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Staff Book Reviews by Genre: Chapter Books

The Train of Lost Things
Paquette, Ammi-Joan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Where to start? This book was poignant, beautiful, lovely and dealt with the subject of loss, through a child’s eyes, in a way that pulled at my heart strings, big time. This beautiful tale follows a young kid named Marty as he deals with the pain and loss that comes when someone close is dying and there is nothing you feel you can do about it. When Marty’s precious possession is lost, his jean jacket scattered with buttons that represent his fondest memories with this person, at first he is devastated, but then he hears the tale of the train of lost things and he goes on a quest to find it and retrieve the precious thing he lost. Along the way he comes across two others, both on similar journeys, and discovers that what matters is not the objects themselves but the memories they represent and the love that he shares with his loved ones.

Paquette’s character Marty, approaches the subject of loss and death with a childlike curiosity. Yet throughout the story, Marty also displays the strong denial that comes with facing loss and death, questioning whether or not what is happening is really true. Marty’s love for his loved one and his need that, retrieving this jacket would make things all better, is what kept his character going. Yet in the end he realizes that life and death are not always that simple. But memories and love have a stronger power over death and loss and sometimes to overcome them you just need to escape reality to really understand that.

I don't usually pick up kids books but I picked up and read this book in one day! That is how good it was! I love this book in every way and I highly recommend it! Even though this book is for kids, I also recommend it for older people, or anyone dealing with loss, as the lessons learned can be applicable for anyone.

Thank you to the publisher Philomel Books for a ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This book doesn't come out till March 20 but you can put it on your hold list today!

Reviewer's Name: Anonymous
Book Review: The Higher Power of Lucky
Patron, Susan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This was a very good book. I listened to it on audio and the narrator was fantastic. The climax of the book takes place during a dust storm, which is a classic case of the natural elements reflecting the story line. A bit contrived, yes, but good for young readers. The conclusion was textbook, but also okay for younger readers. If you'd like to read a good story with no surprises, this book is for you.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Sounder
Armstrong, William H.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I've been on a children's book about dogs kick lately. I started with Shiloh, went to Where the Red Fern Grows, and ended with Sounder (I may read Old Yeller too). Sounder is the winner of the Newbery Medal, but it was the least powerful book out of the three. I almost feel like I may have read an abridged version of the book. The characters weren't well developed and there wasn't really a sense of desperation and overt class stratification that the book's summary promised. Overall, it was underwhelming. I'm being nice and giving it 3 stars instead of 2.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
The Book of Lost Things
Voigt, Cynthia
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Max's parents have dashed off on an unexpected adventure and left their 12 year old son Max behind, alone...well, his grandmother is around to watch over him, but she is busy being a librarian. Max has to fend for himself and picks up a part time job as a solutioneer (sounds like engineer, but much more mysterious). His first task is to find a lost pet and this snowballs into many intricately involved adventures that will keep readers turning pages with anticipation to find out what this determined young man will do next. The Book of Lost Things, by Cynthia Voigt, is sure to please children 9 - 13 who enjoy a good mystery.

Reviewer's Name: Barb
Book Review: Where the Red Fern Grows
Rawls, Wilson
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is so well written that it didn't matter that I had nothing in common with the narrator and no interest in hunting. In fact, I felt sorry for the coons. This is a story of love and devotion that had me enthralled, especially in the second half. The ending, while a bit contrived, was still beautiful.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
Book Review: Shiloh
Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Shiloh is a sweet story about a boy's love for his dog. Well, Shiloh isn't actually his but is owned by an abusive neighbor. Marty's devotion and determination to save Shiloh is touching. The narration is spot on. Well done!

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Claude in the City
Smith, Alex T.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Claude is an adorable dog that wears a beret, a red sweater, and loves adventure. When his owners go to work the fun begins. Claude and Sir Bobblysock, his best friend, visit the city for the very first time. They have an exciting time going shopping for more berets, and having tea, but the most fun happens when they visit a museum. This charming adventure continues and more antics ensue. Claude in the City is a joy to read and sure to entertain. (Grades 3-5)

Reviewer's Name: Alicia
Crenshaw
Applegate, Katherine
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Anyone who’s loved the movie, Harvey, will be instantly hooked by Crenshaw. Crenshaw is a giant cat who shows up in Jackson’s life just when he can use a good friend. Jackson doesn’t always appreciate Crenshaw’s presence and tries to grapple with Crenshaw’s appearance with logic. But with the writer’s eye for detail and empathy, Katherine Applegate creates a believable world where the unbelievable happens and where magic dovetails into reality.

