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Mainly reviews of children's and young adult literature. Primarily focuses on new literature, 2004-present, but may feature older titles if they are "favorites" of mine. Feel free to leave comments. I always enjoy reading what others have to say!
Statistics for Becky's Book Reviews

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1. Week in Review: May 24-30

Pepper & Poe. Frann Preston-Gannon. 2015. [July] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Egypt Game. Zilpha Keatley Snyder. 1967/2009. Simon & Schuster. 215 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Sound of Music Story: How A Beguiling Young Novice, A Handsome Austrian Captain and Ten Singing von Trapp Children Inspired the Most Beloved Film of All Time. Tom Santopietro. 2015. St. Martin's Press. 324 pages. [Source: Library]
Palace of Stone. (Princess Academy #2) Shannon Hale. 2012. Bloomsbury. 323 pages. [Source: Library]
The Forgotten Sisters. (Princess Academy #3) Shannon Hale. 2015. Bloomsbury. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Rook. Sharon Cameron. 2015. Scholastic. 464 pages. [Source: Review copy]
A Touch of Stardust. Kate Alcott. 2015. Doubleday. 304 pages. [Source: Library]
The Amazing Stardust Friends #2 Be A Star. Heather Alexander. Illustrated by Diane Le Feyer. 2015. Scholastic. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Dr. Seuss's ABC. Dr. Seuss. 1960. Random House. 72 pages. [Source: Library]
Jesus, Continued: Why The Spirit Inside You Is Better Than Jesus Beside You. J.D. Greear. 2014. Zondervan. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]
Theological Fitness: Why We Need a Fighting Faith. Aimee Byrd. 2015. P&R. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
God's Love Compels Us: Taking the Gospel to the World. Edited by Kathleen Nielson and D.A. Carson. 2015. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This week's recommendation(s):

I really enjoyed The Egypt Game. I also found Rook to be great fun. If you're looking for cute, sweet, and adorable then Pepper & Poe would definitely appeal!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. Seuss on Saturday #22

Dr. Seuss's ABC. Dr. Seuss. 1960. Random House. 72 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
Big A
Little a
What begins with A?
Aunt Annie's alligator...A...a...A
Premise/plot: An alphabet book. What more can I say? There are silly sentences for each letter of the alphabet. For example, "Four fluffy feathers on a Fiffer-feffer-feff."

My thoughts: I like this one fine. I don't love it. I don't not-love it. Some sentences are funner or funnier to read aloud. Not all letters are equally delightful.

Have you read Dr. Seuss's ABC book? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Hop on Pop.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Pepper & Poe (2015)

Pepper & Poe. Frann Preston-Gannon. 2015. [July] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Pepper loved Sundays. Pepper loved Mondays too. Tuesdays…were usually pretty enjoyable. But on Wednesdays, something changed.

Premise/Plot: On the Wednesday in question, Pepper is surprised--and not pleasantly--by the addition of a new kitten to the family. Does Pepper like the new kitten, Poe? NO! Pepper has a hard time adjusting. But, after a few days, by the time Sunday rolls around again, Pepper has made peace with Poe--to a certain extent.

My thoughts: I loved it. I did. I love Pepper. I love Poe. I found them adorable. I really love, love, love the illustrations. I think this book is super-cute and sweet. Cat lovers may find this one too cute to resist.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. Be A Star! (Amazing Stardust #2)

The Amazing Stardust Friends #2 Be A Star. Heather Alexander. Illustrated by Diane Le Feyer. 2015. Scholastic. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Be A Star is the second book in the Amazing Stardust Friends series by Heather Alexander. In the first book, readers meet Marlo, and her new circus friends Allie, Bella, and Carly. These three new friends help Marlo find out her own strengths thereby enabling her to join the show herself. In the second book, readers get a chance to know Allie better. This is her book.

Allie is ambitious, young and ambitious. So when she learns that a camera crew from Hollywood will be filming a performance of their circus, she loses touch with reality for a bit! She just KNOWS that once they see her, they'll be so wowed, so amazed, that they will want to make her a big, BIG star. She's on her way to being famous. Surely, thinking out what her new name--her Hollywood name--should be is more important than her schoolwork. Allie makes a few bad decisions in this one, but, her friends and family eventually show her that where she is right now is where she belongs.

I like this series.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. The Egypt Game (1967)

The Egypt Game. Zilpha Keatley Snyder. 1967/2009. Simon & Schuster. 215 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Not long ago in a large university town in California, on a street called Orchard Avenue, a strange old man ran a dusty shabby store. Above the dirty show windows a faded peeling sign said: A-Z Antiques Curios Used Merchandise. 

