Saturday, November 10, 2018

Fall Reading 2018 Operation Rescue Dog

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Anyone who has read Maria's books knows that her stories always feature a dog and this latest title is no exception. Lulu is a rescue dog, one who was found after being dumped near the highway. She is being taken on the Operation Rescue Dog truck to meet someone special. Alma misses her mother who is serving in Iraq; we read that "Alma wears Mami's scarf like a hug." Her Abuela agrees with Alma that they should get a rescue dog and they set out to meet the truck. As they drive Alma wonders "Can a dog feel like a hug?" After several misadventures, our two protagonists finally meet and we hold our breath as we wait to see if they will realize they belong together.

Maria's words capture the feelings of Alma as she deals with the separation from her mother and her hope for a new friend in Lulu. She also manages to portray Lulu's experiences without humanizing her. The illustrations pick up important details such as Lulu's tail tucked between her legs in uncertainty, or Alma rubbing Mami's scarf against her cheek for comfort. Together, text and images tell a heartwarming story of family.

The author's note explains about animal rescue and gives the names of some websites to visit for more information, as well as some other ways to help if you cannot adopt an animal yourself. There is also a glossary of the Spanish words used in the story. A portion of the proceeds from the book will be donated to Best Friends Animal Society.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Fall Reading 2018 The Three Rules of Everyday Magic

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Kate has a lot going on in her life. Her dad moved out while struggling with depression, her best friend has made a new buddy while rehearsing for a musical, and her grandmother is suffering increasingly from dementia. As she struggles with all of these concerns, Kate also continues her karate classes, works through her recent nervousness around her pal Parker, tries to recover her love of music, and even manages to begin a friendship with her classmate Jane. Can Kate figure out a way to hold onto her father and her friend Sofia, while also letting others into her affection? And is her grandmother right when she says there is such a thing as everyday magic that can help? Kate's sensei tells her, "Do not focus on the pain. Focus only on the next move." He is talking about karate class, but that can be great advice for life in general.

I want to warn you now - by the time I finished this book, I had cried so much that my nose was stuffy and my eyes were red and puffy. Reading "My whole life is like a bike tire with a tiny hole leaking air. But I'm not leaking air. I'm leaking hope..." made my heart ache. There were plenty of lines like that, and they would make wonderful examples for a writing lesson. Here's another, "The truth thuds to the ground, a cement brick, echoing." 

I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy realistic fiction, especially the sort of story that focuses on relationships and how characters work to build and maintain them. Kate is not perfect, but she feels very real for that reason. She will steal your heart - and that makes a magical story.

I read a review copy provided by the publisher.

Fall Reading 2018 Twilight of the Elves (The Adventurers Guild #2)

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Zed, Brock, Liza, Micah, and Jett are back to survive dangers and deceptions. Spoiler Alert - At the end of the first book in the series the elves arrived to report that their city had fallen. The town of Freestone allowed the refugees inside its walls, but the situation is uneasy (and that is putting it mildly). The Rangers of the elves have taken shelter with the Adventurers Guild and their youngest member, Fel, has joined the five friends in their training. When a party is sent to scout a possible return to the elven city of Llethanyl, the youngsters find themselves outside the safety of Freestone and in the wilderness where Dangers could be behind every bush or stone.

Besides the creatures who try to kill them(ranging from shapeshifting things with really large teeth to deadly spores and even banshees), there are also plenty of intrigue and cross-purposes to ruin everyone's day. The shadowy figure who wants Brock to discover secrets, Zed's desire to learn more about his elven father, the prejudices within the elven party against some of their own people, the elven queen's true agenda...all of these push and pull at the characters and influence their actions. And within this fantasy setting, there are still everyday themes of friendship, family, belonging, identity, prejudice, and the stirrings of teenage romance as the adventurers make their way toward Llethanyl.

Readers who enjoyed the first outing and have been waiting for the next installment in the series will be glad to reunite with the characters they know and to learn more about the newcomers. Those who are just discovering the Adventurers Guild can jump in and give this a try, and then they will probably want to go back and read about how this crew got their start once they reach the end of the book.

Highly recommended for middle grade readers who enjoy fantasy adventure. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Fall Reading 2018 Cyrus Field's Big Dream

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As the author mentions in the epilogue, "Telegraph cables played an important role in world communication for more than a century. Eventually, radio, telephone cables, satellites, fiber-optic cables, and wireless networks made telegraph cables obsolete." (p.188) It may be very hard for readers today to understand Cyrus Field's determination to lay the first transatlantic telegraph cable, or how many others he was able to convince of the necessity - and to invest large sums of money to make it happen. But anyone reading this book will be convinced of his determination to accomplish his goal.

The book presents all the events in chronological order, beginning with the first meeting where Field heard about the possibility and covering the twelve years it took to successfully connect the United States with Europe with a telegraph cable. The various investors, politicians, and scientists and the roles they played are also discussed, but Cyrus is the main character in this drama. Details of his childhood, family, and other business ventures are woven into the background to complete the portrait of this determined man.

Illustrations show the ships and equipment used, reproductions of telegrams, photos from the time period, even diagrams of the ship's layout. There are numerous quotes from Cyrus and contemporaries, newspaper and magazine coverage, and even songs written about the attempts. Back matter includes an author's note, source notes, timeline, index, connections to make (books videos, and websites on the topic), and a selected bibliography. 

Written for grades 5-9, this is a detailed biography and a story of technology woven together to make a fascinating true story.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Fall Reading 2018 The Secrets of Ninja School

The Secrets of Ninja School by [Pilutti, Deb]

Have young readers who just can't get enough ninja stories? Or perhaps you're looking for a story that shows a character with perseverance, one who hangs in there until she finds her own talents and strengths? Then add Deb Pilutti's tale to your shelves.

Ruby heads off to Master Willow's School for Ninjas, but has some trouble with the lessons. She is not invisible, or patient, or any of the things that all the other students seem to be. More than anything, she wants to discover her secret skill like all the other students. "If Ruby had a secret skill, she did not know how to find it." But Master Willow encourages her to keep trying. And he is right, everyone may despair of Ruby ever mastering how to be a ninja, but the resolution of the story is just right.

The extra special craft activity at the back of the book will be popular with library story-times (and it even has a sew and a no-sew option). Put this into the hands of those who have already finished off all the Mobi Shinobi books,  Wink : The Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed, and Nighttime Ninja

Fall Reading 2018 Fire Birds: Valuing Natural Wildfires and Burned Forests

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When most people see news coverage of a wildfire they automatically assume that there is nothing but destruction and that all fires should be controlled and extinguished. For those living in interface areas where humans have homes and businesses along the edge of the wild areas, that is understandable. No one wants to lose their house or livelihood. But author Sneed Collard shows that wildfires can be good for some of the animals (and plants) within those areas that burn. There are plants that only grow if their seeds are exposed to high temperatures, or that need the access to sunlight that a burn-off creates. And there are creatures such as the birds featured in this book that flourish in those areas of regrowth after the fire has come through.

The photos are clear and captivating. The facts are sure to take many readers by surprise, especially if they have only heard that fire is bad. Back matter includes an "Additional Fire Bird Checklist" with birds not highlighted in the main text, a glossary, an index, and a list of places for "Digging Deeper" into the topic. 

This was also a Junior Library Guild selection.