Review: The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee (9780062795328)

In this sequel to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, the focus is on Felicity, Monty’s sister. Felicity desperately wants to become a doctor, but in 18th century England, women did not become doctors. Felicity tries again and again to gain entry to a medical education, but is rebuffed. She is forced to give up her job at a bakery because the kind man who owns it proposes marriage to her. Felicity is not interested in romance at all. When she learns that her childhood best friend is set to marry her medical idol, Felicity heads to Germany to attend the wedding. She is funded Sim, by a rather questionable companion, who poses as Felicity’s maid to gain entry into the same household but for unknown reasons. As things develop, there is another whirlwind adventure across continents in a quest that could be legendary.

Lee has a wonderful wit and humor in her writing. She tells this new tale with the same dance of sarcasm, historical detail and charm as her first book. It is a delight to see Felicity at the center of the novel, as she was a character readers will have loved in the first book but longed to know more about. The book takes place a year after the first ended, just enough time for the dust to settle on that adventure. Lee gives readers glimpses of Monty and Percy, but they do not overtake Felicity’s story.

As readers get to know Felicity better, they will realize that she is a person with no interest in romance or sex. Modern terms would describe her as asexual, but that term is not used in the book. Beautifully, that does not mean that she is cold or distant, rather that she is not interested in kissing or cuddling much and certainly has no designs on romantic futures with other characters. And yet, there is love in the book. Brotherly love, deep connections and real female friendships shine here.

A wonderful second book in an award-winning series, there is so much to adore on these pages. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Katherine Tegen Books.

How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett


How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex (InfoSoup)

How is a book made? Well this book was made in the regular way with an author making many drafts, and editor offering firm advice, an illustrator taking a long time to create the art, and it being printed halfway around the world. But it is also an amazing story and one that will surprise when the tiger keeps reappearing, the pirates raid the slow boat full of books, and the news that there is one last important piece to the book really being A BOOK. You will just have to read this book to see what that is.

Any book by Barnett and Rex is going to be wonderfully surprising and funny. This book is no exception. Barnett immediately makes sure that this book is not taken too seriously by starting it with him arm wrestling a tiger. The tiger then returns at important moments in the book, sometimes to be scared off and other times with a posse. The editor’s role is also depicted in the book with a lot of tongue-in-cheek but also honesty too. Throughout there is real information on how books get made with plenty of imagination added as well. Just like any book.

Rex’s illustrations are done with pencil on paper combined with photography. Some of the illustrations have cotton clouds and others are 3-d objects or 2-d objects photographed. This gives a great sense of space and distance, shadows lengthening across the page. Throughout the art is as clever as the words, which is a compliment to both.

A funny and imaginative look at the making of this book, both unique to this book and universal to the process. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis

map to everywhere

The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis

The first book in a new series, this novel invites readers along on a journey into a series of worlds that are tied together by the Pirate Stream, a river of pure magic.  Fin is an orphan with a strange power where no one remembers him after a few minutes, not even the people at the orphanage who cared for him as a child.  He uses that skill to be a master thief, but then he receives a letter with instructions that take him on a quest to find his mother.  Marrill is living in Arizona, a perfectly dull life, when a ship suddenly appears next to her in the desert.  Climbing aboard, she suddenly finds herself on an adventure in the Pirate Stream with a wizard, the ship’s captain, and the crew of rats.  She has to find the parts of the Map in order to make her way home, exactly what Fin also needs to find his mother.  This adventure takes readers to unknown worlds filled with sinister magic, great friendships, and plenty of action.

Ryan and Davis have crafted a wild fantasy novel that is constantly surprising.  Thanks to the strange waters of the Pirate Stream, the travels on board the ship bring readers and the characters to lands that are unique and fascinating.  There is an island of trees that speak and think where rumors and whispers rule.  There is a frozen land with a leaning tower filled with treasure.  There is a bird made from part of the Map that can lead them to the other pieces.  There are mad wizards who create sorrow wherever they go and are determined to destroy themselves and all of the worlds.

While the adventure is a large part of the book, at its heart is the friendship of Marrill and Fin.  Both of them are lonely children before they meet one another, Marrill because she has traveled a lot with her parents and never settled in one place and Fin because everyone forgets him.  Marrill though does not forget Fin, because she cares so deeply.  Their friendship offers both of them riches beyond treasure and delight beyond the adventure.