Part of me wishes I'd read The Egypt Game years ago. I loved, loved, LOVED it. Though part of me still loves the fact that there are still WOW books waiting for me to 'discover' them. I do love being swept away by a great book.

The Egypt Game celebrates friendship and imagination. The Egypt Game was invented by Melanie Ross and April Hall. Soon after they meet--very soon--they discover they are kindred spirits. Both have big imaginations, love storytelling, and have a fascination with Ancient Egypt. The Egypt Game is played in an abandoned lot near their neighborhood. They sneak in through a gap in the fence, I believe. Melanie's younger brother--much younger brother, Marshall--is part of the fun as well. He's four, and, he almost always, always brings his octopus, Security. By the end of the book, there are SIX "Egyptians" playing the Egypt game...

I do love the storytelling and imaginative play. How creative they all are in coming up with ideas for what to act out or play next. But I also love how they build a world and fill it with stuff, with costumes as well. But I also love the mystery element to the novel.

I would definitely recommend this one. I came to love all the characters. And there was a scene that just got to me--it reminded me so much of To Kill A Mockingbird. Anyway, I loved this one, and you may too. If you've read it, I'd love to know what you think of it!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Rook (2015)

Rook. Sharon Cameron. 2015. Scholastic. 464 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The heavy blade hung high above the prisoners, glinting against the stars, and then the Razor came down, a wedge of falling darkness cutting through the torchlight. One solid thump, and four more heads had been shaved from their bodies. The mob around the scaffold roared, a sudden deluge of cheers and mockery that broke like a wave against the viewing box, where the officials of the Sunken City watched from velvet chairs. The noise gushed on, over the coffins, around bare and booted feet crowding thick across the flagstones, pouring down the drains and into the deep tunnels beneath the prison yard like filth overflowing the street gutters. The city was bloodthirsty tonight.

If you love The Scarlet Pimpernel, Rook may appeal to you. Though I can't promise you'll love of it, of course. Rook is a loose retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel. It's not set in France and England, but in the "Sunken City" and the "Commonwealth." Also, it's not historical fiction set during the days of the French Revolution, but, is set at least eight hundred years in the future. Perhaps a love of dystopia would add to the book's appeal. But for those readers who happen to love both, well, this one has a great premise.

Did I LOVE everything about Rook? I'll be honest, I didn't LOVE, LOVE, LOVE every little thing about it. I thought, however, that it worked more often than not. That overall, it was an enjoyable, mostly compelling romantic adventure.

Sophia Bellamy is the heroine of Rook. She keeps herself very busy, mainly by saving as many as she can from the Razor, all undercover, of course. Her father has arranged a marriage for her, not that he's concerned with her happiness or her future. But a good marriage will bring in enough money to pay off his debts and keep the property out of the hands of the Commonwealth. I don't often want to boo, hiss characters, but I must say that I was oh-so-tempted here. For he not only hurts his daughter, but, his son, as well by his words and actions. Rene Hasard has his own reasons for wanting the marriage.... Both Rene and Sophia have a few secrets they'd like to keep secret until they know the other person much, much better.

One thing, however, is obvious. Rene's cousin, Albert LeBlanc, is TROUBLE for Sophia. For it is his main goal in life to find the Red Rook...and bring "him" to justice.

Action, adventure, intrigue, betrayal, drama, and ROMANCE. I wouldn't mind a good adaptation of this one!

Here's how Scarlet Pimpernel begins so that you can compare:
A surging, seething, murmuring crowd of beings that are human only in name, for to the eye and ear they seem naught but savage creatures, animated by vile passions and by the lust of vengeance and of hate. The hour, some little time before sunset, and the place, the West Barricade, at the very spot where, a decade later, a proud tyrant raised an undying monument to the nation's glory and his own vanity.
During the greater part of the day the guillotine had been kept busy at its ghastly work: all that France had boasted of in the past centuries, of ancient names, and blue blood, had paid toll to her desire for liberty and for fraternity. The carnage had only ceased at this late hour of the day because there were other more interesting sights for the people to witness, a little while before the final closing of the barricades for the night.
And so the crowd rushed away from the Place de la Greve and made for the various barricades in order to watch this interesting and amusing sight.
It was to be seen every day, for those aristos were such fools! They were traitors to the people of course, all of them, men, women, and children, who happened to be descendants of the great men who since the Crusades had made the glory of France: her old NOBLESSE. Their ancestors had oppressed the people, had crushed them under the scarlet heels of their dainty buckled shoes, and now the people had become the rulers of France and crushed their former masters—not beneath their heel, for they went shoeless mostly in these days—but a more effectual weight, the knife of the guillotine.
And daily, hourly, the hideous instrument of torture claimed its many victims—old men, young women, tiny children until the day when it would finally demand the head of a King and of a beautiful young Queen.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. A Touch of Stardust (2015)

