Category Archives: Family

Book Review: The Amazing Adventures of Bumblebee Boy

I am a big fan of the Ladybug Girl books. (I am considering it as a Halloween costume for Little Lucy at some point.)  Bumblebee Boy is now starring in his own book and I am sure it will be the first of many.  Sam is Bumblebee Boy, who loves to fly alone while battling pirates, dragons, aliens and more.  However, Sam also has a little brother named Owen who wants to be a “soup hero” too.  Sam learns that there is time for solo flying and a time when a sidekick is fun to have along as well.  This is a playfully creative book that will appeal to young boys with great imaginations.  I love how the illustrations really pop out when young Sam is pretend playing and then become much more simple and plain for the interruptions by little brother Owen.  While there is a slight message about including and playing with younger siblings the books is really centered on imaginative play and how exciting it can be to create your own alternate reality.  I hope to read about more Bumblebee Boy adventures in the future!

Title:  The amazing adventures of bumblebee boy

Authors/Illustrators:  David Soman and Jacky Davis

Publisher:  Dial Books for Young Readers

ISBN:  978-0-8037-3418-0

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Posted by on August 1, 2012 in Family, Picture Books


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Book Review: Breaking Stalin’s Nose

I must admit that while reading I had a hard time envisioning today’s youth actually wanting to read and able to relate to this middle grade book.  The story is set in 1950’s Moscow where a young, and very naive boy named Sasha, is set to become a young pioneer.  The quick pace keeps the reader involved in this brief story that spans only a few days.  While the story depicts aspects of what life must have been like, it is also heavily punctuated by absurd, cartoon-like events, such as a conversation with a talking, smoking, Stalin’s nose.  The author is an artist and his black and white illustrations really help bring the characters to life.  In addition, the most interesting part of the book is knowing far more than young Sasha who thinks that only if Stalin knew what was happening, then he would surely help those being wrongly accused.  I hope that young people prove me wrong and enjoy this book as much as the adults who have deemed it worthy of both a 2012 Newbery Honor book award and Horn Book’s Best Books for 2011.

Title:  Breaking Stalin’s nose

Author/Illustrator:  Eugene Yelchin

Publisher:  Henry Holt and Company

ISBN:  978-0-8050-9216-5


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Book Review: Where Things Come Back

This debut novel by John Corey Whaley has been making its way onto all kinds of must read lists that I have come across.  It is the winner of both the Michael L. Printz award in young adult literature and the William C. Morris Debut award from the American Library Association. While it is a darkly comic book, Whaley does a remarkable job of creating realistic, multidimensional characters and weaving together different story lines to create a unique story about religion, family and friendship.

Cullen is a 17-year-old boy growing up in a small Arkansas town where somehow, despite best intentions, everyone seems to end up coming back, stuck in this small town.  Now even the supposed extinct Lazarus woodpecker has come back, but amidst the woodpecker frenzy Cullen’s 15-year-old brother goes missing and everyone is left wondering if he will ever be found and make his way back.

There was a sense of foreboding and suspense that propelled me through this book.  I enjoyed the sprinkling of book titles that Cullen dreams up and records throughout such as, “#78:  It Is Not a Sin to Kill a Woodpecker” and “#82:  Five A.M. Is for Lovers and Lawn Ornaments”.  I think young adults will identify with Cullen as he struggles with how to relate to others while wading through a family tragedy and growing up in a small town.  Like many others, I look forward to reading more by this new author.

Title:  Where things come back

Author:  John Corey Whaley

Publisher:  Atheneum Books for Young Readers

ISBN:  978-1-4424-1333-7


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Book Review: A Monster Calls

This powerfully moving book is about loss and coming to terms with grief.  This dark story features thirteen-year-old Conner who has awoken from his nightmare.  It is the nightmare that started when his mother first began her cancer treatments and the one that he can not fathom telling anyone about.  However, he awakens to face a new kind of monster, an ancient creature made from the old yew tree in the back yard.  The monster continues to visit Conner at seven minutes past midnight, sharing three stories and demanding only one thing of Conner… his story, his truth.

The original idea for this story comes from Siobhan Dowd, an acclaimed young adult author who died from cancer before finishing this book.  Patrick Ness was given her beginning and continued to write the amazing and deeply sad story of young Conner.  Glossy pages are filled with dark drawings and sketches that contribute greatly to the overall feel of the story.  See the drawings come to life in this book trailer.

This was a difficult book for me to read due to the recent loss of my father to cancer.  Many tears were shed while reading, but I was impressed with Ness’s ability to tackle the complexity of feelings that children face when dealing with the prolonged sickness and death of a parent or loved one.

Title:  A monster calls

Author:  Patrick Ness (Siobhan Dowd)

Illustrator:  Jim Kay

Publisher:  Candlewick Press

ISBN:  9781406311525

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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Family, Fantasy, Young Adult


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Book Review: The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy)

I’ve been having a great deal of fun reading all sorts of biographies lately.  This picture book biography of Mark Twain is told through the eyes of his 13-year-old daughter, Susy.  Susy details a lively and entertaining view of her papa.  If you know me, you might know about my obsession with miniature things.  I easily fell in love with the little mini book excerpts entitled “Journal” placed throughout the book. These little books contain the actual written words from Mark Twain’s daughter.  The end notes include information about Mark Twain, including a selected time line of his life, a detailed bibliography, some information about his daughter Susy and a great teaching guide for writing your own biography.

Title:  The extraordinary Mark Twain (according to Susy)

Author:  Barbara Kerley

Illustrator:  Edwin Fotheringham

Publisher:  Scholastic Press

ISBN:  978-0-545-12508-6


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Book Review: Grandpa Green

Grandpa Green’s great-grandson wanders through an amazing garden filled with topiary trees that tell the story of his great-grandfather.  And it’s a good thing because Grandpa Green is “pretty old and he sometimes forgets things… but the important stuff, the garden remembers for him.”  This wonderful story about gardening as art, memory, and familial love is a Caldecott Honor Book.  View a very sweet book trailer on YouTube.

Title:  Grandpa green

Author/Illustrator:  Lane Smith

Publisher:  Roaring Book Press

ISBN:  978-1-59643-607-7



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Book Review: Drawing From Memory

This graphic novel is Allen Say’s own autobiography that follows his journey from a young child who loved to draw and read comic books to a young artist during WWII who became an apprentice under Noro Shinpei, Japan’s leading cartoonist.  Allen was shunned by his father at an early age who didn’t understand or value his artistic talent.  When his parents separated, Allen was furnished with his own apartment at the age of 12 as a quiet place to study (and create art!)  Both the historical context and the relationships Allen forms on his quest to developing and embracing his love for art make this an intriguing book to read.  The author’s note at the end of the book includes real photographs and some follow-up notes as to what happens to Allen later in life.

Today, Allen Say lives right here in Portland, Oregon.  He is a well-loved and respected artist who has won the Caldecott Medal for “Grandfather’s Journey” as well as a Caldecott Honor and the Boston Globe Horn Book Award for ” the Boy of the Three-Year Nap”.

Title:  Drawing from memory

Author/Illustrator:  Allen Say

Publisher:  Scholastic Press

ISBN:  978-0-545-17686-6


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