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Staff Book Reviews

Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine
Whelan, Gloria
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A great, rolling doggerel accompanies this story about finding a way to allow the queen to enter the sea without any part of her being “seen!” Funny and factual, this will be a fun read for you and yours.

Reviewer's Name: Kristin Brown
Spot, the Cat
Cole, Henry
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Spot, the Cat by Henry Cole, is a beautiful wordless pen and ink book. An open window allows Spot to escape out into the city and a wonderful adventure ensues. Wordless books are a lovely opportunity to have a conversation about what is on the page. You may be surprised by what your little one notices that escaped your attention – just like Spot escaped!

Reviewer's Name: Kristin B.
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:
A Face Like Glass
Hardinge, Francis
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

There's something wrong with Neverfell's face. In Caverna, where people live underground, people's facial expressions never change, unless they want them to. But Neverfell's face is horrifying, and so her caretaker Master Grandible, cheesemaker extraordinaire, makes her wear a mask at all times. Confined to Grandible's chambers, Neverfell gloms on to all visitors, until one day she meets a special visitor, escapes Grandible's corridors and truly starts to experience the horrors of Caverna - all of which are more terrible than her face.

First, this is not a horror book. I went into it thinking that it was (I mean, look at that cover - it's creepy!), and I think that expectation hampered my enjoyment of the read a bit.

By all rights, I should have loved this book. It has the ingredients of a book I would love: a strong(ish) female heroine, intricate worldbuilding, court intrigue, unreliable characters and a few fun twists. Unfortunately, I was never able to really connect with the characters, aside from Neverfell. Neverfell, and to a lesser extent her friend Zouelle, are the only characters to really get much development, and unfortunately, Neverfell spent most of the book annoying me. The first part of the book is also short on an overarching plot - I kept wondering where we were going (aside from, potentially, outside). Neverfell spends the middle 200 pages or so making silly, avoidable mistakes and almost getting herself or her friends killed. Which makes sense, given her sheltered upbringing, but it wasn't super fun to read, and despite a strong beginning, the middle of the book seemed to drag on. However, the last 100 pages or so, once our protagonist has a larger objective, were delightful. There's a reveal in the epilogue that I didn't see coming, and I loved it.

While the book wasn't perfect, the worldbuilding was amazing, and I definitely want to read author's other book, The Lie Tree (which apparently is horror), now. A very solid middle grade read. 3 stars - I liked it.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
The Velveteen Rabbit
Williams, Margery
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is a dark book. I read it to Zoe thinking, "Aww, so sweet! It's about a much loved stuffed rabbit." I think Zoe burst into tears at least twice, making me question my parenting choices. But we (somewhat) bravely soldiered on, thinking that there has to be a happy ending. But nooooo, the ending was the saddest of all. Spoiler: Rabbit becomes real and can no longer be loved by the boy. Yeesh, English writers are not afraid to go there.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Book Review: Me Before You
Moyes, Jojo
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This was a good book. I found it engaging but not so good that I couldn't put it down. Actually, towards the end I found myself carving out time to read it. It's a romance with a twist. I'd like to see the movie. I'm going to read the second in the series, After You next, so that's saying something.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: The Little Prince
Saint-Exupéry, Antoine de
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I don't know, maybe it's because I was reading this out loud to my daughter, but I just don't see what all the hubbub is. It was heavy-handed to me. There were some sweet spots, but overall I was underwhelmed.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Awards:
Rivers of Sunlight: How The Sun Moves Water Around the Earth
Bang, Molly
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"I am your sun. My energy warms your days. I light up your world." So begins a lovely book about how the entire Earth's water system works. The illustrations are the sort you can sink into and perseverate over. This book is so beautiful, in fact, that you will absorb the complexity of our Earth's hydrology without even realizing it. Check out Rivers of Sunlight and pour yourself into knowledge and beauty.

Reviewer's Name: Kristin
How to Be a Genius
Woodward, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This incredible book tells you all about how your brain works, how you survive, and how you are the person that you are. Through very accessible graphics and clear descriptions, you learn so much! There are cool games, quizzes, puzzles, brain teasers, and more! Then put what you learn into practice to become a genius! Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Reviewer's Name: Kristin
Pi-Shu, the Little Panda
Butler, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

There is no better way to describe Pi-shu than to say, "It's Pukin' cute!!" Follow a new panda through his day by poring over John Butler's luxurious illustrations. Heartwarming and very dear, you will enjoy reading this one over and over!

Reviewer's Name: Kristin
The Screaming Staircase
Stroud, Jonathan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Fans of Bartimaeus will not be disappointed by Jonathan Stroud’s series, Lockwood & Co. The “Problem” started about 50 years ago in London. Ghosts became true, dangerous, and very real threats to the living. Only young people have the ability to “see” and eradicate these creatures of the night. Enter Lockwood & Co., a company of three who go out nightly to defend the city. Great adventure, ghost story, and humor interweave for perfect storytelling in The Screaming Staircase, the first in the series.

Reviewer's Name: Kristin
Genres:
Wolves
Gravett, Emily
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

What a fun book! Rabbit checks a book out of the library that's all about wolves. As he becomes lost in the text, he doesn't realize that real wolves are lurking about him. The book ends with a mystery: did Rabbit get eaten? Or is the alternative ending the truth?

