Wednesday, May 27, 2020

64. The Story of Alexander Hamilton

The Story of Alexander Hamilton. Christine Platt. Illustrated by Raquel Martin. 2020. Rockbridge Press. 66 pages. [Source: Review copy]

  First sentence: Alexander Hamilton was born on a small Caribbean island called Nevis. As a boy, he loved to read. He also liked to play tricks on people. Those who knew him couldn’t have imagined that the young troublemaker would one day grow up to be one of America’s Founding Fathers and help form the government. Surely Alexander never thought his face would one day be on a ten-dollar bill!

Premise/plot: The Story of Alexander Hamilton is a chapter book biography for young readers. What you see is what you get, a biography written in chapter book format geared towards an elementary audience. It is packed with details that are appropriate for the audience. While the biography would include other details if intended for an older audience, I think this is a good balance all things considered.

My thoughts: I definitely enjoyed this one! I don't think I had an idea of who Alexander Hamilton was when I was in elementary school. I don't think the peanut butter chewing GOT MILK commercial came out until I was in junior high. Then I became curious about Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. But I did enjoy biographies when I was young. And I looked for two things really PICTURES and BIG PRINT. It's hard to tell font size on an e-book, but I definitely think this one would have proved just right.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

63. Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard. Jonathan Auxier. 2016. Harry N. Abrams. 464 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It has often been said that one should never judge a book by its cover. As any serious reader can tell you, this is terrible advice.

Premise/plot: Peter Nimble has come to Bustleburgh in search of the Bookmender. Her name, he learns, is Sophie Quire, and she has grown up in a bookshop. Her mother was a world-famous bookmender. Sophie has come into the trade mostly by chance and love. Peter comes with a book. Not any book but The Book of Who! It is one of four magical books. Each one is protected by a different Storyguard. The book chooses Sophie to be its storyguard, and the LAST storyguard whatever that means! An adventure awaits her, Peter, and Sir Tode...and a treat awaits readers!

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved this one so much. I loved getting reacquainted with Peter and Sir Tode. But I really loved getting to meet Sophie. This one had me hooked from the beginning. Not just the characterization but the quality of the writing as well. The story is intense and exciting! This book made me FEEL things. Like when her dad threw the book into the fire! Definitely one I'd recommend no matter your age!


If one hopes to live in a world of wonders, he had better locate himself in a place where wondrous stories abound (147).
Stories are more than the sum of their words (150).
Stories lived inside those who read them (439).
Magic cannot be removed from the world, because the world--every speck of it--is magical. It is simply a matter of whether or not we can see it (439).

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

62. No Ordinary Boy

No Ordinary Boy (Tales from the Round Table). Adapted by Tracey Mayhew. 2020. [September] Sweet Cherry. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] [j fiction; j fantasy; chapter books]

First sentence: Merlin was no ordinary eight-year old boy. Like a few other children in his village, he had grown up without parents. Unlike the others, his father had been a demon, and his human mother had abandoned him soon after his birth.

Premise/plot: This new chapter book series by Tracey Mayhew hopes to introduce young readers to the legends of Merlin, Arthur, and the Round Table. This first book introduces young readers to the character of Merlin. Merlin is a young boy still. He's still got supernatural gifts--prophecy--but they've not exactly been cultivated...yet.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I don't know that I loved it. But I definitely liked it. I do like Arthurian legends and it seems that retelling the stories for a younger audience could be a good thing.

I would definitely be interested in reading future books in this series. I like to see variety in chapter books.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

61. The Fabled Stables: Willa the Wisp

The Fabled Stables: Willa the Wisp. Jonathan Auxier. Illustrated by Olga Demidova. 2020. [October] 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] [j fantasy]

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, the stable boy, works for Professor Cake. He's the only boy on the island, and, he gets a bit lonely for a playmate. Fen, his stick-in-the-mud sidekick, IS decidedly not a boy. But his job taking care of super-unique and amazing animals is awesome. In this first book in a new chapter book series, readers meet one of those animals, Willa the Wisp.