A Touch of Stardust. Kate Alcott. 2015. Doubleday. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed reading Kate Alcott's A Touch of Stardust. Julie Crawford is the heroine who provides readers with a behind the scenes glimpse into the filming of Gone With The Wind. The setting, of course, is Hollywood in 1939. Julie, soon after we meet her, becomes a personal assistant and friend of actress Carole Lombard, the girlfriend of Clark Gable. So readers get a behind the scenes glimpse of this couple as well--their public and private lives. Julie is dating Andy, David Selznick's assistant. The book is about all the changes and transitions in her life: her move to California, her new job, her dreams of being a screen writer, her love life, the connections she's making, the relationships she's building, etc. A little bit about everything. She oh-so-conveniently is on the set during major scenes of the movie. Not that I minded, but, Julie is always in the right place to get the best story it seems!

One thing I did like about the novel was the context--or perhaps contrast is the better word. The world is at war, horrible things are happening in Europe, and the disinterestedness of America is highlighted. Andy, who is Jewish, is very concerned about what's going on, and what it means, and he's worried about his family--his grandparents especially--still in Germany. Serious things are happening, and, that is contrasted by the superficiality and gossipy nature of Hollywood.

I liked this one. I'm not sure I loved it. But it tempted me. Should I consider rereading Gone With the Wind this year?

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. The Forgotten Sisters (2015)

The Forgotten Sisters. (Princess Academy #3) Shannon Hale. 2015. Bloomsbury. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I enjoyed reading The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale, the third in the Princess Academy series. The book opens with Miri so very excited to go back home to her mountain, to her father and sister. And she'll be traveling with the love of her life, Peder. Life couldn't really get any better for her. But. Apparently she hasn't earned her happily ever after just yet. The king has need of her, and she can hardly refuse his request. It seems war with a neighboring country is pending, and, she is needed as a teacher at a new princess academy. She'll be going away, far away, to teach three sisters--discarded members of the royal family. Swamp life is completely different from mountain life or city life. Does Miri have what it take to meet this new challenge in her life? How can she train these three when all they're concerned about is surviving: having enough food to eat day by day?!

Miri will have to be creative and brave and persistent. Readers should know by now, after having spent two books with Miri, that she is up to the challenge and that she'll always find some way to resolve things well.

I like this one. I think it's a great addition to the series. It does feel different from the others in the series, but, that isn't really a bad thing. I was quite pleased with the ending of this one. There were plenty of scenes that had me smiling. (But there were plenty of intense moments as well.)

I'd definitely recommend all three books.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. What's On Your Nightstand (May)


The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the fourth Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.
Julie. Catherine Marshall. 1984. 381 pages. [Source: Bought]

I've read Catherine Marshall's Christy half a dozen times--at least. (I reviewed it just last week).  But I've never read her other novel, Julie.  It is reminding me of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. At least superficially. Julie's family moves to a "mill town" after the father leaves his ministry behind, and there are some class issues going on between the owners and the workers, and talk of strikes. I am enjoying it so far.

Far Side of Evil. Sylvia Engdahl. 1971/2003. Penguin. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

If the author didn't make such a point of this book not being a sequel to Enchantress From the Stars, I would simply say that this is Elana's second mission on a "youngling" planet. But the book isn't exactly dependent on Enchantress From the Stars, and, it is much darker overall. I am finding it a compelling read, even, if it isn't as magical for me as the first book.

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Edited by Pamela Smith Hill. 2014. South Dakota State Historical State Society. 400 pages. [Source: Library]

I have been waiting for months to read this book! It is an absorbing, engaging read. At first I wasn't sure that I'd read each and every footnote, but, now that I've started the book, I can't imagine not reading all the notes! It is a slow process perhaps, but an enjoyable one! I can't wait to get to the section of the autobiography that is covered in the Long Winter. That being said, I can't believe that the family gave away Jack (the dog) and left him in Kansas?! I wasn't expecting that!!!

