Book Review & More!

Happy Friday!

I hope you all have great books picked out for weekend reading. I have quite a few on my shelf at the moment. I also have a great review and author interview for you today, but first, what you’ve all been waiting for….drum roll please….

The winner of the Sleeping Bear Press and Jen Sattler giveaway is….Christina G.!

Congratulations Christina!

And now, on with the show!

My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella (2017, Stone Arch Books/Capstone, Chapter Book/Lower Middle Grade)

ruined cinderella

From the publisher:

Holden, what have you done?! It wasn’t enough to ruin Maddie’s report on Cinderella, but now you’ve somehow broken the ACTUAL fairy tale? The ugly stepsister is marrying the prince and there’s no happy ever after! You need to fix this and the only way seems to be by entering the story. But beware: if you can’t mend it, you can never return . . .

Review:

My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella, written by Jerry Mahoney and illustrated by Aleksei Bitskoff, puts a new, and very modern spin, on an old favorite. When Maddie’s stepbrother Holden “breaks” the Cinderella story, they are both surprised to be sucked into his tablet and dropped into Cinderella’s story. Taking on the roles of foot soldier and wicked stepsister, Holden and Maddie must work together (easier said than done) to set things right or be stuck in the story forever. With a crazy cast of characters, it’s not just Cinderella in the spotlight. My favorite minor character was Darreth, the Duke of Darkness, who is locked away in the dungeon but thunder rumbles every time his name is uttered.

Not just focused on the fanciful, the book does take time to ponder serious issues such as divorce set against the background of wicked stepmothers and rotten stepbrothers. Not to mention, the perfectly captured reality of bickering among siblings, or step-siblings. Add in logical twists and real emotions, and the story develops into something surprisingly insightful with characters more real than those found in most fairy tales.

The reader might hope for more illustrations, but otherwise this one is sure to get lots of giggles from the target audience. Fans of fairy tale retellings will especially enjoy this fun, quirky read. Recommended for readers ages 8 to 10.

4 stars for Cinderella and friends!


This is part of a series so readers who enjoy this “ruined” fairy tale, can check out more books in the series!


Interview with Author Jerry Mahoney

Thank you to Jerry Mahoney for taking time to visit with me and share about his writing career and inspiration!

After reading My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella, I’m super curious about the other books in this series. How did you come up with the idea for this series and how did you decide which fairy tales to “ruin”?

When my kids were younger and I would read fairy tales to them, I would sometimes have to hold myself back from rolling my eyes or making wisecracks. I mean, they’re great stories, which is why they’ve stood the test of time. Still, though, it’s inevitable that after hundreds of years, some of them will show their age. So I would find flaws, like the notion that a prince would try to find one specific woman by trying a glass slipper on random women all over his kingdom. Obviously, lots of people have the same size foot. Besides, she’s supposedly the love of his life, so shouldn’t he remember what she looks like?

I would bite my tongue, though, and not mention the issues I had with the stories, because I didn’t want to ruin them for my kids. That eventually led me to come up with Holden, a kid who doesn’t mind ruining stories for people. In fact, he loves it!

Through him, I could do what I was afraid to do and ask tough questions about stories that are pretty universally loved. The more I started picking fairy tales apart, the more plot holes I found, and I learned that a lot of them were issues that many people had with the stories. Maddie sprung from the other side of my personality, the part that loves being swept away by a good, romantic fairy tale and doesn’t mind making a few logical leaps along the way as long as she’s enjoying the read.

I wrote MY ROTTEN STEPBROTHER RUINED CINDERELLA first, because it’s probably the most well-known and also had the most obvious plot holes to me. Then, when my publisher ordered it as a series of four, I read a bunch of fairy tales, then thought what plot holes Holden would find in each one and how the stories might change as a result. Together with the publisher, we decided which ones would make the best stories for the first four books in a series.

Of course, I have ideas for many more. I’m hoping these books will do well enough that I’ll get to write them! 🙂

Have you always enjoyed fairy tales? And if so, what was your favorite fairy tale as a child?

