Review! Super Gear by Jennifer Swanson

16 Jan

supergearSuper Gear: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up
By Jennifer Swanson
80 pages – ages 8+
Published by Charlesbridge on June 7, 2016

Synopsis from Publisher- How are the sports played by Michael Phelps, Serena Williams, Michelle Wie, and Usain Bolt related? Nanotechnology!

Take a close-up look at sports and nanotechnology, the cutting-edge science that manipulates objects at the atomic level. Nanotechnology is used to create high-tech swimsuits, tennis rackets, golf clubs, running shoes, and more. It is changing the face of sports as we know it.

What I Thought- You don’t have to be a sprots fan to enjoy this cool book. It is neat how  Swanson combines a topic most kids like (sports) with a topic most know little about (nanotechnology). Swanson explains the details about what makes nanotechnology work in an easy-to-understand way. She also includes science principles explained, such as drag and turbulence, as well as things such as graphene and carbon nanotubes. There is a great index and resource list at the end of the book as well. There are good illustrations throughout the book – they include real pictures of sports and athletes, and also artists’ interpretations of the theoretical molecular structures. All of this is easy to understand. Kids will also like doing the experiments in the book that help explain concepts. The book is organized into easy grouping with the chapters. Ms. Swanson does a good job of relating the two subjects. I recommend this book to science buffs and sports buffs and everyone in between!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Review! The Underground Toy Society by Jessica D. Adams

11 Jan

undergroundThe Underground Toy Society
By Jessica D. Adams
24 pages – ages 4+
Published by CreateSpace on June 8, 2015

Synopsis from the Publisher- What happens to toys when children don’t play with them? Where do toys go when their children grow up? What happens when there are too many toys in one house? Find out when Samantha goes on an exciting underground adventure as she tries to find her best friend after they were separated.

What I Thought- This was a cute story. The illustrations were done by the author’s daughters, and are a nice example of genuine “kid art.” The book is a good happy story that small kids will like listening to as a read-aloud and early readers can manage. There were one or two spots in the story that I felt could have been expanded on, but I think the book is spot on for Adams’ target audience. The story is one kids can relate to and will enjoy reading about Samantha’s adventure. The cover serves its purpose, and gives a good teaser into the book although I would have liked to seen more of the kid art. The story is a good one for introducing kids to early chapter books as it has more words and smaller pictures than a standard picture book. The story has no chapters making it an easy transitional piece from picture books to early readers.

I give this book 4 out of 5 bookworms.fourbooks

Perfect Picture Book Friday! Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp

8 Jan

Susanna Leonard Hill has a feature on her blog called Perfect Picture Book Friday. It is a list of “perfect” picture books recommended by all sorts of people. I chose this book because it is a super sweet story about trying your best and overcoming your fears with a little help from your friends.

madelineMadeline Finn and the Library Dog
By Lisa Papp
32 pages – ages 4+

Published by Peachtree Publishers on October 1, 2016

Theme/Topic-Reading/Trying Your Best

Genre- Fiction

Opening and Synopsis- Opening: “I do NOT like to read!

Synopsis from Publisher: “Madeline Finn DOES NOT like to read.
Not books.
Not magazines.
Not even the menu on the ice cream truck.
But Madeline Finn DOES want a gold star from her teacher.
Stars are for good readers.
Stars are for understanding words.
And saying them out loud.
Fortunately, Madeline Finn meets Bonnie, a library dog. Reading out loud to Bonnie isn’t so bad. When Madeline Finn gets stuck, Bonnie doesn’t mind. Madeline Finn can pet her until she figures the word out.
As it turns out, it’s fun to read when you’re not afraid of making mistakes. Bonnie teaches Madeline Finn that it s okay to go slow. And to keep trying. Just like the sticker says.

What I Thought- I really like how this book doesn’t attribute Madeline’s reading troubles to anything, such as dyslexia, so it can relate to any kid, whether they have dyslexia or just trouble reading. Ms. Papp has written a good story about how if you keep trying at something, and take your time, you can ultimately succeed at your goal. It’s also nice that the story teaches this all without making it obvious that you are learning. That’s skill. Ms. Papp’s soft watercolors make the story feel intimate and cheery.madeline2  The book is perfect to read with children, as it is a problem they may empathize with. Madeline Finn will remind you of that one spunky person in your life who is insistent that it is their way or the highway. She wants to read, but is certain she cannot. She realizes that with gentle, quiet support (dogs don’t judge you for making mistakes) she can keep going, and ultimately succeed.madeline3 It’s a nice story with a positive ending, and an even happier twist. Kids will like this story that encourages them to keep trying and work it out.