My thoughts: I'm conflicted between four stars and five stars. I'm leaning towards five stars because I really love, love, love, love, love, love Auxier's books. I've read The Night Gardener about six or seven times now. And I'm working my way through a second or third rereading of his other books. (Sophie the Squire; Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes). I love his writing, his characters, his stories. But it might be closer to a four star read in some ways. It is the first in a series. It is really setting things up. There is perhaps more set-up than adventure. Though the half with adventure, I think would be entertaining for little ones.

I am excited that a younger audience will get to enjoy Auxier's storytelling. I am excited to see what other animals and beasts we will be meeting in the future. I am excited to get to know more about this island and Auggie.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, May 11, 2020

60. A Long Road on a Short Day

A Long Road on a Short Day. Gary D. Schmidt. Elizabeth Stickney. Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. 2020. [November 2020] 64 pages. [Source: Review copy] [winter; family; historical]

First sentence: Early on a white January  morning, Samuel’s mother said, “I do wish we had a brown-eyed cow to give us milk for the baby.” Samuel’s father set down his mug. “And for your tea,” she said. Samuel’s father smiled and got up from the table.

Premise/plot: Samuel and his Papa go on a LONG ROAD ON A SHORT DAY as they seek to trade their way to getting a milk cow to please Mama.

My thoughts: Such a simple plot. Such a JOYOUS story. I know it's only May. I know that I may read dozens of more stories that I may come to love more than this one. But. I can't help thinking THIS SHOULD WIN THE NEWBERY. Here's the thing: simple can be oh-so-complex to get right. Because you'll never convince me that every word, every line isn't carefully, meaningfully chosen to accomplish that JUST RIGHT feel.

I loved the text. I loved the characters. I loved the plot. I loved the illustrations. This is a gem of read. I want to hold it in my hands and read it again and again and again and again.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

59. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen's Children's Stories)

Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen and Gemma Barder. 2021. [February 2021] Sweet Cherry Publishing. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Adaptations; Classic]

First sentence: Mrs Bennet was in a very good mood. She had just discovered that a rich man called Mr Bingley had rented the largest house in her neighbourhood. ‘Why should that be such good news for us?’ asked Mr Bennet. He was trying to read his newspaper and growing tired of his wife’s excitement.

Premise/plot: Who needs a plot summary of Pride and Prejudice?! No one really. For those that have seen the movie or read the book, it would be irrelevant. For those who haven't--why give any of the good bits away?! But I will say a few words about this SPECIAL adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Gemma Barder has written a chapter book adaptation of Jane Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice. This chapter book even features illustrations. There are about fifteen chapters or so. This chapter book is no more condensed than most screen adaptations--in terms of plot. I would say it's more faithful than some adaptations. (I'm thinking in particular of the black and white adaptation which is a MESS if strictly considered in terms of faithfulness to the actual book.)

My thoughts: I definitely enjoyed this delightful book. It is an adaptation. Not all the words are Austen's original text. But some of the best bits--the most quotable bits--are very much present in this one. (For example, " ‘It is no good,’ Mr Darcy said at last. ‘My feelings cannot be denied. You must allow me to tell you how deeply I admire and love you.’ " and "My feelings and wishes are unchanged. However one word from you will silence me forever.’ ‘Oh, my feelings are very much changed,’ said Lizzy, laughing. ‘I believe they are the exact opposite to what they were.’ "

I loved it. I did. I think it's probably written for Austen devotees to share with their young daughters, nieces, granddaughters, etc. I'm not sure if children would choose to read this one on their own if Austen wasn't present in their homes in some way. Then again, maybe they would. Every child is different. And this sweet romance might prove satisfying for any age.

It is about 96 pages long. It has illustrations.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

58. Family Reminders

Family Reminders. Julie Danneberg. Illustrated by John Shelley. 2009. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy] [historical fiction]

First sentence: "It's going to be a warm one, Mary. An Indian summer day," Daddy said to me as he got up from the kitchen table and slugged down his last gulp of coffee.

