February 9, 2019

Nevermoor:  The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Book I) by Jessica Townsend

Dare I say it?  I think this book may equal those in the Harry Potter series.  High praise indeed for this wonderful new series by Jessica Townsend.  Magic and learning, delight and whimsy, dark tidings and tension, wonderful teachers and mad professors.  Deep friendship and bullying enemies.  Where to begin  to describe the world of Nevermoor?

I’ll begin with Morrigan, an appealing protagonist to say the least.  Born on Eventide Night, she is doomed to die on her 11th birthday.  Since she was born, she has been cursed to be blamed for everything that goes wrong, every bit of bad luck and misfortune that plagues the residents of the town of Jackalfax in the Wintersea Republic.  Fortunately, just before early Eventide, Jupiter North arrives, to be her mentor and save her from Death.  He whisks her away to Nevermoor, escaping from the Hunt of Smoke and Shadow to arrive safely.  No longer considered a curse, Morrigan accepts Jupiter as her patron and begins a series of trials to become a member of the Wundrous Society. As readers, we are treated to Wonder on every page.  I love the setting of the Hotel Duecalion, where Morrigan, Jupiter and a host of fascinating characters live (including Frank, the vampire dwarf, and Fenestra, the Magnificat).  The details are simply astonishing.  One of my favorites is the way Morrigan’s bedroom adapts to what she needs and likes everyday–like the octopus armchair with cozy arms that wrap Morrigan in a hug as she settles in to read.  Adventure and excitement about, the good guys are delightful and the villains are super-bad.  The book has a satisfying conclusion, and points to way to Book II: The Wundersmith:  The Calling of Morrigan Crow.  You are set for a terrific read!


IMAGINE A CITY by Elise Hurst: Magical, Imaginative Picture book to Explore

February 2, 2019

Imagine a City by Elise Hurst

I love books that draw you into a magical world filled with elements that can live in our imagination.  Especially intriguing are those that feature intricate, detailed drawings on each page that bring up new treasures every time you read them.  If you like artists like Chris Van Allsburg, and other-worldly illustrated adventures, this is the book for you.  The pen-and-ink drawings reminded me of my imagined Hogwarts, and I loved imagining floating on a lilypad raft or watching books float by or riding a fish bus with a bear as conductor.  The text is sweet, and I appreciate the rhyming text that tells of two children on quite an amazing outing with their mother.  But it is the illustrations that will capture your attention and your imagination.  A wonderful read to share with your family–again and again.

ARCH ENEMIES: Book 2 of THE RENEGADES Trilogy by Marissa Meyer

January 27, 2019

Arch Enemies by Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer’s updated fairytale series Lunar Chronicles is one of my all-time favorite YA series.  With sassy and complex heroines (and heroes), an  intriguing sci-fi imagined world, and a knowing nod to all the fairytales we are so familiar with, Marissa Meyer captivated, surprised, and hooked many readers, (including me). To check out our earlier reviews of the individual books in this series, click here.  We also recommended her stand alone novel Heartless, a novel that tells the back story of the Queen of Hearts (and other characters) of ALICE IN WONDERLAND fame.

Now we are immersed in her second series, Renegades.  Arch Enemies  continues the harrowing adventures of  our heroes, Nova and Adrian.  Both have secret lives and identities they are hiding from each other, even as their friendship and possible budding romance grows.  Against a backdrop of a dystopia ruled by prodigies with Super Powers (Renegades), as well as a group of Anarchists who citizens views as Super Villains, the relationships and adventures among the complex characters is compelling.  I can’t give the plot 5 stars, though. . .it gets a bit convoluted and silly at times, and I only stayed with it because of the characters.  I’m glad there will be a third book to hopefully pull it all together.  If you are a fan, I think you’ll want to read this new trilogy, but if you are new to Meyer’s writing, check out the earlier novels first.

CINDERELLA OF THE NILE (One Story, Many Voices) by Beverly Naidoo, illustrated by Marjan Vafaeian

January 18, 2019

Cinderella of the Nile  by Beverly Naidoo, illustrated by Marjan  Vafaeian

Cinderella is one of those classic tales, retold in many cultures with different twists.  We even did a whole book flight on Cinderella that explored the history with recommendations for different age (Cinderella:  A Flight) then, another one that highlighted many different retellings (Cinderella Around the World).

