Monday, October 19, 2020

Dear Ally, How Do You Write A Book?, written by Ally Carter, reviewed by Stephanie Wilson

Summary: Ally Carter, a New York Times Bestselling Author gives advice to future authors with the help of a group other popular writers. Carter covers all aspects of the writing process. She divides the process into helpful chapters covering the prewriting, writing and selling of your book. Prewriting covers topics such as plot, characters, world building and finding your voice as an author. Some authors are copious planners. They outline the plot, create detailed backstories for every character and know exactly how they want the action to unfold. Other authors fly by the seat of their pants and let the action unfold organically. Carter stresses there is no right or wrong way to plan your book. The author has to do what works for them. Carter is careful to present realistic advice as well as the struggles of being a writer. The important thing is to keep writing. Every writer struggles with wanting to ditch a tough project in favor of a shiny new idea. Do this often enough and the writer will find themselves with tons of false starts and unfinished work but no complete projects. The chapters include letters asking for advice about writing and the writing process that Ally and the other authors answer. She cautions writers not to compare their first drafts to another writer’s finished product. It is an inherently unfair comparison. The advice offered is concise and practical. One of the most interesting parts of the book was when the other authors talked about rejection. Some authors had their work rejected hundreds of times before they secured an agent. Her best advice concerns query letters and finding an agent. Repeatedly, she cautions writers to beware of scams and scam artists. No legitimate literary agent will ask for money to facilitate publishing a writer’s book. Agents work for the writer and make their money via commissions. If the book does not sell, the literary agent won't make any money. There is no easy path to becoming an author. The path to success is paved with failure and tons of hard work. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: The target audience is teens who want to become writers. The advice is appropriate for adults as well. The book does a fantastic job of breaking down all aspects of the writing process and how to get your writing published. In some cases, the advice seems to be better suited for adults than teens. Most teens are not going to be able to afford a several hundred-dollar screenwriting program for their computer. The book could be used in a creative writing class or literature class to analyze the various aspects of the writing process. It will be a welcome addition to any school or public library. I recommend this book for anyone with dreams of becoming a writer.

Guest, written by Mary Downing Hahn, reviewed by Stephanie Wilson

Summary: Guest: A Changeling Tale draws on the rich history of Irish folklore and fairy tales. Mollie resents being stuck watching her baby brother Thomas. She longs for the freedom to run and play with her friends. Thomas is the perfect baby. He is good natured, well behaved and beautiful. Mollie, her family and friends perpetually call Thomas ugly and talk about his bad temperament. No one must speak the truth about Thomas or they will risk being overhead by the Kinde Folke. The Kinde Folke are malicious and deceitful. They wreak havoc on anyone who curses them or treats them with disrespect. They can fill a field with thorns or make a cow’s milk dry up. In spite of her mother's warnings, Mollie talks about how perfect her brother is. She also neglects to put Thomas’ protective necklace on his neck. She pockets it for herself instead. The Kinde Folke hear her and steal Thomas away. They replace him with an ugly terrifying Changeling. Mollie names him Guest because he won’t be staying long. Her mother plans to abandon Guest at the Crossroads. The local healer warns Mollie’s mother against it. She commands Mollie’s family to love Guest and treat him well instead. It’s their only possible hope of getting Thomas back. The life Mollie used to know slowly disappears as her family falls into despair. Her father leaves the family. Guest slowly sucks the life out of Mollie’s mother with his constant demands for food. Mollie decides to fix the events she set in motion. She goes on a quest to the Dark Lands to return Guest to his kind and take Thomas back home. Mollie soon realizes her plan is both na├»ve and deeply flawed. The Dark Lands are scarier and more treacherous than she knew. Mollie has to decide whether to turn back empty handed or press on to save Thomas. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: Guest is a classic eerie tale of sibling rivalry and regret. Mollie is equal parts rash, brave and kind. Her relationship with Guest changes as they continue on their journey into the Dark Lands. Mollie is a fully formed character but most of the supporting characters are not. The plotting is taut and maintains the tension throughout. The Afterward helpfully explains some of the Irish terminology and folklore that may be unfamiliar to some readers. The book works well as a read aloud story for either a physical or a virtual classroom. The book is also recommended for striving readers due to its lower reading level and compact size. The novel is creepy but not so creepy it will give younger readers nightmares. I highly recommend this spooky read for fans of Hahn's other books and younger readers clamoring for something scary.

