Book Review: The Disaster Days by Rebecca Behrens

The Disaster Days cover image

Hannah Steele is a little nervous when she agrees to babysit her neighbor’s two school-age children. It’s only her second time babysitting, and all the adults she knows will be off the remote island where they live near Seattle. But it’s only for a few hours, so she agrees to do it. When a major earthquake hits, Hannah finds herself stranded in a wrecked home with no prospect of adults arriving for several days. Somehow she has to keep herself, the kids, and their pet hamster safe, warm, and fed until help arrives.

The Disaster Days by Rebecca Behrens is not only an interesting story about Hannah and the challenges she goes through after the earthquake, it’s also a primer on how to be prepared in the event of a major emergency. With windows shattered, the refrigerator blocked, and cold and dark settling in, Hannah must look for things that will help them survive: a flashlight, bandages, food, water, safe shelter, and warm blankets. A hand-cranked/solar radio also comes in handy so she can get news about what’s going on in the outside world. As I read, I found myself tallying up the things in my own home that I would need if disaster struck, and making a list of things for my own emergency kit.

Young readers could also enjoy reading about Hannah’s adventures, then working with their parents to assemble a kit in their own homes and talk about what they needed to troubleshoot any situation when there’s no power or cell service to rely on. Hannah finds help in old encyclopedias, a Girl Scout Handbook, and other printed materials she finds at home.

I highly recommend The Disaster Days for mother-daughter book clubs and readers aged 9 to 12.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Black Canary: Ignite by Meg Cabot

Black Canary Ignite cover image

Dinah Lance has a loud voice. She uses it when she’s mad, or excited, or worried. Her boisterous ways serve her well in the band she’s in with her two best friends. But it causes trouble other times, like when she yells at people who irritate her. What’s really strange, though, is that sometimes when she gets emotional and her voice gets loud, glass breaks all around her. Even though she lives in Gotham City, where superheroes abound, she doesn’t think much of this until she discovers a secret her mom has been holding onto. A secret that will change everything Dinah thinks she knows about herself and her family.

Black Canary: Ignite, written by Meg Cabot and illustrated by Cara McGee, is a graphic novel introducing young readers to a superhero that looks a lot like them. Dinah is in middle school, and her concerns are mostly the same as those of her friends. She wants her band to get recognition, she wants other kids in school to stop picking on her, and she wants to stop getting into trouble with the principal and her parents.

During career week she wants to sign up for a junior crime fighter’s group, because she wants to become a policeman like her dad. When Dinah discovers she has special powers, she also meets her first nemesis, a baddie named Bonfire with a grudge. That’s when she gets to find out if she’s got what it takes to fight the bad guys.

Black Canary: Ignite is fast-paced with lots of action. Dinah is a winning character sure to be a hit with readers aged 9 to 13.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid by Kirk Scroggs

The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid cover image

Russell isn’t like the other kids at Houma Bayou Middle School. For one thing, he’s green. And his hair is like duckweed. Plus, he’s got webbed toes and a carrot growing from his finger. As a baby, he was found in the swamp and adopted by a local couple, but no one knows where he came from. When he starts seeking answers, suddenly he notices mysterious men watching his every move. Will he ever find out the secrets of the swamp and tune into his connection with it?

The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid introduces a middle-school superhero whose special powers tend toward the vegetable side of nature. Fun and funny, the story unfolds through comic-book-like entries in Russell’s notebook. With the help of his friends, he ventures into the deep swamp for clues about his origin, which helps him discover his powers in the final showdown.

Kids aged 9 to 13 and up are sure to love this slimy green superhero. The book also has great “Boredom Relief Activities” in the back, which include lessons on drawing, a maze to navigate, and more.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Cursed by Thomas Wheeler and Frank Miller

Nimue doesn’t know why her mother’s last act is to thrust a sword into her hands and implore her to take it to Merlin. All she knows is that the Paladins, holy men intent on destroying her kind, are wiping out villages all over the countryside. And that when she holds the sword she feels a strange power. With a price on her head and the assistance of a hired sword named Arthur, Nimue sets out on a quest to fulfill her mother’s dying wish and save her people.

Cursed, written by Thomas Wheeler with illustrations by Frank Miller, is the origin story of the sword in the stone. Told with lots of action and intrigue, the tale evolves around Nimue, but it also brings in other familiar characters from the classic story, including Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot, Gawain, and Guinevere. Readers will be surprised to find how their lives intersect and weave together, and the story holds a few tweaks from the familiar.

Cursed, which is also being developed for a Netflix series, is sure to delight readers who love action, adventure, and imaginative takes on well-known myths, but don’t mind a bit of carnage. I recommend it for ages 14 and up.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Ten to Zen by Owen O’Kane

Ten to Zen cover image

Some people may be reluctant to try meditation or mindfulness because they think it takes too much of a time commitment to be effective. Also, they may find it hard to image sitting for an extended period without getting restless. Owen O’Kane, a psychotherapist and mental health professional, has a suggestion for those folks and others who may want to reduce the anxiety and stress in their lives. It’s a ten minute practice that he calls “Ten to Zen,” which is the name of a book O’Kane has written on the practice.