The Semi-Detached House. Emily Eden. 1859. 172 pages. [Source: Bought]

I'm enjoying this romantic comedy so far. The heroine is renting a country house--a semi-detached house--while her husband is away on business. Even before she was pregnant, she was the nervous, easily agitated sort. But being separated from her husband isn't helpful! Her sister is staying with her, and, she's beginning to make a few new friends... This one has potential.



© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. The Sound of Music Story

The Sound of Music Story: How A Beguiling Young Novice, A Handsome Austrian Captain and Ten Singing von Trapp Children Inspired the Most Beloved Film of All Time. Tom Santopietro. 2015. St. Martin's Press. 324 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed reading Tom Santopietro's The Sound of Music Story. Did I enjoy each chapter equally? Probably not. But what I was interested in, I was REALLY interested in, and, I was fine skimming the rest.

The book focuses on several things: 1) the story of the actual von Trapp family, both before and after the Sound of Music, 2) the Sound of Music on Broadway (its creation, duration, etc.) 3) the filming and reception of The Sound of Music (focus on the directing, producing, filming, acting, costuming, etc.) 4) the legacy of the Sound of Music, five decades worth of trivia on the film and the soundtrack, etc.

I loved reading about the filming of the movie. I did. I loved reading about the filming of particular scenes and particular songs. It was just fun. There were chapters of this one that were just giddy-making.

Not all of the book was equally captivating to me. But I appreciated the thoroughness of it.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. Revisiting Palace of Stone

Palace of Stone. (Princess Academy #2) Shannon Hale. 2012. Bloomsbury. 323 pages. [Source: Library]

I definitely enjoyed rereading Shannon Hale's Palace of Stone, the sequel to Princess Academy. It was great to read these two books back to back. Having that continuity certainly helped me appreciate it all the more.

Miri is the heroine of Palace of Stone. Princess Academy concludes with Prince Steffan choosing Miri's friend, Britta, to be his wife. Britta and Steffan had known each other before and had fallen in love with each other. But Britta was not from Mount Eskel. Not until her father pushes her into a big deception: she MUST go live a year on Mount Eskel, she must be an orphan sent to live with oh-so-distant relatives on the mountain. She must attend the academy. No one but Miri and Britta and Steffan know the absolute truth. (Well, obviously her ambitious parents know.)

Palace of Stone opens with Miri and a handful of other Princess Academy graduates preparing to go with traders to the capital city. They have all been invited by Britta, they are her ladies. Miri will have an extra privilege as well. She'll be the first person from Mount Eskel to go to university. (Queen's Castle) She is thrilled and anxious and overwhelmed. She really WANTS to learn, to keep on learning, to absorb as much as she possibly can, so she can return to the village she loves and teach others what she's learned in her year away. She is a most eager and motivated student. She's also a great listener. She tries to stay close to Britta and the others, but, it isn't always easy since she's so busy.

And then there is of course her spying. Katar, the representative of Mount Eskel, her former classmate, has begged for Miri's help. She KNOWS that many are discontent and eager for revolution. But she can't seek these 'traitors' out herself and spy for the royal family. But Miri, well, she can be her eyes and ears. She may quite naturally come across these people at university or in the community. (Miri does have greater access, wider access, than some of the other girls.)

Miri learns all about the cause of 'the shoeless.' What she learns about the royal family, what she learns about the nobility, changes her. How can she LIKE such despicable people who are so cruel, so smug, so unfeeling?! She loves Britta, and, she wants to believe that Steffan isn't just like his father, but, she sees the rightness of the cause...

What will Miri do? What can she do? Will revolution come and change the kingdom forever? Or will Miri find a way to save the day?

Readers definitely meet a lot more characters in Palace of Stone. And the book is a quick, satisfying read. Her love of Peder remains strong throughout despite the fact that she's tempted a few times to entertain the attentions of another young man--a fellow student.

The book is beautifully complex in its characterization. It's easy to recommend both books. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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12. Library Loot: Fourth Trip in May

New Loot:
  • One Crow Alone S.D. Crockett
  • After the Snow by S.D. Crockett
  • Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  • Alice's Tulips by Sandra Dallas
  • Return to Gone-Away by Elizabeth Enright
  • To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
  • Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Biography by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Leftover Loot:
  • Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss
  • I Wish That I Had Duck Feet by Dr. Seuss
  • Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss
  • I Had Trouble Getting to Solla Sollew by Dr. Seuss
  • Miles from Nowhere by Amy Clipston
  • Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt
  •  Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper
  • Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler
  • The Cottage in the Woods by Katherine Coville
  • Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia 
  • The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck
  • The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas
  • Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas, translated by Richard Pevear
  • Murder at Mullings by Dorothy Cannell
  • Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
  • Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George
  • Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George
  • The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander
  • Cursed in the Act by Raymond Buckland
  • Here There Be Dragons by James A. Owen
  • The Search for the Red Dragon by James A. Owen
  • Indigo King by James A. Owen
  • The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
  •  Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book
  • The Far Side of Evil by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
  • The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan
  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
  • One Summer by David Baldacci
  •  Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
    Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Week in Review: May 17-23