Who doesn’t love fairy tales? I think on some level, even Holden does. Lots of boys think that it’s uncool to like them, but show me a boy who refuses to go see a new Disney princess movie, and I guarantee you he was belting out “Let it Go” everywhere he went when he was 3.

I think “Beauty and the Beast” has always been my favorite. Of course, what Disney did with it was magical — with the dancing dishware and those gorgeous songs. But even if you take all that away, at the heart of it, it has such a sweet message about accepting people for who they are. Also, it’s one of the few fairy tales that doesn’t subscribe to the notion of love at first sight. Belle has to work really hard to get to know the Beast before she falls in love. That makes it all the more fulfilling when it finally does happen. And that’s been my experience in life as well. Sometimes, you have to dig really, really hard to find the good in people.

When you imagine someone reading your books, what do you hope they feel during and after reading your work?

That’s a tough question, because as a writer, you want to take readers through a range of emotions — excitement, fear, sadness, joy. I consider myself primarily a comedy writer, but sometimes, the moments I’m proudest of aren’t the jokes but the emotional payoffs. (In MY ROTTEN STEPBROTHER RUINED CINDERELLA, it’s the moment where Beautianna gets into art school and tells Maddie that she’s realized she’s her fairy godmother. Oops, spoiler warning!)

Overall, though, I feel like if I’ve made someone laugh, I’ve done my job. There’s so much negativity in our world, so much conflict and so much to get down about. Nothing makes me happier than knowing I’ve made someone forget about all that for a few minutes and just have a good time.

Readers are always curious about what an author’s day to day life is like. When you are working on a project what is your day like and what are some hobbies you enjoy outside of writing?

My other job besides writing is being a stay-home dad. So my writing day starts after I drop my son and daughter off at school. Then, I try to do a few hours of new writing on whatever my main project is at the time. As you probably know, publishing is very slow, so what I’m writing now might not come out for two years or more. Or if it’s not working, I may scrap it and start something new instead until I have a manuscript I really believe in.

After working on new writing, I usually have some business to attend to, whether it’s writing a synopsis for the book jacket, approving a cover or answering a questionnaire like this. 🙂 This part is always much easier and more fun than staring at a blank page and having to fill it with something new.

By then, it’s time to pick my kids up, and my duties switch to checking homework, cooking dinner and losing to my kids at Mario Kart. Once they’re in bed, I usually try to squeeze in a bit more writing. Late night is a good time for brainstorming new ideas. Then I’ll read in bed, because I love hearing other writers’ voices and getting jealous of how good they are.

Anything else you’d like to share about your books or your writing career?

Yes! First of all — shameless plug alert! — my next book, BUTTHEADS FROM OUTER SPACE, comes out in March 2018. As you can probably guess from the title, it’s full of crazy, horribly inappropriate humor (yes, fart jokes), and therefore no one should read it under any circumstances. I like to think of it as a next step up for kids who grew up on the Captain Underpants books and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It’s probably not going to impress anyone’s teacher if they do a book report on it, but it’s hopefully the kind of book kids will want to read just for fun — even if they have to hide it from their parents.

Beyond that, I’m very busy working on some new projects that I hope to be able to share with everyone soon. If you want to know more, come visit my website www.jerrymahoneybooks.com, or follow me on Twitter (@WhyJerryWhy), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jerrymahoneybooks/) and Instagram (@jerrymahoney). Most of all, thanks for reading!


Thank you to Jerry Mahoney for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Tokoyo the Samurai’s Daughter

Hello book lovers!

I have great books coming up for you all, PLUS a blog tour and giveaway! Tune in to the blog February 2nd when I feature an interview with author Jen Sattler, her new board books, and a GIVEAWAY! Remember when I have a giveaway, all you have to do for a chance to win great prizes is comment on the corresponding blog post. Easy peasy!