O’Kane is quick to say that his method isn’t based on Zen Buddhism. Instead, he says he uses the term in a colloquial way that is more to do with being “in the zone” or “chilled out.” It’s about being focused, yet relaxed. The same could be said of his book, Ten to Zen: Ten Minutes a Day to a Calmer, Happier You. O’Kane’s tone is conversational, and it almost feels as though you could be sitting next to him while he explains how getting into the habit of sitting and reflecting for ten minutes a day can enhance your life.

The book starts with O’Kane’s background, why he came up with his idea, how it helps, and what kind of commitment it takes. Subsequent chapters go through each step of the process, describing what practitioners can focus on each minute of the time they set aside. I decided to go through the process myself as I read, and I found O’Kane’s suggestions to be helpful. I’ve meditated some in the past, but never regularly. I have been more successful with this ten minute regime than with things I’ve tried before.

It’s also effective that O’Kane goes over his suggestions several times. He also sums up each step several times as he builds upon them. For me, this helped to solidify the process in my mind so I wasn’t always distracted by wondering if I was doing what I was supposed to be doing at any given moment.

I’ve also found his two minute mini-mindfulness session to be helpful for combating insomnia and other stressful situations. Based on my experience, I recommend Ten to Zen as a way to get into meditation and make it a part of daily life.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Paris Project by Donna Gephart

The Paris Project cover image

Cleveland Potts needs to leave her home in Sassafras, Florida, pronto. She can hardly bear to stay in a place where one of her best friends snubs her, her mom and sister work extra hard just to get by, and every day reminds her that her dad is in prison. So Cleveland hatches a plan to go to the American School in Paris, where it seems that everything will be cool and exciting and trés chic. She’s sure that if she can just check off everything on her list to prepare, she’ll be able to make it.

The Paris Project by Donna Gephart shows the ripple effect that occurs when a parent is imprisoned. Everything about Cleveland’s life changes. Her mom works more, some old friends shun her, others kids tease her, plus, part of the reason her dad is in jail is because he stole from her and others. She’s not sure how she’ll have a relationship with him in the future. Moving away to get a fresh start seems like the only way she can face the mountain of obstacles and emotional hurdles she faces every day.

As Cleveland makes her way through her list, she discovers a lot about her inner fortitude. She also comes face-to-face with her own prejudgments about others. The Paris Project is a great way to start a conversation about friendship, trust in the face of betrayal, communicating honestly, and more. Gephart writes about these and other issues without sounding preachy or instructional, but in a way that tweens and teens are likely to relate. I highly recommend it for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 9 to 13.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid by Kirk Scroggs

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid, by Kirk Scroggs. I’m super excited to read the book, because:

  1. Swamp Kid’s hometown, Houma, Louisiana, (see facts below for pronunciation) is one of my favorite places to visit.
  2. I love graphic novels, and this one looks like a lot of fun to read.
  3. Like Swamp Kid’s friend, I’m a Cajun, and I think it’s great to see Cajuns appear in stories for young readers, because maybe it will get them interested in learning more about the culture of Southern Louisiana.

In the coming weeks I’ll be reading the book and posting my own review. In the meantime, here’s what the publisher has to say about it, as well as some things to know about Swamp Kid.

The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid cover image

“In THE SECRET SPIRAL OF SWAMP KID, Russell Weinwright (Swamp Kid)  details, in both humorous text and green-tinted illustrations (complete with ketchup stains!), what it’s like to be different, to be comfortable in his own skin (no matter how slimy), to discover his true talents, to avoid the intense stare of his suspicious science teacher, and to find humor in the everyday weird. Written and illustrated by Kirk Scroggs, THE SECRET SPIRAL OF SWAMP KID is available everywhere books are sold.”

5 FAST FACTS About Swamp Kid

1.  Swamp Kid gets nervous around gardeners, florists, and grazing animals.

2. Houma Louisiana, Swamp Kid’s home town, is actually pronounced Home-ah, not Hoom-ah.

3. Swamp Kid occasionally eats vegetables which, technically, makes him a cannibal.

4. Swamp Kid’s left index finger is a carrot. It makes for a handy pointer and it can distract aggressive rabbits.

5. Swamp Kid’s right arm is its own ecosystem complete with a tree frog. There’s an old Cajun saying, “If you’ve got a frog in your arm you’re never alone.”

Book Review: Emmy in the Key of Code by Aimee Lucido

Emmy in the Key of Code cover image

When Emmy’s family moves from Wisconsin to San Francisco for her dad’s job, she feels like she doesn’t fit in. Everyone at her new school already seems to have friends and be involved in activities. When her teacher asks students to fill out a form designating their preference for an elective class, Emmy knows she should check off music. After all, she’s been in music lessons all her life. Still, it’s not really where her heart is. When she’s randomly placed in a coding class with a few boys and one other girl, she finally finds something that calls to her and figures out how to make friends.

Emmy in the Key of Code by Aimee Lucido can be a great introduction to coding for kids who are unfamiliar with it as well as a confirmation of what feels great about coding for those who already like it. But it’s also a lyrical novel, told in verse that almost reads as music. It’s about creativity, reaching beyond the known to find something new, and being confident enough to speak out on your own behalf.

Emmy navigates stress at home, where her mom is taking on unfamiliar work in a new city and her dad is practicing for his big debut in the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, while also figuring out how to be a good friend and avoid a bully. It’s a lot for a twelve-year-old to manage. Yet something in coding speaks to her and helps her learn how to manage the challenges in the rest of her life.

I recommend Emmy in the Key of Code for mother-daughter book clubs and readers aged 9 to 12.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...