Book Review: All in a Drop by Lori Alexander

All in a Drop cover image

Anthony van Leeuwenhoek was an unlikely man to contribute significantly to the world of science. All in a Drop: How Anthony van Leeuwenhoek Discovered an Invisible World, a chapter book by Lori Alexander, tells the story of how this curious man became interested in things that can only be seen through the lens of a microscope and ended up identifying never before seen micro-organisms.

 Born in the early 1600s in Delft, Netherlands, Anthony became a tradesman selling cloth. Wanting to be sure his cloth was of the highest quality, he built a magnifying glass to help him see how tightly woven the fabric was. That experience made him more interested in what he could see with a microscope, a fairly new invention. Intrigued by stories of how organisms looked under early forms of microscopes, Anthony set out to build his own, even though he had no science background or formal training.

At first, scientists were reluctant to accept his findings, but he persisted and eventually was recognized by the Royal Society in London. All in a Drop is a fascinating tale about how persistence and curiosity can lead to amazing discoveries. Vivien Mildenberger’s illustrations provide a charming glimpse into life in the 17th century Netherlands as well as depictions of what Anthony saw in the microscopes he built.

All in a Drop combines science and history to make an intriguing book for young readers aged 8 to 11.

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

Book Giveaway and Review: My Name is Wakawakaloch! by Chana Stiefel

My Name is Wakawakaloch cover image

Want to have your very own copy of this cute picture book that celebrates individual uniqueness? Just leave a comment below about saying why you’d like to win a copy; make sure you comment by midnight (PDT), Tuesday, September 10. Here’s my review:

Wakawakaloch is not happy. No one pronounces her name correctly. Not in Sabertooth Safety Class, and not during Club Club. Even Elder Mooch, who looked as old as a weather-beaten tetrapod, teased her about her unusual name. Wakawakaloch wanted an easy name, like Oog, Boog, or Goog. Something she could find on a t-shirt. When she finds her connection to the past and invents a new way for every one of her friends to feel good about their names, she comes to accept that her name fits her just right.

My Name is Wakawakaloch interior

My Name is Wakawakaloch! is great for any child whose name is unusual, hard to pronounce, old-fashioned, or different in any way. Set in the time of prehistoric cave dwellers, the picture book is evocative of The Flintstones, with references to modern living attributed to Neanderthals from the past. For instance, Wakawakaloch takes a bath in a bathroom with a toilet and sink.  She eats cupcakes, looks out of a telescope at the night sky, and draws on paper with crayons. But she also lives in a cave that has drawings created by her ancestors. It’s a cute mix of prehistoric and modern that will be fun for parents to talk about when they read the book to their children.

Words are by Chana Stiefel, and pictures by Mary Sullivan are light-hearted and colorful. The message of acceptance and friendship is sure to make My Name is Wakawakaloch! a family favorite for read aloud time.

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

Book Review: Ghost: A Collection by Illustratus

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The rumor at Camp Champlain is that the groundskeeper, Old Man Blackwood, knows all the best ghost stories. So two boys head out one night to find his cabin located in marshland at the edge of the property. Their trek takes them through swampy territory and lots of muck, but when Thomas and Skeeter arrive at the cabin exhausted and dirty they are rewarded. Because Old Man Blackwood says, “There are only thirteen true ghost stories in this world. Tonight, I’m gonna tell you them all.”

The stories that follow are a collection of creepy tales that make up the book, Ghost: Thirteen Haunting Tales to Tell. A collection by illustratus, which is a group of writers, illustrators, animators, and all-around creatives, the stories in Ghost all focus on children and the unusual situations they face. One girl hears a tapping from inside her mirror, another gets a strange doll that changes in an eerie way. A boy finds himself in a silent forest where the trees are watching him, and another is trapped in an elevator with no buttons. A few tales are told in verse. Illustrations throughout are dark and muted with pops of color to draw readers’ attention. The oversize format makes it fun to turn the pages and savor the words and drawings. Readers will also be delighted with a twist at the end.

Ghost is great for readers aged 9 to 12 who like stories that are creepy without being too scary.

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

Book Review: The Big Idea Gang: Bee the Change by James Preller

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When Lizzy and her friend Kym visit a bee farmer, Ozzie, they discover just how important bees are. They think everyone should know that bees pollinate a lot of the flowers and food crops that make the world more livable. But when their teacher challenges them to figure out what they want others to know and do, they have to dig deep to come up with an idea.

The Big Idea Gang: Bee the Change by James Preller helps kids figure out how to take the things they are excited about and turn them into actions that can educate and motivate others. Working with Lizzy’s twin, Connor, and his friend Deon, the girls do some research to find out facts about bees. Then their creativity kicks in to help them develop a plan for a school program and volunteer project that will get lots of people involved in helping bees.

The book does just what it encourages young readers to do: give facts in an interesting way and help people know what to do about what they learn. It’s a great primer for how to make a difference on an important issue.