Activities and Resources- I found a great article that has tips to encourage reading from Readingrockets.org HERE!

There is a good article on teaching perseverance with young kids at Momentsaday.com HERE!

To find more Perfect Picture Books please visit Susanna Hill’s blog HERE!

Perfect Picture Book Friday! Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days In Orbit by Sue Ganz-Schmitt

6 Jan

Susanna Leonard Hill has a feature on her blog called Perfect Picture Book Friday. It is a list of “perfect” picture books recommended by all sorts of people. I chose this book because it is a good anti-bullying story.

planetkindergarten100Planet Kindergarten: 100 Days In Orbit
Written by Sue Ganz-Schmitt
Illustrated by Shane Prigmore
36 pages – ages 5+

Published by Chronicle Books on October 4, 2016

Theme/Topic- Teamwork/Helping others

Genre- Fiction

Opening and Synopsis- Opening:

Star Log: Day 100
Base camp is lively. I greet my crewmates and admire their work.

Synopsis from Publisher: “Star Log: Day 100. Base camp is lively. I greet my crewmates and admire their work. We have mastered many skills on our journey, but today brings a new milestone. There have been: 100 roll calls. 100 songs. 100 pledges. 100 challenging days full of exploration and triumph! Little ones will be over the moon as they celebrate school’s 100th Day with this clever, dynamically illustrated book, and eager to suit up for another daring adventure exploring and conquering Planet Kindergarten.”

What I Thought- This is a neat sequel to Planet Kindergarten (see my review HERE). I like how the way the kids are drawn creates mild confusion for the kids about whether they are human or alien.  One of the reasons I like this book is that while the text makes it seem like it is very much in outer space, but then the illustrations show plastic building bricks, a dodge ball, and other such Earthly things. The illustrations are fun to look at and have tons of details that add to the story.

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It is a really nice combination that kids will like a lot. Ms. Ganz-Schmitt is onto a really good idea, as this series teaches about friendship and other great ideas for kids. This one teaches about teamwork, and helping others.

Activities and Resources- Care.com has a great list of activities for toddlers-elementary school kids that build teamwork HERE! This list is good for teachers or parties.

Brighthorizons.com has a nice post about teaching your kids to help others by showing them an example HERE! This post is better suited towards parents.

To find more Perfect Picture Books please visit Susanna Hill’s blog HERE!

Series Review! The Atlantis Saga by TA Barron

4 Jan

I am so jazzed about this awesome series! Check out my review below!

atlantisrising1Atlantis Rising
Series: Atlantis Saga #1
By TA Barron
384 pages – ages 9+
Published by Philomel Books on September 26, 2013

Synopsis from Publisher- In a magical land called Ellegandia, a young boy named Promi scrapes by, stealing pies, cakes and sweets to survive. But little does he know that his country is a pawn in an ages-old war between good and evil, battled both in the spirit realm and in the human world. Harboring secrets of his own, Promi teams up with a courageous girl named Atlanta and the two vow to save their land—and each other—no matter the cost. But their vow has greater repercussions than they ever could imagine—in fact, it may just bring about the creation of Atlantis, an island cut off from the rest of the world, where magic reigns supreme.

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atlantis2Atlantis In Peril
Series: Atlantis Saga #2
By TA Barron
272 pages – ages 9+
Published by Philomel Books on May 5, 2015

Synopsis from Publisher- In Atlantis Rising, Promi and Atlanta saved their homeland by transforming it into the magical island of Atlantis. They had hoped that would keep it out of the clutches of the evil spirit warlord Narkazan. But Narkazan has returned, more determined than ever to conquer the spirit realm and Atlantis as well. Will the destiny of the mystical isle lie in the boat of Greek sailors who wash up on shore? The powers of the ethereal oceanglass? Or will the growing bond between Promi and Atlanta cause the strongest magic?

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9780399168055_AtlantisLost_HC_CvLib.inddAtlantis Lost
Series: Atlantis Saga #3
By TA Barron
224 pages – ages 9+
Published by Philomel Books on November 8, 2016

Synopsis from Publisher- The veil between the Spirit Realm and the mortal world has fallen, and the evil lord Narkazan is primed to claim the magical Starstone for himself once and for all. But when tragedy befalls Promi’s newly reunited family, he knows that he can’t let Narkazan ruin everything his parents held dear. With his friends beside him, Promi battles Narkazan in the Spirit Realm, to ensure that the Starstone remains safe from Narkazan’s mortal followers. But how far will Promi have to go to keep the world and the people he loves safe?

