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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: 2016, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 185
1. Borden Murders

Borden Murders. Sarah Miller. 2016. 304 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It happened every spring in Fall River, Massachusetts.

Premise/plot: Sarah Miller's newest book is a middle grade nonfiction book about Lizzie Borden and the 'trial of the century.' On August 4, 1892, Mr. and Mrs. Borden were murdered. Miller chronicles the events stage by stage. Her book is divided into sections: Lizzie Borden Took An Axe, Murder!, The Bordens, Investigation, Inquest, Arrest, Preliminary Hearing, The Waiting Time, The Trial of the Century, Aftermath, Epilogue.

My thoughts: This one was incredibly compelling and very well researched. (Over twenty pages of notes documenting among other things all the dialogue in the book.) Miller presents a balanced perspective of the case allowing readers to make up their own minds. Miller gives all concerned or connected the human touch. The press does not come out looking innocent.

Whether your interest is true crime, biography, or nonfiction set during the Victorian period, this one is worth your time.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. This Is My Dollhouse

This is My Dollhouse. Giselle Potter. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: This is my dollhouse. It used to be just a cardboard box. But then I painted bricks on the outside and divided the inside into rooms and made wallpaper with my markers and it became almost like a real little house.

Premise/plot: Readers meet an imaginative young girl who loves, loves, loves to play with a dollhouse she created by herself. Readers also meet her friend, Sophie, who has a store bought dollhouse. The two do work out how to play together despite their differences.

My thoughts: I could relate to this one! For me and my sister, it was Barbie doll houses. (She had one. I didn't. She had a *real* refrigerator, mine was out of blocks. She had a *real* bed, mine was an egg carton.) I loved the celebration of imagination AND friendship. I loved the focus on PLAY. Part of me does wonder if kids are allowed enough PLAY time and encouraged to PLAY creatively. I think there is a huge difference between PLAYING and playing on. (I want to play ON the computer. I want to play ON the ipad.)

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Louise and Andie: The Art of Friendship

Louise and Andie. The Art of Friendship. Kelly Light. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Art, this is the BEST day ever! I'm so excited to meet our new neighbor. I hope she loves art too.

Premise/plot: Louise and Art are back in a second book! (Though the focus is on Louise and not her adorable, little brother Art!) Louise and Andie, the girl next door, become good friends quickly. But things don't stay wonderful long, soon, these two realize they have artistic differences. Can this friendship be saved?!

My thoughts: Loved this one. I did. I really loved it!!! It is so important--no matter your age--that you learn how to resolve conflict! I love seeing this friendship endure the stress of a big argument. I love that these two are able to work things out and really come to know and appreciate each other better.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. Echo Echo

Echo Echo: Reverso Poems About Greek Myths. Marilyn Singer. Illustrated by Josee Masse. 2016. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Ancient Greece: an age of marvelous myths, gone, but not forgotten. Heroes that rise and fall.

Premise/plot: This is the third collection of reverso poems by Marilyn Singer. The first two were: Mirror, Mirror and Follow, Follow. Both of those were fairy tale inspired poetry collections. This third book is inspired by Greek mythology.

So what is a reverso poem? A poem that is both read top to bottom, and bottom to top. The two 'versions' of the poem might tell completely different stories! Word order and punctuation can accomplish a LOT. Much more than I ever thought about!!! Most of the reverso poems in this collection have two narrators. For example, with "King Midas and His Daughter," the first poem is from the daughter's perspective (top to bottom), and the second poem (bottom to top) is from the King's perspective.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I'm not sure I loved, loved, loved it as much as the previous volumes. But. It's been a few years since I've read them, and, I'd have to reread all three closer together to truly decide which is my favorite. I can tell you that I do like Greek mythology. (Thanks in small part to Edith Hamilton and good old Percy Jackson.)

