November Book Reviews


Check out our newest book reviews!

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What If Dinosaurs Were Pink?
by Jarrett Whitlow, Daniela Dogliani (Warren Publishing) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
Many great discoveries may have started with those small, but powerful words, “What if?” They are words that provoke thought, stir imagination, and often push us to greatness. Or, maybe just provide us with moments to giggle and wonder. What If Dinosaurs Were Pink? opens possibilities, and encourages us to go beyond the common and wonder. (Ages 2-8)

Made For Me
by Zack Bush, Gregorio De Lauretis (Familius) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
This tremendously sweet book will fill every empty space it finds. Love and a sense of belonging flow on every rhythmic word like a cool brook satisfies on a warm summer day. Illustrations by De Lauretis bring this loving father’s heart into full vivid view. It’s simply delightful. The stamp on the inside cover is a very special touch. (Ages 3-5)

The Best Mother
by C. M. Surrisi, Diane Goode (Harry N. Abrams) Reviewer: Julianne Black
Maxine is convinced that the problem is with her mother. The answer is, of course, to find a new mom—one who doesn’t bother her with hair brushing and would let her wear her slippers in the snow. But as she interviews other moms for the position, a funny thing starts to happen … she realizes that her mom just might be the best one after all. Loveable read for all ages. (Ages 3-7)

Nanna’s Button Tin
by Dianne Wolfer, Heather Potter (Candlewick) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
Life is captured in moments and held in stories. And who better than Grandma to rehearse them through time? Nanna’s special button tin holds treasures from that past that just may hold the answer to today’s problem. The illustrations of Heather Potter are as heartwarming as the tale of this child and her grandma, sorting through memories and tokens past to refresh childhood treasures of the present. Bonding at its best! (Ages 4-6)

Hello, Monster!
by Clémentine Beauvais, Maisie Paradise Shearring (Thames & Hudson) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
This is a great exercise of imagination! Its creativity and delightful rambling are sure to be a winner. It also carries a humorous and enlightening perspective of child vs. adult playground meetings. It’s quite an entertaining tale. (Ages 4-7)

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Thank You, Omu!
by Oge Mora (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
A giving heart is never left lacking. Omu’s stew smells so good! As it cooks, the wonderful aroma fills the air and brings many in search of a taste. Omu’s preparation for her own dinner brings much pleasure to a parade of visitors, leaving her big pot empty at dinnertime. However, as she sits at her table, another knock comes, and all her guests return bearing ample treats to share. A heartwarming story of sharing and community. (Ages 4-7)

Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant Of Surprise
by David Ezra Stein (Candlewick) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
This story is sure to delight ALL its readers! Especially those who have held such wonderfully unforgettable conversations with a child. Chicken has misunderstood her teacher’s comment, “Every good story has an element of surprise,” and she searches for him with pure joy as Papa reads. The illustrations are fun and lively. Whatever stage of life we may occupy, this book is sure to delight! (Ages 4-8)

Lester, The Scared Little Leaf
by Nina Gardner (Certa Publishing) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
Letting go and fear of the unknown can have crippling effects. Fall has arrived with all its beauty and changes. Chuckles of splendor can be heard in the air as leaves let go of their tree and soar in the breeze. But, Lester clings tighter to his branch with a fear of falling. What if he doesn’t like it on the ground? His friends assure him of the joy that’s ahead of him as he watches them sail with laughter filling the air. Can Lester let go of the life he knows so well? Can he find the excitement of change? This is a great confidence-builder as we follow this tender leaf into the exhilaration of newness. (Ages 4-8)

Super Manny Stands Up!
by Kelly DiPucchio, Stephanie Graegin (Atheneum Books) Reviewer: Sherry L. Hoffman
Author Kelly DiPucchio and illustrator Stephanie Graegin unveil their brilliant picture book with a super-sized lesson, showing a raccoon that remembers he is strong, brave, and powerful at just the right moment. Super Manny Stands Up! is written to let all readers know that they have their own superpower within themselves. Rather than being a bystander when seeing injustice, they can don their invisible cape like Manny the raccoon and remind themselves that their voice can make a huge difference in a difficult situation. This story is a reminder that one person can make a world of difference in the lives of others. (Ages 4-8)

