Thursday, November 21, 2019

Hurry Up, Alfie!, written by Anna Walker, reviewed by Todd Erickson

Summary: Hurry Up, Alfie is an age old tale of procrastination. Alfie has a difficult time focusing on the task at hand - getting ready to go to the park. But there are too many other more important activities on his agenda, such as handstands, swinging and locating a missing toy. A debate whether or not he needs an umbrella is moot, as he ends up in his underwear and playing in the water.

Straight Talk for Librarians: Moms and dads will sympathize with Alfie's parent's plight, children will recognize and get a kick out of Alfie's delay tactics. This one is probably best as a one-on-one a lap story, or a read aloud for very small children and parents. It's a logical springboard for a conversation about procrastination. It's never quite clear what Alfie's motivation is, whether is ADHD or anxiety, or good old procrastination, but this light story is carefree and light. The pictures are fun and colorful and propel the action and help carry out the theme.

One Day in the Eucalyptus Eucalyptus Tree, written by Daniel Bernstorm, reviewed by Todd Erickson

Summary: The main character is a little boy with a whirly twirly toy who one day gets eaten by a snake in a eucalyptus tree. With every turn of the page, the boy convinces the snake that there's more room in his stomach and he should eat more. In rhyming cumulative fashion, the snake eats more and more, larger and larger animals until he burps up everything and winds up with a crummy tummy ache.

Straight Talk for Librarians: Reminiscent of folktale The Mitten, but with the sing-song repetition of the old lady who swallowed a fly, this rhyming story would be an worthy accompaniment to either story. This cumulative tale begs to be read aloud, and children will eagerly singalong and accompany with the repeating chorus. There are plenty of colorful, descriptive words and action verbs to help first graders expand their vocabulary. With bold pictures and lively verse, this one is sure to delight young children as a read aloud.

Can I Tell You a Secret, written by Anna Kang, reviewed by Todd Erickson

Summary: Never burden a good friend with a secret is great advice from Marlene Dietrich, unless you are a young child or frog, as is the narrator of this story. Monty has a secret, which he almost immediately confesses to his audience. Small children will feel important being entrusted with Monty's shameful secret of not being able to swim. He's not quite ready to tell his parents, but with the reader's support and encouragement he might just be able to confess his problem - which ultimately is not a very big secret, as it is a big deal for him.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This simple tale is entertaining, engaging and effective for illustrating to children the importance of not keeping secrets. Monty is ashamed he can't swim, but his parents already know this and are just waiting for him to ask for help. Young kids will delight in being treated as Monty's confidant. The book lends itself to a discussion of secrets and the appropriateness of spilling the beans over keeping tight lipped. A great read aloud told in first person, young children will definitely want to reread multiple times.

Fred Forgets, written by Peter Jarvis, reviewed by Todd Erickson

Summary: Fred is a good natured forgetful elephant who's put in a number of life threatening,
compromising situations by one mean monkey. In this very basic comeuppance/trickster tale, Fred is at the mercy of his not-so good friend Monkey until he gets so frustrated he decides to fight back in the most basic way possible using extreme force.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This silly one-note story is funny in a sadistic, Road Runner and Wylie Coyote kind of way but without the depth or humor. Although, Fred is put in a series of life threatening situations by a seemingly psychotic monkey, it's not until Fred puts on a dress and is mocked by his cohorts that this story seems to take its darkest. A twisted tale that is mildly amusing, but ultimately pointless as it only leaves the reader feeling ashamed for laughing along. But maybe that's the whole point?

Death Coming Up the Hill, written by Chris Crowe, reviewed by Bethany Bratney

Summary: Ashe is seventeen years old and his world is full of war. It’s 1968, and the Vietnam War
rages on, the increasing death tolls reported each Thursday in the newspaper. The war is center stage in his home, where a different war is taking place between his protest-attending, peace-loving mother, and his hawkish, outspoken father. It seems that the only thing they ever agreed upon was getting married when they found out Ashe was expected, so the conflicts outside of the house only amplify the conflicts inside. Ashe spends his days with the new girl at school, Angela, whose family feels stable and safe, despite Angela’s brother being over in Vietnam. They share their favorite class, history, with Mr. Ruby, who is the only teacher who wants to speak openly about the traumatic times in which they all live. Ashe is terrified of both of the wars in his life, but a shocking turn of events in his family may force him to face both struggles head on.