War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation. Cindy Hval. 2015. Casemate. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales. Franz Xaver Von Schonwerth. Translated by Maria Tatar. 2015. Penguin. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Wild Boy. Rob Lloyd-Jones. 2013. Candlewick Press. 295 pages. [Source: Review copy]
My Side of the Mountain. Jean Craighead George. 1959. 192 pages. [Source: Bought]
Snow Treasure. Marie McSwigan. Illustrated by Mary Reardon. 1942. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]
Shadow Scale. Rachel Hartman. 2015. Random House. 608 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Board Book: Peek-a-Boo Zoo. Joyce Wan. 2015. Scholastic. 14 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Sleep Book. Dr. Seuss. 1962. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]
The Sky is Falling. Mark Teague. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Christy. Catherine Marshall. 1967. 512 pages. [Source: Bought]
God, Adam, and You: Biblical Creation Defended and Applied. Richard D. Phillips, editor. 2015. P&R. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. Timothy Keller. 2014. Penguin. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

This week's recommendation(s):

I loved, loved, loved Snow Treasure. I loved War Bonds. I loved Christy. (I loved, loved, loved Dr. MacNeil.)

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. Peek-a-Boo Zoo

Board Book: Peek-a-Boo Zoo. Joyce Wan. 2015. Scholastic. 14 pages. [Source: Review copy]

With brown fuzzy fur,
I grumble and growl.
I live in the woods
where I like to prowl.
Guess who?
Peek-a-boo!
Bear

Premise/plot: Zoo animals play peek-a-boo with young readers in Joyce Wan's Peek-a-Boo Zoo published by Scholastic.

My thoughts: I really loved, loved, loved Joyce Wan's You Are My Cupcake. I've been interested in Wan's books ever since. What did I like best about Peek-a-Boo Zoo? Well, I really liked the illustrations. The text is simple. It rhymes. Young readers can guess the animal and then lower the flap to see if they're right.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. Seuss on Saturday #21

Sleep Book. Dr. Seuss. 1962. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

 First sentence:
The news 
Just came in
From the County of Keck
That a very small bug
By the name of Van Vleck
Is yawning so wide
You can look down his neck.
This may not seem 
Very important, I know.
But it is. So I'm bothering 
Telling you so.

Premise/plot: A book to read at bedtime. It's addressed directly to readers, to you. Readers meet plenty of Seuss creations that are either already asleep or nearly so.

My thoughts: I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book. I can't read it--even silently--without yawning. I love so many things about it including...
  • the time for night-brushing of teeth is at hand.
  • the number of sleepers is steadily growing. Bed is where more and more people are going.
  • the Audio-Telly-o-Tally-o Count, a machine that lets us know who is down and who's up
  • They're even asleep in the Zwieback Motel! And people don't usually sleep there too well.
  • moose dreaming of moose juice, goose dreaming of goose juice...
  • Ziffer-Zoof seeds, which nobody wants because nobody needs.
The Sleep Book is one of my favorite books by Dr. Seuss. I love the story, the rhythm and rhyme, the silliness.

Have you read The Sleep Book? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you think of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Dr. Seuss' ABC.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. The Sky is Falling (2015)

The Sky is Falling. Mark Teague. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: One day an acorn hit Chicken Little on the head. She popped up, screeching, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" "I don't think so," said Squirrel. Squirrel knew a thing or two about acorns. "See, it fell from a tree."

Premise/Plot: Chicken Little is convinced that the sky is falling when an acorn hits her on the head. Soon other chickens join her in that belief. (Not every animal on the farm is convinced. Not all get carried away). So what does a chicken getting carried away look like?! Well, in this book, it looks like DANCING. The book embraces the chicken-dancing concept. It keeps building and building. "They did the moonwalk, the mambo, and the twist." While Squirrel and his 'reasonable' friends (like Cat and Rabbit) know that the sky isn't falling, they are soon inspired to join in the dance because dancing is fun.

