Note to Readers

I have not received any compensation for writing this post other than a free digital or print copy of the book. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hyde and Shriek - David Lubar

Released January 2013

David Lubar
A Starscape Book/Tor Forge

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Mild mannered Miss Clevis loves her job as a teacher at Washington Irving Elementary. Things quickly change when she accidentally drinks the chemical mixture she's been preparing for her students. Soon, she finds that she's become her very own version of Ms. Hyde., a cruel substitute teacher who enjoys torturing her students in imaginative ways.

Hyde and Shriek is, as is typical for David Lubar's stories, wildly entertaining. The first sentence, "I love kids. They make great hood ornaments." emitted a chuckle. From that point on, the story progresses into Miss Clevis' battle between her good self and her evil side.

The vocabulary isn't too challenging, so any advancing reader will have an easy time reading this chapter book. It's just over 130 pages, so it's ideal for children who need longer books but don't want hundreds of pages. There are pictures tossed in now and then to help create strong visual images.

I've yet to find a book by David Lubar that I haven't loved. I know my children would have enjoyed them at that age.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

This Is Not My Hat - Jon Klassen

Released October 2012


Book Review by Bob Walch

Here’s a wacky tale about a little fish, a very little fish, who has the audacity to steal a big, a very big fish’s hat. The little fish is convinced that he will get away with the theft and he intends to hide in some thick, some very thick seaweed. Will the big fish locate the little fish and get his hat back? What do you think?

The visual humor the illustrations in this book offer will surely elicit some laughs, but there’s also a message here to about taking what does not belong to you. The little fish is sure he will get away with the  hat (which just happens to fit him perfectly) but, alas, that’s not quite how this cautionary tale ends!

Jon Klassen has illustrated many children’s books but this is his second book where he’s created the text as well.  I Want My Hat Back was his debut and this little gem is certainly a fitting sequel that underscores Klassen’s wry sense of humor. 
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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Sin-Eater's Confession - Ilsa Bick

Released January 2013

Ilsa J. Bick
Carolrhoda Young Adult

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The Sin-Eater's Confession is a rather dark look at the life of a Wisconsin teen, Ben. The story starts on the battle lines. Ben is military medic, a career shaped by his life and something that happened years ago. After that, the story goes back in time.

The events surround Ben's friendship with a younger boy named Jimmy. After Jimmy's brother, a popular local football star, dies, Ben helps out at their farm. He befriends Jimmy, a boy who is abused verbally and even physically by his highly-religious father.

When Ben learns that Jimmy is very interested in photography, something Jimmy's father would never understand, he encourages Jimmy to make his dreams come true. That leads to Jimmy entering a photo contest with a rather sensual picture Jimmy takes of Ben sleeping in the barn without Ben's knowledge or permission. When the photo hits the newsstands, rumors of Ben and Jimmy being gay spark unimaginable events that change both teens' lives.

 The story is told through letters Ben is writing to explain what happened and through flashbacks. There is some violence, so parents will want to decide if their child is mature enough to read it. There is also the conflict, especially with Ben's church and parents, about how being gay is a sin. I hate the intolerance, but sadly it happens in many communities.

I admit there were times that I wanted to smack Ben. He handles many things poorly, but then that is part of being a teen. They're not always the most sensible people out there. That leads to a level of honesty that many readers will find refreshing, even if it the topic at hand is rather grim.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Inside Outside - Lizi Boyd

Released March 2013

Lizi Boyd
Chronicle Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I always like to support local authors, and that's certainly not a challenge with Inside Outside. My daughter is studying art/graphic design through her high school's vocational tech center, and she was the first to say she wished they'd had more books like this when she was a child. Artistically, it's a visual treat.

Inside Outside doesn't have words. It doesn't need them. Instead, the book has children wondering while something is going on inside, what is happening outside. Cut outs with doors and windows allows them to peek into what's happening on the other side of the wall. Flip the page, and the entire scene unfolds.

Another thing to note is that through the story, the seasons change. You're so caught up in the story, that you may miss that the first time around. If you're looking for a story that teaches children about seasons and the world around them, this one is ideal. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Round is a Tortilla: A Book of Shapes - Roseanne Greenfield Thong

Released March 2013

Roseanne Greenfield Thong
John Parra
Chronicle Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I have to say, Round is a Tortilla is one of the best books on shapes that I've come across. It certainly embraces Hispanic/Latino culture, and that's one of the reasons I like it so much. The author, Roseanne Thong, blends Spanish words into the narrative and includes a dictionary at the end so that children and their parents will understand what each word means. I took years of French, but can usually translate some Spanish terms, but there were few that puzzled me, so having the glossary at the end really helped.

The book isn't complex. The different shapes - squares, circles, rectangles, and triangles are compared to items like tortillas, windows/ventanas, popsicles/paletas, quesadillas, and more. The language within the book is ideal for a beginning reader, but there are some Spanish terms thrown in from time to time that parents will need to help with.

I really did enjoy Round is a Tortilla and like the change of pace it offers. From days when the books on shapes usually entailed simplistic things like wheels and balls are round, doors and books are rectangles... (That's what I read to my children years ago),  It's nice to see someone take a unique path to teaching kids their shapes.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Autobiography of a Duck - John Arnold

English: Pekin duck (Anas platyrhynchos) at th...
English: Pekin duck (Anas platyrhynchos) at the Elbe river near Hamburg. Deutsch: Pekingente (Anas platyrhynchos) an der Elbe bei Hamburg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Released October 2012

John Arnold

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I honestly can't pinpoint a specific age that's best suited for Autobiography of a Duck. The book is not long, but it's not a picture book, which makes me want to say it's better for kids who are reading chapter books, but in all honestly, it's just as suitable for adults who want to look at the life of a duck from the duck's point of view.

The story shares insight and experiences a 12-year-old duck has had during his life. He starts out as any duckling does and then grows to become a prize in a carnival and ends up part of a family. Even once he has a family, his adventures don't stop.

At times, the book takes grim, yet honest turns. Ducks are shipped off in trucks to strange places, torn from their family, and most humans don't stop to think about how that makes the duck feel. John Arnold does.

Autobiography of a Duck isn't long, it's just over 30 pages. Along the way, you meet some fun characters, wait to see what happens next, and most importantly, experience life from the duck's point of view.

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Monday, February 4, 2013

Flight 1-2-3 - Maria van Lieshout

Released March 2013

Maria van Lieshout
Chronicle Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The use of color in Flight 1-2-3 is one thing that catches the eye in this children's picture book. You won't find a lot of colors. All illustrations are done in black, white, gray, red, yellow, and blue. I adore that touch.

The story itself is simple. It's a counting book set in and around an airport. Pages are easy to read, perfect for beginning readers, and it also gives a good presentation into what a child would experience when flying to another city, state, or country.

You have things like "1 airport," "5 trash cans," or "10 gates." It expands to talking about altitude and mileage too.

If you have a fearful traveler, Flight 1-2-3 is a great way to introduce them to what a flight is going to entail.