I Love Kisses
by Sheryl McFarlane, Brenna Vaughan (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky) Reviewer: Sherry L. Hoffman
Sheryl McFarlane and Brenna Vaughan shower readers with affection with their story I Love Kisses. This adorable picture book is a sweet story to read with a little one. Kisses from our pets included, youngsters will hear about lots of different kinds of kisses from the ones who love them. Children can gift this book to a parent or grandparent as a reminder that they appreciate having them in their lives. (Ages 4-8)

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My Grandfather’s War
by Glyn Harper, Jenny Cooper (EK Books) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
This story bridges the chasm that separates young and old, and reminds us of the precious sacrifices that secure our freedom, and the aftermath of war. As a young girl innocently seeks answers to her grandfather’s grief, she unknowingly opens old wounds and discovers his sadness is a legacy of the Vietnam War and his experiences there. This is a sensitive exploration of the lingering cost of war and of the PTSD so many returned servicemen experience. (Ages 4-8)

A Tuba Christmas
by Helen L. Wilbur, Mary Reaves Uhles (Sleeping Bear Press) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
There is so much goodness packed in these pages. My delight doesn’t know which one to address. The empowerment of Ava’s self-declaration, the hardships she must overcome to achieve it, the pure joy of success, or the history of a tuba concert and the fun and amazing facts about the tuba itself? There is just so much to enjoy in the story. And the illustrations are just as fun and lively as the content they express. (Ages 5-7)

Hannah’s Tall Order: An A to Z Sandwich
by Linda Vander Heyden, Kayla Harren (Sleeping Bear Press) Reviewer: Julianne Black
Hannah’s Tall Order is delicious fun for parents and children alike! Adorable illustrations pull you through the sing-song storytelling at a comfortable pace while your audience is entranced by its goofy details. The mess, the wear and tear on poor Mr. McDougal, and the craziness of the food combinations are wonderfully amusing. This is among my top picks for read-aloud books this school year! (Ages 5-7)

The Things That I Love about Trees
by Chris Butterworth, Charlotte Voake (Candlewick) Reviewer: Julianne Black
Teachers rejoice! Here is a beautiful, fun, and factual book about trees that will be a treasured addition to an art or science room. From spring to winter, The Things I Love about Trees places quiet little tree factoids along the storyline for an information double dose, cleverly wrapped in soft illustration. This showcase of buds to bark makes a wonderful gift for nature lovers of any age. (Ages 5-8)

The Lying King
by Alex Beard (Greenleaf Book Group Press) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
This is a quality book all the way around. Its large size, bright color, and solid binding gives an assurance it will be around for a while. And its timeless tale we’ll never outgrow. Foundation blocks that build successful lives are often found in childhood stories. This simple, well-rounded story gives full view to the multilayered effects and outcomes of liars, bullies, and those who would misuse privilege and authority, while enforcing the strength of unity sufficient to overthrow it. (Ages 6-9)

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The Boy Who Sprouted Antlers
by John Yeoman, Quentin Blake (Thames & Hudson) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
This extravagantly fanciful tale brings two conflicting thoughts to mind with great hilarity. Anything is possible if you set your mind to it, but at the same time, be careful what you wish for! Great story for an encouraging good laugh! (Ages 6-9)

EZ and the Intangibles
by Bob Katz (Fitzroy Books) Reviewer: Diana Perry
Ethan “EZ” Zanay loves the sport of basketball and it’s really unfortunate he’s so darn bad at it. When he makes an embarrassing mistake in front of his teammates, EZ finally decides to call it quits. But he still clings to the fantasy that somehow, he might yet turn into that unheralded player who surprises everyone by coming through in the clutch. His best shot at a comeback is to specialize in those subtle moves and unseen maneuvers that don’t show up in the standard stat sheets. This story will inspire kids like Ethan, who don’t excel at sports and yet want to make their parents proud. I really love how Ethan found a great solution to make himself an important part of the team. (Ages 7-12)