Straight Talk for Librarians: I regret not reading this book sooner! This incredibly moving story is made so much more incredible by its format. The entire novel is written as a series of haikus, each syllable representing one of the 16,592 Americans who died fighting in Vietnam during 1968. Each short chapter is headed with a week and month, along with the death count reported in that Thursday’s newspaper. This format is perfect for historical fiction about this time period, which may interest teen readers but be less accessible in other formats. The story is emotionally charged, putting faces and real feelings to an event that is far removed from our student’s lives. It is chock-full of relevant historical details without making the reader feel like they are reading heavy nonfiction. Both the format and the compelling nature of Ashe’s story make this a very quick read, another selling point for young readers, particularly those who are less inclined to pick up a book. Add this book to your historical fiction collection today!

The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali, written by Sabina Khan, reviewed by Bethany Bratney

Summary: Rukhsana Ali cannot be who she truly is in her own home. At school, she is the fun-loving, crop-top wearing, academically successful girlfriend of six months to Ariana. At home, she is limited by her parents, told that he brother’s academic success is more important than hers, and constantly threatened to behave lest her actions bring shame upon her Muslim Bengali family. When she has to struggle to convince her parents to let her attend college, she knows that they will never understand her coming out to them. She’s ready to let the distance and lack of Bengali friends and family near CalTech do the hard work for her when her mother catches her kissing Ariana. Before she can really discuss the fallout with Ariana and her friends, Rukhsana’s parents whisk her away to India where she cannot escape the intolerance, rigid traditions and family expectations. Fortunately, Rukhsana finds a few unexpected allies and begins the difficult work of finding a way to escape her circumstances and live the life she knows she deserves.

Straight Talk for Librarians: I have been waiting for this book! There are an increasing number of LGBTQ titles for teens, but I had not yet seen one about an LGBTQ Muslim character struggling against religious and family expectations in pursuit of an honest relationship. Rukhsana’s story is difficult to read. The lengths to which her family will go in order to keep her within the bounds of “acceptable” is astounding and rage-inducing. Sabina Khan does not shy away from the intense feelings Rukhsana experiences or the ugly spectacles displayed by homophobic characters. Fortunately, despite having to see Rukhsana endure many difficult people and moments, the novel ultimately has a hopeful tone and a promising, if not slightly sugar-coated outcome. Rukhsana learns that she cannot count on her parents for kindness or acceptance, but she discovers in the process that she has more allies surrounding her than she initially realized. Some of these relationships are better developed than others, but they all serve to remind Rukhsana, and the reader, that not all hope is lost. This is a critical addition to all collections, especially in communities with significant LGBTQ, Muslim or Bengali populations.

Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus, written by Edward Hemingway, reviewed by Todd Erickson

Summary: A humorous old-timey field guide for those most at risk of encountering a timeless
menace - the grumpy child. Very young children will no doubt delight in recognizing and identifying the various warning signs and descriptors of the grouchy grumpasaurus. It takes more than a few attempts to tame the ill-behaving beast. Not every remedy is successful, and some only serve to agitate the pint-sized monster. By the end, the dinosaur is transformed into a contented pint sized boy.

Straight Talk for Librarians: There are lots of great descriptors in the pseudo-scientific field guide of the grumpasaurus. Students should easily be able to pick out the adjectives, and descriptive language. The humorous text can be used to teach tone to very young learners. Is this serious text? No, they will get the joke because they will be able to easily recognize themselves in the grouchy grump. There's a cat companion who's humorous reactions mirror the reader's response. As a one on one text, it can be used to talk about emotions and appropriate responses to anger with very young pre-K and kindergarteners. One issue is that the text was rather small for students to be able to follow along, and some pages were almost blank without much happening.

Every Day Birds, written by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, reviewed by Todd Erickson

Summary: Although Every Day Birds is basically told in verse for very young or beginning readers, it's a book students can grow into, as their is short informational blurbs about each bird a the end of the book for students to dive deeper. Due to the rhyming text, this one would work well as a read aloud. Birds are presented randomly, but they appear in alphabetical order in the simple glossary of informational text.

Straight Talk for Librarians: A basic avian primer told in simple verse, the colorful illustrations of common everyday birds should be easily recognizable to even very small children. The simple rhymes should hook young readers and could even be used to launch a writing lesson for young students to make up their own backyard nature poem. Teachers could use the book as a kickoff to a walk in nature to do some amateur birding to identify some of their avian neighbors.

Zola's Elephant, written by Randall de Sève, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Zanya M.
Summary: This book is about a young girl who is hesitant to become friends with her new neighbor,
Zola. The girl imagines all sorts of things her neighbor is up to through the sounds and smells coming from her house until she comes to the conclusion that her neighbor already has a friend… an elephant! Eventually, the girl decides to meet her neighbor and they do become new friends!

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book would be great for a read-aloud in a classroom or a library. This is a very appealing book to children due to the colorful pages and images used in the book. Parents at home can use this to read with their children because it is a great way to begin learning new vocabulary. There is also the use of more complex vocabulary for young children which is why this could be used as a more advanced book for young readers. It might show readers a reason why they should not jump to conclusions if they are unsure of something or someone. In addition, this is a great introduction to various literary devices. For example, the repetition of the word, “Perfect” three times brings emphasis to the line and introduces the concept of repetition, a literary device that is simple enough for young readers to understand. This is a great read for students who struggle with making friends because this will give them more confidence to meet people and try and become more outspoken. The artwork does an amazing job of conveying the emotion and mood of the character due to the skilled use of paints and mixed media. For example, when referring to the neighbor, Zola, cool tones are used to evoke the sad and lonely emotions of her character. While the imaginative side of the story uses vibrant and bright colors to show more positive emotions. I believe that this book will greatly benefit young readers while giving them something entertaining and enjoyable to read!

Kid Amazing vs. the Blob, written by Josh Schneider, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Aryton J.
Summary: In the book Kid Amazing vs The Blob, Jimmy (Kid Amazing) is called to action when he hears the noise of someone crying. Jimmy rushes to his closet to transform into Kid Amazing. He is asked by the commissioner (his mom) if he knows what that noise is. Then Kid Amazing realizes it’s the Blob his nemesis (his sister). Then he goes to his sister’s room to see why she is crying and he finds that her pacifier isn’t in her mouth and she has a full diaper. He puts the pacifier in her mouth and tells his mom his sister has a full diaper.

Straight Talk for Librarians: Kid Amazing is a pretty good book. It has intricate art and a funny plot. The book puts us in the perspective of Jimmy, a young lad with a little sister. It gives us an insight into how imaginative he is and reminds us of the “adventures” we had as kids. Kid Amazing is relatable because the plot is realistic, it’s not actually about a superhero. It’s about a kid who’s just having fun with his imagination. This book can be used for a read-aloud by parents. It would make for a good librarian recommendation if a student just became an older sibling. It does teach a brother or sister that many times babies cry because they have a dirty diaper or need their pacifier. The protagonist did know that he needed to get his mom for some help with the diaper. I think you could put this book on a picture book superhero display because it will help young readers understand that we can all be superheroes in different ways. It’s a very clever book.

Pig the Fibber, written by Aaron Blabey, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Sidhra H.
Summary: Pig the Fibber is a picture book showing the readers how Pig fibs to get what he wants.
Pig is a pug “and I’m sorry to say, he would often tell lies just to get his own way.” Pig would always blame his friend, Trevor. Pig would make messes all over the house and lay the blame on Trevor. Poor Trevor doesn’t understand why Pig always blames him because it is not a very nice thing to do. One day, Pig discovers a giant bag of treats in the closet. He decides that it is his mission to acquire them. First, he needs an elaborate plan to make sure Trevor gets all the blame. In a grand twist, Pig’s plan backfires and he decides to stop lying.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This is a super fun picture book that will have readers howling with laughter. From stinky farts, to broken teeth and bruises, they will want to find out what makes Pig stop fibbing. The illustrations are just as hilarious as the text. Earth tones seem to dominate the pages, with the occasional splash of color. Young readers may be familiar with some vocabulary like “stinky” and “hip hip hooray” but it also involves some words that the kids may not be as familiar with things like “grim” and “confess”. Pig does get hurt because of his web of lies. It may seem a little extreme, but in the end, realizes that fibbing is not the right thing to do for a variety of reasons. This book can stimulate a classroom discussion on what Pig should have done. It can teach kids how to deal with their emotions and how good friends should be treated. This is a good pick for any school library.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Bigfoot and the Mitten, written by Karen Bell-Brege, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Emma L.
Summary: The book Bigfoot and the Mitten is based on the fictional, friendly character Robin telling a story to his woodland friends. The story was based on Bigfoot trying to find his lost mitten and going on an adventure throughout Michigan with Robin to try and find it. The two go on a humorous and delightful journey throughout Michigan’s beautiful monuments, like the Sleeping Bear Dunes, Grand Haven, Traverse City, the Grand Hotel, Mackinac Bridge, Detroit’s Joe Louis Fist, the Detroit Institute of Arts, Greenfield Village, the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, and the Michigan State Capitol in search of the mitten. Near the end of the book, the two visit the State Capitol in an attempt to find a map. The story ends when they find out that Michigan, in the shape of a mitten, was where his mitten was all along. When visiting these monuments, they review the purpose and detail of each monument, like how they explain that the State Capitol is for Michgan’s government, legislature, and state police. The last two pages of the book lists some details of all of Michigan, like the state capitol, bird, fish, flower, sports teams, and more.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book is a very useful and clever method of teaching children the ins and outs of the state of Michigan. The book’s illustrations are very colorful, cartoon-based, and not overwhelming. If readers have traveled across Michigan, they will recognize some of the scenes. The way the illustrator, Darrin Brege, created the woodland characters makes them seem very human-like and relatable. They could be used as a good example of personification. The text utilizes rhyming throughout some of the text, which makes for a good read-aloud. If introducing literary devices to a class, students could use travel as a theme for this book. All in all, the book The Bigfoot and the Mitten subtly teaches readers about Michigan in a geographical sense and leaves the reader enjoying Robin and Bigfoot’s journey. This is a good book to add to your Michigan collection.

Beavers: The Superpower Field Guide, written by Rachel Poliquin, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Avery H.
Summary: This book is an informative, nonfiction piece about beavers. Our main characters are Elmer and Irma, both beavers. It includes elements of humor in the facts about these unique animals. The illustrations are heavily based in cartoons, with some elements of realism mixed in. On the cover, the book advertises itself as “96 pages of gobsmacking facts,” which is an accurate depiction of the contents of the book. Did you know that beavers can “snap a tree as thick as your arm in two or three bites. They can chew through a tree truck as thick as your body in less than an hour.” Lots of information in the text and then in boxes and sidebars around the different illustrations. The illustrations have a very mid-century modern feel to them.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book is a humorous way to get children to learn more about beavers. The facts are interesting in and of themselves, but the humor in which they are delivered makes them all the more entertaining and fun to read. As a young adult, I enjoyed reading this book. Adding to the fun, Poliquin personifies the beavers and makes them behave as characters in a story, and paints them as superheroes with miscellaneous superpowers such as their fur and their teeth. The book also provides opportunities to keep the reader engaged, such as quizzes. It is valuable because it is not an endless barrage of facts which may become tedious to young readers. The illustrations are a very unique and fun style, using a combination of black ink, pencil, and wax crayon to make them really pop. The technique is known as “preseparation”. The technique allows for Frith to create realistic drawings when needed, but generally, he uses it to give what would be boring images of logs a new life and cute style. The book is organized into about 10 chapters focusing on an individual superpower of the beaver. Although it has many pages, perhaps too many for younger readers, it is a relatively easy read. It is a good choice for more advanced readers, as it introduces a simple paragraph structure and isn’t too much of a struggle to understand. The book will appeal to more curious readers, as it is a lot of information presented in a fun way.

Monster & Mouse Go Camping, written by Deborah Underwood, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Arvind E. 
Summary: The book describes the story of two friends, Monster and Mouse who are getting ready to go on a camping trip. Monster is a little hesitant, but Mouse assures him he will have a good time. Mouse promised lots of food and he got to work on a list of items they would need for their camping trip. When they got to the woods, Mouse went to scope out a stream, trail and campsite. Unfortunately, during that time, Monster ate just about everything they had. Mouse was hungry and they were not having a good time. They saw a family telling spooky stories around a campfire and Mouse and Monster thought it would be a good idea to go ask for some food. Readers will find out how Monster and Mouse got to enjoy their camping trip in the book’s exciting ending.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This is a bit of a monster story, with a twist. This captivating book encapsulates the importance of friendship, trust and forgiveness - Mouse really wants this trip to go well and for Monster to embrace camping. The friendly nature of the characters and their vibrant personalities set an example for how kids should act around each other. I like how the illustrator depicted the daytime and nighttime scenes with color. Monster was red, but his personality was really not angry or mean. He was a friendly monster that should appeal to any budding horror genre enthusiast. The reader will quickly start to feel Mouse’s disappointments throughout the story. The author used personification techniques to garner empathy and compassion for Mouse and Monster. Something the family did not discern quickly enough. This book is a good choice for a read-aloud or independent reading. It would also be a good book for a camping display. Definitely a good choice for a school library.

The Greatest Adventure, written by Tony Piedra, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Alex D.
Summary: This story is about a young boy, Eliot, who desperately searches for adventure. He imagines monsters and swamps in his block but only wishes it were all true. Fortunately for him, his grandpa, El Capitán, comes back from his journey full of fascinating stories. Eliot takes it all in with determination. Begging for adventure, El Capitán takes him for a journey through the city. Unfortunately, Eliot still does not feel the adrenaline of navigating around sharks and swamps so he offers his grandpa help to fix the boat. Through hard work and determination, El Capitán and Eliot are on their way towards jungles and all sorts of mysterious creatures found around the world. Readers will be delighted to see the twist in the author’s perspective.

Straight Talk for Librarians: I believe that this story would work well as a motivation for children to go out and find new opportunities. Taking risks can lead to wonderful adventures, just like it did for Eliot. In my opinion, this book is a good motivator for small children to express their creativity and energy in life. Eliot depicts an average child with a broad imagination and would be a good example for children struggling with creativity. The main character goes through a series of changes from the start to the end of the story. He develops from a young, shy city boy to a “grown-up” boy exploring the world to find what he likes. The overall mood and tone are hopeful and energetic, similar to Eliot’s personality. The plotline is well made and teaches valuable lessons. The contrast in colors reflects the tone well throughout the story. For example, when Eliot realizes that the city is not filled with adrenaline-rushing monsters, the colors become dark and depressing as if he’s lost the chance for a wild adventure. Readers can use this story as a motivation for work in life and a new way to look at a seemingly uninteresting world. It’s important to take what you have and use it to your advantage. This book would be a great addition to any library.

Crab Cake, written by Andrea Tsurumi, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Emma B.
Summary: The book Crab Cake by Andrea Tsurumi is set under the sea and has a circular structure. The book starts with a variety of sea creatures doing different things in a coral reef. Then the author shows the crab baking in detail. More creatures then do different things again, and then the crab continues to bake. A few more animals continue to do a variety of different activities and the crab still bakes. More animals are shown behind the crab baking. Then the pages of the book become darker and a load of trash is dumped into the ocean by a truck. Under the sea there is a big brown pile of trash and the water has turned a sort of brown and grey color. The animals are frightened and they all freeze. Even the animals that were once feared by other animals and those who were more powerful. Then the crab comes out of hiding and begins to bake once again. He bakes a cake. Then some of the other animals start to become curious and come out to see what the crab is doing. They ask for some of the cake and then all of the creatures come together. They come up with an idea. All of the animals pitch in and help to clean up all of the trash that has been dumped in the ocean. The next morning the people find all of the trash they dumped on their pier with the words “Come Get Your Junk” painted on it. The sea animals continue with their lives underneath the now clean sea and the crab continues to bake.

Straight Talk for Librarians: I think that this book could be a really helpful tool in a science classroom. This book would definitely appeal to a younger audience. The author used rhyme, alliteration, and personification to enhance the story. Personally, I was intrigued by the cover alone and I definitely think that it would be very appealing to younger readers. Even the title Crab Cake is an attention grabber. The book could be about a number of things and I think that once a reader starts to read this book they will want to know what happens, so they won’t want to put it down. I think that the images in this book are very busy and colorful which will definitely hold the attention of a younger reader. You could read this book multiple times and still find something new to look at in the illustrations. The use of graphite and digital technology really helps to make the story come to life. I think that the colors in this book also helps to convey its overall message and mood. This book brings up pollution in our oceans and how this can be very harmful and detrimental to the environment below the surface. When there is a load of trash dumped into the sea, the bright and colorful pages turn into darker and more sad looking pictures. I think that this helps carry the message that pollution is a very bad thing and it should not happen and the colors help convey that feeling. This change in color also makes the book more dynamic and intriguing to readers. This book would be very useful in a classroom setting to introduce the topic and idea of the environment and saving the planet. This book shows pollution and littering in a negative way, but makes it understandable enough for elementary level readers. Given today’s climate concerns, this book is a very timely purchase for any library.

Trains Don't Sleep, written by Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Amr A.
Summary: Trains Don’t Sleep, by Andria Rosenbaum is a picture book geared towards young readers who love or want to learn about trains. With vibrant drawings throughout, the story showcases different types of trains and features of trains. Different trains are seen moving through different landscapes. The trains travel through forests, cities, and even a circus all the while never stopping, continually moving forward. The trains travel and travel, and keep pushing forward The story ends with the train at night, still moving without rest, waiting for a new day.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This picture would be a good read aloud to a group of young readers. There is rhyme present through the picture book that pushes the reader to read with more conviction word after word similar to the forwardness of the train itself. The rhyme is very exciting and engaging. The vibrant, full-page oil paint illustrations provide eye-catching images to engage readers throughout the book. The color choice reflects earthy tones and the bright blue of some of the trains really stands out. The book conveys that trains don't ever take a rest, and keep pushing forward. The lesson that can be derived from this is that one should always keep pushing forward. I think that the book is appealing to young children as trains are a very fun topic for the target audience. With the personification of the trains, an easier understanding and connection with the text is experienced by readers. Through realistic illustrations, young students are further engaged in the book. Readers can also learn about alliteration from this book. It’s a good choice for a school library. There is a lot to unpack in this book, but it can also be read just for fun.

This is the Kiss, written by Claire Harcup, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Jay A-B.
Summary: This book follows the adorable story of how a mother bear tucks in her cub at the end of a long and fun day. The mama bear and her cub go through several actions, starting at a wave hello, and ending with a kiss goodnight. This book is perfect for students who are just learning to read. It would benefit preschool and kindergarten students with its short length and easy to pronounce words. It would also make for an excellent read-aloud for teachers and students alike.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book would make for a wonderful introduction to the literary world for preschool and kindergarten students. The story itself is a cute and short read, perfect for the targeted audience. It’s short and simple, with quick to read pages and amazing artwork. While the story itself is inviting, it also allows for the reader to interact and get involved with the story. There is a small section in the back of the book that is dedicated towards furthering reading comprehension, problem-solving abilities, memory strength, social development, and pre-reading skills. It’s called StoryPlayTM. In the very back of the book, a few questions are asked that create a chance for the reader to further the story in their mind, even when finished reading, There is also a small question every few pages, an example being on the first page “What is Little Bear building?”. The picture featured on the page is of Little Bear rolling a ball of snow up a small hill, where at the top he is building a snowbear. Speaking of the artwork, it is absolutely eye-catching. While it has a simpler color palette, consisting of light shades of orange, green, red, and brown, the drawings themselves are quite cute. The mediums used for the artwork consist of both watercolor paints, and a black pen or pencil for the line art. The art is quite detailed, and in all honesty, the art is perfect for the story. There is such attention to detail that really allows the reader to get a feel for the tone of the story that they just couldn’t get from the words. While the words let the loving tone fly, the pictures help the more quiet and slow emotions come out to play. The reader can see the mutual joy of the two characters through the large smiles that they sport throughout the entirety of the book. Not once can they be seen without a smile taking over their features. This story is endearing and is just what any young child being introduced to reading needs.

Maxi the Little Taxi, written by Elizabeth Upton, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Max A.
Summary: Maxi the Little Taxi is a hopeful, new employee at his new taxi service job. Throughout his first day, he experiences the lows and highs on the streets, all a part of his new occupation. At first, Maxi is very optimistic and happy as he rolls down the streets clean and readily available for customers. He has a blast roaming through the city, splashing in puddles and being dirtied by customers and birds as he zooms along. Though he has a great time roaming the city and getting dirty, he soon realizes that he is unclean when another taxi, squeaky clean and all, shows him up with her clean figure. Maxi realizes that people start avoiding him because he is filthy and weeps as he receives no customers. Soon enough though, one family decides to give Maxi a chance and gives him a car wash which makes Maxi squeaky clean once again and happier than ever. As Maxi returns back home, he is fully content and tells his buddy about his adventures and car wash from the day. The story ends as Maxi goes to bed feeling clean and fulfilled from his first day of work.

Straight Talk for Librarians: The text which includes rhyme creates a catchy, happy feel to the story. Though there is conflict within the story, it is resolved by the end which makes for a good outcome. Simple language makes this book an easy read for young readers. Emotion is also involved which can connect/teach young readers about emotion and conflict. The personification of the cars creates a light, playful tone which connects closely to the plot and other elements of the story as the cars share emotions and hidden dialogue. This book could be used as a fun read-aloud for younger audiences in school or in a library. The glossy, colorful pictures create imagery as they relate to the text, so the reader will get the full experience of what Maxi is feeling. These colors and cartoonish designs make for a simple, yet playful tone that connects closely with happiness and sadness. This book could be read aloud in class or be used in a free/independent read. Readers who are interested in taxis will be overjoyed to find this book and experience the setting of noisy city streets. There is a lot of car-related vocabulary. Readers will also experience onomatopoeia throughout the text that they will have fun with.

And the Robot Went..., written by Michelle Robinson, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Student Reviewer: Waseem A.
Summary: The book is about a robot who is discovered by curious creatures. Their curiosity leads them to mess with the robot, pulling levers, clicking witches, and even clobbering it. The creatures have descriptive names, all including rhyme, and every time they touch the robot in a different way, it creates a new sound. At the end of the day, they are able to turn it on completely, and it goes home.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book can be used for younger elementary readers, in libraries or classrooms. The artwork is playful and very busy. The reader can see that the curiosity of the various creatures led them to help turn on the robot. There is playful rhyme, alliteration, and repetition throughout the story. With each new character(s) introduced, they add an action that the character does, that rhymes with their name, in addition to all the actions before. Onomatopoeia is used, as the Robot creates different sounds. The book is a good way for younger readers to learn about these different literary devices. Younger audiences can relate to this picture book as well, as it is common that they discover objects that are new to them, and feel the need to touch and mess with it. The book pushes for curiosity in a discrete and playful way. This can be viewed as a STEM book and could be a read-aloud because of the rhyming. It could also be a good choice for independent reading. It’s a fun book where animals, a human and a robot meet in their quest to get the robot working.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Best & Buzz Worthy 2017: World Records, Trending Topics and Viral Moments, written by Cynthia O'Brien, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Summary: This book is a non-fiction current event book. The chapters tend to be divided by music, movies, technology, animals, science, state stats and sports. Then end of the book covers the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge. There are photos and graphics on every page. Michigan fans will probably notice that Madonna is a musician with the most MTV video music awards at 20 and Eminem is behind her with 12! (21). Big Bang Theory fans will notice that 4 of the 5 highest paid tv actors made the list. Mark Harmon is 3rd on the list for his role in NCIS. The world’s most expensive hotel comes in at $60,000 a night. It’s the Hotel President Wilson in Switzerland. This book is chock full of many more facts that will appeal to your trivia lovers.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book is a good book to just place on a table in the school library for fun quick reading. Readers who like BuzzFeed lists or something similar will enjoy this book. It is non-fiction, but along the lines of the Guiness Book of World Records. I think you would have to make this an annual purchase ad it is pretty timely. It is very visual and would appeal to all sorts of readers. I think that it might even make for a good pick for adults who like attending trivia nights or compete on teams. I’m going to try to put it out for high school students who might want to pick it up for pleasure reading to just pass some time. I think it could also generate ideas or topics for various speech research or other current event essay ideas. Some of the statistics could be explored in a math class. I think it’s a good choice for a middle or high school library.

Monday, November 4, 2019

DreamJumper: Book 2 - Curse of the Harvester, written by Greg Grunberg, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Summary: Book 2 picks up right where Book 1 ended. Dr. Alexson is in a nightmare being dragged to Master Erebus. Jake finally convinced Ben to start a business rescuing people from their nightmares. Ben is getting stronger with his powers in dreams and the Nightmare Lord is joined by the evil Harvester. They are determined to conquer both the Dream World and the Wake World. Ben’s crush, Kaylee, plays a larger role in this book. Jake works behind the scenes helping in the Dreams, but controlling the computer code, but he tends to fall asleep at the worst times. The white bunny makes a reappearance and helps Ben out when needed. Towards the end of the story, Kaylee becomes a stronger dream jumper and she is able to help Ben out. The Harvester is not pleased. Dr. Alexson is no longer himself and can feel changes taking place. Unfortunately, as the story ends, the reader will see that Dr. Alexson will be in Book 3 up to something nefarious.

Straight Talk for Librarians: Even though a lot of this story takes place in other people’s nightmares, the humorous dialogue will have readers laughing out loud. There is still a ton of action and adventure. Readers will be sitting on the edge of their seat as they are reading this book. Some of the vocabulary is pretty high level, but the graphics will help with context. I love how computer coding is woven into this story. There could be some fun STEM connections. This book is a good choice for independent reading. It is part of a series, so this second book would be hard to jump into without the first. There is nothing controversial in this book, other than some readers might be scared if they do not like venturing into monster territory. I like that Kevin Smith wrote the forward to this book. I read it before getting into this second book. I think this book would be a really good choice for reluctant readers or perhaps those readers who really like graphic novels and are looking for a new series.

DreamJumper: Book 1 - Nightmare Escape, written by Greg Grunberg, reviewed by Klaudia Janek

Summary: Ben is our protagonist and we meet him as he seems to wake up in a dream that starts to turn darker as the panels progress. Ben finds his friend Jake after being chased by hypodermic needles. Jake is tied to a tree with bacon, wearing a diaper. Ben starts to follow a white bunny that does not seem very threatening and finds more of his friends. His friends Malcolm and Chloe are wrapped up in tree roots, unable to run away. Ben can still run and his friends urge him to go. With a gasp, Ben wakes up. He sketches out his dream in a journal and then tells his mom. His mom is concerned because Ben’s father had dreams that seemed crazy and then he disappeared. He runs into Jake at the bus stop and Jake tries to convince Ben that he is like a superhero for nightmares, and should consider charging for his services. Ben doesn’t even want to hear it. Ben has a bit of a crush on his classmate, Kaylee. They are supposed to meet up and then Kaylee doesn’t show. Ben starts to get worried after she doesn’t show up to school for a week. In the meantime, Ben’s mom set up an appointment with Dr. Alexson at a sleep clinic. As Ben tours the facility, he realizes that there is a room where people are kept that don’t wake up from sleep. In that room are all of Ben’s missing friends that he has been seeing in his dreams. Ben decides to track down the white bunny from his earlier dream because he thinks the bunny might have some answers. As the story progresses, the dream becomes more and more nightmare-like. Ben realizes he has powers to bring his friends back into the wake world. Secrets are revealed, but it is not the end.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This graphic novel is a good middle-grade choice. It is about nightmares, but it is not that scary. The dream world is definitely a bit darker in terms of color choice. The wake world is more bright with lighter colors. There is a lot of action and tension that conveys the urgency of saving people. It might be scary for some readers, but it is not gory or that extreme. There is definitely a mystery to solve because the reader will want to know what is going on with the nightmares. This is a fast-paced adventure that will be a perfect choice for readers who do not want to be “bored.” It’s a different twist on the concept of nightmares and what causes them. The images, colors, emotions and action scenes complement the text. The panels are easy to follow and I think this book is an easy entry into the world of graphic novels. It’s also a good choice for more experienced graphic novel readers. It would complement any school or classroom library collection.