Follow my blog via email and you’ll never miss out on a giveaway! 🙂

And now I take you to ancient Japan in a recent offering from Raggedy Moon Books…

Tokoyo the Samurai’s Daughter (2017, Raggedy Moon Books, Lower Middle-Grade/Chapter Book)

tokoyo

From the publisher:

An adventurous girl! Most noble-born girls of Tokoyo’s age learn to sing, paint, and write poetry. Not Tokoyo. She’s the daughter of a samurai in fourteenth century Japan. Tokoyo’s father trains her in the martial arts. When he is away, she escapes to the sea where she works with the Ama—a society of women and girls who dive in the deep waters for food and treasure. But disaster strikes her family. Can Tokoyo save her father using the lessons she learned and the skills she mastered to overcome corrupt officials, her own doubts, and a nasty sea demon?

Review:

Tokoyo, written by Faith L. Justice and illustrated by Kayla Gilliam, could be an enjoyable story for younger readers.

This is a book written for a young audience and will be best appreciated by that audience. From the perspective of an adult reader, the story is very short and there isn’t much character development. It would have been nice to see more interaction between Tokoyo and her father. The scenes are all short and plot driven leaving out a lot of the emotional turmoil that would build a connection between Tokoyo and the reader.

But for a young reader, Tokoyo will come through as a strong, independent and courageous young woman. The historical aspect is interesting, and young readers especially will be intrigued by the details of ancient Japanese culture whether those are fantastical elements or factual ones. Overall an entertaining read that will impress readers ages 8 to 10 more than older readers.

Three stars for this adventurous tale


Thank you to the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Dragon Hunters

The Dragon Hunters (2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Picture Book)

dragon hunters

From the publisher:

Away across the oceans,
where few have dared to roam,
upon a wondrous island,
a family made its home.

Living on an island means life is full of adventure for brothers Flynn and Paddy. So when a dragon swoops out of the sky and nabs their beloved dog, Coco, Flynn and Paddy know it’s up to them to bring her home. That night, they pack their bags, make some terrible sandwiches, and set off on an epic adventure…

See the map in this book come alive! Includes BONUS Dragon Brothers map in 3D for your phone or tablet! Download the free AR Reads app on your Android—or iOS—compatible smartphone or tablet to see and hear dragons fly, geysers gush, and get a glimpse of your favorite characters in action!

Review:

The Dragon Hunters, written by James Russell and illustrated by Link Choi, is a tale of two brothers told in rhyme. Dragon stories are always popular with children and this story is sure to be a hit. The rhyme is well done, and the illustrations are fantastic. The book moves along quickly and will keep even the shortest of attention spans engaged. The two brothers use teamwork and ingenuity to retrieve their dog from the fire-breathing dragon, and parents will love to see a story where siblings get along and work together.

While I reviewed an e-book version and did not get to test it out, the book has interactive features which can be unlocked by using the appropriate app. This could be a fun feature for slightly older children and add to the story-telling experience.

This story will engage children in the upper range of picture books as the style feels more like a chapter book than a lower-level picture book.

If your young readers love this book, there are more to come! The Dragon Hunters is the first in a brand new series, The Dragon Brothers, with two more books scheduled for release in the coming months.

Highly recommended for children ages 5 to 8.

5 burning stars to fight a flaming dragon


Thank you to Net Galley and Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for a reading copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Boxcar Children Great Adventure: Journey on a Runaway Train

The Boxcar Children Great Adventure: Journey on a Runaway Train (2017, Albert Whitman & Company, Chapter Book/Lower Middle-Grade)

boxcar children

From the Publisher:

In this all-new very special mini-series, the Aldens have been recruited by a secret society to return lost artifacts and treasures to their rightful locations—all around the world! After finding a painted turtle figurine, the Aldens are introduced to the Silverton family and Reddimus Society, a secret guild whose mission is to return lost artifacts and treasures to the sites they were taken from. The Aldens board a private train to New Mexico to return the turtle to its original home, and they encounter enemies of Reddimus along the way! The trip is a success… but instead of returning home, there’s a last-minute change in plans. The Boxcar Children must continue the mission for the society and deliver more things, all around the globe!

Review:

The Boxcar Children were first introduced to young readers 75 years ago. To commemorate the popular, and enduring series, Albert Whitman & Company (the original publishing house for The Boxcar Children) is releasing a special five book series of new Boxcar Children Adventures. Inspired and holding true to the original characters created by Gertrude Chandler Warner, the new books are written by Dee Garetson and JM Lee and illustrated by Anthony VanArsdale.

As an avid fan of the Boxcar Children growing up, I was excited to see how the series would be carried on. Journey on a Runaway Train, finds our heroic children much unchanged from the original series, they are still adventurous, mystery-seekers living with their grandfather, and they have not aged.

Old and new fans will be pleased with this new edition. The writing is consistent with the early books, while only slight updates have been made to keep up with modern day. The children now have access to laptops and cell phones which young readers will relate to. The title is slightly misleading, as there is not runaway train, but the children do get to ride a fancy old train and that is quite interesting. At its core, the book is still about young people being independent and problem solving with little or no assistance from the adults in their lives. With new illustrations, and new, exciting adventures, a whole new generation will be introduced to the Boxcar Children.

Highly recommended for children ages 7 to 12.

5 stars, one for each of the children and, of course, their dog 🙂


Thank you to Albert Whitman & Company for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Dino Riders Reviews

Welcome to another exciting book review day on the blog! Today I bring you two books in the new Dino Riders series, as well as a giveaway and an excerpt 🙂 Happy reading!

9781492646686-PR

How to Tame a Triceratops

by Will Dare

Publication date: April 2, 2017

Series: Dino Riders #1

Welcome to The Lost Plains!

A wild west frontier where dinosaurs never went extinct.

Josh Sanders wants to be the next great dinosaur cowboy! Ropin’ raptors and ridin’ bucking brontosauruses just like his hero Terrordactyl Bill.

Too bad he’s stuck working on his family’s Iguanodon ranch, riding his ancient dino, Plodder. The closest Josh has ever been to a T-Rex is reading about them in his Dino Cowboy Handbook.

To prove he has what it takes, Josh is determined to win the annual Settlement Race. But he’s gonna need one fast dino to stand a chance. With the help of his friends Sam and Abi, Josh will need to tame a wild Triceratops!

This wildly entertaining new chapter book series for ages 7 and up features exciting illustrations and real dino facts! A great way to get kids reading. And don’t miss the next book in the series: How to Rope a Giganotosaurus.

GIVEAWAY

Two bundles of the first two Dino Riders books – How to Tame Your Triceratops & How to Rope a Giganotosaurus

a Rafflecopter giveaway

REVIEWS

How to Tame a Triceratops (2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Chapter Book)

How to Tame a Triceratops, written and illustrated by Will Dare, is the first book in a ferocious new chapter book series. I say this a lot, but it is difficult to find an engaging and original chapter book series. There are a few good ones out there, but more often than not, the chapter book field leaves something to be desired. Then comes this new series and I am completely captivated!

Dinosaurs, a race through the desert, and a wild west theme. What more could a reader ask for?

Dinosaur stories are always fun and this one is sure to be a hit with both young readers and their parents. Josh is a likeable character and he lives an exciting life as he wrangles dinosaurs. There’s a nice combination of crazy dinosaur-roping antics and typical kid stuff, with school and friends.

The pacing is well done and allows for a decent story arc while still keeping the book length short and not sacrificing character development or plot. This is a story adults will enjoy reading with children and they won’t be bored with simple sentences or a dull plot. As a bonus, there are great illustrations sprinkled throughout as well as dinosaur facts.

Highly recommended for children ages 7 and up.


How to Rope a Gigantosaurus (2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Chapter Book)

Book two in Will Dare’s Dino Riders series follows in the dino footprints of book one. How To Rope a Gigantosaurus takes readers on another fun dino-adventure with Josh and friends. With bigger dinosaurs and riskier adventures, this book does not disappoint.