I recommend The Big Idea Gang: Bee the Change for readers aged 6 to 9 and their parents.

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

Book Review & Giveaway: Dear Justice League by Michael Northrup

Dear Justice League is a fun new graphic novel about Superheroes that turn out to have very human characteristics. I have two copies to give away to readers who comment below. If you’d like a chance to win, just say what your favorite superhero is and what you like about him or her. Be sure to comment by midnight (PDT) on Wednesday, August 28 for a chance to win. Please Note: the giveaway is closed. Congratulations to Denise and Holly on winning.

Here’s my review of the book:

When ordinary kids write to DC Comic’s superheroes like Superman, Wonderwoman, Aquaman, Hawkgirl, and more, they find out that maybe the superhumans aren’t always perfect. That’s what happens in Michael Northrup’s graphic novel, Dear Justice League.

When a boy writes to Superman, for instance, asking if he ever messes up, Superman checks for the message while he’s flying. What follows is a chain reaction of all kinds of problems that Superman has to fix. At the end, he admits he isn’t perfect.

Many of the superheros in Dear Justice League battle the bad guys then go home to headquarters to relax and check emails. They answer all kinds of questions that make them wonder about themselves. Hawgirl’s fans want to know if she eats rodents. Aquaman gets a question that asks whether he smells like fish. Their issues online, such as spending too much time checking emails or getting distracted from their chores, are sure to resonate with young readers.

Illustrations by Gustavo Duarte are fun and funny, with exaggerated facial expressions and lots of quirky noises that would be fun for parents to read aloud. I recommend Dear Justice League for readers aged 7 to 10.

Book Review: The Key from Spain by Debbie Levy

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Flory Jagoda grew up surrounded by music. Her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all made music in the small Bosnian town where she was born in the 1920s. They spoke Ladino, the language of the Jews from Spain, spoken by her ancestors who were exiled from that country centuries before.

When World War II came, Flory and her parents escaped to a seaside village where they lived through the Holocaust. Most of her extended family perished in the war. But Flory kept their music alive, eventually moving to the United States, where she performed, taught, and wrote Sephardic songs in Ladino.

The Key from Spain: Flory Jagoda and Her Music, a picture book by Debbie Levy, introduces young readers to Jagoda and the history of her people. It’s a story of loss, but also a story about the triumph of the human spirit, which can make music even in the darkest times. Illustrations by Sonja Wimmer offer rich depictions of Jagoda’s family life and show the joy that music and singing can bring. A page at the back of the book gives biographical information about Jagoda and her famous song, “Ocho Kandelikas,” which is sung in Ladino at many Hanukka celebrations around the world. Recommended for readers aged 5 to 9.

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

Book Review: Mystery Club by Davide Cali and Yannick Robert

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Kyle loves a mystery. He even runs a blog from his home in London about how to solve them. The trouble is, he isn’t sure how to find mysteries to solve. Then a man shows up asking him to find out why people in London are turning into werewolves, and Kyle is on the case. With the help of his friends, he’ll spend time in the London Library and head out to do field work before cracking the mystery.

Mystery Club: Wild Werewolves and Mummy Mischief by Davide Cali and Yannick Robert is a great graphic novel double mystery for young readers aged 7 to 10. Kyle and Zoey start the club, then enlist help from Ashley and Tyler. As a group they all search for clues before figuring things out. Once they do, another mystery begins when they find out they’ve made an enemy who is determined to stop them from solving future cases.

When the group forms the mystery club and holds its first meeting, they find out about a strange sighting of a mummy on the subway. This case is a bit trickier for the junior sleuths, but after spending a night at the British Museum, they figure out why mummies keep appearing and disappearing.

The graphics for both stories are colorful and fun, and the mysteries are cleverly solved while the club members are doing the things they love the most.

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

Book Review: Spark by Sarah Beth Durst

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Mina is so excited to be bonded with a storm beast. These guardians of the weather in her home country spread just the right amount of rain, wind, and other elements to keep crops growing and people happy. But when Mina discovers her storm beast, Pixit, is one that harnesses lightning, she’s worried there’s been a mistake. She quiet and shy, while most storm guardians are bold and brash. Yet Mina’s quiet ways are exactly what she needs to bring about important changes when she discovers all is not right with her world.

Spark by Sarah Beth Durst gives affirmation to quiet children that just because theirs is not the loudest voice in the room, it doesn’t mean what they have to say isn’t important. Mina’s gentle ways help lead her to speak out in a way that’s true to her nature while letting people know about the injustices she discovers. It’s a great lesson for anyone who fears that they can’t speak out about something they want to change.

Mina’s relationship with Pixit, her storm beast, is sweet and gentle, and even though Pixit longs to be more adventurous than Mina wants, he coaxes her along gently to realize her potential. Spark is a great book for anyone who loves a grand adventure set in a fantasy world. I recommend it for readers aged 9 to 12.

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

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