Childrens Book Reviews

This is Belle

Review by: Michael Lambert
Published: February 14, 2019

Every parent is looking for a book to inspire their children, and this book is special in so many ways.

For starters, the entire book is presented with beautiful graphics. Graphics are a part of every childrens book, or at least they should be, but the graphics often are an after thought. These graphics actually paint the picture that the story is telling. It's easy for a child to focus on the book because of these well presented graphics. Not too "slick", not to goofy, just right to speak to your child.

To further aid in your childs development, the book is written in two languages...showing side by side. Coming from south Florida this is invaluable. But should be considered valuable by anyone interested in language skills. Exposing a child (as well as the parent) to multiple lanaguages as early as possible is a great way to help insure an open mind, for language, as well as various cultures. And obviously a primarily spanish speaking family will be thrilled to have a well written childrens book written in english and the original author!

But there is no doubt that the true value of this book is it's message. I would actually say there are two distinct messages within the book. One is showing that any child that has difficulty finding friends or mixing in should realize that they are not alone. This simple fact can put your child at ease, and allow them to feel less alone and awkward. The second message suggests that the child find things in common with others, and build relationships based on the commonality. A message that should speak to children as well as adults, but too often doesn't.

I have had the opportunity to meet this author, as well as to "fight" with her, as she is a 3rd degree black belt in Aikido, and I am a shodan (1st degree). When Isabel is not swimming, running or pursuing other physical challenges, she teaches Aikido to children and exhibits great patience training the children to be respectful and controlled, but have fun. She and her family are amazing people, and their children are a testament to her ability to speak to and inspire children.

Title:This is Belle
Paperback: 26 Pages
Author: Isabel De La Vega
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication Date: 13 April 2017
Format: Paperback
ISBN-10: 1524687308
ISBN-13: 978-1524687304
For ages: 5 - 12


Junior Music For Tigers

Review by: DimbutNice
Published: April 22, 2021

Louisa’s mum has shipped Louisa halfway across the world to spend her summer holidays with her bizarre Australian Uncle Ruff, who has an uncanny interest in endangered and ‘extinct’ wildlife. 

From the moment she landed in Tasmania, Louisa feels she would have rather stayed home in her hometown, Toronto, California playing her violin for her music audition.

A her experiences in the Talkine rainforests become more mysterious and exhilarating, she learns the importance of nature and the survival of endangered species. She also learns that the supposedly extinct Tasmanian Tigers have interesting taste in music. 

Once she returns home, she will never think of music in the same way again. Join her on her exciting musical journey in the Talkines, with a music-loving Tasmanian Tiger called Ellie; a new friend, Collin who is struggling in school; a wild conservationist Mel and two small devil joeys called Waltz and Matilda. Welcome to Australia.

I enjoyed this book so much. Michelle Kadarusman has captured the essence and detail of the Australian bush in every word and detail of the story. Her magnificent writing makes it easy to imagine the imagery of the Talkine rainforests. Once you start to read her book you can not stop.

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in music or wildlife, especially endangered and extinct animals such as the Tasmanian Tigers. I was disappointed when I finished the book because I wanted to continue reading about Louisa’s exceptional journey in the Talkine rainforests. I recommend this book for ages 9 and up.

Title: Music for Tigers
Author: Michelle Kadarusman
Illustrator: Rebecca Bender
Publisher: Pajama Press, $34.16
Publication date: March 2021
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9871772781892
For ages: 8 - 14
Type: Junior Fiction

Hello, Baby!

Review by: Shaye Wardrop
Published: April 21, 2021

A new baby is a gift to the world — a precious gift of love and wonder. 

Hello, Baby! by Shelly Unwin and Jedda Robaard is a celebration of that love and wonder, and all the beautiful moments that come with a new baby.

We’ll count your fingers and your toes

And marvel at your button nose.

We’ll sing and read and talk to you

And make you smile at peekaboo!

Written in flawless rhyme, the rhythm and flow of this picture book is just delightful. It’s soothing and soft, and a wonderful bedtime read for littlies to celebrate those beautiful first days, months and years of baby life.

With gorgeous pastels and cute baby animals throughout, it’s also a joy to explore. Unwin’s story and Robaard’s illustrations perfectly entwine to deliver a picture book that I predict will quickly become a favourite.

With a special place at the start to write your name and baby’s name, it’s the perfect gift for brand new bundles of joy. But I love that it’s also a book that will continue to give as they grow. When baby is a little older, they will have so much fun learning and pointing to the wide variety of animals featured. Unwin has also weaved in brilliant repetition so kids can join in with the storytelling. It’s truly a treat.

At the back of the book there is also a place to stick in baby’s first photo, so the book can become a keepsake for children to hold onto over the years.

I really love this book. I’m sure every parent knows new babies bring challenges and frustrations, and there are bad days as well as good. But Hello, Baby! is here to remind us that every second of baby chaos is worth it — that there really is nothing as magical as new life and the joy and wonder it brings to our world.

For more amazing picture books by Shelly Unwin, make sure you check out There's a Baddie Running Through This Book and Blast Off!. And for more stunning illustrations from Jedda Robaard, you simply must take a look at I'm Ready for Christmas and I'm Ready for Preschool.

Title: Hello, Baby!
Author: Shelly Unwin
Illustrator: Jedda Robaard
Publisher: Allen and Unwin, $19.99
Publication Date: March 2021
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781760876074
For ages:  0 - 5
Type: Picture Book

Winterborne Home for Mayhem and Mystery

Review by: Anastasia Gonis
Published: April 20, 2021

Winterborne Home for Mayhem and Mystery, the second book in the Winterborne Home series by Ally Carter, is another intricate plot to unravel. Another wonderful mystery with complex questions and mazes to find your way through.

Uncle Evert is in jail for killing Gabriel Winterborne’s family and trying to take over his fortune. The five children, Colin, Sadie, Tim, Violet and April, living in the Mansion with Gabriel as their guardian, discover Gabriel is also the Sentinel, a vigilante that protects the city with skill, swords and knives.

Isabella, head of the Winterborne Foundation, can’t be found. This is not the only disturbing mystery. Who is the fake vigilante dressed in identical clothing to Gabriel, that breaks into the Mansion looking for something or someone? The scariest part is the level of destruction they leave behind.

Someone from Child Protective Services arrives with accusation that Gabriel is an unsuitable guardian, especially with Isabella’s absence. She is determined to remove the children from the Mansion.

But these extraordinary children haven’t been chosen at random to become part of the Winterborne family. They are intelligent, sharp, courageous and proactive. Can they solve the surge of mysteries that envelope them?

Through chases and near misses, explosions and escapes, April and the other children search for Gabriel. Their home and safety depend on their finding him soon, as their absolute belief is he would never willingly abandon them. April believes he is either dead or seriously wounded.

Who is the strange woman that shows up after ten years claiming to be April’s mother? Then there is Reggie Dupree who claims to be her father!

No one is who they claim to be. What other secrets lay hidden in and beneath the Winterborne Mansion? No one is to be trusted, for Gabriel’s billions are a magnet for every con artist.

What connection, if any, does April have to the Winterbornes? Does the key worn for years around her neck hold the answer? What about the woman who claims to be her mother? What role does she play amidst all the mystery and mayhem?

Title: Winterborne Home for Mayhem and Mystery
Author: Ally Carter
Publisher: Hachette, $ 14.99
Publication Date: 23 February 2021
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780734419187
For ages: 10+
Type: Middle Grade Fiction

Green Nation Revolution: Use Your Future to Change the World by Valentina Giannella and Lucia Esther Maruzzelli, illustrated by Manuela Marazzi, 128 pp, RL 5

Review by: Tanya
Published: April 21, 2021

Green Nation Revolution: Use Your Future to Change the World 
by Valentina Giannella and Lucia Esther Maruzzelli
illustrated by Manuela Marazzi
Review Copy from Laurence King

Authors Giannella and Mauruzzelli brought us We Are All Greta: Be Inspired to Save the World, a biography of climate activist Thunberg that is also a primer on climate change with suggestions for sustainable living, all presented in an engaging way, shining a ray of hope on what feels like an overwhelming situation. With Green Nation Revolution: Use Your Future to Change the World, Giannella and Mauruzzelli explore what happens next in the fight against climate change, something Thunberg, and many other youth activists, proved you don't have to be an adult to understand.

Acknowledging the extraordinary ability of teen Greta Thunberg to get the world talking about issues scientists and politicians have been trying to publicize for over thirty years, as well the inspirational figure she has been for many young climate activists, Green Nation Revolution: Use Your Future to Change the World begins with a chapter titled, "How Dare You?" Thunberg's efforts and actions over the last two years provide the backbone of the chapters that follow. The concept of a circular economy is followed by a chapter on new jobs for a Green Nation, then a superb chapter titled, "Be Prepared: Studying for a Brilliant Green Career" which lists study programs and green universities around the world to help young readers prepare for the future and the advance technology they could be developing and/or working with. Everything from sustainable investing and agriculture, to the water footprint of businesses, building with zero emissions and style without consequences are also covered.