It was NO ACCIDENT that an acorn hit Chicken Little on the head. Though I admit I didn't catch this the first time I read it. There is a certain recurring character on each page. He's to be SEEN long before attention is called to him in the text. The FOX thought the chickens would react very differently if the sky were thought to be falling. And he was ready for his plan. But the dancing reaction, well, it leaves the Fox puzzled and a bit threatened. (He hates it when it is suggested that HE CAN'T DANCE.) Will the Fox have his way and enjoy chicken for lunch or dinner?!

My thoughts: I liked this one more than I thought I would. It improved upon second reading. I've now read it twice, and browsed it a third time. It's a clever book in a way. I'm not saying I love, love, love it. But I definitely enjoyed it!

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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17. Wild Boy (2013)

Wild Boy. Rob Lloyd-Jones. 2013. Candlewick Press. 295 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Prologue
Southwark, London, May 1838
That night, the night the showman came, the moon was the color of mud.

Do you love historical mysteries? compelling historical mysteries set in Victorian London?! Wild Boy is definitely one I'd recommend.

This murder-mystery stars two unlikely friends: the Wild Boy, a sideshow "freak," and Clarissa, a young acrobat and the daughter of the circus ringmaster. These two enemies--Wild Boy doesn't really have many friends--are pushed together under some strange circumstances. Wild Boy agrees, for better or worse, to help Clarissa find a rich person to pickpocket. What they pocket isn't money, but, a mysterious note warning someone--but WHO--that his (or her) life is in great danger. Wild Boy, who knows it is oh-so-risky to leave his sideshow "home," decides to brave it. He'll go in search of the would-be recipient. Surely he can figure out who the note was meant for before it's too late...

He does manage to find out WHO, and just in time to witness the crime--the murder. But the murderer was wearing a mask, and, I believe a cape as well. There are a handful of clues for him to work with, however. If he gets the chance. For Wild Boy, within minutes of the crime, becomes the prime suspect. He's an animal, after all, right?!

For Wild Boy to live long enough to solve the mystery, he'll need a little help from others...

I really LOVED Wild Boy. I loved Wild Boy himself. I loved the narrative. He had me hooked from the start. I also loved Clarissa. I thought the way these two were brought together was great. The atmosphere of this one--the setting, the description, the detail--it all worked quite well.

 Have you read Wild Boy? What did you think of it?

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. My Side of the Mountain (1959)

My Side of the Mountain. Jean Craighead George. 1959. 192 pages. [Source: Bought]

I found My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George to be strangely compelling. That is, I wasn't exactly expecting it to so compelling. I don't typically like adventure-survival-living-off-the-land books or becoming-one-with-nature books. It's also written in the first-person something that either really works (for me) or really doesn't.

Sam Gribley is the hero of My Side of the Mountain. He has run away from his oh-so-crowded home. He has traveled to the Catskill Mountain wilderness. He's heard his father talk about one of his ancestors having a homestead there, a long-abandoned homestead now. He's determined to find "his" land, and live on it, alone in the wilderness. He's read up on the subject. He's confident and determined, more determined than confident, perhaps. It isn't always easy for Sam. Though sometimes things do happen to go his way. The book spans about a year. In that year, plenty happens though not all of it will prove exciting to every reader. I was surprised by how many people he met and how many friends he made.

I think what I found most compelling about this one was the narrative voice. I don't think I was swept up into the adventure so much as I found myself liking Sam.

Have you read My Side of the Mountain? I'd love to hear what you thought of it!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. Seuss on Saturday #20

Ten Apples Up On Top! Dr. Seuss (Theo LeSeig). Illustrated by Roy McKie. 1961. Random House. 72 pages. [Source: Library]

 First sentence: One apple up on top! Two apples up on top! Look, you. I can do it, too. Look! See! I can do three! 

Premise/plot: A lion, a dog, and a tiger take turns boasting about how many apples they can balance on top of their heads. It's not enough to have a lot of apples, you also have to do wild and crazy things while balancing a lot of apples up on top. By the end, everyone has had quite an adventure. How many animals will end up with apples up on top?

My thoughts: Last week, I reviewed The Sneetches and Other Stories. And the week before that I reviewed Green Eggs and Ham. Ten Apples Up on Top is a bit disappointing when compared to some of his other books. Though I should mention that it was published under the name Theo LeSieg and not Dr. Seuss. It is not illustrated by Dr. Seuss.   