And just this past year, one of our most respected picture book authors, Beverly Naidoo, has penned a wonderful retelling based on the original Egyptian Cinderella.  And what a powerful story it is!  In this early Cinderella tale, our heroine is Rhodopis, a Greek girl who is sold into slavery by bandits and taken to Egypt. And that’s only the beginning of her journey.  When her fellow slave girls torment her, rubbing sand into her food, her resolve grows: “Blow wind blow, watch me bend, not break!” Along the way she becomes friends with the storyteller Aesop and a host of playful animals. Her master gives her a pair of beautiful rose-red slippers, making three other servants jealous. But when Horus, the falcon, sweeps in to steal her slipper, Rhodopis has little idea that this act will lead her to the King of Egypt.  Rather than moping in the slave hut, she is soon dancing by the banks of the Nile – and weaving her spell on the Pharaoh.  The illustrations are beautifully detailed and a wonderful complement to Naidoo’s poetic words.   Highly recommended!

ORGANIC CHEMISTRY FOR BABIES by Chris Ferrie and Cara Florence: An Intriguing Board Book

January 11, 2019

Organic Chemistry for Babies by Chris Ferrie and Cara Florence

Last week, I reviewed a board book by Chris Ferrie, award-winning physicist from Sydney Australia. I loved 8 Little Planets so much that I found myself returning to his baby University series for further inspiration and fun.  There are so many  titles that captivated me that I had to follow-up and share at least one more.  Board books are especially appealing to babies (and their adult reader-helpers) when they are interactive, have bright and colorful illustrations, and the text is clear, simple, and inviting.  A little humor thrown in is an added benefit.  Check on all accounts with Organic Chemistry for BabiesAnd yes, it really is a colorfully simple introduction to the structure of organic, carbon-containing compounds and materials.  The illustrations are super child-friendly: for example,  the cover depicts pacifiers in the shape of cyclohexane.  A delightful reading experience for all involved.  Check out the other titles in the Baby University series, too!

8 LITTLE PLANETS by Chris Ferrie, illustrated by Lizzie Doyle: A Terrific Sturdy Board Book for Babies

January 4, 2019

8 Little Planets by Chris Ferrie, illustrated by Lizzie Doyle

It is such a treat to read with babies, introducing them to the wonder of books and the power of sharing stories together.  Babies and toddlers love the texture and feel of sturdy board books they can chew on and slobber over, too, so they make a perfect choice.  And speaking of perfect choices, I am eager to recommend a delightful and entertaining new board booking  in the Baby University series, which I happen to love. And it’s science, after all.  What’s not to appreciate? I can’t think of a better introduction to astronomy, and in particular, the planets.  Each planet is unique, illustrated in bold appealing colors, with fun rhyming facts for babies and toddlers, not to mention the adults readers.  Neptune is one of my favorites:

Old slow Neptune looks a bit behind.

Orbiting the Sun takes an awful long time.

But the eighth little planet doesn’t need to worry.

It spins on its axis in a really being hurry!

There’s something special about each planet:  Mars has the tallest mountain; Mercury is closest to the sun; Uranus is a very windy ice giant.

And in a special homage to our one-time 9th planet, the book is dedicated to minor planet Pluto!  Perfect little book for astronomers of all ages to enjoy.

A BIG MOONCAKE FOR LITTLE STAR by Grace Lin: A Beautiful Picture Book Tale to Explore the Phases of the Moon

December 28, 2018

A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin

Lately, the moon and its phases, names for different full moons, and gorgeous images of the moon from around the world have surrounded us.  On January 21st, 2019, we have our next full moon, which is traditionally called the Wolf Moon.  And in a surprise bonus, we will also be treated to a total lunar eclipse!  What better way to celebrate than a beautiful new picture book from award-winning author, Grace Lin. And the awards keep coming in for Lin:

Praise for A Big Mooncake for Little Star:

Horn Book Fanfare 2018 Selection
A Chicago Public Library Best Book 0f 2018
A Shelf Awareness Best Book of 2018
A Center for the Study of Multicultural Children’s Literature Best Book of 2018
A Boston Globe Best Book of 2018
The story itself is delightful: Little Star loves the mooncakes she and her Mom bake–and just can’t resist a nibble. . .or two.  I love the night kitchen in stunning gouache illustrations, the closeness of mother and daughter, and the simple explanation of the phases of the moon.  The mooncake, which begins full, slowly changes shape, diminishing a bit each night with Little Star’s nibbles  and evolving into the different crescent shapes of the moon. The storytelling is simply magical, and the pictures go with it are memorable with a bright golden moon against a stark black page.  I love how the mooncake crumbles into stars.
Though the traditional Chinese Moon Festival falls in September, I still think it would be a sweet book for starting off a year-long moon celebration.