I think my favorite poem might be "Pygmalion and Galatea."
Wondrous!/ How/ life-/ like! There is nothing in this world/ so perfect. Oh, these lips, hands, eyes!/ The artist/ is in love with/ his creation./ Let a heartfelt wish be granted,/ kind Venus:/ Only you could make this stone breathe!
Only you could make this stone breathe!/ Kind Venus/ let a heartfelt wish be granted./ His creation/ is in love with/ the artist./ Oh, these lips, hands, eyes--/ so perfect!/ There is nothing in this world/ like/ life! How/ wondrous!
*The book does have at least one typo. And I wouldn't have noticed it if I hadn't chosen to share it. I would have just auto-corrected in my head without thinking twice. "There is nothing is this world." I include it here just in case it hasn't been caught yet and fixed already for future editions.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. Board book: Itsy-Bitsy I Love You!

Itsy-Bitsy I Love You! Sandra Magsamen. 2016. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: review copy]

First sentence: My itsy-bitsy spider climbed up to snuggle me. Down came my arms, we hugged so happily.

Premise/plot: This board book reworks the classic song "Itsy Bitsy Spider."

My thoughts: I liked this one. I did. This is definitely for little ones, and, not so much preschoolers. (Although if you have preschoolers and little ones, then both might enjoy it.) The illustrations are very bright and bold. The text is cute. You can still sing it as a song. This one begs to be acted out. (As did the original song!)

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. The Sun Is Also A Star

The Sun Is Also a Star. Nicola Yoon. 2016. 348 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Carl Sagan said that if you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

Premise/plot: Can you find your one true love and know it's your one true love in just a single day? Natasha is upset that her family is being deported and sent back to Jamaica. She's fighting for the chance to stay up to the very last minute. On this day--her very last day in New York--she meets Daniel, a guy with his own family issues. (Namely, his brother is horrid. Plus his parents want to make all of the decisions for him for the rest of his life.) Their meeting is by chance--or is it?

My thoughts: Objectively, this is a compelling teen romance with humor, heart, and drama. The chapters are short, making it even more appealing, and the chapters alternate narrators. The characters are all flawed. Not one perfectly perfect person in the bunch. That's what you want. That's what you need.

Subjectively, I think there is a very good reason I read little YA these days. Not because YA in and of itself is "bad." But because as I mature (aka get old) I find profanity and blasphemy more silly, obnoxious, and offensive, than cool. Particularly blasphemy. This book took the Lord's name in vain in various ways--often. Way too often for me to say WOW WHAT A GREAT BOOK. I am not old enough to go that any book with "language issues" is "bad" and should be taken off the shelves. I will never be that old. Just old enough that I say--No thanks, not for me.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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7. Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes

Little Babymouse and the Christmas Cupcakes. Jennifer L. Holm. Illustrated by Matthew Holm. 2016. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It was Christmas Eve. And Babymouse was putting out cookies for Santa. Babymouse! Mmf. I couldn't wait! They looked so tasty! (Sigh.) I certainly hope Santa likes Christmas crumbs.

Premise/plot: This picture book takes readers BACK to a time to when Babymouse (the star of a very popular graphic novel series) was LITTLE. After Babymouse "accidentally" eats Santa's cookies, she decides to do something different...and instead of baking more cookies...she decides to bake him cupcakes. But will all go according to plan?

My thoughts: I love Babymouse. I do. I think this is a fun introduction to Babymouse for younger readers. As you might have guessed, Babymouse's imagination was ACTIVE even way back when.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. The Princess in Black

The Princess in Black. Shannon Hale. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2016. Candlewick. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It was dawn. The Princess in Black had battled monsters all night. And so Princess Magnolia was tired.

Premise/plot: Fighting monsters keeps the Princess in Black (aka Princess Magnolia) exhausted, so when someone new THE GOAT AVENGER (aka Duff the Goat Boy) volunteers to fight monsters in her place, she hesitantly agrees to take a much-needed vacation. But will all go according to plan? Will the Goat Avenger face off with scary monsters? Will Princess Magnolia have a peaceful, relaxed, monster-free vacation AT THE BEACH?

My thoughts: The series is enjoyable. I love, love, love the illustrations. LeUyen Pham is my favorite and best. I adore her work. Shannon Hale's stories are nice. Are they thrilling for adult readers? Probably not. But I really like the characters--especially Princess Sneezewort--and don't mind the predictability and sameness.

(I think the all-caps are contagious.)

