Wednesday, August 26, 2020

90. Pay Attention, Carter Jones

Pay Attention, Carter Jones. Gary D. Schmidt. 2019. 217 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: If it hadn't been the first day of school, and if my mother hadn't been crying her eyes out the night before, and if the fuel pump on the Jeep had been doing what a fuel pump on a Jeep is supposed to be doing, and if it hadn't been raining like an Australian tropical thunderstorm--and I've been in one, so I know what it's like--and if the very last quart of one percent milk hadn't gone sour and clumped up, then probably my mother would never have let the Butler into our house.

Premise/plot: Carter Jones learns how to be a gentleman when a butler--inherited from his paternal grandfather--comes to help out the family. At the start of the novel, Carter is a bit out of sorts--there is a LOT going on in his life that is confusing and troubling. The butler doesn't "solve" everything from day one, there is an adjustment period for sure!

One thing the book has is a strong sports story line. The butler is pretty insistent that Carter Jones learns to play cricket. And soon it's a new sport at their middle school with the butler coaching!

But in addition to sports and more sports, it has a strong family story with emotional punches.

My thoughts: I am not a big fan of sports books. But this one offers enough characterization to make it worth my while. If you do happen to be a fan of sports, this one might appeal even more.

I loved Carter Jones and the butler. I loved Carter's family. I loved seeing Carter come of age and find some peace among the turmoil.

I would recommend it. I'm slightly torn between three and four stars. Three stars because of all the sports--I never did make any sense of cricket or four stars because of the emotional connection I felt with the characters.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, August 24, 2020

89. Fables

Fables. Arnold Lobel. 1980. 48 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: A crocodile became increasingly fond of the wallpaper in his bedroom.

Premise/plot: Arnold Lobel is the author and illustrator of this lovely collection of (new) fables. The fables include:

The Crocodile in the Bedroom
The Ducks and the Fox
King Lion and the Beetle
The Lobster and the Crab
The Hen and the Apple Tree
The Baboon's Umbrella
The Frogs at the Rainbow's End
The Bear and the Crow
The Cat and His Visions
The Ostrich in Love
The Camel Dances
The Poor Old Dog
Madame Rhinoceros and Her Dress
The Bad Kangaroo
The Pig at the Candy Store
The Elephant and His Son
The Pelican and the Crane
The Young Rooster
The Hippopotamus at Dinner
The Mouse at the Seashore

Each fable is one spread. One side the text; the other side the illustration. All fables star animals. There is a moral or lesson to be learned at the end of each.

My thoughts: It's not like I loved, loved, loved, crazy-loved each and every fable equally. There were some that I didn't really feel a connection with and "like." But there were about five or six that I do absolutely love like crazy and feel are must reads.

The first one "The Crocodile in the Bedroom" I related to because the crocodile clearly has some OCD issues going on. And if you're need for ordered perfection interferes with you living a normal need some help. I don't think the Crocodile is going to be getting help anytime soon.

"The Hen and the Apple Tree," "The Baboon's Umbrella," and "The Bear and the Crow" I think should be required reading. Particularly for the modern church. Not only for Christians, mind you, I think every single person could use a dose of these fables to help survive 2020.

"The Camel Dances" brought a smile to my face.

"The Bad Kangaroo" should be required reading for teachers. I am guessing--pure speculation--that they can relate all too well.

"The Pig at the Candy Store" could very well be many, many, many, many people's life story. A Pig goes on a quest to the candy store--even knowing full well that it will make him fatter in addition to giving him gas and heartburn--but alas, the candy store is closed! The Pig goes home congratulating himself on his WILL POWER.

Those were the stand-out fables for me. Have you read Fables? Do you have any favorites?

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, August 20, 2020

88. Gold in the Hills (Time Spies #8)

Gold in the Hills: A Tale of the Klondike Gold Rush. (Time Spies #8) Candice Ransom. 2008. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "We're in charge," Mattie Chapman said to to her brother.

Premise/plot: Mattie, Alex, and Sophie are back for their eighth time travel adventure in Gold in the Hills. The three children time travel to the Alaskan Territory in 1897 in the midst of a gold rush. The siblings meet several different rushers--including a young Jack London. Their quest has them helping a young boy rescue his kidnapped dog!

My thoughts: I definitely enjoyed this one. This is the last book in the series that I own. (There are two more that I do not own. Since they were published in 2008, I'm not likely to come across them easily. If I do spot them, I'd probably buy them.) Overall, I've enjoyed the series very much. I like how each book can stand alone.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

87. Rider in the Night

Rider in the Night: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow (Time Spies #6) Candice Ransom. 2007. 119 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "I bet that's her!" Mattie Chapman watched a strawberry-red truck roll up the dusty driveway.

Premise/plot: Alex, Mattie, Sophie are back for their sixth time travel adventure in Rider In the Night: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow. As the subtitle suggests, these siblings are heading straight into The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. The three will meet Ichabod Crane before his scary ride. Can the story have a happier fate?