Premise/plot: Family Reminders is historical fiction set in Cripple Creek, Colorado, in the 1890s. It is a mining community, and the novel opens with an accident at the mine. Mary's father is injured at the mine. The novel is told through her perspective and captures how this one family moves on from this tragic even. It will be a struggle. But together as a family...they can do anything, right?

My thoughts: I enjoyed learning that it is loosely inspired on the author's grandmother's family. I love historical fiction. I have very fond memories of family vacations in Colorado. I enjoy family stories with a lot of heart and soul. This one was just a perfectly perfect fit for me. I absolutely loved, loved, loved the black and white illustrations by John Shelley. They give the book a charming, old-fashioned feel. 

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

57. Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. Jonathan Auxier. 2011. Abrams. 397 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Now, for those of you who know anything about blind children, you are aware that they make the very best thieves. As you can well imagine, blind children have incredible senses of smell, and they can tell what lies behind a locked door--be it fine cloth, gold, or peanut brittle--at fifty paces. Moreover their fingers are small enough to slip right through keyholes, and their eyes keen enough to detect the faintest clicks and clacks of every moving part inside even the most complicated lock. Of course, the age of great thievery has long since passed; today there are few child-thieves left, blind or otherwise. At one time, however, the world was simply thick with them. This is the story of the greatest thief who ever lived. His name, as you've probably guessed, is Peter Nimble.

Did I enjoy reading Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes? Yes. Definitely. Am I excited that there will be another book in the series, Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard? Yes. I look forward to reading it. And it appears to have a heroine, and be at least partly set in a bookshop. So, I'll definitely read it when it's released. But did I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes in the same way that I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED The Night Gardener?! Not really. The Night Gardener is probably--not counting rereads--my favorite book of 2014.

Who is Peter Nimble? Who are his parents? Where did he come from? What does Peter know about his past--if anything? What do readers know about his past? Yes, he's an orphan who raised himself on the streets. Yes, he's a thief by necessity and manipulation. (Peter "being taken care of" by Mr. Seamus.) But is he destined for more than that? What does his future hold for him?

I liked Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes because it is a fantasy, a grand old-fashioned fantasy. The concept of his "fantastic eyes" is just intriguing. Pairs of magical "eyes" that he can put in and take out that do unusual, fantastic things--though not without risk and danger! And the adventure he lands in and the people he's just a compelling story, one that's easy to recommend.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, May 1, 2020

56. Matilda

Matilda. Roald Dahl. Illustrated by Quentin Blake. 1988. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: It's a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.

Premise/plot: Matilda, our heroine, is an absolute genius. (She's taught herself to read and to do times tables). But her parents are terrible human beings. Mr. Wormwood is a used car salesman who is really dishonest. Mrs. Wormwood, well, maybe her greatest fault is neglecting her children? Both Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood are addicted to television and abhor the written word. Hate isn't too strong a word for how they feel about their daughter. Matilda escapes from her home most every day to visit the local public library. (She's read every book in the children's section and is now making her way through the adult section with a little guidance from Mrs. Phelps.) Another escape soon becomes school. The good news is that Miss Honey, the teacher, LOVES AND ADORES her genius pupil. The bad news is that the headmistress is evil, cruel, abusive. (Was Dahl inspired by Jane Eyre!) Matilda's reaction to injustice is naughtiness and cleverness. How can she use her brains to get revenge on those she sees as being unjust or in the wrong???

My thoughts: I like this one. I do. I more than like it actually. Perhaps because Matilda LOVES, LOVES, LOVES to read and there is a lot of dropping of book titles and authors names. Perhaps because Matilda finds the library to be such a wonderful place. Perhaps because two of the nicest people in the book are a librarian and a teacher. Regardless this one is definitely worth reading.

I reread this one in April 2020.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers