in the illustrations as well, wheatfields in the sunshine and also wheatfields at night with the moon illuminating single blades. The drama of Dog (and later Rabbit) riding the motorbike is accompanied by swirls of color, showing the freedom and delight of the ride. The colors are a great mix of dramatic night and gentle colors in the daytime scenes that are airy and inviting to sink into.
A picture book about taking risks and finding freedom. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.