Josh’s friends get more page-time and overall the characters are more developed as the series continues. Again, the plot is engaging and entertaining, and young readers won’t be able to put this book down until they have read it all.

Another fantastic addition to any home or school library. Highly recommended for children ages 7 and up.

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EXCERPT

Josh sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes. He’d just been dreaming about riding through the Roaring Jaws Valley when he was woken by a loud screeching noise outside. “What the…?”

It was pitch-dark—the middle of the night— but he was sure he’d heard…

Kaaaark!

“Pterodactyl!” Josh cried. He’d know that sound anywhere.

He raced to the window and looked out just in time to see one of the winged beasts swoop down low over the barn, where some newly born iguanodons were being kept. It clattered against the roof, tearing at the wood with its claws. If that thing got in the barn, those baby guanos were done for.

He leaped out of bed and jumped straight out of his window, racing for Plodder’s pen. Nothing and no one was going to snatch up one of his family’s iguanodons. There was no time to lose. The old gallimimus roared with surprise as Josh jumped on his back, then they raced out into the open, across to the barn.

“Get away from there!” Josh cried, waving his arms above his head and readying his lasso. The pterodactyl swooped down low and stretched its claws in his direction. In an instant, Plodder reared up in fright, throwing Josh off his back.

Josh hit the ground hard, knocking the wind from him. He could just make out the terrified cries of Plodder as he ran back to his pen.

“Plod!” he said and groaned. “Come back!” But it was no use. As he looked up into the sky, his eyes went wide with fear. The pterodactyl was plunging from the sky toward him. Its claws sliced through the air like knife blades.

And Josh had nowhere to run. He braced himself for impact…

Suddenly, a roar went up from his side, and a huge shadow passed over him. Three pointed horns stabbed upward at the pterodactyl.

“Charge!” Josh gasped.

The huge triceratops roared angrily as he swiped and slashed at the sky, forcing the winged dinosaur to flap higher into the air.

Josh jumped up, keeping a close eye on the ’dactyl. He felt something brush against his legs and looked down to see a large horn rising up from the ground toward him. Josh yelped in fright as he tumbled backward and then landed heavily on a pair of muscular shoulders.

Beneath him, Charge snorted, as if telling Josh to hold on. Josh grabbed the young dino’s horns just as it kicked into top gear. The ground rolled by in a blur as Charge raced after the fleeing pterodactyl—with Plodder charging back in the other direction toward the ranch.

“I guess you don’t like ’dactyls much,” Josh said and laughed, barely able to believe it. He’d hoped if he’d found something Charge liked, the triceratops would let Josh ride him. He hadn’t thought about trying to find something he didn’t like!

Up in the air, the ’dactyl took one look at the charging triceratops and flapped faster. To Josh’s amazement, Charge lowered his head and quickly began to close the gap.

“Faster than a bullet in a hurricane!” Josh cheered.

Panicked, the ’dactyl turned and tried to swipe at them with its claws, but Charge reared up onto his hind legs, stabbing at the sky with his horns.

Josh whooped excitedly and held on tight. The pterodactyl gave an angry squawk, then flew straight up into the clouds.

“You did it!” Josh called.  But as the flying dino took to the skies, Charge didn’t stop charging. Now that he was all excited, he was zooming around like a dinosaur possessed—just as Mr. Sanders came running down from the house.

“Uh-oh,” Josh said, but it was no use. Charge was heading right for the barn.

Luckily, Josh knew exactly what to do.

In an instant, he jumped up to standing on Charge’s back, just like he’d done with Plodder. This time though, he took his lasso and looped it around Charge’s huge central horn. With a yank of the rope, he shifted the dinosaur’s head to the left. Just as he was about to crash into the side of the barn, the charging dino gave a roar and came to a shuddering stop. His dad looked on wide-eyed, face-to-face with the heaving, eager dino.

“Dad! Charge saved the guanos!” Josh cheered.