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one much more than I thought I would. You see, I don't really "do" Halloween. I don't. I don't typically read Halloween books. But this is technically set in July! So perhaps that's why it works for me! Or perhaps this story is familiar enough through a cartoon that I'm not horribly bothered by it. (The Adventures of Ichabod and Mister Toad.)

I won't say this is my favorite of the series. (Winchester is still a bit absent.) But I liked it.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Thursday, August 13, 2020

86. Horses in the Wind

Horses in the Wind (Time Spies #7). Candice Ransom. 2007. 118 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Alex Chapman aimed and kicked his soccer ball.

Premise/plot: Alex, Mattie, and Sophie are back for their seventh time travel adventure. This time the siblings are sent to 1938 to witness a horse race. Who will win Seabiscuit or War Admiral?

My thoughts: I really liked this one. I did. I like how each book in the series is different. Different time periods. Different subject areas. Different interests. This one focuses on horses and on Seabiscuit in particular.

I was never big on horses--not like Sophie is--but it was an interesting read.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

85. A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol. Adapted by Philip Gooden. 2020. [October] 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Let’s begin at the beginning: Marley was dead. There could be no doubt about that. Yes, old Marley was as dead as a doornail.

Premise/plot: A Christmas Carol has been adapted by Philip Gooden for a young audience--think 7 on up. The heart of the story remains much the same--most adaptations capture the basics and focus on the most important details. That is certainly the case here, a miserly old man is visited by four ghosts--Marley and the three spirits of Christmas past, present, future--and he's given an opportunity to change before it's too late.

My thoughts: I like this one. I think it is certainly age appropriate. This isn't the whole A Christmas Carol. There are details that are left out or softened. But essentially it remains true to the original. (Though not in language or style. One doesn't really get a sense of Dickens as a writer--but one does get the sense of his storytelling.)

I would recommend especially to those families that LOVE to watch adaptations of Christmas Carol (Mickey Mouse, Muppet, Magoo, Sesame Street, etc.) 

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

84. The Story of the Wright Brothers

The Story of the Wright Brothers: A Biography Book for New Readers. Annette Whipple. 2020. 69 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Most people thought a flying machine would never work. For hundreds of years, people had been trying to figure out how to fly. Even the brilliant inventor Leonardo da Vinci had ideas about flight all the way back in the 1400s! That was more than 400 years before Wilbur and Orville Wright did the “impossible.”

Premise/plot: Annette Whipple has written a chapter book biography of Wilbur and Orville Wright.

My thoughts: I definitely enjoyed this biography! When I was growing up, I had two things I looked for in a nonfiction book--keep in mind this was for school reports and presentations. Did I say two things? I meant three. (Math was never my best subject). Does it have pictures? Does it have big print? And is it short? As an adult, I look for a lot more in books I read! But this one passes the childhood-me test and the adult-me test!

I enjoyed the narrative. I found it an interesting/captivating tale of two brothers working together, working hard, following their dreams, motivated by curiosity and wonder. I loved the perseverance. It had an age-appropriate amount of detail and information. It was neither too simple or simplistic or too complex and weighty.

I loved the timelines for each chapter!!! There is substantive back matter as well! Overall, I find this very well written.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

83. Signals in the Sky

Signals in the Sky. (Time Spies #5) Candice Ransom. 2007. 119 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "It's your fault," Alex Chapman said. "We have to do yard work because you got us in trouble."

Premise/plot: Alex, Mattie, and Sophie are back for their fifth adventure. This time the siblings are heading back to some dark days in America's past--the middle of the Civil War. These siblings will do their best to reunite two siblings separated and divided by war before a big battle. One fights for the Union; the other for the Confederacy. They will also learn about how both sides used spies--and signaling.

My thoughts: I definitely am enjoying this series. I worry that this one might not be considered politically correct in this new cancel-culture we're living in where it's not "good" to consider both sides to be actually American and where confederate soldiers are supposed to be evil incarnate instead of you know just fallible human beings. All that being said, nothing in the book glorifies this war in particular or war in general.

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, August 3, 2020

82. Magician in the Trunk

Magician in the Trunk (Time Spies #4) Candice Ransom. 2007. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "I know you something you don't know," Mattie Chapman said.

Premise/plot: Alex, Mattie, and Sophie Chapman are siblings with a secret: they are time travelers! They discovered a magical spyglass when they moved into their new house. (A house turned bed-and-breakfast. A house that is centuries old.) In this their fourth adventure, the three go time traveling to the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. The siblings meet a very young Harry Houdini and see his magic act. He hasn't made it big yet--or even made it little. Can these three find a way to encourage Houdini when he needs it?

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I think Winchester sat this one out completely!!! But then again he'd caused enough trouble in book three! I like spending time with the three main characters. I like that the books tend to alternate focus on the siblings. The setting of the world's fair was fun!

© 2020 Becky Laney of Young Readers