Thursday, March 13, 2014

Graphic Novel: Welcome to the Tribe! Tib & Tumtum #1 by Grimaldi and Bannister

Welcome to the Tribe! (Tib & Tumtum) by Grimaldi. Illustrated by Bannister. Minneapolis, MN; Graphic Universe; 2013. 48 pages.

Tib belongs to the Big Rock Tribe of cavepeople. Despite being a member of a tribe, he feels as though he doesn't really belong - it mostly has to do with the odd-shaped, red, round birthmark on his eye - which all the other kids in the tribe make fun of. Tib's parents just don't understand, so he wanders off into the woods to be alone for a while and runs head-first into a dinosaur! Just one problem... aren't dinosaurs supposed to be extinct? This dinosaur in particular seems friendly enough as he begins to follow Tib around, which is when Tib realizes that they both have similar markings on their faces - wait until all the members of his tribe see his dinosaur! No such luck. Just when Tib thinks that he will be able to share his dinosaur, that same dinosaur manages to find a way to hide! Tib tries every trick in the book to get members of his tribe to meet his him, but he is just too good at hiding. Nevertheless, Tib and Tumtum the Dinosaur still end up having many fun adventures together - even though everyone thinks he doesn't exist!
The comic book is very funny and the accompanying illustrations just add to the hilarity. Grimaldi's story is very thoughtfully put together with an important message about friendship and not caring what somebody looks like on the outside. Bannister's drawings are clever and full of action, bringing Tib and Tumtum to life on the pages. Readers of all ages will enjoy this color-panel comic.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book: Ready for a Scare - Creepover Series - by PJ Night

Ready for a Scare? (You're Invited to a Creepover) by P.J. Night. Minneapolis, MN; Simon Spotlight, 2011. 160 pages.
Volume 3 in the You're Invited to a Creepover series.

Middle school student and self-proclaimed Queen of Scares, Kelly Garcia was supposed to have an awesome sleepover with her friends Paige and June to celebrate her birthday. Unfortunately, when she got home and found her brother home alone she learned that her parents are stuck out of town due to a snowstorm and she and her ten year old brother are stuck with a babysitter. Then, things only got worse when her mom informed her that there would be no sleepover and that it would have to be postponed. Kelly instantly got on her IM and contacted her friends to vent her frustrations, which is when she came up with the idea to have a webcam sleepover.

Things seem to be going great, even her friend Spencer and his new friend Gavin joined in the online party. Things started off with a scary tale told by Gavin and then they decided to summon the dead, which led to Kelly remembering the name of a local girl who died in the snow; it seemed like fate drew them together because Kelly's mother was researching Mary Owens for an article in her column. The group chants her name thirteen times while spinning around in a circle... that's when things start to get really scary. Did they really manage to summon Mary's spirit? Just what is going on?! What is happening to her friends - why do they keep disappearing?

P.J. Night's descriptive writing style does a good job of setting the scene and drawing the reader into the story. Those who are brave enough to give this book a try will definitely be in for a scary experience.

This book is probably best suited for readers who aren't scared of the dark - grades 3 through 7 as there are a few mildly "scary" moments in the book not suitable for younger readers. The book also introduces the idea of a virtual sleepover and has the kids using webcams, which may not be a topic that some parents want to introduce their children to until a conversation about Internet safety occurs...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Book: Wild Animal Neighbors by Ann Downer

Wild Animal Neighbors: Sharing Our Urban World by Ann Downer. Minneapolis, MN; Twenty-First Century Books; 2013. 64 Pages.

This book asks the question about how our lives as humans have affected the wildlife that previously roamed free around the areas that we now call home, areas that we have turned from forests and meadows into cities and suburbs. The book introduces readers to the urban wildlife conundrum with a story of a black bear that despite being removed from Cape Cod by wildlife officials, it soon returned to a populated suburb of Boston.The biggest question throughout the book is why? Why do wild animals continue returning to populated cities or choose to try and make their home in a place clearly different from their natural habitat?

The concept of the city as an ecosystem is introduced next to readers, covering the many reasons an urban area may be seen as a potential home to wildlife. The book dissects "artificial cliffs" created by skyscrapers that become inviting to hawks as well as the "heat island effect" which basically states that cities, with their concrete and metal barriers, are often warmer than the surrounding wilderness, and thus a more pleasant place to raise young. Divided into roughly seven stories that show examples how wild animals have been spotted amongst the hustle and bustle of cities. Wild Animal Neighbors uses raccoons, mountain lions, crows, coyotes, flying foxes, turtles, and alligators as examples of wildlife that has been spotted in territories now claimed by humans. The book discusses the reasons that an animal may decide that it prefers a more urban setting than its natural habitat, stating reasons that make its foray successful in terms of survival. Also covered are the ways that animals change their behaviors and become urban citizens.

Wild Animal Neighbors combines short and interesting stories of how animals have crept out of their natural habitats into our more densely populated areas along with facts that are presented in an appealing way. The photographs included are pulled directly from the reported stories themselves, creating a book that will have readers turning the pages to learn more about our new neighbors.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Book: Hit the Road, Helen! by Kate McMullan

Hit the Road Helen! (Myth-O-Mania) by Kate McMullan. North Mankato, MN; Stone Arch Books, 2013. 240 pages.

Hades, ruler of the Underworld, tells the Greek Myth of Helen of Troy as it should be told - with no convenient cover-ups. It turns out that the myths that we know are actually incorrect as they had been altered by Zeus to cover up any embarrassing situations that painted him in a bad light. According to Hades, it was really Zeus' fault that the Trojan War started in the first place! The other Gods involved didn't help out much either, their interference just ended up causing the war to last longer.

Our story starts off with Zeus falling for Helen's mom, Leda, which results in her giving birth to two blue eggs, each with a set of twins. One set of twins looks like their father, Leda's husband King Tyndareus, while the other did not. Zeus continues to meddle in many ways that affect Helen's life, while Hades tries his hardest to stop his little brother from doing something stupid. Good luck, Hades! If only he could save the world from the comfort of his La-Z-God chair!!
Kate McMullan returns to get Myth-o-Mania series after a 10-year hiatus. This fractured tale, or classic, well-known tale that has had its characters, plot, setting, or point of view changed, is told from Hade's perspective, which adds a touch of humor to the story. McMullan has managed to add another amusing chapter-book to her popular series. The book does a good job introducing all of the key players and explaining the various parts of the legend in a way that was easy to follow. Hit the Road Helen! is a quick and fun read that will help children ignite a spark of interest in Greek Mythology.

If you'd like to try and write your own fractured tale, go and visit this website for ideas:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Book: Samphire Song by Jill Hucklesby

Samphire Song by Jill Hucklesby. Egmont Books; 2011. 296 pages.

14-year-old Jodie Palmer is working at Whitehawk Farm Stables as a volunteer in return for free riding and lessons. Jodie and her family have been going through a difficult time; first her Royal Airforce Pilot father's death and the fact that her 11-year-old brother has kidney disease. Her mother has been worried about finances and when she lands a job that will bring additional money, the siblings are told they will get their promised presents. For Jodie that is a horse of her own; her brother Ed just wants a radio controlled airplane.
When it comes time to pick out her horse, Jodie's mother takes her to the horse auction, their intentions to purchase a docile mare. Fate steps in when a gray stallion makes a fuss at being unloaded off of a horse trailer; Jodie knows that Samphire as he is called is the horse for her. Despite her mother's reluctance to buy a stallion with an untamed spirit, Jodie gets her horse.
Through hard work and patience, Jodie works with Samphire to get used to his new home and over some of his skittishness. Samphire and Jodie form a close bond, but when Ed's illness takes a turn for the worse, Jodie makes the decision to sell Samphire to help her mother with the finances. Jodie makes Samphire a promise to get him back as soon as she is able to earn enough money, but will finding him again be easy?
The book is very descriptive and is narrated by Jodie in a way that really allows the reader to connect to her rollercoaster of emotions. The author does a wonderful job of showing the relationship between a girl and her horse as well as the hurdles that both must overcome in order to get past their emotional history. The book is easy to read and will keep readers eager to find out if all of Jodie's hard work has paid off and if horse and rider will be reunited.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Book: Legend of the Ghost Dog

Legend of the Ghost Dog by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel. Scholastic Press; 2012. 208 pages.

Moving to Nome, Alaska for two weeks is not high on the list of exciting things for any twelve-year-old - especially when you move there with your dad and your eight-year-old brother. Anita's dad had this idea to go on location so he can interview the locals for a book he's writing, so both the kids were taken along since their Mom had to go on a business trip to Japan. At least for this trip, "Tee" as she is sometimes called, was able to take her beagle, Henry to keep her company; it was on a walk exploring the wilderness that Henry got Tee into trouble when he led her to the ruins of an old cabin. Tee soon learns the local legend about what happened at that cabin and along with her new friend, Quin, daughter of the assistant her dad hired to help work on the book, she goes out to discover the truth. What sort of trouble can two girls, a dog and a little brother get into out in the wilds of Alaska while on the trial of a ghost dog?

Readers are treated to both sides of the story - one set in the past, laying out the events and one in the present, trying to solve the mystery of the ghost dog and missing girl. Elizabeth Cody Kimmel did a good job twining the story seamlessly between the past and present. The friendship between the girls is like any other when kids are thrown together by adults - hesitant at first then closer as some sort of test is passed and similar interests are discovered. Kimmel does a wonderful job inserting the character of Jack, the little brother, who like any younger sibling gets in the way and yet must be watched over.

Overall, I enjoyed this book because of its believability - the setting in Alaska made it seem as if you could be there along with Tee exploring the woods, and the ties to Nome's history with the diphtheria epidemic and need for dog mushers to bring the medicine along what is now the trail for the Iditarod was a very nice touch. The way the mystery of a local family's tragedy and search for answers was interwoven with Tee's struggles with her own family in present day made Tee seem more real. Finding out what the ghost dog was trying to tell them really sends chills down your spine.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book: Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead. Wendy Lamb Books; 2012. 192 pages.

Georges (named after Georges Seurat, a famous French Post-Impressionist painter) and his parents are forced to move out of their suburban Brooklyn home into a small apartment when his father loses his job. Georges mother works as a nurse and has picked up additional work shifts in order to support the family, something which Georges understands but has a difficult time comming to terms with as he doesn't get to see his mother as much. Things are also difficult for Georges because his once best friend has left him for the "cool" table at school - the same cool table at which the kids who bully Georges sit.

At this apartment buiding, Georges meets Safer, a boy his own age who has some very strange habits. Safer corrals Georges into joining him in spying on Mr. X, the mysterious neighbor who dressed in black and is always with a briefcase. Safer's schemes to keep an eye on Mr. X get more extreme, to the point of breaking into his apartment, something Georges isn't too sure is a good idea. All of Georges' interactions with Safer leave him questioning what it means to be someone's friend and what it means to lie.

While the book started out in a way that was engaging, the plot turned rather confusing about 2/3 of the way through. When Georges' mother becomes ill, it didn't really fit in with the story whatsoever and felt as if it didn't need to be there. The idea behind the plot is a good one as Georges is a boy who has to discover what it means to be friends with someone who is a little different, but overall there are parts that could be improved, like the big reveal about Mr. X, which felt as if it was a bit of a let-down. Much of the intent behind the plot will most likely go over most reader's heads, leaving them confused as to why things ended the way they did.