Rosie Revere’s Big Project Book for Bold Engineers by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

Published by Harry N. Abrams

Summary:  In this companion workbook to Rosie Revere, Engineer, Rosie advises kids about how to start being an engineer.  On the first few pages, Rosie introduces herself and the different types of engineering.  Much of the rest of the book is design challenges, including several “Real-World Problems”, such as thinking of ways to save water, and “Make-It” activities like building and testing a catapult for marshmallows.  There are several “Super-Duper Engineering Challenges”, like designing a cane for Great-Great-Aunt Rosie that will allow her to carry her tools; kids are encouraged to draw a design for these, rather than to build the actual item.  There are many blank pages for writing and drawing.  On the final page, young engineers can design a stamp to identify their work.  96 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  A good introduction to engineering with lots of activities to inspire creative thinking.

Cons:  Kids and teachers might be looking for less drawing and writing and more hands-on activities to build.

Barkus by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Marc Boutavant

Published by Chronicle Books

Summary:  When Nicky’s Uncle Everton leaves for some around-the-world travel, he drops of his dog Barkus for the family to look after.  It’s love at first sight for Nicky, and  each short chapter tells a humorous tale about the girl and her dog: Barkus sneaks into school, throws himself a birthday party, and adopts a kitten.  In the final chapter, the family goes camping, and Nicky tells them a bedtime story about their family as they snuggle together in their tent.  This book is billed as book #1, so readers can look forward to more Barkus tales ahead.  56 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  A perfect choice for beginning or reluctant readers, written by Newbery Medalist Patricia MacLachlan, and illustrated with bright cartoon-style pictures.

Cons:  Librarians may have a tough time deciding if this belongs with the easy readers or chapter books.

7 Ate 9: The Untold Story by Tara Lazar, illustrated by Ross MacDonald

Published by Disney-Hyperion

Summary:  Why is 6 afraid of 7?  Because 7 ate 9.  In this takeoff on that old joke, a Private I (who really is an I) is confronted by a frightened 6 claiming that 7 is coming to get him.  The detective is off, questioning numbers and letters about the whereabouts of 7, with punny humor on every page.  B the waitress serves I a slice of pi (which, of course, costs $3.14).  A sighting of 6 tips off the private I, and back he goes to reveal the true identity of the 6 waiting back in his office (hint: that 6 gets turned upside down).  The whole thing is enough to get I to forsake number cases forever and stick with letters…they may be wordy, but they’re A-OK in his book!  32 pages; ages 3-6.

Pros:  A fun and unusual introduction to numbers that kids will enjoy hearing over and over again.

Cons:  1 and 3 seem to be MIA.


Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Published by Dial Books

Summary:  A few words of text on each page celebrate the American flag and the people of the United States.  On the left-hand side of each spread is a picture depicting an American landscape or icon; the facing page has to do with the flag, or has a flag as part of a picture.  For instance, “white rows” shows a line of covered wagons traveling west on the left, and the white stripes on the flag on the right.  Some of the phrases are homophones, such as Betsy Ross sewing the flag, described as “Sew together/won nation”, accompanied by “So together/one nation” showing a diverse group of Americans.  Includes notes from the author and illustrator.  40 pages; for all ages on the Fourth of July.

Pros:  A beautiful and patriotic tribute to patriotism, with gorgeous, multicultural illustrations by award-winning Kadir Nelson.

Cons:  Even this lovely book couldn’t quite pry the CNN-wrestling tweet out of my head.

The Doll’s Eye by Marina Cohen

Published by Roaring Brook Press

Summary:  Hadley’s not too excited about moving into a new house, particularly since the move includes her new stepfather and stepbrother.  She’s excited about the discovery of a beautiful dollhouse in the attic, though, and intrigued by the glass doll’s eye that seems to appear out of nowhere.  The old lady living over the garage seems like the grandmother she never had, and the boy next door is a little peculiar, but nice enough.  Events take a sinister turn, however, when Hadley accidentally wishes her stepfather and stepbrother away, and her mother starts acting like a Stepford wife.  These incidents seem tied to the dollhouse and its occupants, and Hadley becomes increasingly desperate to learn how to control her wishes and return things to normal.  Interspersed through the main narrative are chapters told by the first girl who lived in the house with hints of how her life may be tied to the present.  The old lady (ominously named Althea de Mone) shows her true colors as events come together in a creepy conclusion.  208 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  The menacing details start on page one and don’t let up much right through the end.  Horror fans will find this hard to put down.

Cons:  There’s a happy ending for everyone…except the reader.

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid by Metaphrog

Published by Papercutz

Summary:  The littlest mermaid longs to see the world above her ocean home, but she must wait until she’s 15.  One by one her older sisters get to go explore, returning with stories of gorgeous sunsets and great floating icebergs.  Finally, her big day arrives.  Reaching the surface, she sees a ship and watches a handsome prince dance with a succession of beautiful women.  A sudden storm sinks the ship, and the little mermaid rescues the prince, the slips away before he regains consciousness.  More than anything, she wants to be human and to marry him.  She makes a deal with a sea witch, trading in her tail for legs, even though she is in great pain with every step.  In return, she gives up her voice.  She gets her wish to meet the prince, and they become great friends.  But, alas,  he eventually falls in love with another woman, leading to the typical Hans Christian Andersen downer of an ending.  80 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  A lyrical, haunting retelling in graphic novel form of one of Andersen’s most famous tales.

Cons:  Disney fans may be dismayed by the ending.