I love us!: A Book About Family, illustrated by Lisa Uribe, reviewed by Judy Hauser

Summary: This book is a great look at families and all of the things one should appreciate. From making pancakes as a family, singing together, drawing together, helping one another and many other family activities there is a lot to love in a family. The author, Theodore Henry and illustrator, Sarah Boecher, have created a colorful, lively, pleasant, feel-good book about being part of a family. Young children will enjoy the story and the illustrations in the book. The small, sturdy pages and the mirror at the end of the book will be popular with young children too. This is a great way to talk about different families and what family members do together. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: A good book with a lot of diversity, great for talking about families.

Robobaby, written by David Wiesner, reviewed by Judy Hauser

Summary: The young techy wannabes will love this book. Even the non-techy wannabes will love this book. A robot family creates a newborn robot and fun and wackiness ensue! The Robobaby kit requires several family members and a lot of tools for the baby to be "born." Young children will enjoy the colorful illustrations and the Robobaby's adventures especially when the baby takes off. It is all a lot of fun and the colorful illustrations are chock full of robots and tools and the text is full of tech words like cathode, sprocket, diode and manifold. There may be a lot of questions about the words used and it will make for some fun conversations with the young set! 

Straight Talk for Librarians: A colorful book with fun ties to technology and family.

Dinosaurs Roar, written by Steve Jenkins, reviewed by Judy Hauser

Summary: This is a very short, well-illustrated book on dinosaurs for the pre-k set. The sturdy board pages each illustrate a dinosaur and offer a fact for that particular dinosaur. And each page flips out to extend the illustration featured. For example, one page shows a dinosaur with the text "dinosaurs reach!" When the page extension is flipped over you see, "Titanosaurus lived 70 million years ago. It was one of the largest animals that ever walked the earth." Young children should enjoy the colorful illustrations, extensions, dinosaurs and facts. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: A colorful look at dinosaurs for the very young set. I would think they would like the book and enjoy the illustrations. The long, difficult dinosaur names may be an issue but the book is short, colorful and fun so that probably does not matter.

Speak Up, written by Miranda Paul, reviewed by Judy Hauser

Summary: The author, Miranda Paul and illustrator Ebony Glenn, have created an excellent book for young children about doing the right thing in a variety of situations. Several examples of children speaking up in, sometimes, difficult scenarios promotes confidence, friendship, stewardship and leadership. "When you're being introduced and they get your name all wrong... speak up! Say your name. You are you - and you belong." "When you have a special day, or you're given something neat - speak up! Shout your thanks. Gratitude makes life so sweet." The rhyming text is fun, the illustrations are wonderful and the theme is perfect for teaching young children. At the end of the book the author spotlights some real kids who spoke up and some more suggestions for when children should speak up. This book would be a great addition to a school library. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: A great book about empowerment for young children.

Becoming a Good Creature, written by Sy Montgomery, reviewed by Judy Hauser

Summary: Author, Sy Montgomery, has written a beautiful book celebrating experiences with nature and animals and what can be learned from those experiences. The book starts out with the words "school is not the only place to find a teacher" and from there we are off to different parts of the world where we learn from different animals. We learn to respect others, not to be afraid, to wait patiently, make our own families, learn forgiveness, find common ground and to trust others. Each of these themes is illustrated with wonderful pictures by Rebecca Green. Young children will learn to respect not only animals but one another from the words and illustrations in this book. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: A great book for discussing respect for all living things.