Reviewer's Name: Kristin
Three Pennies
Crowder, Melanie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Marin was abandoned at 4 years of age by her mother. On her journey through the foster care system she keeps her ambition to find her biological mother alive as she encounters disappointment, loneliness, turmoil about her abandonment, and finally the perplexing new feelings of real family love. Three Pennies, by Melanie Crowder, is a lovingly written and thoughtful book for ages 9 - 14.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
The Song From Somewhere Else
Harrold, A.F.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

He was bigger than anyone else in Francesca's class. He was funny looking and he smelled weird. Why, oh why did he have to be nice to her and get her bag for her that the bullies had thrown into the stinging nettles? When the bullies chased them both to Nick's house, why hadn't she run somewhere else? Ugh, she would never live this down at school. A.F. Harrold's novel, The Song From Somewhere Else, will enchant readers age 9 - 12 with a story of another world, just waiting to be discovered.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Book Review: Ramona Quimby, Age 8
Cleary, Beverly
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is a sweet book. It's not so mind-blowing as to warrant an in-depth review, so I'll just leave it at that.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Monkey Me and the Golden Monkey
Roland, Timothy
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Clyde is always in motion and tries to listen, but doesn’t always succeed. When he eats a banana that’s been blasted by a special ray, he feels even more like being in motion – because he keeps turning into a monkey! This is a fun, humorous book for a beginning reader ready to move into chapter books.

Reviewer's Name: Kristin Brown
Save Me a Seat
Weeks, Sarah
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Even though Save Me A Seat is a Children's book, I ABSOLUTELY loved it. A really wonderful story told by Joe and Ravi. Both boys are "different". Joe has a sensitivity to noise (auditory processing disorder), while Ravi is the new kid in school as his family has moved from India. Both Joe and Ravi have challenges in the classroom, with their classmates, and even at home. But they both work at facing their challenges and in the end become friends. A really great story and read, no matter what age you are!

Reviewer's Name: Melissa Mitchell
Awards:
Raymie Nightingale
DiCamillo, Kate
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The best way I can describe Raymie Nightingale is to say that it is a book you can fall into. Kate DiCamillo is a master of characters and story, and Raymie Nightengale is no exception. This author weaves magic through words. We enter Raymie’s life mid-stream; she is ten years old and floundering a little. Through some new, strong friendships, she discovers strength in numbers – and in herself. The subject matter might be a bit much for some. Raymie’s dad has “run off” with a dental hygienist. But DiCamillo is never heavy-handed with the details and navigates the discomfort with aplomb.

Reviewer's Name: Kristin
Book Review: Island of the Blue Dolphins
O'Dell, Scott
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is about a girl who lives by herself on an island. It's a story of empowerment, as the main character learns to live and thrive alone. She doesn't seem to let her circumstances get the best of her. I'd recommend this novel to young girls in particular as the narrator is a strong and capable girl.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Little House on the Prairie
Wilder, Laura Ingalls
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Such a classic. You might think that a book about frontier life on the prairie would be boring, but it's not. Well, I did skip a few places that detailed the construction of the cabin etc. Otherwise, it's relaxed in most places and downright exciting in others. The book is told from the perspective of the middle daughter, Laura Ingalls. I love that the author is writing about her family. Thumbs up!

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
Edwards, Julie
2 stars = Meh
Review:

**Spoiler Alert** Let me just say this, don't read this book out loud to your young child. It took forever to get through it and I was so sick and tired of it by the end that it turned into a chore. I didn't really get into it, it just seemed silly to me, but my daughter liked it. A major sticking point for me was the author's failure to explain why the antagonists of the book were actually on the side of the Whangdoodle in the end. Meh.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: The BFG
Dahl, Roald
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Lovely lovely book. I started off reading this to my 6 year old, but it's kinda scary so we stopped. I just had to finish it on my own. I love how the BFG talks and how whimsical the story is as a whole. It's Roald Dahl, what's not to love?

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
Book Review: My Brother Sam is Dead
Collier, James Lincoln
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

When I started this book I could not understand why it had been banned. It seemed so innocuous. I only read it because it was in the free pile where I work. I looked it up and it was for violence, language, and an unpatriotic view of the Revolutionary War. Fair enough. It is violent and unpatriotic for sure, which is why I liked it. It's also a very good story and is about as accurate an account of the Revolutionary War era as can be reasonably expected from a work of fiction for young people.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: James and the Giant Peach
Dahl, Roald
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Roald Dahl specializes in tapping into the feelings of injustice that kids experience. It's frightening when you first find out life isn't fair. But he rights this wrong by imposing justice where oppression once existed.

This is and odd book. There are giant peaches, giant talking bugs, and cloud monsters! But it was endearing and enjoyable.

My 6.5 year old daughter was riveted off and on throughout the story, but I think the target audience is a bit older.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn

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