This strong middle grade fantasy novel will have readers looking forward to the next book and returning to the dangers and wonders of the Pirate Stream.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.

Review: The Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo


The Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo

Told in the first person, this picture book is from the point of view of one bored little boy.  He and his stuffed raccoon decide to play pirates.  To do that you had to not only be sneaky but you also needed a prisoner, and his sister’s stuffed rabbit was quickly stolen and sent afloat in the lake.  The boy was scolded and the now damp bunny was returned to his angry sister.  The boy then spent time playing with his own toys, but soon his mother was asking if he’d taken the bunny again.  He hadn’t but no one believed him and then his stuffed animal went missing too!  It was a real mystery and now they had a real pirate on their hands.

Castillo takes a classic book of summer boredom and then picking on a sibling to a different and surprising place in this picture book.  Children who are paying attention will notice a furry face that appears on almost every page in the background, a lurking raccoon who seems to want to get involved or maybe is having his own dull afternoon and is looking for some fun.  This second little troublemaker adds a great amount of fun to the story.  Even better, having dealt with raccoons invading my house and stealing my son’s stuffed animals up into their attic den, this all rings completely true.

Castillo’s signature art style is on display here.  She manages to capture a timeless look on the page but also one that is modern and fresh.  The tinge of blue on the stuffed raccoon make sure that children will not mix up the real and stuffed animals.  The family’s home is well detailed, busy and filled with other natural touches.

A solid new title from Castillo that will work well for units or story times about pirates, siblings or raccoons.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The 26-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

26 story treehouse

The 26-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths, illustrated by Terry Denton

This sequel to The 13-Story Treehouse tells the story of each of the main characters and how they all met.  Most of it’s even true!  But it’s not that straight forward either because emergencies keep happening, like the sharks in the treehouse’s shark pool eating Terry’s underpants and getting very sick.  Thank goodness that Jill can come over and try to have them feeling snappy again soon.  Then of course no story is complete without a villain and Captain Woodenhead, the evil pirate makes a great one.  Set aside your disbelief heading in, because this rollicking and very funny book will have you believing in plenty of nonsense by the end!

After the first book, I knew there would be more adventures of Terry and Andy, but I hadn’t expected double the number of floors on the treehouse!  This book is more of the merry adventures of Terry, Andy and Jill.  The flying cats return and many other favorites from the first book make an appearance, but this is a fresh story too, perfect for fans to get even more of the humor and silliness of the series. 

Looking for a new series for Wimpy Kid fans, this one has illustrations that break up the text, a similar amount of funniness, and plenty of gross outs too.  Appropriate for ages 8-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Feiwel & Friends.

Review: The Pirates Next Door by Jonny Duddle

pirates next door

The Pirates Next Door by Jonny Duddle

This book first came to my attention when it won the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize in the UK.  It is the story of a girl living in a neighborhood where all of the lawns are neat and tidy, until the pirate family moves in next door.   They arrive complete with pirate ship, treasure chests and barrels of grog.  There is a pirate boy named Jim Lad, his parents, his grandfather, and his little sister, Nugget.  Jim Lad and the girl quickly became friends, but the rest of the community was not as welcoming to the pirate family.  Rumors spread quickly about all the nasty things the pirates were up to and the fear was that if one pirate family lived there, then more would come.  But this pirate family is only there while their ship is being repaired, so soon Jim Lad is off again, leaving behind a touch of pirate treasure for everyone.

Duddle has written a child-friendly book about segregation without ever using the word or focusing on that concept.  It is a book about people who are different from you moving into your neighborhood.  Happily, the pirates expect to be shunned to a large degree, and just live their lives the way they always would.  They are unapologetic, make no efforts to fit in, and then disappear, but not without making a real impact and changing people’s minds. 

The illustrations in this book really set it apart.  They have that lush feel of cinematic animation.  Each character has a unique feeling to them, effortlessly distinct and interesting.  That’s true of the pirate family and also of the many elderly neighbors who gossip about them.  The effect is rich and striking.  The illustrations also use the color palette of cinema, with the dramatic lush colors, deep blues of night, and often playing with light and dark. 

This exceptional book takes the appeal of a pirate story and weaves in social commentary with great restraint.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley


Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley

Jane Doe is a very ordinary person, which wouldn’t be that odd, except she lives in the town of Remarkable, which is filled with the most gifted and talented people anywhere.  Her family is full of gifted people, like her grandmother the mayor, her mother the architect, her brother the painter, her father the best-selling author, and her sister the mathematical genius.  Jane on the other hand is just like her grandfather, easily overlooked and ordinary.  They are so ordinary that they can’t get noticed long enough to get ice cream at the local soda shop.  Jane is the only student left in the regular school, since all of the other children are in the gifted school.  But then things start to change in Remarkable.  A pirate captain comes to town, followed by three of his crew who are searching for him.  Jane gets two classmates who have been kicked out of the gifted school because of their mischief.  In fact, Jane’s life might not be quite as dull and ordinary as she first thought.

Foley takes the idea of a very ordinary character and runs with it.  Jane is completely normal and it is her surroundings that are wild, extraordinary and unusual.  At the same time though, Foley does much to celebrate the ordinary and to point out that the quiet, the plain and the unassuming have gifts too though it may take some time to find them or notice them.

Foley’s writing is great fun in this book that mixes a huge sense of humor with some wild adventures.  The book starts slowly, nicely building towards the incredible ending that is filled with pirates, storms, music, cheap jelly, and even a sea monster.  The story has wonderful little touches, side characters who are nice diversions, and plenty to love. 

This would make a great pick for a class read aloud in elementary school and it would also make a remarkable read this summer.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Dial Books for Young Readers.

Small Saul


Small Saul by Ashley Spires

The author of Binky the Space Cat returns with a brand new character for us to enjoy!  Small Saul is not your regular pirate type, but he has known since he was small that he wanted to spend his life at sea.  When the Navy turned him down because he was too short, Saul enrolled in Pirate College.  Even in college, he didn’t fit in.  He was great at singing shanties and less good at sword fighting.  He wasn’t rough or tough, but he excelled at swabbing the deck.  Finally, he had his pirate diploma and headed for the docks.  But his time at sea was not what Small Saul expected and definitely not what the pirates on The Rusty Squid were ready for!

Spires infuses the entire story with puns, pirate humor and just plain fun.  Her writing is meant to be read aloud with its natural pacing.  The broad comedy also makes this book ideal for sharing with a group.  The illustrations continue the humor of the text with Saul’s wide-eyed glasses, his diminutive size, and the rather blank faces of the pirates.

Nicely, the book is not just humorous, it also has a strong message at its heart.  It celebrates differences between people that can first be seen as problems and then are seen as treasures.  It’s a message worthy of pirate gold.

This is one pirate book that will not be walking the plank any time soon.  It’s ideal for any pirate-themed story time and will appeal to even elementary-aged children thanks to its humor.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.

Two Little Pirates

Two Little Pirates by Ruth Paul

I must preface this review by saying that this is a book from New Zealand, so it’s not available in the US.  I received it from the author and publisher, Scholastic New Zealand.  Ruth Paul’s books are available in Canada as well as Australia and New Zealand.

In rhyming couplets, this book follows two little pirates who attack the King and the Queen.  They are actually two little boys who pounce on their sleeping parents dressed as pirates.  After a brief battle, the parents prevail and the two pirates are hung over the edge of the ship to become shark bait.  When they beg to be released, the King and Queen agree on one condition: that they tidy up the mess they made.  When that is accomplished, they have a nice snack in bed and then everyone cuddles up and dozes as the bed sails off.

Paul keeps a wonderful balance between imaginary play and reality in this title.  At all times, the ship which is the bed is surrounded by water, until the children have finally given up their pirate roles and become children again.  Additionally, the parents respond with great delight to their young pirates and the attack.  The battle is merrily fought, the capture and punishment is doled out in character, and the snack and cuddles conclude.  What a great way to spend a lazy morning together!

Paul’s art is bright and friendly.  She revels in the play along with the family, enjoying the different angles that the bed can be viewed in throughout.  Done in watercolor and colored pencil, the art has a great clarity of line and depth of color.

This is one pirate bed that is definitely worth sailing on.  Children will revel in the story though parents should be braced for a morning invasion after reading it.  Parents should also be open to snacks in bed, crumbs and all.  But who could resist if it ends with cuddles and a snooze?  Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.