Curious George Votes, written by Deirdre Langeland, reviewed by Judy Hauser

Summary: Curious George is up to his shenanigans again! This time George and the man with the yellow hat visit a school. In the midst of the school election for a new mascot George becomes engaged in the campaigning. He wants to participate by helping with posters and accepting stickers that depict various mascot possibilities. George always gets into a bit of trouble but nothing too bad. It is, of course all very innocent. Young children will learn a bit about voting for an issue which, in this case, is a new school mascot. And they will have fun following along with George as he navigates the voting process and has harmless fun along the way. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: A good story for discussing voting (for the young kids), friendship, being kind and equal to all.

Federico And The Wolf, written by Rebecca J Gomez, reviewed by Judy Hauser

Summary: This excellent variation on Little Red Riding Hood will surely be a hit with children. The variations are that the protagonist is a boy named Federico and he visits his abuelo (grandfather) instead of a grandmother. There is still a big, bad lobo (wolf) who is outsmarted by the clever Federico. The rhyming text is wonderful and full of Spanish words (also listed at the end of the book). The colorful illustrations by Elisa Chavarri are excellent, vivid, fun and interesting. The book is very entertaining and the Spanish words, illustrations and characters make a great book that will surely be a hit. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: Great for discussing other cultures with young children. It may also be interesting to compare and contrast with the classic LRRH.

Vamos! Lets Go Eat, written by Raul the Third, reviewed by Judy Hauser

Summary: Children will love this food adventure with fun and interesting characters. The characters are different representations of animals (the snake wearing a pant leg and a boot is a hoot!). Little Lobo and his friends prepare a food bike cart for a wrestling event and the story follows them as they gather food items to sell. The reader/listener will learn a lot about Spanish words and phrases, foods and the wrestling event. An excellent food glossary is included in the back of the book. Along with the great characters portrayed in the book the dizzying, colorful, wonderful illustrations will be a huge hit and children will take in every gem on every page. Highly recommended (beware: do not read while hungry!). 

Straight Talk for Librarians: A great book for learning Spanish words and foods for young children. The wrestling aspect of the book would be a good discussion topic.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Curious George And The Summer Games, written by Monica Perez, reviewed by Judy Hauser

Summary: Another fun Curious George book! George and the man with the yellow hat have been around in books for decades. The popularity must still be strong for these characters. In this adventure George attends some summer games for kids. He tries different games like the hurdles, badminton, the high jump, volleyball and a relay race. But he did not do well in any of these games. George finds the games that work for him like the balance beam, pommel horse and rings. He also helps a girl who freezes up on the balance when stricken with stage fright. George jumps on the beam and helps her get through it. Young children will enjoy George and his enthusiasm for trying new things and helping others. George is a good role model for trying new things, realizing when it is time to move on, making friends and helping others. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: A good story for showing that you don't have to be the best at something. Also, that you can help others in need.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Tick Or Treat With Tow Truck Joe, written by June Sobel, reviewed by Judy Hauser

Summary: If you are looking for a cute, colorful Halloween book for pre-k children this is a winner. The Halloween theme is fun as is the rhyming text and the board pages with lift up flaps. Joe the tow truck and his pal Patch the dog have some Halloween adventures. They plan to meet their friends to trick or treat and their friends are other types of vehicles dressed in costume. Between the costumes, candy and Halloween shenanigans young children will enjoy the festive story. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: If you are allowed to read a Halloween book to young children this is a good one.

I Love Genetics: Explore With Sliders, Lift-The-Flaps, A Wheel, And More!, written by Allison Wortche and Steve Mack, reviewed by Judy Hauser

Summary: This is a book on genetics for the very young set - very young as in pre-K! The book is, of course, colorfully and interestingly illustrated since it will be read out loud to the listeners who will enjoy the words and pictures. There is diversity in the children represented in the illustrations and the text is upbeat and fun. One page has a mirror so that a child could look at her/himself while looking at eye color and type of hair, etc. It will get children to start thinking about why they have certain features and traits before getting into the rest of the book. The authors point out that geneticists study traits and how they are passed from parents to babies. They then go into a very brief question about what a kitten might look like when you look at the cat parents. It is a nice, short, kid-friendly look at genetics and should be of interest to young children. 

Straight Talk for Librarians: I'm not sure if the pre-k set is ready for a genetics discussion but this book is a good start.