Sunday, January 7, 2018

Winter Reading 2018 Black Panther: The Young Prince


Those eagerly awaiting the release of the Black Panther movie will be glad to have this title to read in the meantime. Focusing on a T'Challa still middle-school age, The Young Prince introduces several of the key players in the story of Wakanda; T'Chaka (king of Wakanda), Nick Fury, and the enemy of the kingdom, Ulysses Klaw all play a part in the events that lead to the prince's first adventure as a young Black Panther.

T'Challa and M'Baku travel to Chicago and attend school with other teens and pre-teens while hiding their true identities. When M'Baku falls in with a group of kids up to no good, T'Challa knows that he has to rescue his friend. Luckily for him, he also has new American friends to help out - and the vibranium enhanced suit that his father gave him. But can some physical enhancements and a couple of nerdy teenagers give him enough strength to defeat the plot hatched up by the gang?

Although it is a chapter book rather than a graphic novel, the descriptions make it easy to imagine the setting and action. The prince is shown as a young man still trying to figure out the world and how he will approach life. The conflicts with his adopted brother Hunter are very similar to disagreements between siblings anywhere, although the dynamic between Thor and Loki does come to mind. As T'Challa tries to become a man who will be worthy to take the throne one day, he wrestles with anger, pride, and jealousy just like any other teen, all while studying for tests and preparing for a chess tournament. Life goes on, no matter what the teenage drama or threats to his identity.

Highly recommended for middle grade readers who are interested in the Marvel universe, particularly Black Panther and the Avengers. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Fall Reading 2017 The Marvelwood Magicians


"You don't know what you've got, 'til it's gone." That is a song lyric, but it is also a truth in life. And Mattie Marvelwood finds that truth out the hard way. Her whole family have talents, psychic abilities which allow them to make a living working carnivals and fairs. Her father can cast illusions, her brother disappears, her mother sees the future, and Mattie can read minds. But Mattie just wants to be normal - live in a house, go to school, not see people's thoughts when she touches them.

While they are performing with a small circus in South Carolina, Mattie begins to notice something is going on with the other acts. First Julietta loses her singing voice, then Selena loses her grace and agility. She hears others talking about former members of the circus who mysteriously lost their gifts; there was the ringmaster who no longer had his commanding presence, the tumbler who lost her coordination, and the strongman who lost his strength. What is causing this? And if Mattie has the chance to get rid of her talent, will she take it?

The characters are interesting and the setting gives a view into what life on the road with a circus or carnival is like. Mattie's dilemma bring the age-appropriate themes of longing to fit in and the dread of being seen as different into sharp focus. And the kindly Audra gives some good advice to readers of all ages. "We just have to try for gratitude. to realize when we have enough."

Recommended for middle grade readers who enjoy fiction with a dash of the magical. I read a copy provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Fall Reading 2017 Twelve Days in May: Freedom Ride 1961


This book is a great resource for students or classes studying the Civil Rights Movement and especially the Freedom Riders. It is packed with archival photos of the riders, as well as images of other protests such as marches and sit-ins. Key figures in the Freedom Ride such as the riders, organizers, and "Bull" Connor are shown, but there are also images such as signs posted by the KKK welcoming visitors to Tuscaloosa and even one shot of a young child wearing the white robe and hood of the KKK. The text walks through events in chronological order, narrating the actions of the riders, the response of law enforcement and those opposed to integration, and comments on what was shared about the ride in the media of the time. 

The format of the book is large, like a coffee table edition. This makes the photos an excellent size for viewing details. The font size is correspondingly large, as well. A section on "Landmark events before the Twelve Days in May" serves as background for the story, highlighting court cases such as Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education. The story of the ride itself begins with a cast of characters, "Who's on the Buses?" which gives the name, race, and age of each rider. The closing section of the book gives a more detailed description of each rider's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Back matter also includes a bibliography, source notes, index, and picture credits.

Highly recommended for middle grades and up, especially classrooms and school libraries providing U.S. History materials to students. I received a copy from the publisher for review purposes.

Giveaway: NewsPrints and Lumberjanes

As you may have heard, I've been working hard for several months to clear off my desk and other flat surfaces that collected far too many books. Yes, it is possible to have too many books. Or, more accurately, it is possible to have too many to fit in the space you have available. So here are two more that need a good home. One is an ARC of NewsPrints by Ru Xu, the other is an ARC of the novel Unicorn Power! based on the popular Lumberjanes graphic novels.

Good luck - and happy holidays!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Fall Reading 2017 Frederik Sandwich and the Earthquake that Couldn't Possibly Be


Fans of mystery adventures with memorable characters will have fun with the story of an earthquake that couldn't possibly be. Frederik Sandwich lives on Frederik's Hill, a place where everyone follows the rules. Because his parents were foreigners who moved to the city, Frederik tries extra hard to be good and do what is expected so that everyone will see that he belongs. The problem is that his plan doesn't work and the kids at school tease him about his name, his accent (which he denies having), and anything else they can think of to make his life miserable. When everyone is shaken awake in the middle of the night, the mayor sends out word that there was no earthquake and that no one should mention the word because it might scare visitors away from the upcoming International Festival. Normally Frederik would follow those instructions, but he and a strange girl from his neighborhood discover an odd train that rumbles beneath the city and an odd man who warns them of dangers and zombies down in the train tunnels. Could he be right? Or is he plotting something sinister to ruin the festival and hurt the mayor? They have to find out the truth!

Frederik is a boy swept up into events that are out of his control. He can't stop the neighborhood bullies from picking on him. He can't get any adults to listen to what he has discovered. He can't even get his new friend (the strange girl) Pernille to call him by name; to his annoyance, she calls him things like melon, enchilada, and other food items. Pernille is a very striking person with dark skin and white hair, unlike anyone else in the city - which makes her an outsider like Frederik. She is also convinced that the two of them can solve the mystery and save the day, although it would be easier if they were orphans. "It takes an orphan to solve a mystery, you see. Nobody else will do." Pernille has learned this from reading children's mystery adventure fiction. Between the two of them, readers are pulled along as if they are trapped on one of those trains running beneath Frederik's Hill.

An entertaining mystery perfect for middle grade fans of Lemony Snicket and similar stories of children facing seemingly unbeatable foes. I read an e-book provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Splendid Baron Submarine Tour


Enter to win a The Splendid Baron Submarine themed prize pack!
One (1) winner receives:
  • A copy of The Splendid Baron Submarine, by Eric Bower
  • A The Splendid Baron Submarine themed gift pack. Includes some pirate-themed goodies, Go Fish, and ghostly treats as well.
Giveaway begins November 15, 2017, at 12:01 A.M. MT and ends December 15, 2017, at 11:59 P.M. MT.
Giveaway open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older.
Prizes provided by Amberjack Publishing


Have you ever written one of those "How I Spent my Summer Vacation" essays? Waldo's essay gets him in trouble with the teacher, who believes he has written fiction rather than a true account of his family's summer. Imagine an adventure that has pirates and ghosts, scientists and amazing inventions, and an underwater treasure hunt. That will put you somewhere in the neighborhood of The Splendid Baron Submarine. Waldo Baron, W.B. to his family, narrates the story of his family and their incredible summer vacation. Waldo has two scientists for parents, and they are asked by the Vice-President of the United States to recover a lost pirate treasure and save the country from bankruptcy. Although he has the least scientific brain in the world, W.B. is swept along as his parents and their assistant head off to the Pacific.

Filled with eccentric characters, evil monkeys, decorative jelly beans, and dreams about talking squirrels, this book is never dull. Waldo is an entertaining narrator who shares his puzzlement over his parents and their theories, his fears, and even the extremes of his own clumsiness (getting his head stuck in the stove during a happy dance, for example). As I read, I pictured his father looking much like Doc Brown from "Back to the Future" and the submarine full of tools and half-finished inventions. Waldo's descriptions will have you laughing out loud as he says the Vice-President "looked at us as though we'd just slapped him across the face with a wet trout." And when he encounters a ghost, he explains that "my brain spun in my head like a cow in a cyclone." (I pictured the movie "Twister" at that point, with Helen Hunt saying "cow" as one goes flying past their truck.)

If you enjoy humorous stories with lots of action, vicious wildlife (monkeys, sharks, eels), enormous jewels, and multiple ghosts, then pick up this book. Until you read it, you can't imagine all the zany events and characters. Once you dive in, you'll be a captive audience for the entire thing - just like W.B. 