Through the Barbed Wire (A Wild at Heart Mystery)
by Isabella Allen, Cynthia Meadows (Brown Books Kids) Reviewer: Darleen Wohlfeil
This new mystery series will be rubbing elbows with some pretty elite writers in this genre. The author’s fresh approach to the story’s wild child heroine brings a fascinating appeal. We are welcomed in to explore the vastness of a sprawling land, and the heart of a young girl who loves it. She knows every inch of it, and every critter and creature she shares it with. It’s there where she feels most alive. And someone wants to take it from her. Can she find out whom? Can she save her land and preserve the beauty of her wildness? It’s worth the read to find out! (Ages 8-12)

The House with Chicken Legs
by Sophie Anderson (Scholastic Press) Reviewer: Macaulay Smith, age 7
The House with Chicken Legs is one of the most creative books I have ever read! I can relate to the main character Marinka, even though she is 12 and I am only 7. Like me, Marinka is an only child so she does not have other kids at home to play with. Unlike me, her house has chicken legs that take her all over the world at a moment’s notice, which makes it pretty tough to make friends. In my family, we move every three years; Marinka sometimes moves three times a year! But when Marinka does finally get the chance to make a real-life friend, that is when the book really gets interesting! She must go on a mysterious journey into the afterlife to try and save her grandma, and she will need all the friends she has if she is going to succeed. If you like to use your imagination, then this is the book for you. (Ages 8-12)

The Third Mushroom
by Jennifer L. Holm (Random House) Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 11
The Third Mushroom is a playful book that also teaches important life lessons. Ellie has a passion for science and convinces her grandpa Melvin (a famous scientist in a 14-year-old boy’s body) to do science experiments with her at the county fair. I really liked that the book includes Mellie’s Gallery of Scientists that gives you facts about notable scientists, what they achieved, invented, a little about their childhood as well as a quote. (Ages 8-12)

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Baking Class: 50 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Bake!
by Deanna F. Cook (Storey Publishing) Reviewers: Sherry and Jocelyn Hoffman
Baking Class is a complete compilation of over 50 child-friendly recipes equipped with stickers, stencils, and gift tags to encourage creativity. Step-by-step instruction with pictures and descriptions make this recipe book user-friendly, especially for beginners and visual learners. The setup is so welcoming, and the helpful advice incorporated throughout seems to elicit a feeling as if a good friend is right there walking the reader through each recipe. Deanna F. Cook has stirred up another delicious recipe of fun with this book. (Ages 8-12)

The Lotterys More or Less
by Emma Donoghue, Caroline Hadilaksono (Arthur A. Levine Books) Reviewer: Diana Perry
Sumac Lottery is the keeper of her family’s traditions—from Pow Wow to Holi, Carnival to Hogmanay, Sumac’s on guard to make sure that no Lottery celebration gets forgotten. But this winter all Sumac’s seasonal plans go awry when a Brazilian visitor overstays his welcome. A terrible ice storm grounds all flights, so one of her dads and her favorite brother can’t make it home from India. Can Sumac hang on to the spirit of the season, even if nothing is going like a Lottery holiday should? This is a great lesson that shows sometimes you must try many ideas before you finally find the one that solves your problem. Kids will love this story. (Ages 8-12)

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Short & Skinny
by Mark Tatulli (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) Reviewer: Diana Perry
As a middle schooler, Mark finds himself on the smaller side of the physical spectrum and it has really wreaked havoc on his confidence. So to end his bullying woes and get the girl—or at least the confidence to talk to the girl—he starts to explore bulking up by way of the miracle cures in the backs of his comic books. But his obsession with beefing up is soon derailed by a new obsession: Star Wars, the hottest thing to hit the summer of 1977. As he explores his creative outlets as well as his cures to body image woes, Mark sets out to make his own stamp on the film that he loves. This is a wonderful book to inspire kids who feel left out and long to fit in and feel special. It teaches that the answer to this dilemma is closer than you think. (Ages 9-12)