Reviewer's Name: Kristin
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
Scurvy Goonda
McCoy, Chris
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Scurvy Goonda is a pirate ab-com who is ruining Ted’s life (an “ab-com” is an abstract companion). What other self-respecting 14-year-old still has an imaginary companion?! Soon it becomes clear that great evil is afoot, when all the world’s ab-coms disappear – along with Scurvy and Ted! Chris McCoy’s first bacon-filled novel is rife with invention, fun and whimsy, a page-turner that will keep you up all night.

Reviewer's Name: Kristin
Luna's Red Hat: An Illustrated Storybook to Help Children Cope With Loss and Suicide
Smid, Emmi
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Luna’s Red Hat is a children’s book to help with loss and suicide. Though these are topics from which we wish we could always shield children, the reality is that there are times that you might need such a book.

This one is written with knowledge, compassion, and a deep understanding of children. I highly recommend Luna’s Red Hat if you find yourself facing such a difficult time as having to explain to a child the realities of death and suicide.

Reviewer's Name: Kristin
When Dimple Met Rishi
Menon, Sandhya
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Dimple Shah is excited to head off to Insomnia Con - a summer camp/contest for coders looking to build a real world app. She's shocked when her traditional Indian parents agree to send her, even though the camp is kind of expensive, and it's not the sort of thing they'd usually let her do. Imagine her surprise when she finds out the reason her parents let her go - unbeknownst to Dimple, her parents have been arranging her marriage (sort of?) with their friends' progeny Rishi. Dimple, as a feminist and career woman, is NOT HAVING IT.

This was ADORABLE. It reminded me of a slightly younger, more diverse Sophie Kinsella book - the characters are well developed and likable (who am I kidding, LOVABLE), it was hilarious and light while still having a lot of heart. I don't know a ton about Indian American culture, so it was interesting to read a little bit more about the struggles of first generation Indian immigrants. The dialog between the characters seemed pretty realistic to me, and while everything is wrapped up pretty neatly...I mean, hey! It's a romcom. And a great one, at that.

If you are looking for an eminently readable romantic comedy to relax with this summer, look no further. This was fantastic. 5 stars - I loved it!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Stuart Little
White, E.B.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I read this book to my daughter at bedtime. It's very odd. I mean, humans give birth to a mouse and no one thinks it's strange? I know, it's part of the story, along with talking animals and the like. Also, Stuart Little takes off on his grand adventure and didn't say goodbye to his parents. As a parent, this thoughtlessness really disturbed me. They must've been so worried!

Really though, I thoroughly enjoyed this book again (I read it when I was young) and, more importantly, so did my daughter.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Lincoln in the Bardo
Saunders, George
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Hans Vollman died shorty before getting to consummate his marriage with his young wife. His spirit, full of regrets, stuck around the graveyard. The same is true for Mr. Blevins, who committed suicide because of his sexuality. No one really knows why the Reverend chose to stay in what amounts to purgatory, but he's there, and he mostly hangs around with Vollman and Blevins. Every night, those ghosts and more come out of their "sick boxes" to congregate. Until one night, a very special ghost arrives, and everything changes. Willie Lincoln arrives in the graveyard, and instead of immediately transferring to the "next place" as most young children do, he sticks around. Lincoln in the Bardo follows the ghosts and their reactions to the younger Lincoln and his very special visitor, his father, the living sitting president, Abraham Lincoln.

First, I listened to this book, and while the audio performances were stunning, it was initially extremely confusing for this listener. I had no idea what was happening for the first disk, and considered quitting the book entirely. However, after reading the synopsis on the back and a few online reviews, I stuck with it, and I'm glad I did. Like I said, the audio performances were stunning. Nick Offerman (Vollman) and David Sedaris (Blevins), in particular, deliver masterful performances. Along with exposition from the ghosts, there are interstitial segments that use actual quotes from newspapers and other sources from the time , and it's here that the narration goes into overkill. The audiobook features 160 narrators, and I think that instead of having a different person read each quote, the story would've flowed a little better had our narrator just read the quotes.

The book itself is an interesting paranormal postmodern story that has elements of historical fiction that also takes a long hard look at death, grief, and coming to terms with one's lot in life. There's a lot going on, but after the first sixth of the story, I was hooked, and I really started to care about Blevins and particularly Vollman. This book is short on plot, but that's not the point. This is a character study that also examines life, death, and whatever might lie in-between. As the book is set at the beginning of the civil war, there are some heartrending accounts from the ghosts of slaves, and some maddening accounts from dead confederate soldiers. The book is a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but as I like books that make me feel things, that wasn't a problem for me. This book will make most people feel something, be it ire, or sadness, or confusion (it's been a while since I've read a postmodern book, and the format was occasionally jarring).

While this was at first a difficult listen, I ultimately ended up enjoying it. I would recommend reading the book, and then revisiting it as an audiobook to enjoy the fabulous performances. A challenging, but worthy read. 3 stars - I liked it.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Genres:
Cinder
Meyer, Marissa
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

It's not the book's fault that it got 3 stars. I'm just not the target audience. I think that if I read this as a teenager I would give it 4 or 5 stars. That said, it was a good story. It's a dystopian Cinderella story involving a cyborg with a shrouded past, a young emporer, and an evil queen. Not too shabby.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Our Country's Presidents
Bausum, Ann
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is a very interesting book about the presidents. It's well written and concise, but not overly so. This would be a good source for a history report or you can do what I did, which was read it from cover to cover. Two thumbs up!

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:

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