Tuesday, June 29, 2021

72. Fox & Rabbit Make Believe

Fox & Rabbit Make Believe (Fox and Rabbit #2) Beth Ferry. Illustrated by Gergely Dudas. 2020. [September] 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Hooray! Hooray! We have all this money.

Premise/plot: Fox and Rabbit star in their second early-chapter-book-graphic-novel. (I haven't read the first one. But it didn't seem to be an issue in enjoying the second one). These two friends star in five stories: "Money, Marshmallows, & Mmmmmm," "Gum, Yum & Chum," "Swings, Wings & Scary Things," "Fall, Farm & Finicky," and "Friends & Fireflies." Most of the stories are fundamentally about celebrating 'make believe' or imagination. (Though even more FRIENDSHIP is celebrated.)

My thoughts: I really LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. I love Fox and Rabbit. (I might have a bit of a soft spot for Fox. I really love, love, love Sparrow. We are definite kindred spirits). I loved all the stories. I loved all the DETAILS. I loved the flow. It felt just right....and also joyous. My favorite story was the third one, "Swings, Wings & Scary Things." The two make a new friend (an owl) and they let their collective imagination get a bit out of hand. But all the stories are awesome.

It's always interesting to read other reviews before I hit publish on my post. I'm surprised that there are a couple people who see this one as boring and dull...but how that's okay because it's for children. But to each their own. Reading is subjective. But I found it delightful and fun. 

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

71. Everything You Need To Know When You Are 10

Everything You Need To Know When You Are 10. Kirsten Miller. 2021. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I bet you've been looking forward to this moment for ages.

Kirsten Miller has written a guide book for ten year olds. (This is a follow up to her books Everything You Need To Know When You Are 8 and Everything You Need To Know When You Are 9. I haven't read either of those. She does refer back to these a little bit reminding her (loyal) readers that they learned how to do something in such and such book). It's a mix of the super-practical, practical, and impractical. In this guide, readers will learn some life coping skills (like how to deal with anger, disappointment, fear, etc.), some technical skills (like what to do when your toilet is overflowing), some people skills (advice on friendship, small talk, crushes, etc.).

Like any general guide book, the author makes some presumptions/assumptions about her audience. Like how being ten means you're allowed to use the stove, allowed to babysit, allowed to walk places on your own, allowed to stay at home by yourself without a babysitter, etc.

The arrangement is a bit haphazard, a bit all over the place. There isn't a table of contents.

I would say for sure there's ten to twenty pages of solid, valuable information that truly is something a ten year would need to know. The rest is more fluff or filler. Like how to make fake vomit, how to make your arm pits fart, dares for eating bugs, gross sandwiches, and backyard salads made of edible plants/weeds. There's a list of fake curse words. The crafts and pranks I could have done without completely. But then again, it might be an actual ten year old's favorite part????

I am not the target audience--obviously.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Saturday, June 26, 2021

70. The Fabled Stables: Trouble With Tattle-Tails

Trouble with Tattle Tails (The Fabled Stables #2). Jonathan Auxier. Illustrated by Olga Demidova. 2021. 96 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: At the top of the world sat an island. At the heart of that island lived a boy named Auggie. Auggie was just like most other boys, except in one way. He had a job. Auggie worked in the Fabled Stables--a magical place full of one-of-a-kind creatures.

Premise/plot: Auggie--joined by an eager Willa (whom we met in book 1) and a reluctant Fen (whom we also met in book 1)--work together to save a town from an invasive and replicating menace: tattle tails. These talking tails literally drive people crazy by their incessant talking or tattling as the case may be! It all started with one person's curiosity...

My thoughts: When I first read this one I liked it but didn't quite love it. The second time I read it, I definitely appreciated it more. I think I might like it even more than the first book. I read the two books back to back. I think that helped me.

It's a fun adventure starring silly characters. In a way, this one reminded me of a Mrs. Piggle Wiggle story. 

I would recommend both books.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, June 25, 2021

69. 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.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

68. The Awful Pawful

The Awful Pawful (Jack Russell Dog Detective #5) Darrel and Sally Odgers. 2007. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: We had been on vacation with Sarge and Auntie Tidge, but Foxie and I were glad when the train arrived at the station. Vacations are fun, but there's no place like home.

Premise/plot: Jack Russell, our dog detective, is back for his fifth adventure. In this one the case is practically an EMERGENCY. Someone--someone Jack nicknames the Awful Pawful--has been clawing dogs on their noses! The dogs of Doggeroo are SCARED and hiding. Those that have been hurt aren't talking to Jack. But Jack isn't discouraged. He will find out the identity of the Awful Pawful even if it means using his handsome nose as bait.