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Six Dots

Six Dots. Jen Bryant. Illustrated by Boris Kulikov. 2016. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: On the day I was born, Papa announced me to the village: "Here is my son Loo-Wee!"

Premise/plot: Six Dots is a picture book biography of Louis Braille. It is probably best for older readers because there is a lot of text.

Here's one of my favorite quotes, "I didn't want people to feel sorry for me. I just wanted to read and to write on my own, like everyone else."

The end papers include the braille alphabet, just not in braille. (It would have been great fun if the braille alphabet and the quote by Helen Keller, "We the blind, are as indebted to Louis Braille as mankind is to Gutenberg." had actually been in braille so readers--of all ages--could feel Braille for themselves.)

My thoughts: I liked this one. It is a very personal, compelling story.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. I Am Jane Goodall

I Am Jane Goodall. Brad Meltzer. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I am Jane Goodall. On my first birthday, my father bought me a cuddly toy chimpanzee named Jubilee.

Premise/plot: I Am Jane Goodall is a picture book biography of Jane Goodall for young readers by Brad Meltzer. It uses text and speech bubbles throughout to give details of her life and her work. It is packed with plenty of information, and a great message or two.

My thoughts: I found this one slightly problematic. Not because of the text itself necessarily. But because of the illustrations. Jane Goodall is illustrated exactly the same throughout the book. It doesn't matter if she's one or eighty. As a one year old, she's got white hair pulled back in a ponytail. As an adult working in the jungle, she's the exact same height as when she's one and in a baby carriage. She's surrounded by ADULTS, during ADULT WORK, supposed to be one of the best, most qualified, most experienced in her field, and she's the size of a toddler. Why is this okay?!

That being said. I found the text interesting enough.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. Holiday Gifts - Books, Of Course!

Happy Holidays, Hungry Readers!

Instead of giving you the same-old best-seller list of gift suggestions, I thought I'd make this year's post a little more personal and share which books my family will be giving/receiving. Maybe you'll find one of them to be a good gift for someone you know as well. :)

The Guinness World Records 2017 edition is for the boy child, but it always turns into a full-family gift as he reads aloud every. single. record. Mostly interesting for all, but beware this is not for the faint of heart; many of the bug and FOOD records can be quite disgusting!

The American Girl Guide is for the girl child because, like any fictional character, even the dolls have extensive back-stories. More history = deeper understanding = more imaginative and intelligent play!

Harry Potter #4 is for my husband, the most-behindest reader of all time. ;) We have a family rule that we can't watch a film until we've read the book and he REALLY wants to catch up to the rest of us with the movies, so now he can use the vacation week to crack this spine!

As for me, I have asked for - and hopefully not delusionally expect to recieve - The Bible as read by James Earl Jones. This tome of all tomes has been on my TBR list since really the beginning of days but its sheer size has kept it anchoring the bottom of the pile. But then, Totes Magotes!, I find a version that will be read to me by the greatest narrator* of all time?! It's the only item on my Santa list and I have been VERY good this year...

Be sure and let me know the best reads you give and receive this holiday season; 

Happy Holidays to All and to All a Good Read!

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12. The Lost Gift

The Lost Gift. Kallie George. Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin. 2016. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: One windy Christmas Eve, four little animals huddled on top of Merry Woods Hill. They were so excited, they barely felt the cold. They were waiting for Santa to fly by on his sleigh.

Premise/plot: Four animals (Rabbit, Deer, Squirrel, and Bird) are super-excited to see Santa fly past on his sleigh. But when Santa drops a present in the woods--by mistake--the animals have a decision to make. Will they find the present and help the present get delivered? Or will they let it be since it doesn't concern them?

My thoughts: I really loved this story! I loved how the animals worked together to get the present delivered to the new baby at the farm. I loved how glad the animals were to see the baby receive the present and open it! I loved how their thoughtfulness was rewarded by Santa, who always knows.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Lucky Lazlo

Lucky Lazlo. Steve Light. 2016. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Lazlo was in love. He bought a rose from the flower-seller. The last red one--how lucky!

Premise/plot: Lucky Lazlo follows the adventures--or misadventures--of a young man, Lazlo, in love. His love is starring in a play, Alice in Wonderland. In fact, she's the star of the show, Alice. The show is premiering on a Friday at the Peacock Theater. This picture book is a comedy. The simple act of buying a flower for the one you love becomes a chaotic, hilarious riot of a book. And it all starts with a CAT who snatches Lazlo's rose.

My thoughts: I thought this one was charming even before I read the author's note. But. After reading the author's note, it went from "really like" to LOVE. Light has taken a LOT of theater superstitions and woven together a story that uses just about all of them--for better or worse! And his illustrations are both simple and complex. His use of color is simple, understated. But his use of detail is very complex indeed.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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14. Will's Words

Will's Words: How William Shakespeare Changed The Way You Talk. Jane Sutcliffe. Illustrated by John Shelley. 2016. Charlesbridge. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Dear Reader: We have to talk. I have failed you. I set out to write a book about the Globe Theatre and its great storyteller, William Shakespeare. About how the man was an absolute genius with words and wove those words into the most brilliant and moving plays ever written. But that's just the trouble. You see, I wanted to tell you the story in my own words. But Will Shakespeare's words are there, too, popping up all over the place. It's not my fault. Really. Will's words are everywhere. They're bumping into our words all the time, and we don't even know it.

Premise/plot: Sutcliffe's picture book for older readers does a great job introducing readers to the sixteenth century theatre. And her emphasis on "Will's Words" shows the relevance Shakespeare still has in today's world. It is part narrative. But on each spread, she focuses on words--phrases--Shakespeare either invented himself (coined) OR kept alive (sustained) through the longevity of his plays. She uses the word or phrase in her narrative, and then explains it. Each word is explained and/or defined. Sometimes this includes "what it meant then, what it means now." But she also always includes: WHERE it came from--which play, which act, which scene.

Words include:

  • for goodness' sake
  • what's done is done
  • too much of a good thing
  • outbreak
  • excitement
  • of a sudden
  • wild goose chase
  • fashionable
  • money's worth
  • hurry
  • with bated breath
  • a sorry sight
  • heart's content
  • well behaved
  • send him packing
  • good riddance
  • love letter
  • laugh oneself into stitches
  • foul play
  • make your hair stand on end
  • cold-blooded
  • hot-blooded
  • bloodstained
  • dead as a doornail
  • seen better days
  • into thin air
  • amazement
  • the short and long of it
  • not budge an inch
  • eaten out of house and home
  • green-eyed monster
  • household words

My thoughts: I really loved this one. It is for older readers. I don't think the typical preschooler is going to care about the word origin of the phrase "dead as a doornail." But for older students (mid-to-upper elementary on up) what a treat!!! Be sure to watch the Horrible Histories music video about Shakespeare!

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 Comments on Will's Words, last added: 12/29/2016
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15. Walk This World At Christmastime

Walk This World At Christmastime. Illustrated by Debbie Powell. 2016. Candlewick. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Walk this world at Christmastime. Let's take a stroll around the world, to all four corners of the globe. Peek through windows, open doors, watch as Christmastime unfolds.

Premise/plot: Readers "visit" many different countries at Christmastime. Each two-page spread takes readers to a new destination. The stops include Canada and the United States; Mexico, Bolivia, and Brazil; Nigeria, South Africa, and Ethiopia; Spain, France, Italy, and Greece; Holland, Austria, and Germany; U.K., Sweden, Norway, and Finland; Poland, Ukraine, and Russia; Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan, and India; China, Japan, and the Philippines; Australia, New Zealand, and Samoa. Each two-page spread features a riddle, of sorts, asking readers to guess where they are. Each two spread also features a LOT of flaps to open. Behind each flap is a fact.

Some of the things we learn on this journey:
  • During Las Posadas, children dress as Mary and Joseph and go from house to house asking to be let in.
  • Leave out your shoes to get presents from the Three Wise Men.
  • Calabar Carnival, in Nigeria, is Africa's biggest street party. Get ready for parades, masquerades, and dancing.
  • An old Greek custom, recently revived, is to decorate real and model ships with lights at Christmastime.
  • In Holland, leave out your clogs for Saint Nicholas. Don't forget a carrot for his horse!
  • A Nutcracker doll is a traditional German gift.
  • The first Christmas card was sent in the U.K. in 1843.
  • In Russia, Father Frost brings children presents, accompanied by the Snow Maiden.
  • In Iraq, Christian families light a bonfire and recite passages from the Bible.
  • In India, banana trees are decorated for Christmas.
  • The Chinese give gifts of apples on Christmas Eve.
  • In Samoa, people feast on December 24, then go to church, dressed in white, on Christmas Day.
My thoughts: This one is packed with information. I definitely found it interesting. I'm not the biggest fan of lift-the-flap books. But I think this one works.
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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16. Smart Fat

Smart Fat. Steven Masley and Jonny Bowden. 2016. HarperOne. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Not too long ago, we were both advocating specific diets for weight loss and wellness.
We weren't just advocates of these plans--we built our professional lives around these two seemingly contradictory nutritional philosophies.

Premise/plot: "Eat more fat. Lose more weight. Get healthy now." Thus the front cover proclaims proudly. This diet book urges a 5-5-10 eating program. 5 Servings of smart fat, 5 Servings of clean (or at least lean) protein, and 10 servings of fiber per day. But it isn't just about what you put into your body, it's also about what you DON'T put into your body--and WHY. So I would say half of this focuses on WHY to change your eating in the first place, why you need to eat more smart fat and very little to no "dumb" fat, why the quality of your food matters--especially in protein, but also other food groups, why eating better will help your health overall. And the other half focuses on the WHAT: what you need to eat, what you don't need to eat, the right serving sizes or portions, etc. This one includes a 30 day meal plan with 50 recipes. This plan isn't just about eating right, however, it is also about living right: exercising, sleeping, finding healthy ways to unstress, etc.

My thoughts: I thought I had sworn off diet books--at least this year. But my Dad wanted me to read this one with him. And so I picked it up. If I were to decide to try this "smart fat" plan, it wouldn't be a drastic change for me. (I already am gluten-free. I already eat a LOT of vegetables and fruit. I already use coconut oil and olive oil. I already aim for a high fiber diet.) But it would be making a few small changes. I do feel better about this book than the other "eat fat" book I reviewed earlier in the year. That one I thought was after people's money and was out to make a LOT of it not just a little. This one I felt was different.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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17. A Torch Against the Night

A Torch Against the Night. Sabaa Tahir. 2016. 452 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: How did they find us so fast?

Premise/plot: A Torch Against the Night is the sequel to An Ember in the Ashes. It continues the life-and-near-death adventures of Laia, Elias, Keenan, and Helene. This time instead of two narrators, there were three. Helene has been added as a narrator.

Don't pick this one up if you've not read the first book.

My thoughts: Personally, I found the first half sluggish. But. I found the second half, particularly the last 100 pages to be really, really GOOD and oh-so-compelling. I'm not sure why I found this to be an uneven book. I am very glad I stuck with it. I can definitely say it's worth reading, because once it becomes good, it's GOOD.

The characters I cared about most were Laia and Elias. Their chapters were the ones I really looked forward to. I got swept up into their stories, their lives. And all was well. The Helene chapters were necessary, I suppose, because they give readers information that they wouldn't otherwise have. (A behind-the-scenes look at the enemy's plans.) But Helene's chapters felt like a third wheel.

This one has a couple of twists that are good and solid, in my opinion.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18. The Christmas Eve Tree

The Christmas Eve Tree. Delia Huddy. Illustrated by Emily Sutton. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: A forest of Christmas trees stretching over the hills. That's where the story begins. There the little fir tree was planted, but planted carelessly, so that when the wind blew strong it fell sideways onto its neighbor and had no chance to grow.

Premise/plot: This is the story of a 'crooked' and 'unwanted' Christmas tree. He is wanted. He is even needed by a young boy, a homeless boy, who plants the tree in a cardboard box, and prepares another box to be his bed for the night. Soon the tree and the boy are bringing hope and joy to a lot of people as both remind people of what the season is all about.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I did. I do think it is probably for older children--as opposed to preschoolers. It is definitely on the text-heavy side. But. The story is lovely and hope-filled. This is exactly the kind of story that would be an animated short.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10
© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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19. Stowaway in a Sleigh

Stowaway in a Sleigh. C. Roger Mader. 2016. HMH. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It was the darkest hour of night when Slipper heard strange footsteps in the house.

Premise/plot: Slipper the cat is curious about her new acquaintance, Mr. Furry Boots. She sneaks unnoticed into his bag. After some adventures at the North Pole--she loves Ms. Furry Boots too--she begins to long for home.

My thoughts: Oh, how I loved this one. LOVE. The text is simple and sweet. But it was the illustrations that left me smitten. Cat-lovers need this one. NEED. It is perfectly perfect.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. Ghost

Ghost. Jason Reynolds. 2016. 192 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Check this out. This dude named Andrew Dahl holds the world record for blowing up the most balloons...with his nose.

Premise/plot: Castle Cranshaw (aka GHOST) narrates Jason Reynolds' Ghost. He's a seventh grader who 'accidentally' finds himself on one of the city's greatest track teams, the Defenders. One minute he's watching from the sidelines eating his sunflower seeds, and, the next he's out on the track trying to beat the newbie, Lu, in the 100 meter. At first, before the race, the coach is surprised and unhappy. After the race, the coach is eager to have him on the team. Very eager. Ghost's mom is skeptical about the whole sports team thing. But she reluctantly agrees on one condition: he has to stay out of trouble. (And he has to keep up with his school work.)

My thoughts: The book covers a short span of time--less than month--but from cover to cover it kept me engaged. So engaged that I was upset when it ended. Note I did not say HOW it ended, but that it ended at all. I had become attached to all the characters: Ghost, Lu, Patty, Sunny, and especially the COACH. (I did like his Mom well enough, it's just that she was working so hard and so long--working in the hospital cafeteria, taking nursing classes on the side--that we didn't get a lot of scenes with her. Another notable, for me, was Mr. Charles, the store owner who sheltered Ghost and his mom when they were running for their lives, the man who has remained a part of his life because he sells him sunflower seeds every single day after school.)

To sum it up: I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. Even though I don't really "like" sports books. I think those looking for character-driven novels can claim this one. Yet, at the same time, I think maybe just maybe those looking for action-driven novels can equally claim this one.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. The Reader

The Reader. Traci Chee. 2016. 442 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Once there was, and one day there will be. this is the beginning of every story.

Premise/plot: Sefia and Archer struggle to survive in Traci Chee's new book, The Reader. Pick this one up if you enjoy dystopian fiction, fantasy, action and adventure, or literary fiction. You will have to fully embrace the mystery and allow yourself to be teased from start to finish. There are more questions than answers. The good news--for some--is that it's a new series with a lot of potential.

My thoughts: This one is beautifully written; the world-building is great but remains mysterious. I didn't always know exactly what was going on--or should that be when it was going on?! But I never wanted to put this one down. Sefia, the heroine, was technically both on a quest to find and save "aunt" Nin AND on the run for her life. She is being hunted down for what she carries: a book.


People passed stories from mouth to mouth like kisses, or plagues, until they flowed down the streets, into gutters, streams, and rivers, down to the ocean itself. (55)

Home's what you make it. Could be a ship. Could be what you carry around on your back day after day. Could be family. Or maybe just one person you love more than any other. That's home. (388)

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker. Niroot Puttapipat. 2016. Candlewick. 12 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It was Christmas Eve, and Clara and her little brother, Fritz, were bursting with excitement.

Premise/plot: A picture book retelling of The Nutcracker. This one is for older readers primarily for two reasons. First, it is text-heavy. Second, it features an intricate pop-up. I don't think it would hold the attention of preschoolers anyway, even without the pop up!

My thoughts: I liked this one. I found the illustrations to be striking. Not bright and bold. Not warm and cozy. But strikingly atmospheric. (A lot more black than what you might be expecting.) They are very beautiful, and invite you into the story.

The story itself is what you'd expect from a retelling of the Nutcracker.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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23. Moo

Moo. Sharon Creech. 2016. 288 pages. [Source: Library book]

First sentence: The truth is, she was ornery and stubborn, wouldn't listen to anybody, and selfish beyond selfish, and filthy, caked with mud and dust, and moody: you'd better watch it or she'd knock you flat.

Premise/plot: When their parents decide to move from the big city to a small town in Maine, Reena and Luke have big adjustments to make. For better or worse, their mom volunteers them to help out a prickly neighbor, Mrs. Falala. At first this means bringing her library books. Then it means taking care of her cow, ZORA. Reena ends up agreeing, somehow, to SHOW the cow at a fair. The book is written--for the most part--in verse.

My thoughts: This book had some potential, in my opinion. But for me, it was "ruined," by the blank verse. I don't mind verse novels if the verse is spectacular and it makes sense for it to be written in verse instead of prose. There are some authors who have mastered this: they have a way with words, with phrases, with building images. What they write is lyrical and deserves the title of poetry. This was just prose masquerading as poetry.

If it had been prose, I think I would have connected more with the characters and the story. I did like the idea of liking this one. Essentially it is the story of two children struggle to connect with an ornery and "mean" neighbor lady, slowly but surely coming to like and respect her. And the two do have to learn a LOT about farm life and taking care of cows. And by working hard and working towards a goal, they do end up growing and stretching as characters.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. Maybe a Fox

Maybe a Fox. Kathi Appelt. 2016. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: From under her covers, Jules Sherman listened for her sister, Sylvie, to walk out of their room.

Premise/plot: Can this book be summarized into a sentence or two? I'll try. Jules and Sylvie are two sisters that are close as can be, yet, in some ways as different as night and day. Jules is more than a little obsessed with collecting rocks, with collecting wishing rocks. Sylvie is more than a little obsessed with running. Her one big wish in life is to run fast, fast, FAST. Jules can't fathom the "why" of it. One winter morning, Sylvie breaks one of her father's many rules. And she does so ultimately at the cost of her life. Jules is alone and not alone. There is her father, of course, her friend, Sam, and, then there is a FOX.

My thoughts: I am of two opinions with this one. On the one hand, I think WHY DO WE NEED ANOTHER SAD BOOK. WHY DOES EVERY BOOK HAVE TO BE SO VERY SAD?! This one doesn't just have a sad twist, it's sad practically cover to cover. On the other hand, I can't deny that it is written quite well. I really loved The Underneath by Kathi Appelt. This I didn't love. Not even close. But not because it was poorly written. It was written well. Not because it lacked creativity. It was definitively unique. Not because the characters were one-dimensional. I found myself liking the characters and finding them developed. I simply didn't "need" or "want" another sad book in my life.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. The Hammer of Thor

The Hammer of Thor. Rick Riordan. 2016. 471 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Lesson learned: If you take a Valkyrie out for coffee, you'll get stuck with the check and a dead body.

Premise/plot: Magnus Chase and his friends are back for a second save-the-world adventure. In this one, they must find a way to retrieve Thor's Hammer and keep a dangerous sword out of the hands of Loki, a sword that would free him. It won't be easy--lives will be put on the line more than once. But they've got a new sidekick, Alex, a son-daughter of Loki. Alex is gender-fluid. From what readers are told, his/her gender isn't something that she/he decides from one minute to the next. Literally, Alex could wake up female and go to bed male. Even throughout one day--there could be a lot of fluidity. This is something that Alex embraces and champions. Alex is, as you can imagine, a bit defensive and very opinionated. Other sidekicks include Samirah al-Abbas (Loki's daughter, a devout Muslim), Hearthstone (deaf elf) and Blitzen (dwarf). There are others--his neighbors--but Sam, Hearth, Blitz, and Alex are essentially his team.

My thoughts: I liked it okay. I didn't love, love, love it. It had its moments. It did. I wish now I'd marked which passages or scenes I liked or loved. I have a feeling that would give me a better sense of how I really "feel" about this one. I think if you're in the right mood, and, if you don't mind a representation of Thor that leaves him wanting, then this one could satisfy. Riordan's THOR is night and day different from THOR from the Marvel movies. And having just rewatched all the movies, it just left me disgruntled.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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