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What I Thought About the Series- Wow. Mr. Barron is a fabulous writer – I couldn’t put any of these books down. I read all of these in two days. They were that good. The worst part of the series was that you got incredibly attached to all of the characters…but you knew what was going to happen in the last book (Guess what? Atlantis sinks!). And that made it hard to read on…but you couldn’t stop. I tried and I failed. Mr. Barron has a writing style that gets the reader involved, and keeps you on your toes. Mr. Barron has done a marvelous job of taking mythology, magic, and realism and tossing them all together in a big melting pot. He created a culture where every type of person and animal lived. He created a religion for that culture, with spirits for them to pray to. He created a government for that culture. Only to destroy it all in the end.

Promi is a character you can empathize with, seeing as he is a sort of honor-bound/Robin Hood-like thief. He only steals from those that deserve it, and in the book, there are quite a few people that deserve it. After all, the religious government is almost completely corrupt. They make for a good villain, where everyone reading despises them. Atlanta is a great supporting character who is the moral backbone for Promi, as he goes from a selfish thief only looking out for himself to a truly caring hero. It is a marvelous transformation.

The series is written in a satisfying way. I found it heartbreaking, however, what was happening to Atlantis in Book 2, with foreigners industrializing it, and also polluting it. Those scenes were written to engage your emotions, and are most likely a stance against the wickedness of humans ruining our planet. If so, then we need it. Atlantis was on the way of having its magic ruined forever. Why let Earth’s natural magic be put to waste?

To sum it all up, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this series. Mr. Barron has made a fan out of me, and I will continue to look for more of Mr. Barron’s work, particularly his Merlin series.

I give this series five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Review! The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli

3 Jan

wardensdaughterThe Warden’s Daughter
By Jerry Spinelli
352 pages – ages 9+
Will be published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on January 3rd, 2017

Synopsis- Cammie O’Reilly is in prison. But not serving a crime. You see, her father is the warden of the jail, and she lives in an apartment above it. It’s a good life, though. The one thing that she really doesn’t have is a mother. Yeah, her dad is a good father, but he just doesn’t have that motherly vibe. So that’s why Cammie decides to make Eloda, one of the trustees (prisoners with privileges) in charge of housekeeping, her mother. Cammie sets about trying to win her over. Except that Eloda wants nothing to do with her. After all, inmates should keep their distance from the warden’s daughter. But Cammie can be very persistent. It’s going to be an interesting summer.

What I Thought This was a really neat historical fiction novel. It’s set in 1959, with an introduction and epilogue set in 2017 from Cammie’s point-of-view. Mr. Spinelli has a way of writing that makes it seem like a close friend telling a story, with a whole lot of little details that remind you of life in its fullest. Things like getting how people would act in a situation to a point where the reader thinks, even sometimes reluctantly, “Yeah, I’d do that.” I think it’s really cool that in Mr. Spinelli’s Acknowledgements he points out that he actually knows a lady who was an actual warden’s daughter, and that gave Mr. Spinelli the idea to write this book. Cammie is a great character that you really route for as she is figuring out her problems and coming to terms with her mom’s death. The characters and relationships between them are fully developed.The reader really gets to know them. I especially liked the unusual prison setting and the twist that a warden’s daughter was seeking something she needed on an emotional level from an inmate. It’s a great hook for the story. Mr. Spinelli breathed life into both Cammie and Eloda and made the readers care for them. This is a really beautiful coming-of-age story.

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

14 Year Old Erik This Kid Reviews Books Will No Longer Be Reviewing Books

24 Dec

Yes, you read that right. 14-year old Erik will no longer be reviewing books.

Why?

Because today I am fifteen!

prismatic-happy-birthday-typography-800px

What better way to celebrate than with a review of a REALLY great book I recently picked up at the Lititz Kid Lit Festival in Lititz PA. If you’ve never been, you should check it out (it’s held every fall) – click HERE for details.

The festival is organized by a great family owned bookstore – Aaron’s books – visit their website HERE

I interviewed the author of AbrakaPOW, Isaiah Campbell for Scholastic News at the festival. We talked about the challenges of writing books for middle grade readers.

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To read that interview, click HERE to go to the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps site.

Now on to the review!

abrakapowAbrakaPOW
Written by Isaiah Campbell
Illustrated by Dave Perillo
400 pages – ages 8+
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on November 8, 2016

Synopsis- It’s WWII and Max’s father is in charge of a Prisoner-Of-War camp in Texas that is harboring several Nazis. Max doesn’t like living there, having just moved from Brooklyn and dealing with culture shock, but when her father asks her if she wants to put on a magic show for the prisoners, she is thrilled. Until the prisoners escape during her show. That kind of puts a damper on excitement. The escaped Nazis plan on making it across the border into Mexico and catching a ride back to Germany, and Max and her friends are the only ones able to stop them. Will they get the prisoners back before they get away for good?

What I Thought- I really like this historical fiction novel – taking an actual event that happened near the end of World War II, and reasoning that the only way it possibly could have happened was with the help of magic. They say truth is stranger than fiction and knowing that there were actually Nazi prisoners of war in Texas during WWII is a part of history I knew nothing about! It is a rather neat story – even though the real-life facts are almost unbelievable – and the characters are portrayed in convincing ways. Because of the time period, there is some prejudice (slight sexism at time, where the boys in the group of friends would insist on doing something, with the girls groaning about the boys acting like that; along with some racial prejudice, such as a Japanese boy being teased for how he speaks, along with the fact that Max and her family are Jewish). These details speak to the truth of what was going on at the time but in a kid-friendly way. There are illustrated diagrams of how to do magic tricks at the end of some of the chapters, mostly of magic tricks mentioned in the book. I really enjoyed reading the book, and I couldn’t put it down!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Reviews! Famous Fails! and Martin McMillan and the Sacred Stones

22 Dec

fails1Famous Fails!
By Crispin Boyer
128 pages – ages 7+
Published by National Geographic Children’s Books on October 25, 2016

Synopsis from Publisher- This fun book of quirky failures and famous flops will keep kids laughing while they learn the importance of messing up in order to get it right. Science, architecture, technology, entertainment — there are epic fails and hilarious goof-ups from every important field. Silly side features help to analyze the failures: “Lesson Learned,” “It Could be Worse!,” “Losing Combinations,” and a “Fail Scale” help readers navigate the different kinds and scopes of the mistakes made. Read to learn what went wrong, what went right, and what kids can learn from each failed attempt.

What I Thought- This is a really neat nonfiction book. It talks about famous ways that people have failed, and it talks about what you can learn from it. There are fun pictures in it that kids will like looking at. The book includes advice on carrying on after failing and how to avoid failing. The way the book is written, it points out that the people made a mistake, and how it happened, but in a nice way, instead looking at why they failed. There is a fun combination of text-boxes and real-life photos on each page, and kids will enjoy looking at the pages. The book is split into sections, with the last section full of advice to help with failure. This is another great book from National Geographic Kids!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

martinMartin McMillan and the Sacred Stones
Written by Elaine Russell
Illustrated by Patricia Andrews
228 pages – ages 8+
Published by Createspace on January 31, 2016

Synopsis from Publisher- This is the third installment of the Martin McMillan mystery/adventures for middle grade readers (ages 9-13). A vacation to Scotland finds thirteen-year-old skateboarders Martin McMillan and his friend Isabel drawn into another exciting mystery. Gaelic verses, recently found in the lining of an old trunk, hold the key to Druid secrets on the windswept Isle of Lewis. Clues lead to the ancient Calanais Standing Stones, which rival the wonder of Stonehenge. Martin and Isabel are determined to uncover the truth before other, less scrupulous parties can beat them to it. But dark forces go to great lengths to keep the island’s secrets from the outside world.

What I Thought- This is a cool book. There is a nice level of facts and fiction mixed into the story to get readers interested. The characters are realistic, behaving and sounding like normal kids. I especially like that in the beginning, Isabel isn’t fond of her stepmother…but as the story is from Martin’s point-of-view, he reflects that she seems like a decent person. I like that because that is a completely normal reaction – you may not understand why someone doesn’t like another person, and find the other person okay. As this book is the third book in the series, it is nice that this book explains the previous stories without going into too much detail. There is a good level of action in the story, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat. The setting is neat (I’ve always liked Scotland) and it is a neat touch that the reader learns about it as the story goes on.

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Bookish Holiday Gifts – Part Three!

19 Dec

Still looking for that perfect gift?

Check out my holiday gift picks for this year – part 1part 2!

and now the third installment of my gift picks!

paperJapanese Paper Toys Kit

By Andrew Dewar

(Kit) – ages 7+

Published by Tuttle Publishing on September 27, 2016

Synopsis from Publisher- Origami Paper Toys Kit is a unique paper craft kit that brings together the of art paper folding and the fun of moveable toys. Amaze your friends as you watch your origami paper creations wiggle, walk, tumble, shuffle and spin right before your eyes! Renowned origami artist and teacher, Andrew Dewar has designed these origami for kids projects to be simple enough to be completed quickly and easily. No need to learn origami folding, painting or cutting—just punch fold and enjoy!

What I Thought- This is definitely a neat book! It goes beyond traditional origami/kirigami (the Japanese art of paper folding/…and with cutting too), including moving parts and a little bit of physics.

The instructions are described very well and laid out in an easy to understand manner.

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The creations can be made with the kit contents as well as common items from around the house.

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The toys are unique, based off of toys the author had as a young boy. I decided to make one of the easier ones for the purpose of reviewing.

I chose to make the frog and picked the green paper – because frogs are mostly green. Don’t mind my phone, I just used it as a paper weight.

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First off, the directions were very clear. That is always, always a plus. To top things off, the paper – which has funky designs – has faint lines that indicate where you fold and when.

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I started folding the papers, following the instructions. I saw the paper go from a rectangle into a more froggy-shape.img_2472

 

The steps were mildly difficult at times, but they are explained well, and anyone can do it.

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As I put the finishing touches on, this creates the “jumper” of the frog.

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The finished product!

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Here’s a video of it working!

If you can’t tell already, I really liked this book, and think it a great holiday gift for the crafty folks in your life!

 

Next up –

 

vincentVincent’s Starry Night and Other Stories: A Children’s History of Art

Written by Michael Bird

Illustrated by Kate Evans

336 pages – ages 8+

Published by Laurence King Publishing on August 23, 2016

Synopsis from Publisher- An enthralling journey through the story of world art, from early cave paintings right up to the present day. Discover artists and their art around the world, in 68 exciting and imaginative tales about artists and the way they created their work.

Written by educator and art historian Michael Bird, and beautifully illustrated by Kate Evans, the book also features reproductions of the famous artworks discussed, a comprehensive timeline of events, and extra feature spreads on places connected with art.

What I Thought- This is a gorgeous book! The entire book is visually stunning.

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The book is not just about van Gogh. It is a kid-friendly study in art history! There are little mini chapters that tell the story behind a certain piece of art that was important in making art where it is today. It includes some of the very first art from 40,000BC to more modern art from 2014 and everything in between.

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The book shows a picture of the actual art, but then includes pictures by Kate Evans to help the reader learn about it. All in all, the book is informative, and teaches you about the art in an easy-to-learn way. This is an amazing resource for parents and teachers!

And last but not least –

brambly

Adventures in Brambly Hedge

By Jill Barklem

128 pages – ages 6+

Published by HarperCollins on November 6, 2014

Synopis from Publisher- Step into the miniature world of Brambly Hedge in this exquisite slipcase containing four classic picture books!

The mice of Brambly Hedge have many adventures but they always have time for fun too. All through the year, they mark the seasons with feasts and festivities and, of course, the mice never miss an opportunity to meet and celebrate.

This beautifully designed slipcase contains four classic stories following their adventures throughout the year.

What I Thought- My very first thought was that of Beatrix Potter. My second was of Redwall (Brian Jacques). It combines the nice spirits of both. In the stories, the mice are good-role models, working together. The stories are short, and this boxed set takes four of the classic tales.

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There are gorgeous illustrations on almost every page, and some that are full page spreads – those ones really take your breath away! The books are all hardcover and a nice size to fit in small hands. This is a nice short story collection, and the books are a nice small size for younger hands. A great gift set for the holidays!

Review! Snow Fright by Amie and Bethanie Borst

15 Dec

snowfrightSnow Fright
Series: Scarily Ever Laughter #3 (#1, #2)
Written by Amie & Bethanie Borst
325 pages – ages 9+
Published by Jolly Fish Press on October 4, 2016

Synopsis- Sarah White knows she’s gorgeous. And she won’t let you forget it either. So you can imagine what it’s like when she gets teleported into the Underworld, finds out she has worms in her brain, and ends up turning into a zombie. So uncool. Eventually she gets out, but by then, her friends have gone down to rescue her, and they get captured by a horrible evil. Will Sarah, in all her undeadness, be able to rescue them? And what’s with her sudden craving for brains?

What I Thought- The Scarily ever After series is an interesting concept. It’s not that scary, really. It has monsters as characters, but it’s more a mesh of monster/human worlds. It provides an interesting twist. The stories are also takes on fairy tale characters – the typical princess characters take on a monster persona. It isn’t really a horror story, just a little bit of creepy. They are more about the adventure and friendship. The Snow Fright story is a thrilling conclusion to this very enjoyable series.  The Borsts are a good writing team, and their writing style is well-developed, and shows great collaboration between mother and daughter. The characters and their actions are believable, acting how normal tweens would act in such situations (even though they are monsters). I like how Sarah reflects the vanity of many teens (boys and girls) and also the turmoil teens go through. It’s a nice modern fractured fairy tale, with a pinch (okay, a scoop) of undead.

I give this book five out of five bookworms.fivebooks

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