Saturday, May 25, 2013

REVIEW: How to Be a Cat by Nikki McClure

Rating: 3/5 Stars
Genre: Picture Book
Audience: Toddler-Preschool

Summary: Using single-word text on each page, Nikki McClure gives the reader a glimpse into what a cat's day might look like.

Lucinda's Views: With its simple text and black, white and blue pictures, this eye-catching picture book is good for younger preschoolers and toddlers, especially if there is a cat in the house. The illustrations are basic, but manage to convey a great deal of action with just the simple, bold line drawings. The actions of the cat could be easily mimicked by young children, which makes this a fun read aloud that would be ideal for active kiddos. A fun read!

A Note from Tracy:
I am sorry to report that this post will be our final review from Lucinda at Book News & Reviews as she has decided to resign from her position here at BCPL. (Unless we can convince her to send us the occasional guest review? :))

Thank you, Lucinda, for all of your contributions here at Book News & Reviews and to BCPL. There would be no Book News & Reviews without your efforts and enthusiasm to get us started. (Check out the new statement in the footer!) I wish you the best of luck in whatever the future brings.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

FLASH REVIEWS: Recent YA Reads in Realistic Fiction

I have been woefully remiss about posting book reviews lately, but here are some quick reviews of some of the YA books I've read and enjoyed over the last few months. We are undergoing a few changes right now at Book News & Reviews, but I promise we will continue to publish "reviews of all sorts" for your reading pleasure—and hopefully with greater frequency than ever!

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Coming of Age
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Colby's plan for after high school has always been to spend the year after graduation exploring Europe with Beth, his best friend—and secret crush. Only now suddenly Beth has other plans that don't include Colby and he must figure out both his confused feelings for his best friend and what her deviation from the plan means for his own future. In the meantime, he is on an adventure-filled road trip with Beth and her punk-rock girl band, The Disenchantments. This is a fantastic novel, full of humor; quirky, complex characters; and deeply felt emotions. Hauntingly beautiful and rawly honest without becoming overly heavy, it is a perfect summer read.

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Genre: Realistic Fiction/Romance
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Perfect good-girl Samantha Reed has been fascinated by the messy, complicated lives of the large Garrett family since the day they moved next door 10 years ago. Her state senator mother, on the other hand, considers them a blight on the neighborhood and so the ever-dutiful Samantha has kept her distance. But then Samantha finally meets Jase Garrett and the perfect bubble she lives in under the dictates of her mother suddenly seems sterile and unsatisfying. This book has far more depth than a typical summer romance, with strong characters and a slowly unfolding plot. Complicated family dynamics, shocking secrets, and difficult moral dilemmas come into play to create a compelling read sure to appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen, Elizabeth Scott, and Deb Caletti.

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Told in alternating viewpoints—part prose, part poetry—this is a lyrical, edgy read that will especially appeal to creative and artistic teens. Set over the course of a single night, the story follows a group of teens on a mission to uncover the identity of a talented local graffiti artist who goes by the name Shadow. Lucy, an aspiring glassblower, has always felt a special connection to Shadow's work and believes they are fated to meet. What Lucy and her girlfriends don't know is that Ed, a boy with whom she once shared a disastrous date and who now claims to know the whereabouts of Shadow, is actually the reclusive artist himself. Over the course of the night, the teens encounter several misadventures and Lucy and Ed gradually move from adversaries to confidantes as they share their inner thoughts about past failures, artistic inspiration, and deeply held beliefs. The beautiful imagery and innovative writing falters a bit here and there, but overall this is a wonderfully written novel with well-developed, believable characters and motivations.

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Ever since her parents split up and she moved with her father to the U.S., Sophie spends her summers with her mother in the Congo helping out at the wildlife sanctuary that has become her mother's obsession. But after Sophie impulsively purchases a mistreated bonobo from a street seller, her mother leaves on a business trip and assigns Sophie the task of caring for the animal while she is away. Then fighting breaks out across the country and the sanctuary is ransacked by rebels. Somehow, Sophie manages to escape into the jungle with several of the apes in tow, and she must find a way to survive both the dangers of nature and the threat of human killers. Though the story occasionally pushes the limits of credulity, this is a harrowing, vividly realized novel with wide appeal.

Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Struggling with her own inner guilt and determined to locate her missing drug-addict brother, Rachel teams up with Tyler—a former bandmate of her brother's—to look for clues to Michah's whereabouts. Together, they travel to a beach town believed to be Micah's last-known residence, all while Rachel desperately searches to understand what became of her brother and what it all means for her life. Flawed but believable characters, emotional revelations, and short, fast-paced chapters, make for an absorbing and powerful story. Frequent flashbacks showing Rachel's unraveling relationship with her brother make the narrative even more compelling and heartbreaking.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

REVIEW: Again! by Emily Gravett

Rating: 4/5 Stars
Genre: Picture Book
Audience: Preschool–Kindergarten

Summary: Again! Again! is the refrain of Cedric the little dragon, whose poor Mommy dragon is trying to get him to go to bed. Mommy dragon reads the story again and again, until she falls asleep and then something surprising happens!

Lucinda's Views: As the mother of a three-year-old girl, I completely identified with this book's premise. How many times have we as parents had to read or repeat an action "Again!" The illustrations of Cedric's patient mother are hillarious as she gets more and more exhausted as the book progresses. Cedric, in spite of his demands, is just an adorable little dragon and preschool children will completely identify with his wish for his mommy to read the story "Again!" The ending has a surprise twist that I won't spoil here, but needless to say, kiddos will enjoy the novelty and the imagination of the ending. A fun read!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

DUAL REVIEW: Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin

Lucinda's Rating: 4/5 Stars
Tracy's Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Genre: Picture Book
Audience: Preschool to 1st grade

Summary: In this cautionary tale for all would-be hosts of parties for dragons, Adam Rubin gives tips for what to feed the guests at your party.  In short:  DRAGONS LOVE TACOS!  However, do not ever feed your guest dragons spicy salsa.  (Dragons hate spicy salsa! It makes them "hot under the collar!")

Lucinda's Views: This cute, imaginative book's title was what really caught my attention. How often do you see the words dragon and tacos in one title?  Exactly....Anyway, with its cute tale of what to feed dragons this book is a humorous read aloud that kids of all ages will enjoy. With its fanciful art and innovative subject matter, this is a book that your kiddos will want you to read again and again.

Tracy's Thoughts: This cute and clever picture book is virtually guaranteed to tickle any young child's fancy. The story revels in its silliness, and the colorful pencil and watercolor artwork is both fabulous and hilarious. Despite an unfortunately abrupt ending (from my point of view, and the primary reason I didn't select it for our Best of 2012 list), this is a fun and cheerful story with a lot of kid appeal.
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