Have you read Ten Apples Up On Top? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you think of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Dr. Seuss' Sleep Book.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. Library Loot: Third Trip in May

New Loot:
  • Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper
  • An Interrupted Life: The Diaries, 1941-1943, and Letters from Westerbork by Etty Hillesum; translated by Arnold J. Pomerans. 
  • Miles from Nowhere by Amy Clipston
  • Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt
  • Wrong About the Guy by Claire LaZebnik
  • Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss
  • I Wish That I Had Duck Feet by Dr. Seuss
  • Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss
  • I Had Trouble Getting to Solla Sollew by Dr. Seuss
Leftover Loot:
  • Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler
  • Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
  • The Cottage in the Woods by Katherine Coville
  • Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia 
  • The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck
  • The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas
  • Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas, translated by Richard Pevear
  • Murder at Mullings by Dorothy Cannell
  • Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
  • Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George
  • Princess of the Silver Woods by Jessica Day George
  • The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander
  • Cursed in the Act by Raymond Buckland
  • Here There Be Dragons by James A. Owen
  • The Search for the Red Dragon by James A. Owen
  • Indigo King by James A. Owen
  • The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
  • Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
  • The Far Side of Evil by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
  • The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan
  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
  • One Summer by David Baldacci
  •  Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book
  • Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller  
    Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. Week in Review: May 10-16

Up A Road Slowly. Irene Hunt. 1966. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]
Across Five Aprils. Irene Hunt. 1964. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. Judith Kerr. 1971. Random House. 191 pages. [Source: Bought]
Princess Academy. Shannon Hale. 2005. Bloomsbury. 314 pages. [Source: Library]
I, Juan de Pareja. Elizabeth Borton de Trevino. 1965/2008. Square Fish. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
Ten Apples Up On Top! Dr. Seuss (Theo LeSeig). Illustrated by Roy McKie. 1961. Random House. 72 pages. [Source: Library]
ABC School's For Me. Susan Katz. Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First Grade, Here I Come. Tony Johnson. Illustrated by David Walker. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Sacajawea (Women Who Broke the Rules) Kathleen Krull. 2015. Bloomsbury. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]
As Love Blooms. Lorna Seilstad. 2015. Revell. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Heart of the Gospel. God's Son Given for You. Sinclair B. Ferguson. 2015. P&R Publishing. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]
No Adam, No Gospel: Adam and the History of Redemption. Richard B. Gaffin Jr. 2015. P&R Publishing. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This weeks recommendation(s):

Up A Road Slowly is my FAVORITE and BEST. I loved, loved, LOVED it. I also enjoyed reading When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales

The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales. Franz Xaver Von Schonwerth. Translated by Maria Tatar. 2015. Penguin. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I loved reading this collection of newly discovered fairy tales. Franz Xaver Von Schronwerth was a contemporary of  the Grimm brothers. His fairy tales were collected in the 1850s in Bavaria. His manuscripts were recently rediscovered--or discovered--and translated into English.

The book is divided into six sections: "Tales of Magic and Romance," "Enchanted Animals," "Otherworldly Creatures," "Legends," "Tall Tales and Anecdotes," and "Tales About Nature." Some sections have more stories than others.

Most of the stories tend to be short. How short is short? Well, the shortest in the collection are just one page. (Plenty are three pages or so.)

Commentary is provided for each story at the back of the book. The commentary provides context for the story, often describing the type of story it is, and what other stories it's like. 

I found the book to be a quick read and a delightful one. I enjoyed reading all the stories. It was a fun way to spend the weekend.

Is it for children? No. Probably more for adults. But I think that's a good thing. Adults need treats too.

The Turnip Princess
One day a prince lost his ways in the woods. He found shelter in a cave and slept there for the night. When he woke up, an old woman was hovering over him. She had a bear by her side and treated it like a pet dog. The old woman was very kind to the prince. She wanted him to live with her and become her husband. The prince did not like her at all, but he was unable to leave. (3)
The Talking Bird, The Singing Tree, and The Sparkling Stream
A nobleman had three daughters, each more beautiful than the next. One day the girls were sitting in the royal gardens, chattering away about their wishes and dreams. The eldest wanted to marry the king's counselor, the second hoped to marry his chamberlain, and the third declared that she would be quite satisfied with the king himself. It happened that the king was also in the gardens, and he overheard the entire conversation. He summoned the three sisters to ask them what they had been talking about in the garden. The first two confessed everything; the youngest was less eager to do so. But then all at once the king declared: "Your three wishes will be granted." (71)
The Three Spindles
A young farmer's daughter got herself in trouble, and her parents threw her out of the house. She wandered around aimlessly until finally, in desperation, she sat down on a tree stump with three crosses carved into it. She began to weep. Suddenly a wood sprite raced toward her, pursued by a group of frenzied hunters. The girl jumped to her feet to make room for the sprite, for she knew that it would find safety there from what where known as the devil's hunters, hordes of demons that rode in with the winter storms. (107)
The Mouse Catcher, or, The Boy and the Beetle
Once there was a village so badly infested with mice that no one knew what to do. A stranger arrived in town and told the farmers that he would be able to get rid of the mice. They promised him a generous reward in return. The stranger pulled out a little whistle and blew into it. All the mice in the village ran after the man, who took them to a big pond, where they all drowned. The stranger returned to the village and asked for his reward. But the farmers refused to give him the full amount. The man blew into another little whistle, and this time all the children in the village came running after him. (175)
The Talker
There once lived a couple, and they were both stupid is as stupid does. The wife ruled the roost, and one day she sent her husband to the marketplace to sell their cow. "Whatever you do, don't sell it to talker," she shouted as he was going out the door. "Did you hear me? Don't sell it to talker." Her husband promised to do just as she had said. (187)
Sir Wind and His Wife
The wind and his wife were both present at the creation of the world. The two were overweight, and on top of that, Sir Wind had a long beard that wrapped around his body three times. Still, both were able to pass easily through a mere crack in a wall, or any opening at all, for that matter. (205)
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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23. War Bonds (2015)