Green Nation Revolution: Use Your Future to Change the World is the ideal book for anyone, young or old, seeking to educate themselves in an effort to make informed changes that will work toward sharing water and other resources fairly, producing what we need without polluting and shop responsibly. 

Old Enough to Save the Planet by Loll Kirby, illustrated by Adelina Lirius, foreword by Kallan Benson

Review by: Tanya
Published: April 20, 2021


Old Enough to Save the Planet: 
Be Inspired by Real-Life Children Taking Action Against Climate Change
illustrated by Adelina Lirius
foreword by Kallan Benson, co-founder of Fridays for Future

Kirby, a primary school teacher, profiles twelve contemporary climate activists from around the world who are also children. Using a picture book format to present these diverse mini-biographies, Kirby and Lirius, who has the challenge of illustrating the acts of conservation and education, have created an engaging way to inform and inspire the youngest readers. A thoughtful format keeps information organized across each two-page spread and throughout the book, which has much to offer. The efforts and impact of Greta Thunberg make a book like this possible (and needed) and are recognized by Kallan Benson, co-founder of Fridays for Future, in her foreword. Sharing her realization at age nine that she do more than worry about climate change, she quotes Thunberg, who says, "You are never too small to make a difference," adding her own motto, "Everyone is a changemaker."

Starting with cameos of the twelve young activists that include their name(s) and countries, along with brief descriptions of their efforts, Old Enough to Save the Planet then devotes a two-page spread to each child, their name, country and changemaking efforts noted in the lower, righthand corner of each spread. Each spread leads with an introduction that begins with the word, "I'm." Starters like "I'm big enough to save our trees . . . " and "I'm powerful enough to preserve the environment . . ." empower readers from the start. A paragraph details the efforts of each climate activist, with campaigns ranging from planting trees and reintroducing native plants and animals, cleaning trash off the shore and creating community gardens to reduce food waste and promote pollination as well as educating others about the dangers of single-use plastic, poaching rhinos and the responsible use of palm oil to reduce the destruction of rainforests. Throughout illustrations, small word chunks add to information, giving the illustrations an active feel.

Back matter includes Kirby's excellent suggestions for helping to save the planet (buy less stuff, eat less meat, save energy at home whenever possible) that are genuinely doable for young readers. She goes on to give inspired readers a list of ten things "you can do to make your voice heard and further reading.

Old Enough to Save the Planet is a superb starting place, for young and old, to educate, inspire and encourage us to do more.

Atlantis: The Accidental Invasion by Gregory Mone, 304 pp, RL 4

Review by: Tanya
Published: April 19, 2021

Atlantis: The Accidental Invasion

by Gregory Mone

Published by Amulet Books

Self-described, "novelist, science writer, and storyteller," Gregory Mone is the perfect person to deliver a contemporary telling of an ancient myth (or is it?). Set in the future, Mone creates two worlds, each with intriguing technology, and each experiencing the dangerous consequences of climate change and pollution brought on by humans.

Initially told in alternating, third-person points of view, we first meet Kaya, a fourteen year-old Atalantean. Fearless, largely unsupervised and equipped with elite equipment like gravity gear and a deepwater dive suit, Kaya is determined to discover for herself if the People of the Sun (humans living on land) are real, or the stuff of stories, as the leaders of Atlantis would like their citizens to believe. At the same time, twelve-year-old Lewis Merriweather Gates is just trying to find a way to spend a few days camping with his dad. Unfortunately, Lewis' dad, Dr. Richard Gates, is a scientist who has been abandoned by his community due to his unstoppable quest to prove the existence of the underwater city of Atlantis. Thinking he is just stowing away in his dad's hovercar, Lewis instead finds himself aboard a submarine built by Hanna, a fourteen-year-old college graduate up for the engineering challenge (and looking to rebel against her parents) and piloted by his father as it is swept into the ocean by one of the increasingly frequent tidal waves plaguing the Earth. Kaya and Lewis' worlds collide in a place that puts everyone in danger.

Mone's fast paced story stands out for his seamless incorporation of the many consequences of climate change and the drastic rate at which human are polluting the oceans of the world, particularly with plastic. In back matter titled, "The Science of the Accidental Invasion," Mone expands on this, giving readers facts and numbers, as well as meaningful encouragement from himself, scientists and environmental activists that, "Individual efforts matter," and kids really can make a difference. With the legend of Atlantis, Mone has chosen the perfect way to get young readers thinking, and hopefully acting. In Mone's world, human pollution directly impacts other humans, even if they live in a secret city miles below the surface of the ocean. And, rather than suffer in silence, the Atlanteans retaliate in a big (tidal) way.

Add to this secret government machinations in both worlds and the suspense of Atlantis: The Accidental Invasion will have readers racing ahead to and ending that promises more to come. . . 

Written by Gregory Mone

By Gregory Mone & Bill Nye (the Science Guy)

Young Reader adaptations of adult books by Gregory Mone

The Leak by Kate Reed Petty & Andrea Bell, 240 pp, RL 4

Review by: Tanya
Published: April 16, 2021


The Leak
Published by FirstSecond Books

There are so many amazing things about this graphic novel, and so many layers for readers to dig into. In many ways, almost thirteen-year-old Ruth Keller is your typical middle schooler - her friends prod and push her about her friendship/budding romance with classmate Jonathan and her dentist lectures her about brushing and flossing after finding yet another cavity. Atypically, Ruth, curious about the world she lives in with great research skills, is a passionate journalist-in-training with a newsletter where she reports the "coolest news of the week. Serving Twin Oaks and Pikes County since 2014." When she discovers dead fish and a strange sludge at Lake Particular while she and Jonathan are fishing, she senses a story that needs telling. But what is the story? Here is where Petty's story deepens from a mystery to be solved by an intrepid kid reporter to a story about information and how it is disseminated - or not. Petty offers an essential look at the vital work that journalists do and the importance of professional integrity, giving readers the opportunity to see this first hand as Ruth struggles with letting her opinions and assumptions shape and impact her reporting. Petty's superb author's note addresses "fake news,"expanding on the central plot theme of The Leak: "how we decide what is true, and how we share the truth with others."

While adults are often minor characters in middle grade stories, the nature of Ruth's story makes them an important part of The Leak. Petty does a fantastic job with presenting a range of of adult characters, starting with the dentist who is too buys talking to about her own child (and ignoring the fact that her hands are in Ruth's mouth, preventing her from responding) to listen to Ruth when she insists she brushes and flosses. Ruth is also condescended to by adults she interviews in her search for the source of the pollution in Lake Particular, but she finds support and guidance in the form of her brother's girlfriend (an intern at The New York Times) and her science teacher, Ms. Freeman, who goes out of her way to pursue the source of the pollution. And, while there are adults who attempt to take advantage of Ruth's age and manipulate her with subtle bribes, Ruth's parents are present for her every step of the way, setting reasonable boundaries for her, presenting consequences when Ruth makes poor choices, and ultimately supporting her with their belief in her reporting and integrity.

Bell's illustrations are superb. Her muted palette supports the seriousness of the story while the simplicity of her illustrations lends the many characters, settings and action a clarity that is easy to follow in a story where there is a lot going in. Ruth is biracial with secondary characters presenting a rich ethnic diversity.

Bruno the Beekeeper: A Honey Primer by Aneta Františka Holasová, translated by Andrew Lass

Review by: Tanya
Published: April 14, 2021

Bruno the Beekeeper: A Honey Primer 

by Aneta Františka Holasová

Published by Candlewick Press

Bruno the Beekeeper: A Honey Primer is a delightful surprise! The title and the charming honey-hued illustrations give a picture book vibe to what is truly a primer on beekeeping in this Czech picture book, originally published in 2013. With Bruno the bear as main character, Holasová crafts a narrative around a season of bees, starting in the late Fall. As Bruno and Grandma (a human, curiously, who, along with Bruno, is sometimes seen small enough to fit inside the hive) tend to their hives in a pastoral setting, scientific diagrams and more playful, but still technical illustrations give the bees personality, like a two page spread showing the 40-day life of a worker bee that ends with a tiny tombstone. Facts about the bees themselves are fascinating, but action surrounding the bees in their hive - and the human work that goes into helping to sustain the hive - is truly eye opening. From feeding the bees in the Spring with a dough made from sugar and honey to marking the queen and maintaining the supers, the parts of the hive that are added on during honey production time. Holasová ends her book with a unique gingerbread cookie recipe that calls for 1 1/2 cups of honey, rye flour and a spice mix (that Grandma grinds herself) that includes just a pinch of ginger along with fennel and anise seeds.

Build Your Bee Library