Book Reviews

Kids’ Books- Silly Ones and Sad Ones: My April Reads

Grenade by Alan Gratz

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4StarsAges 8-12

Most WWII children’s books I see deal with the Holocaust or Nazism, but Grenade is different. In this title, Alan Gratz presents the stories of Hideki, a dedicated Japanese child soldier, and Ray, a young American soldier on his first mission. The story is told in alternating narratives for the first half of the book, until Hideki’s and Ray’s stories collide. The character development of both Hideki and Ray is what kept me hanging on to this story that is otherwise outside the genre I normally read. The reader watches as Hideki grows from an arguably brainwashed, dedicated patriot to a cynical runaway as the Japanese begin to lose the battle of Okinawa. Ray begins his service as an eager patriot, but seeing the horror of war turns him into a questioning, and less than dedicated, soldier. Grenade is a raw war story that will make young readers think about the violence of war and whether or not its really “worth it.”

Read Alikes / Reminds Me of…

This book is outside my genre so I don’t have many read alikes, but the fast pace and action of the story reminded me of Spy Runner that I read last month.

We’re Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey

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5StarsAges 8-12

Lan’s ‘reproductive unit’ is invited to inhabit a far away planet as a test group for a very hesitant species with a recent regime change. It’s a sticky situation, and Lan is setting out to see if a little bit of slapstick comedy and singing can save the human race. My verdict: this is perfect sci-fi for kids. It’s humorous, has great character development and world-building, it’s a great length for the audience, and offers moral and ethical issues for children to contemplate. Rodkey has done a fantastic job in writing a book with a complex story line that is also kid-friendly. And, for sci-fi, it has an oddly realistic feel, kind of like Black Mirror. Oh, and there is definitely an metaphor for the religious right in here somewhere!! Overall, it was a total hit for me! Highly recommended!

Read Alikes / Reminds Me of…

Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence

The Breakaways by Cathy G. Johnson

Screen Shot 2019-04-26 at 11.53.12 AMAges 10-14

3StarsFaith joins the “C” soccer team at her middle school, and the team turns out to be a motley crew. The graphic novel gives us a peek inside each player’s private life along with some of Faith’s dreams and drawings. Faith ultimately becomes the thread that unites this group of dysfunctional misfits. I thought this graphic novel had a lot of potential and started out very strong, but it unraveled about halfway through. It’s just not long enough to offer the reader any real character development and its attempts at being diverse and progressive fell flat. There are many moral dilemmas and real middle school problems, but Johnson doesn’t dwell on them long enough for young readers to grasp their seriousness. There are two examples of this that didn’t sit well with me. The first was a pretty intense bullying scene that goes unreconciled. The second consists of two coming out stories that are completely glossed over with no emotional character connection or plot set-up first. While Breakaways is “on trend” in many ways, it ultimately doesn’t live up to its peers.

Read Alikes / Reminds Me of…

Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

The Afterwards by A.F. Harrold

Screen Shot 2019-04-26 at 11.53.29 AM3StarsAges 7-10

This book got rave professional reviews, but I found it to be lackluster, especially since it is similar in many ways to Coraline by Neil Gaiman- an author who’s hard to beat. Emily Gravett’s illustrations are gorgeous, though and I enjoyed the mix of prose and verse throughout the book. I felt like the dialogue didn’t add to the story much- there are lots of times characters just say “oh.” The plot relies heavily on another realm, but the descriptions of it and what exactly it is are sparse. The characters are not that developed. The descriptions of a bleak and sad afterlife may also spark difficult questions for children with religious affiliations.

Read Alikes / Reminds Me of…

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Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Clyde by Jim Benton

Screen Shot 2019-04-26 at 11.53.52 AM4StarsAges 7-10 

Clyde is a funny, short comic about a tough and angry bear with a startlingly tougher butterfly friend. This one is perfectly set up for sequels and I’d be shocked if it didn’t become a series! Funny, silly, bizarre, and adorable all at once!


Read Alikes / Reminds Me of…

Dog Man by Dav Pilkey

The Croc Ate My Homework (Pearls Before Swine comics) by Stephan Pastis

Bunny vs Monkey by Jamie Smart

Peter & Ernesto: The Lost Sloths by Graham Annable

Screen Shot 2019-04-26 at 11.55.45 AM5StarsAges 7-10

Peter & Ernesto is such a joyous, wholesome comic. It follows two sloth friends navigating their everyday rainforest adventures. In the first installment, Ernesto leaves his tree to go on the adventure of a lifetime, leaving behind his best, but cautious friend, Peter. This next installment follows the sloths as they search for a new home after their tree is destroyed by a hurricane. It’s funny, whimsical, and surprisingly fun to read aloud!

Read Alikes / Reminds Me of…

New Shoes by Sara Varon

Hippopotamister by John Patrick Green

Narwhal and Jelly by Ben Clanton

Follow me on Goodreads for even more reads!

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