Freedom for Me: A Chinese Yankee
by Stacie Haas (Melody Press) Reviewer: Diana Perry
As the Civil War rages, 15-year-old Thomas Beck longs to fight for his country. He’s underage, but his brother claims there’s another reason he can’t fight: There’s no such thing as a Chinese Yankee. Assumed a slave because of his odd appearance—including his traditional Chinese queue (long braid), Thomas soon discovers that giving battle with his regiment isn’t enough to shed the Chinese label from his Yankee status. It’s not until Thomas befriends a runaway slave and the war moves toward a pivotal moment in Gettysburg that he begins to understand the true meaning of freedom in America. Young readers need to know this story and how our country, once divided, became the strong nation it is today. (Ages 10+)

The Reckless Club
by Beth Vrabel (Running Kids Press) Reviewer: Olivia Amiri, age 11
The Reckless Club is a book about five middle schoolers who spend their last day of summer before school starts volunteering at Northbrook Retirement Village as a punishment from their principal. This very diverse group includes Jason (the nobody), Lilith (the drama queen), Wes (the flirt), Ally (the athlete), and Rex (the rebel), who come together and learn a lot about compassion, the meaning of friendship, the aging process and how to get along. I really loved the letter from the principal in the front of the book as well as the letter from the five kids at the end. The Reckless Club is filled with heart and humor. (Ages 10-14)

Curse of the Komodo
by M. C. Berkhousen (Progressive Rising Phoenix Press) Reviewer: Diana Perry
Luke and Austin Brockway can’t seem to stop arguing. Luke says he’d rather have a grizzly bear for a brother and Austin would prefer a Komodo dragon. While on a school trip to the zoo, a violent storm creates chaos in the atmosphere and their wishes are granted! Luke can’t eat the frozen rats he gets for supper, and Austin is scared of his 700-pound roommates. A mean guard with a temper and a cattle prod adds to their misery. They soon learn that they are victims of an old family curse that can’t be undone until the next violent storm. Until then, they must help each other survive. This is the ultimate field trip nightmare ... and young readers will be most entertained. (Ages 10-14)

Intrigue in Istanbul: An Agnes Kelly Mystery Adventure
by Christine Keleny (CKBooks Publishing) Reviewer: Diana Perry
Set in 1961, during a time of the Cold War and space race. But that isn’t on 12-year-old Agnes’ radar. Her dad has died and during a trip with her grandmother to Istanbul, she accidentally finds out it was under “suspicious” circumstances, but that’s just the beginning. I really enjoyed the letter from Agnes that teaches readers definitions of many of the words and phrases used in the book. True to its title, this book was very intriguing. A great bedtime read. (Ages 10-14)

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Nate Expectations
by Tim Federle (Simon & Schuster) Reviewer: Diana Perry
When the news hits that E.T.: The Musical wasn’t nominated for a single Tony Award, the show closes, leaving Nate both out of luck and out of a job. And while Nate’s castmates are eager to move on, Nate knows it’s back to square one, also known as Jankburg, Pennsylvania. Where horror—aka high school—awaits. Desperate to turn his life from flop to fabulous, Nate takes on a huge freshman English project: He’s going to make a musical out of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. But he soon realizes the only thing harder than being on Broadway is being a freshman—especially when you’ve got a secret you’re desperate to sing out about. This story teaches young readers how to be problem solvers and to utilize their talents. A very entertaining book. (Ages 10-14)

Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend
by Cheryl Carpinello (Beyond Today Educator) Reviewer: Diana Perry
Guinevere and Cedwyn find themselves embroiled in a life-or-death struggle. Not only are they in danger, but so are the kids of Cadbury Castle. Renegades—foiled in their attempt to kidnap the princess—steal the children of Cadbury Castle to sell as slaves. Guinevere and Cedwyn vow to rescue the children, but a miscalculation puts them all in more danger. Will their courage be strong enough to survive, or will one make the ultimate sacrifice? This story has everything a young reader wants: action, adventure, tests of bravery and friendship, magic, and so many twists and turns. It is quite an adventure! (Ages 10-14)

 

To submit your book for review, email cristy@storymonsters.com for submission guidelines.

