Saturday, May 21, 2022

60. Zia Erases the World

Zia Erases the World. Bree Barton. 2022. 256 pages. [Source: Library] 

First sentence: Every dictionary has secrets. That's to be expected, seeing as how a secret is made of words.

Premise/plot: Zia, our young heroine, discovers that she has the power (with a little help from a magical eraser and a magical dictionary) to change the world. But are her changes for the better or for the worse? Does erasing a word and all its meanings (definitions) ultimately helpful and healing to her anxiety? Or are words themselves part of the solution to what troubles her?

Zia struggles with 'the Shadoom.' It is her word for the shadow-y doom-y haunting weightiness of the anxiety that she's dealt with (mostly on her own, but sometimes with a little bit of reaching out for support) for the past year. 

Quite a bit is going on in her life--at school and at home--and the Shadoom seems to be a little out of control. Will finding this magical dictionary be the solution she so desperately craves?

My thoughts: I wanted to love, love, love this one. I didn't quite love it. But I did really enjoy aspects of it. I'm not sure that magic realism is my cup of tea. I want to be clear that it isn't so much a problem with the book itself as I don't happen to enjoy magic realism. I like realistic fiction. I like fantasy. I don't necessarily like them together.

My absolute favorite quote:

Maybe it’s weird that an old dusty book of words gives me comfort. But words aren’t mean. They don’t make you feel small or broken. And if someone else does, you can look up small and broken in the dictionary and find them in permanent ink, proving someone else felt those things, too. Probably lots of someones. Who wouldn’t be comforted by that?

© 2022 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, May 19, 2022

59. Blips on a Screen

Blips on a Screen: How Ralph Baer Invented TV Video Gaming and Launched a Worldwide Obsession. 2022. [March] Kate Hannigan. Illustrated by Zachariah OHora. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Rudolf "Rolf" Baer loved games. Money and food had grown scarce everywhere after the Great Depression began in 1929. 

Premise/plot: Blips on a Screen is a picture book biography of Ralph Baer. (ETA: Perhaps this isn't quite true. It is limited in its scope. What we have is a focused biography on Baer as an inventor of video games.) As a child, he along with his family, were Jewish refugees to the United States in 1938. It is the biography of the inventor of television video gaming. Much of the book has a setting of mid to late 1960s to early 1970s. 

My thoughts: The book offers young readers a brief introduction to the pioneer 'early days' of video games. The narrative is fairly straightforward and reads like a story. The back matter is much more detailed--and in some ways even more fascinating. I enjoyed seeing the detailed timeline!  

(ETA: His wikipedia article.)

© 2022 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

58. DJ Funkyfoot: The Show Must Go Oink

DJ Funkyfoot: The Show Must Go Oink (DJ Funkyfoot #3) Tom Angleberger. Illustrated by Heather Fox. 2022. [March] 112 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: My phone rang. "Greetings," I said. "I am DJ Funkyfoot and I am at your service."

Premise/plot: DJ Funkyfoot is in between jobs when his third adventure opens. After a few false starts, DJ Funkyfoot finds himself a new employer. Great Wolfgoose Pigwig is in great need of a butler; a butler who will do anything and everything to make sure everything is done EXACTLY to his orders. Readers pick up on--or at least older adult readers will pick up on--the fact that Pigwig may not be the best boss!!! 

Many misadventures follow his first day on the job...

My thoughts: I really have enjoyed this early chapter book series. DJ Funkyfoot is a great narrator. I've found the books fun, charming, enjoyable. This third book is no exception. I have not done any research, but it almost sounded like the author was concluding the series. Everything was wrapped up nicely with a bow. If so, I'm disappointed. 

I do recommend the series. It's just so much fun. Ridiculous, whimsical, but super fun.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Young Readers

57. Crab and Snail: The Invisible Whale

Crab and Snail: The Invisible Whale (Crab & Snail #1) Beth Ferry. Illustrated by Jared Chapman. 2022. [March] 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Huff. Huff. Huff. Hello! We'd introduce ourselves but we have a Code Red.

Premise/plot: Crab and Snail are best beach friends. These two friends are the narrators in a new graphic novel early reader series by Beth Ferry. 

My thoughts: I found this very meh. Unfortunately. It's not like I started this one wanting it to be dull as dirt. I am always on the look out for new early reader and early chapter book series to recommend. It's important to me to seek out books in these categories because they can be so important in growing young readers. 

The setting is the beach/ocean. The action is non-existent. Mostly. Two friends chatter back and forth about nothing. Until somehow or other they decide to make friends with an invisible whale. Then they go to chattering about that instead. Nothing much happens in terms of plot. As far as characters, well, very minimal depth to development. The humor is bare minimum. I think an attempt was made to be funny. 


© 2022 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

56. What Do You See? A Conversation in Pictures

What Do You See? A Conversation in Pictures. Barney Saltzberg. Photographs by Jamie Lee Curtis. 2022. [March] 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: She took photographs of things she loved and sent them to him. He drew pictures on her photographs of things he saw and sent them back. 

What Do You See is a collection of photographs AND art. Simple text introduces each spread. The idea being that the book celebrates the artistic friendship of these two. Jamie Lee Curtis would send photographs to Barney Saltzberg. Barney would add illustrations, etc., and send the photographs back.

The narrative is not so much a traditional story as it is a book celebrating creativity, imagination, friendship, and collaboration. There are many ways of "seeing" the world around us.

© 2022 Becky Laney of Young Readers

55. Night Train, Night Train

Night Train, Night Train. Robert Burleigh. Illustrated by Wendell Minor. 2018. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Train ride! Bump-bump. Chug-chug. Slow. Faster. Faster. Off we go.

Premise/plot: A little boy goes on a train night. This picture book is told in rhyming verse.

My thoughts: I love, love, love, love, love the illustrations. I do. But I--as an adult who isn't particularly a train enthusiast--was disappointed with the rhythm and rhyme of the text. I guess part of me was hoping it would be more like Freight Train...only at night. This one does focus on colors--gray, black, red, blue, white, orange, purple, green, yellow.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10 


© 2022 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, May 12, 2022

54. Belly of the Beast (Fabled Stables #3)

The Fabled Stables: Belly of the Beast (Fabled Stables #3) Jonathan Auxier. Illustrated by Olga Demidova. 2022. 96 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: At the top of the world sat an island. And at the heart of that island lived a boy named Auggie. 

Premise/plot: Auggie is starring in his third adventure. In each adventure, he goes on missions to rescue fantastical animals/creatures. In this third book, his chores are interrupted by a mission to save the Shibboleth. This may be his most dangerous--most "icky" mission yet. And he finds himself relying on Fen to save the day. (I bet he never saw that one coming! Since Fen is usually so cranky that he's not a reliable buddy.) 

Auggie has more on his mind these days than in previous books. Fen has hinted that it's never worth learning anyone's name on the island because EVERYONE leaves eventually. Auggie does not want to leave, and the idea of being sent away alarms him. 

My thoughts: I really enjoy this series. I am so happy with this third book. It finally is beginning to connect with the wider world that Auxier has created for older readers in his fantasy novels. In this one, readers for the first time meet Professor Cake! And we get a glimpse of Book of What, one of the four magical living books. I don't think these details will confuse readers who have not read his other books, but those that are familiar with those other books may get a little grin at these references.


© 2022 Becky Laney of Young Readers