The Splendid Baron Submarine

Written by Eric Bower

Illustrated by Agnieszka Grochalska
Publisher’s Synopsis: Waldo “W.B.” Baron is back with another amazing adventure in another incredible invention! Pirate treasure? A clandestine meeting? A terribly rude monkey with personal boundary and hygiene issues? Two of those things sound like a dream come true to W.B, whose clever inventor parents are hired―by the Vice President!―to go on a super secret and intensely important treasure hunt to repay a national debt. If only it weren’t for that lousy, rude monkey, it would be the beginning of a perfect adventure. But at least it isn’t squirrels…
The treasure hunt gives the Baron family the opportunity to use their exceptional steam-powered submarine, freshly biggened and ready for adventure! But things are seldom straightforward for the eccentric Baron family, and this treasure hunt is no exception. W.B.’s trademark bad luck has him suffering monstrous marine misfortune and marauding monkey misery.
Can the Baron family embark on their newest adventure without the eggy and depressing Aunt Dorcas? Will the Barons find the treasure they seek? Will they save the country from financial ruin? Where does the monkey fit in, anyway? Do we like asking questions? Not really, but inside you’ll meet someone who likes asking questions and then answering them (despite his claims to the contrary, he really does like it).
Oh, did we mention the pirate’s curse?
Ages 9-12 | Publisher: Amberjack Publishing | November 14, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1944995256
Available on Amazon:


Eric Bower is the author of The Bizarre Baron Inventions series. He was born in Denville, New Jersey, an event of which he has little recollection, yet the people who were there have repeatedly assured him that it happened. He currently lives in Pasadena, California. His favorite type of pasta is cavatappi, his favorite movie is The Palm Beach Story, and he is the proud recipient of a “Beanology Degree” from Jelly Belly University in Fairfield, California. His wife and family have told him that the degree is nothing to be proud of, since “It’s not a real degree. You know that . . . Right?” and “Eric, they literally give them to everyone who visits the Jelly Belly factory,” but he knows that they’re all just jealous.



Word Spelunking
Tales of A Wanna-Be SuperHero Mom
Mommy Ramblings
LitPick Student Book Reviews
The Fairview Review
Nonperfect Parenting
icefairy's Treasure Chest
Teacher Dance
Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
The Lovely Books

The Fairview Review is participating in the blog tour in partnership with The Children’s Book Review and Amberjack Publishing.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Fall Reading 2017 Hidden Women: The African-American Mathematicians of NASA Who Helped America Win the Space Race


With the box office success of "Hidden Figures" and the demand for more books such as Hidden Human Computers (by Duchess Harris), it is not surprising to see that publishers have stepped up to fulfill the need. Hidden Women tells the story of six African-American women who worked with NASA and its predecessor NACA, to help win the Space Race. Their stories are interwoven with historical events such as Gagarin's first orbit of the Earth, Civil Rights sit-ins, and JFK's dream to have America be the first to land a man on the moon.

Katherine Johnson, Miriam Mann (grandmother of Duchess Harris), Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Annie Easley, and Christine Darden are included in this discussion of the role African-American women played in the country's space program. Through the details of their careers, readers learn of the many challenges facing these women. While other workers were given paid leave to attend college, or received funds from NASA to pay their tuition, these ladies had to take unpaid leave and find their own way to finance college degrees. Even if they did have degrees, they were still assigned to pools of workers, rather than being given the same pay and projects that the white men at NASA enjoyed. There were also segregation issues such as not being allowed to live in the dorms on base, having to sit at separate tables in the lunchroom, or use separate restrooms. 

Despite all the negative aspects of their jobs, these women still accomplished remarkable things. Some calculated trajectories to safely get astronauts to the moon and back again, others plotted out the safe rendezvous between two spacecraft or made rockets flying with extremely volatile fuel safe to use. Some tested aircraft and spacecraft designs in wind tunnels, or developed new computer code to use with the FORTRAN they had already learned. They all exceeded the expectations of everyone around them in the work place, proving that women and people from diverse racial backgrounds were just as capable as the white men on the job.

A final chapter visits with three women who are currently working in the space industry and contrasts their experiences with those of the early pioneers like Johnson and Easley. Back matter includes a timeline, glossary, bibliography, source notes, and index. There is a list of books for those who wish to read more about the topic, and also critical thinking questions that would be useful for a book group or class book study. The archival photos throughout the book show all the featured women, as well as several of the astronauts and rockets mentioned.

Recommended for middle grades and up.