Author Spotlight: Erin Entrada Kelly


Newbery Medalist Erin Entrada Kelly’s You Go First is an engaging exploration of family, bullying, spelling, art, and the ever-complicated world of middle school friendships…

photo by Laurence Kesterson

photo by Laurence Kesterson

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Lake Charles, an industrial town in southwest Louisiana, near the Texas border.

Did you read a lot as a child?
Yes! I was (and am) a huge bookworm.

What were some of your favorite authors and books?
I loved Judy Blume, especially Blubber and Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. I also loved Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Halfway Down Paddy Lane, the Sweet Valley High series, and Choose Your Own Adventure. I also enjoyed Christopher Pike thrillers.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I've always wanted to be an author.

Tell us about some of the jobs you’ve had before you became a writer.
In high school, I worked at a seafood restaurant and at JCPenney. After high school, I was fortunate enough to get an entry-level job at my local paper. I worked my way up to feature writer. After that, I worked as an editor for a lifestyle magazine and as a corporate copy editor. My professional career has always revolved around words.

How did you get started writing?
I've been writing for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first book when I was eight years old.

Why do you write books?
Books were an escape for me when I was a kid. I want to give that back to today's young readers.

What do you like best about writing?
Honestly, I enjoy the entire process, from the initial idea to the finished product. And I enjoy everything that comes along with publishing—school visits, festival appearances, book signings, talking to fans, book tours. There's nothing about it that makes me grumble.

What do you find the most challenging about writing?
I struggle with first drafts. I'm much better at revision.

What do you think makes a good story?
Good characters.

Where do you get your inspiration?
Everywhere! Inspiration surrounds us all the time. You just have to pay attention.

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Tell us about your latest book.
My latest book, You Go First, is about the friendship between two gifted students—Charlotte, who lives in Philadelphia; and Ben, who lives in Louisiana—who meet each other through online Scrabble.

What’s next for you?
My first middle-grade fantasy will be released in May. It's called Lalani of the Distant Sea, and it's inspired by Filipino folklore. I'm really excited about it.

For more information about Erin Entrada Kelly and her books, visit erinentradakelly.com.

Visit Erin at the Miami Book Fair! November 11-18, 2018 at Miami Dade College.

Erin is presenting on the YOU'VE GOT A FRIEND IN ME: HEARTWARMING STORIES OF IDENTITY & BELONGING panel on Sunday., Nov. 18, noon w/Pablo Cartaya (Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish), and  Alex Gino (You Don't Know Everything, Jilly P!) in the MDC Live Arts Lab. 

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For more than three decades, Miami Book Fair has been committed to fostering a love of reading in children of all ages. This includes Miami Book Fair’s literacy initiative Read to Learn Books for Free, in partnership with The Children’s Trust, which distributes of thousands of free children's books around Miami-Dade county via its bookshelves; during the 2017-18 school year, over 91,711 books were distributed to the children of Miami-Dade County.

Additionally, MBF hosts over 10,000 school kids – elementary, middle and high school students from all over Miami-Dade County to listen to and meet their favorite authors – many of whom leave with free books.

All-aged fairgoers will enjoy the lively Street Fair and Children’s Alley, a pop-up children’s learning activities village boasting live performances; and, students in K-12 enjoy special author presentations and workshops at the Fair and in their schools as part of the Generation Genius program, and college students will meet with selected authors for in-depth discussions on specific subjects as part of the Fair’s Classroom Collaborations program.

Tickets: Free for kids; $5 12-17 and seniors and $8 general admission

For more information please visit miamibookfair.com