“And, look, I got him under control too.” Charge gave an impatient snort. “Well, kinda!”

Mr. Sanders watched Josh, openmouthed. Eventually though, he gave him a wry smile. “Well, son, in all the years of dino wrangling, I’ve never seen anyone ride a trihorn like that. I guess you got yourself the new dino you were after,” he said.

“Does that mean I get to race him?” Josh asked. “I suppose it does,” his dad began. “But on one condition—”

“Anything!” Josh said.

His dad cast an eye over what Josh was wearing. “No racing in your pajamas!”

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Thank you to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for a reading copy of these books in exchange for my honest review.

Spooky Stories!

Looking for some fun Halloween stories for the whole family?

I’ve been reading spooky stories all month and some are more sweet than spooky, perfect for sharing with even the youngest book lover.


mystery-of-the-haunted-farm

The Mystery of the Haunted Farm (2016, Nosy Crow/Candlewick, Picture Book)

Something spooky is going on at Farmer Greg’s farm. Ghosts, zombies, and slimy things are everywhere! Farmer Greg calls in the Ghost-Hunters and those three pigs get to work. But when they get out their Scare-O-Meter, it doesn’t detect anything unusual at the farm. Something really scary is going on!

The Mystery of the Haunted Farm, written and illustrated by Elys Dolan, is silly, spooky fun just in time for Halloween! The layout is similar to a comic book with speech in bubbles and some illustrations framed in sequence. There is a lot going on in both the illustrations and the text, and little ones will likely want to examine each illustration closely. While this might not be the most read-aloud friendly book due to the vast number of speech bubbles on some pages, it could definitely be a fun book to enjoy with beginning and independent readers where you and the young reader take turns reading pages. The format of this book isn’t for everyone, and some may find the pages too chaotic with the number of random words and dialogue. But for those who like comics or non-traditional formats, this book is a fun and silly read, perfect for sharing with children on Halloween.

4 stars to scare away the zombie ducks!


hubble-bubble

Hubble Bubble: The Super Spooky Fright Night (2016, Nosy Crow/Candlewick, Chapter-Book)

When Pandora’s Granny tries to help, things never go as planned. And since Granny is a witch, her magic makes even the most mundane situations ridiculous. From dancing pumpkins at a party, to teddy bears coming to life, to a flat tire turning into a circus, life with Granny is always an adventure!

The Super Spooky Fright Night, written by Tracey Corderoy and illustrated by Joe Berger, is the first book in a fun new series for young independent readers. It’s difficult to find beginning chapter books that are both easy to read and have an engaging storyline, and this book definitely delivers. The characters are fun, and the situations are sure to get lots of giggles. Broken down by chapters and divided into three parts, this book is actually three short books in one. The format is great for those with short attention spans or as a quick story before bed. The length makes young readers feel like they are reading a book for older children, but it is still fully illustrated to keep their attention. This is a book parents will enjoy reading aloud, and can also be enjoyed by independent readers ages six to eight.

5 stars for Granny’s next magical potion!


Thank you to Net Galley and Candlewick for copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.

Friday Fun Reads

Happy Friday!

Hope you all had a wonderful week!

I’ve spent the week thinking about all the reviews I do and I’ll likely be making some changes. I’ve been reviewing four books each week for my newspaper column and I’m thinking of changing that to two books.

Reviewing four books takes quite a bit more time than I realized, and I feel I can do each book more justice and provide a longer review if I focus on just two each week. I’ve struggled with the format of my reviews because I personally hate spoilers and I find the line between saying too little and saying too much, to be very thin.

So with the change to two books a week, I’m going to increase the length of my reviews while not spoiling anything. Wish me luck 😉

As for today, I have a few reviews for you from my favorites over the last couple of weeks. Do you have any books lined up for the weekend? What are you kids reading at school?

If you ever read any of the books I review on the blog I would love to hear from you! Commenting is a fun way to make connections and build community 🙂


thud and blunder

Thud & Blunder: The Not-So-Deadly Dragon (2016, Stone Arch Books/Capstone, Chapter Book)

When the town goes up in flames, Thud and Blunder dash in to save the day! Then when they discover a dragon is to blame, they head out to slay the dragon. When the heroes encounter the dragon though, the great beast bursts into tears. Is the dragon evil or not? Thud and Blunder are still determined to save the town from destruction but there may be more to the dragon than they realize.

Thud & Blunder: The Not-So-Deadly Dragon, written by Sean Tulien and illustrated by Pol Cunyat, is an action-packed beginning chapter book perfect for beginning and reluctant readers. The illustrations are vivid and give the book a comic-book feel. The heroine, Thud, and the hero, Blunder, are fun, non-traditional hero types which children will love. The story itself is funny, unpredictable and sometimes silly, making this an overall great choice for young readers. Lucky for young readers, this is part of the Thud and Blunder series so they can join these characters on many more adventures.


norberts big dream

Norbert’s Big Dream (2016, Sleeping Bear Press, Picture Book)

Norbert is not a regular pig. Norbert is a pig with a dream. While other pigs sleep and eat slop, Norbert is preparing to make his dream come true. One day he will swim the English Channel! But when the big day comes will Norbert be able to find the English Channel?

Norbert’s Big Dream, written by Lori Degman and illustrated by Marco Bucci, is a charming read about chasing dreams and what it means to reach one’s goals. This is a great read anytime, but especially during the Olympics as children watch athletes compete and live out their dreams. Norbert is just a pig but that doesn’t stop him from dreaming big or working hard. Children and adults will love Norbert and his great attitude. Beautifully rendered illustrations round out this exceptional book.


dino mike and the dinosaur doomsday

Dino-Mike and the Dinosaur Doomsday (2016, Stone Arch Books/Capstone, Chapter Book)

Dino-Mike has traveled the world digging up dinosaur bones with his Dad, but he didn’t expect to look for bones in Antarctica! Tracking the evil Dr. Bones, takes Mike, his friends, and his Dad to the coldest continent in search of more fossils. But Mike and his friends aren’t alone, soon the Bones siblings arrive and make lots of trouble. With the ability to call up living dinosaurs, the Bones siblings hope to make Mike and his friends extinct!

Dino-Mike and the Dinosaur Doomsday, written and illustrated by Franco Aureliani, has a fun premise and great layout for young independent readers, but the execution falls a bit flat. This is just one book out of the series, so reading the first books may make the story more compelling. The adventure and inclusion of dinosaurs will be a hit with readers, but the conflict-resolution aspect feels rushed. The build-up to each conflict is short with a resolution following almost immediately. The reader does not have time to feel any real sense of danger or nervousness for Mike since the dire situations are resolved neatly and immediately. Start with the first book in this series, Dino-Mike and the T. Rex Attack!, and see if Dino-Mike’s adventures are a hit with your independent readers ages 6-8.


pyramid hunters iron tomb

Pyramid Hunters: The Iron Tomb (2016, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Middle-Grade Adventure)

Sam Force is expecting the usual, boring visit to his Uncle Jasper in Egypt. What he isn’t expecting is to find his Uncle missing. Narrowly avoiding arrest at the airport, Sam discovers clues left by his Uncle, and finds himself relying on new friends to follow the trail. Using his knowledge of ancient Egypt, and with Hadi and Mary’s help, Sam embarks on a wild adventure to find his Uncle and uncover the secrets of The Iron Tomb.

Pyramid Hunters: The Iron Tomb, written by Peter Vegas, is a wild chase through Egypt’s streets and her history. Starting with an action packed teaser, the book then picks up with Sam en route to Egypt. Shortly thereafter, the action starts and never stops. Combining crazy action sequences with a smart and capable main character, make this a great choice for young readers. This adventure is sure to be a hit. Appropriate for children ages 10 and up.


Thank you to all the publishers for providing copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.

Happy reading to all!