War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation. Cindy Hval. 2015. Casemate. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I enjoyed reading Cindy Hval's War Bonds. The book is a collection of love stories. Each chapter features a new couple. Each chapter is short in length, but, not lacking in heart. What the chapters all have in common, of course, is that all the husbands fought in World War II. Another commonality is that all the marriages lasted. Each story is worth sharing; each voice deserves to be heard.

I enjoyed meeting all the men and women in this book. I enjoyed their stories: stories about how they met, when and where they met, how they fell in love, their courtships--in some cases years, in other cases mere weeks, their proposals, their weddings, their marriages. The book shares their challenges and struggles: before, during, and after the war.

I really enjoyed the photographs as well!

I would definitely recommend War Bonds. I love reading about World War II both fiction and nonfiction. I love reading love stories. This book was just right for me.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. Shadow Scale (2015)

Shadow Scale. Rachel Hartman. 2015. Random House. 608 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I'll be honest. I loved, loved, loved Seraphina, and I didn't really like Shadow Scale. I found the sequel to be disappointing. Every reader who read and loved (or read and liked) Seraphina, I imagine, has expectations for the sequel. Other readers may love it and find it to be a wonderfully satisfying read. I wasn't one of them.

Shadow Scale and Seraphina are very different books. Yes, they're both narrated by Seraphina and focus on the conflict between dragons and humans and half-dragons. But all the things I loved about the first book seemed to be missing completely from the second book. Seraphina herself seems quite different. Yes, she's under pressure and great stress. Yes, her life has been turned upside down since the ending of the first book. So some change, of course, is welcome. But I missed the old Serpahina. I missed the world she used to live in. I missed the people she used to spend time with.

The book also feels longer than it actually is--and it's a long book. The first book was just a joy to read. I read it in two days. I mean it was an absorbing WOW book. Shadow Scale was not a joy to read. I kept reading it for several reasons. I kept hoping it would get better. Since I had loved the first book so much, I felt I should keep giving it chance after chance to improve. I didn't stop caring about the main characters just because the story was dragging. A part of me still cared about what happened in the end.

The book never improved for me. (I think other readers liked the ending better than I did.)

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. Snow Treasure (1942)

Snow Treasure. Marie McSwigan. Illustrated by Mary Reardon. 1942. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]

Set in Norway in 1940, Snow Treasure is a true must-read for anyone who loves a good adventure story or a good war story. Snow Treasure is based on a true story too! It is about the smuggling of Norway's gold, smuggling it out of the country so that it doesn't fall into Nazi hands. How is it smuggled out? Who could hope to smuggle it out undetected without any Nazi being the wiser? Why, you let children do it, naturally.

The hero of Snow Treasure is a young boy named Peter Lundstrom. He isn't the only child from his Norwegian village involved. He has a lot of help from other boys and girls. The older and stronger can carry more gold on their sled. The younger take less. But all work together to help their country in need. They are one part of the process, adults also play a big role, of course. For it will be Peter's uncle who will smuggle the gold out of the country on his ship.

I loved everything about this one. I loved the characters. I loved Peter and his family. I loved the adventure aspect of it. It's a thrilling read. It isn't a simple, easy process. It's hard work. And each trip is a risk, of course. For they do see and hear a lot of Nazis as they are carrying on their most secret work.

Snow Treasure is a compelling read for children and adults. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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