RCR Says: “Clarence Henry is a charmingly drawn critter, with qualities that parents will behappy to instill in their children, like hard work, community involvement, selflessness, and friendliness.”
RCR Says: “There’s so much to love about Poor Teddy, which is indisputably an empathetic, emotionally mature, and charmingly illustrated picture book.”
RCR Says: “In Precious the Pink Elephant, Carolyn Ramsay-Williams tells the charming and emotionally educational story of an unusually hued mammal.”
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★★★★ Diary of a Witch’s Son by Oksana Leslie follows an immigrant family’s harrowing experiences with their unfriendly and oftentimes dangerous neighbors. Told through the perspective of the author’s young son, this is a work of thrilling, narrative nonfiction that details the trauma and heartache the family faces at the hands of Mrs. Burton, their jealous neighbor who is bent on destroying the family and having their matriarch arrested. Max Bush, the young son, writes in diary form of how Mrs. Burton makes untrue claims about his family to the police, though they have a difficult time proving the claims to be false. Finally, after a sequence of dramatic turns, the Bush family is able to prove their innocence and continue on with their lives and livelihood. Overall, this is an inspiring story about a hard-working immigrant family finding personal success and financial security through honesty, long hours, strong family bonds, and pure determination.
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★★★★★ Kindness in a Scary World, written by Rebecca J. Hubbard and illustrated by Becca Johnson, is a children’s book that serves as a conversation starter with kids about tragic events like terrorist attacks and mass shootings. The story follows a child who observes his parents’ reaction to live news footage of a shooting, and witnesses some of that footage himself. This draws parents and child into a discussion about the causes and effects of tragedies such as the one they watched play out on the television that very evening, and whether there is anything the family can do to help make the situation better. Ultimately, the child’s parents tell him, many of us are only able to contribute in small ways, like sending money or thoughtful letters. But even these small instances of kindness can add up to make large differences in the lives of people affected by tragedy.
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★★★★ In Gus and the Winter Sprite by J. Steven Young, a diminutive dragon named Gus is lamenting the loneliness that winter brings—after all, his friends are all hibernating for the season and his treasured garden has gone dormant—when a winter sprite comes zooming into his cozy house and interrupts the quiet. Crystal, the sprite, has a problem of her own: she’s not like other sprites, and helping to bring on winter doesn’t make her happy like it does everyone else. Gus swaps a story for a story and tells Crystal that he was once feared by the other inhabitants of the forest, who didn’t understand that Gus is actually harmless. Emboldened, Crystal tells Gus that what she really wants to be is a phoenix, the legendary bird of fire. She uses the power of a wish to transform into her heart’s true desire and helps awaken Gus’s friends so that they can all gather for a festive winter party. Continue reading “Recently Reviewed”
In Sarah’s Shadow, written by Nick Jones and illustrated by Si Clark, a young girl arrives home after being bullied about her scrawny shadow on the school playground that day. Upon seeing a shooting star up in the sky, Sarah makes a poorly thought-out wish to get rid of her shadow, thinking she’ll be better off without it. Initially, Sarah is thrilled to discover that her wish has come true and that she is no longer dogged by her shadow. But later at summer camp, as Sarah and her campmates are making shadow puppets on the wall of their tent, Sarah realizes just how disastrous of a situation her wish has created for her. In the end, she finds her shadow and the two of them pair up to perform some truly dazzling shadow puppetry for the entire camp.
A young man wakes up in a hospital room, completely unharmed, on a distant planet with no recollection of who he is or how he got there. Within moments, he is set upon by anonymous assailants, kicking off a cat-and-mouse game that will span entire worlds and civilizations. But just who is he? Mitchell, some call him. MH-217 is another name he hears, its very mention sparking something in the back of his mind. Remembering his true nature could ultimately be the key to his survival—and also might help explain why he seems imbued with the strength of ten men, and the regenerative stamina of a starfish. As secrets spill out among MH-217’s friends and enemies, one thing becomes clear: real peace will not come easy to this sprawling empire. And no one is getting out of this without blood on their hands. Continue reading “Recently Reviewed”
Sunayna Prasad’s From Frights to Flaws tells the story of twelve-year-old Alyssa McCarthy’s unexpected encounter with magic. Alyssa is kidnapped from her home in New Jersey by Beau Dunchap (Master Beau), an evil wizard, and taken to his dark magic center in Fiji. Master Beau plans to kill Alyssa so that he can absorb her strength and fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming France’s dictator, but he quickly realizes that murdering Alyssa will not supply him with enough power. Therefore, Master Beau and his crew kidnap Alyssa’s friends—Hailey, Jasmine, Destiny, and Madison—in order to kill them, as well. With help from a few benevolent wizards and magical creatures, the five girls battle Master Beau and his black sorcery.
Prasad’s writing is playful and lighthearted, despite the abundance of dark magic throughout the storyline. Each page beckons a reader to open his or her imagination as they take in incredible sights, such as a tiny man made of marble, a potion that adjusts you to new time zones, and a glittery lamb who can break sleeping spells. But while the magical world that Prasad creates is certainly wondrous and full of endless surprises, the book’s characters are disappointingly underdeveloped. Flat dialogue and a pervasive lack of emotion distract from the events unfolding before the reader. Thematically, the exploration of Good’s eternal struggle against Bad is a major part of the story, as Alyssa witnesses, firsthand, the extreme kindness and extraordinary evil that magical powers can yield. From Frights to Flaws leaves readers with questions about the fates of Master Beau and Alyssa, which will both surely be addressed in Prasad’s next book.
In this riveting young adult fantasy, two nations—the Eisenberge and Alkilion—have long been at war, spurred on by a vicious act performed by the Eisenberge’s malevolent ruler, the Sorceress. Now, the Sorceress and her apprentices seek to end the conflict between the neighboring countries by laying utter waste to Alkilion. In an effort to aid her mistress, Athala, one of two apprentices, abducts the Alkite princess with the intention of inciting the armies of Alkilion to attack the Eisenberge. Little does Athala know that she has single-handedly destroyed the Sorceress’s long-laid plans of conquest, putting her very country’s future at risk. Sentenced to death, Athala is saved by a young Alkite soldier named Zimri, who has been sent to rescue the imprisoned princess from the Sorceress. Together, Athala and Zimri form an uneasy truce and set out to destroy the darkness at the heart of the Eisenberge. But will they be destroyed by their own secrets along the way?
The Sorceress’s Apprentice is a darkly charming trip through familiar fantastical landscapes. Damsels in distress, knights-errant, evil sorceresses—all are present in some form in Gardner’s novel, though they each receive a welcome refurbishment that lends this young adult fantasy a charm all its own. Gardner builds up a tightly wound tale around his two central characters, showing how quickly an individual’s perspective can change when everything comes crashing down around them – or, more likely, when they are shown the error of their ways. Other interesting touches are employed to elevate the mystique of Gardner’s world-building, such as the description of various gods and goddesses worshipped by the peoples of Alkilion and the Eisenberge (some of whom even make an appearance during the story), and the use of Germanic linguistics to help name numerous locations and spells throughout the novel. All told, this is a classy, well-constructed story that we should be so lucky as to see continued in a sequel.