My thoughts: I really love this series oh so much. I really love Jack and all his friends. These chapter books feature just the right amount of illustrations and text. I love the nose maps. I love the Jack facts. I love the glossary. I love how each one can work as a stand alone. You don't need to read the books in any particular order. The books have a fun, playful vibe.

Jack's Facts:

  • People don't speak Dog. Dogs don't speak Person. You don't have to speak the same language to talk about dinner. This is a fact. (8)
  • People think bed are for people to sleep in. Dogs think beds are for dogs to hide under. Dogs know better than people. This is a fact. (18)


  • ig-gnaw. Ignore but done by dogs.
  • pawfect. Perfect, but about dogs. If it was cats, it would be purrfect.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

67. The Lying Postman

The Lying Postman. (Jack Russell Dog Detective #4) Darrel and Sally Odgers. 2007. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Foxie and I were digging a hole in Foxie's yard. Kitty Booker, the Doggeroo librarian, came though the gate, carrying a big basket.

Premise/plot: Jack Russell is back to solve another mystery. This may not be the most traditional of mysteries. Jack notices that the new postman is super-angry, bitter, and HATES dogs. So, of course, he lies about all the many dogs on his route. But Jack Russell wants to know WHY. Why is he wanting to stir up trouble in the community? Did a dog actually try to bite him? If so, which dog and why? Jack Russell has help from his friends. How can he show the humans the truth?

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I did. I think the Jack Facts were even more enjoyable than usual. (And usually, the Jack Facts are among my favorite elements of the book.) The book is fun. The characters are fun. It's just a treat of a book. (Though sadly there are fewer treats in this one--for the dogs. Poor Foxie has been put on a diet!)

Jack's Facts:

  • Where there are cats, there is cat food. Cat food is good--even for dogs. Dogs eat faster than cats. This is a fact. (6)
  • Cats insult dogs. Dogs insult cats. The cats always start it, therefore it's their fault. This is a fact. (11)
  • Postman always rattle mailboxes. Dogs bark when postmen rattle. Postmen yell when dogs bark. That's how you play the Postman Game. This is a fact. (14)
  • Dogs are hunters. Telling their people they haven't been fed is just another form of hunting. Therefore lying about food isn't really lying. This is a fact. (37)
  • Most dogs have hackles. Some dogs have hackles that make other dogs laugh. Dogs like that should not raise their hackles. This is a fact. (66)


  • Upsettered. Bothered and upset a setter.
  • In-terrier-gate. Official questioning, done by a terrier.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

66. The Mugged Pug

The Mugged Pug (Jack Russell Dog Detective #3) Darrel and Sally Odgers. 2007. 76 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Sarge and I were about to go for our Saturday walk when the terrier-phone rang.

Premise/plot: There's a thief in Doggeroo! Someone is STEALING dog collars. Can Jack (and his friends) solve the mystery? It might take a few nose maps and interviews, but Jack is one determined dog!

My thoughts: I really am enjoying my reread through this series. I definitely recommend the series as a whole. And I think each book could potentially stand alone. I don't think you'd have to read the books in series order to enjoy. This could be quite helpful in a classroom library!

So Jack, our narrator, is just as delightful as ever. The Jack-Facts and glossary remain some of my favorite things about the series.

Jack Facts:

  • My collar is old and comfortable. It has my name on it. It smells like me. My collar is perfect. It is mine. This is a fact. (4)
  • When you have been badly treated you have to show it. If you don't show the way you feel, no one will be sorry for you. This is a fact. (12)


  • Yip-notize: To hynotize, as practiced by a terrior.
  • Appaws. Cheering and paw-prancing to praise a clever act.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

65. The Phantom Mudder

The Phantom Mudder. (Jack Russell Dog Detective #2) Darrel and Sally Odgers. 2006. 76 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: One wet Friday, Sarge told me about the Doggeroo Dog Show.

Premise/plot: Jack Russell, our hero dog-detective, returns for his second adventure in The Phantom Mudder. Once again we have a mystery to solve. The action occurs at a local dog show. SOMEONE--the Phantom Mudder--is muddying ALL the dogs before the show. Can Jack Russell push past the smell of soap, soap, and more soap and find out WHO is determined to ruin the dog show?

My thoughts: I really loved this one. I think I do love it more than the first book actually. Jack is as adorable a narrator as ever. And the mystery seems more solid in my opinion. Once again Jack is sharing his Jack Facts and his glossary.

Jack's Facts

  • Dogs understand what humans say. Humans think they understand what dogs say. Therefore dogs are smarter than humans. This is a fact. (2)
  • A Jack Russell may be sweet. A Jack Russell may be little. A Jack Russell is never a "sweet little doggie." This is a fact. (18)
  • Dogs don't do anything if there's nothing in it for them. People sometimes do. That makes dogs smarter than people. This is a fact. (34)

Jack's Glossary

  • Daching. The way dachshunds move about.
  • Skulldoggery. Wicked goings on that concern dogs.
  • Bathwater. One of the worst swear words I know.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, June 21, 2021

64. Dog Den Mystery

Dog Den Mystery (Jack Russell Dog Detective #1) Darrel and Sally Odgers. 2006. 76 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Round and round and round. The paws are faster than sound. Round and round, round and round, round and...

Premise/plot: Jack Russell, our hero, is moving with his human, Sarge (a police detective), to a new town, Doggeroo, in this first installment of a mystery series for young readers. As he's settling into his place--in particular his new back yard--he discovers some disconcerting smells and makes some observations. His yard HAD an old boot when they arrived, but, soon after the boot is gone. At first he's fine--it's not HIS boot--but then his own things (like his food bowl, his blanket, his squeak bone, etc) go missing. Can Jack Russell solve this case of burglary and reclaim his stuff?

My thoughts: I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this one. I loved the narration/narrative style. Jack has a very unique voice. He includes plenty of JACK FACTS and a glossary with each chapter. It is a fun, light-hearted read. I loved the characters, the dialogue, the illustrations.

Jack Facts

  • Cars have windows. Dogs have noses. When these things come together, one must be stuck out the other. This is a fact. (4)
  • Scratching and yapping gets you into the house when you're out. Scratching and yapping gets you out of the house when you're in. This is a fact. (14)

Jack's Glossary

  • Squekes. Small hairy dogs with bulging eyes and loud yaffles. (34)
  • Pan-dog-monium. A lot of noise that involves dogs. (62)


© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

63. Pencilvania

Pencilvania. Stephanie Watson. 2021. [August] 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Ever since she first learned to hold a crayon, Zora loved to draw.

Premise/plot: Pencilvania is Stephanie Watson's newest middle grade (fantasy) novel. Zora, our heroine, loves, loves, loves to draw--always has. But does that mean she always will? Her mom has a special word, VOOM, for describing when her daughter is in the zone and FEELING the art. Her mom appreciates her daughter's talent--some of Zora's drawings have become part of her mom's permanent collection. Frankie, her younger sister, also loves Zora's art. Especially when Zora draws horses for her. (Frankie loves, loves, loves horses).

But after her mom dies--of leukemia--Zora loses her voom. Every time she tries to draw, she ends up having a panic attack. On her sister's birthday, Zora tries one more time--for her sister--to draw. But that leads to a burst of anger leading to...well...the start of the adventure.

Pencilvania is the fantasy land our characters find themselves in. It is a land created--quite unintentionally in many, many ways--by Zora. EVERY drawing Zora has ever done--EVER, EVER--comes alive and lives in Pencilvania. From the earliest scribbles--the eeks--to the latest (a traced horse done the day of her sister's birthday) all are there. But all is not well in Pencilvania. TROUBLE is afoot.

Can Zora find a way to save the day?

My thoughts: While it isn't all that unusual for middle grade novels to handle grief in one way or another, I found the fantasy world of Pencilvania to be entirely unique. (Well, mostly). I love the premise! It's cute, adorable, relatable. I also thought it was clever. I loved the world-building! I loved that there was a SEVEN LEGGED HORSE, and that this horse is one of the central characters. I also loved, loved, loved the eeks--the earliest drawings, her stick figures, if you will. I loved the HAMSTERS IN PAJAMAS. There were plenty of little details that come together to create such a perfect fantasy world. (Like the thousands of baby lakes. Or how EVERY sun that she ever drew exists in this world so everything is always sunny!)

I liked the conflict as well. Everything just seems OH SO RIGHT about this novel. 

I personally loved, loved, loved it. I did. I loved everything about it. I loved the relationship between Frankie and Zora. I loved the emotional journey--highs and lows. I loved how imaginative and creative it was. It balances a super fun premise with authentic feelings of grief. This book has plenty of heart. But it isn't a heavy, heavy novel.


  • “We gather here today,” said the hamster, “like every day, to celebrate our creator. To offer our gratitude for the magnificent world she has made!” All of the hamsters raised their balloon strings high, like torches. 
  • “Well,” Airrol said, “as you looked at us, we looked back at you. Yours was the first face any of us ever saw. Everyone knows you created them, and they adore you for it.” In her mind’s eye, Zora saw the angry protesters by the Zoracle. “Not everybody adores me.” “True,” Airrol said. “But most of us do. And why wouldn’t we? You drew the whole of Pencilvania. Every creature, every blade of grass…” He looked up at the uneven puffs of white drifting overhead. “You drew the clouds, probably when you were just figuring out how make circles. 
  • “Everything you draw gets to decide what it’s going to be and do in Pencilvania. When a drawing arrives, first they pick a name. To make it official, they tell the Zoracle. Then they get on with the business of being themselves.” “Wait, you named yourself?” Zora asked. “Naturally,” Airrol said. “It’s my name. I have to answer to it. Shouldn’t I pick it?”

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Friday, June 11, 2021

62. Billie Someday

Billie Someday. Andy Graham. 2021. 160 pages. [Complete and total guess] [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It may have felt like an ordinary July morning high in this mountain valley, but you can be sure that it was not.This was a special day, because in the valley there happened to be a farm where, on a barn floor of well-trampled hay and mud, a proud mother goat lay chewing a bit of cud, waiting to give birth. She was alone for the moment, but soon there would be a sweltering gale of commotion, including a farmer, a doctor, wet nurses, dry nurses, congratulators—and a handful of nosy goats that would begin prodding for details.

Premise/plot: Billie Someday, our heroine, is a goat. A goat who feels it is her destiny to be the greatest of all time. Yes, our goat wants to be a G.O.A.T. Unsatisfied with her mundane life on the farm, this kid is determined to do something extraordinary: to return to the home of her distant ancestors. Billie Someday wants to be a mountain goat, or, perhaps a mountain climbing goat. But it won't be an easy journey. Far from it. Obstacles abound. Will Billie's dreams come true? Will she climb to the top of the mountain? Can she survive the oh-so-dangerous wolves that stand in between her and the mountain? Will she return to tell her tale?

My thoughts: Billie Someday is a middle grade animal fantasy. Since there is an animal on the cover, I do feel I need to mention that Billie (and friends) survive to the end of the novel. This isn't one of those books where you will need a box of tissues.

I do not have an adventurous bone in my body. I don't. But Billie does. Billie is all about ONE dream, and that dream will take her off the ordinary path so to speak. She's not like any other goat--well, farm goat, she knows. She's different and she has to fully and completely embrace her difference in order to realize her awesomeness.

The story is direct rather than cutesy. These farm goats are being kept for one reason only: for milk. The girls are kept, of course, and will go on to have kids of their own and be milk producers. But the boys, well, they aren't kept--or if they are kept, not intact. There for a while I thought this book was going to go semi-graphic in that department. (It didn't. Not really. Kids (human readers) may be curious about kids (the goats) and ask questions and look up definitions, but there's nothing inappropriate in the text itself. And it's certainly nothing that would be new to a farm kid.

I think my favorite character was the cat, Antoni.


© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

61. Finn Throws a Fit

Finn Throws a Fit! David Elliott. Illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering. 2009. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Finn likes peaches. Usually. But today, Finn doesn't like peaches. Today, Finn doesn't like anything. Today, Finn is cranky. Anything could happen.

Premise/plot: Finn is having a bad day. Perhaps even a terrible, horrible one. No one knows why. Least of all his parents. Elliott writes to parents, and for parents in this one. The narrative is descriptive and practically perfect in every way.

Thunder in the nursery! Lightning in the kitchen!
He cries. The house floods.
He kicks. An earthquake shakes the world.

But I think my absolute favorite part is:
The FIT goes on and on. It lasts until it doesn't.

My thoughts: I love, love, love, LOVE this one. Who hasn't met a Finn? Who hasn't seen a Finn in action? (I know I've seen Finn in a couple of restaurants.) I love the narrative. I love the descriptions. I love how true-to-life it is. I love how it captures the wild, fierceness of emotions. Some times emotions do RAGE out of control. I love how quotable it is. So much can be communicated by these two simple sentences: "Finn likes peaches. Usually;" and "It lasts until it doesn't."

 This has to be one of my all-time favorite, favorite, favorite books. I think it perfectly captures what it feels like to be BOTH a parent and a child. I think you could easily relate to both at the exact same time.

I do think it captures how heavy and overwhelming emotions can be at times. I think children definitely need to learn from very young age how to deal with--in a healthy way--experiencing all sorts of emotions.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

Monday, June 7, 2021

60. Loveblock

Loveblock. Christopher Franceschelli. Illustrated by Peskimo. 2020. [October] 84 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Love is a journey...and I'll be with you every step of the way.

This board book celebrates love and loving relationships. The illustrations are all of animals. The text is super-sweet perhaps syrupy. It features a lot of flaps and fold outs. 

It is a board book in Abram's block series. Other titles include Alphablock, Countablock, Dinoblock, Cityblock, Buildablock, Farmblock, etc.

Like the other books in the series, it's a bit bulkier than other more traditional board books. It is more like a block. As I mentioned earlier, it features a lot of flaps, fold outs, and cut-outs. It isn't unwieldy like some board books that are more like a toy. 

There is text on every page but not really any story. Each page says something about love in general. 

I do like it. I'm not sure it is my favorite and best of the series. But I like it.

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers