The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle by Christina Uss

Published by Margaret Ferguson Books

Image result for a girl called bicycle amazon

Summary:  When a three-year-old girl wearing a t-shirt with the word “Bicycle” on it appears at the Mostly Silent Monastary, retired nun Sister Wanda adopts her and names her Bicycle.  Bicycle is happy living quietly among the monks and nuns, but when she turns 12, Sister Wanda decides it’s time for her to learn how to make friends, and ships the girl and her bicycle, Clunk, to the Friendship Factory for summer camp.  Bicycle, who can’t imagine anything worse, decides to run away to San Francisco to take part in the Blessing of the Bicycles. The rest of the story is a wild and crazy road trip, in which Bicycle and Clunk (and later a new bike named Fortune after Clunk falls apart halfway through the trip) meet a quirky but endearing cast of characters.  By the time Sister Wanda catches up with her in Nevada, Bicycle realizes she has made quite a few friends along the way. She has to give the nun the slip one more time, but they reunite in San Francisco, where Fortune is blessed and Bicycle meets her hero, Polish bicycle racer Zbig. Sister Wanda realizes Bicycle has found her own way of making friends, and the end finds Zbig, Bicycle, Wanda, and a man in a rooster suit pointing their bicycles eastward for the journey home.  320 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  A lively and entertaining adventure with a likeable introvert and the fun and interesting characters she meets along the way.

Cons:  Christina Uss works at the town library where I get most of my books, so it’s probably not in my best interest to offer her anything but praise and congratulations on her first novel.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Published by Candlewick

Image result for stuff of stars bauer amazon

Image result for stuff of stars ekua holmes

Summary:  “In the dark,/in the dark,/in the deep, deep dark, a speck floated, invisible as thought, weighty as God.”  Then BANG! and the universe was born, a cloud of gas stretching and expanding into trillions of stars. When some of those stars exploded, the ash formed the planets circling other stars, including our sun.  And one of those planets, Earth, was at just the right distance from the sun for life to begin: mitochondria, jellyfish, sharks, dinosaurs, and finally, humans. And after many, many generations came YOU: “You,/and me/loving you./All of us/the stuff of stars.”  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  An amazing book that traces the history of the universe through a brief, lyrical 40 pages, all illustrated with phenomenal collages on hand-marbled papers.  A multi-award contender for sure.

Cons:  It’s a book I appreciate more than love.  I’m not sure how wide the appeal for kids will be.

Note: I recently received a box of books from Candlewick, which I assume were meant for me to review on my blog.  This was one of them, and I will make note of others as I get to them. Thank you, Candlewick!

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

A Parade of Elephants by Kevin Henkes

Published by Greenwillow Books

Image result for parade of elephants henkes amazon

Summary:  “Look! Elephants!” So begins this brief (about 80 words) book showing a group of five elephants on parade.  Kids can pick a favorite and follow it from page to page: they are blue, green, purple, pink, and yellow. The page that introduces them shows them on a graph, with numbers counting from one to five, and a new elephant added on each line.  The elephants go up, down, over, under, in, and out, reinforcing those concepts. At the end, they are ready for sleep, but first they raise their trunks and trumpet, scattering stars across the sky.  40 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  The usual Kevin Henkes masterpiece, this is a deceptively simple story that introduces colors, numbers, concepts like up and down, and even introduces graphing.

Cons:  I found the pink and purple elephant a little too similar in color to be distinctive.  Fortunately the pink one was also smaller than the other four.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Who Eats Orange? by Dianne White, illustrated by Robin Page

Published by Beach Lane Books

Image result for who eats orange diane white amazon

Image result for who eats orange robin page

Summary:  Animals, foods, colors, and habitats are introduced in this book that has a repeating question and answer format: “Who eats orange? Bunnies in their hutches do. Chickens in the henhouse too.  Who else eats orange? Goats. Pigs. Gorillas too? Gorillas? No! Gorillas don’t eat orange. They eat…green.” The large illustrations have plenty of color on a simple white background. Humans, the book concludes, eat a rainbow of colors.  The last two pages list various habitats with the animals from each listed and additional information about what and how that animal eats. 32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Catchy rhymes and eye-catching graphics make this an appealing introduction for a wide variety of topics.

Cons:  The habitats listed at the end include farms, Africa, ocean, forest, rainforest, and tundra; but Africa is a continent with many different habitats.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Mac Undercover (Mac B. Kid Spy book 1)

Published by Orchard Books

Image result for mac undercover amazon

Summary:  Mac may just be a kid, but when he gets a call from the Queen of England requesting a favor, he feels he has no choice but to leave his home in Castro Valley, California, and fly to London.  When he gets there, he learns that the Queen’s Coronation Spoon has been stolen, most likely by the King of France. Mac then travels to France on a spy mission to try to get it back.  After a botched robbery of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre (he’s hoping to do a trade), Mac is taken to see the king, who is able to prove his innocence and point Mac in the direction of a suspicious KGB agent.  Mac is finally successful in tracking down not only the spoon, but his missing Game Boy. It turns out this KGB agent has been targeting Mac all along, wanting something that Mac has that is very valuable in the Soviet Union.  A trade takes place, and Mac is able to return home, but on the last page he is shown receiving another call from the Queen, setting up the sequel that’s due out in December. 160 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  Lots of laughs in this liberally-illustrated story that takes place during Mac Barnett’s childhood in the 1980’s.  Interspersed with the goofiness are facts about the different places he travels to. A perfect choice for those new to chapter books as well as older reluctant readers.

Cons:  Abraham Lincoln is pictured on the cover of a book about the U.S. Founding Fathers, which doesn’t seem historically accurate.

If you’d like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

 

Game Changer by Tommy Greenwald

Published by Harry N. Abrams

Image result for game changer greenwald amazon

Summary:  Teddy Youngblood is in a coma, hospitalized after a head injury during football practice.  A rising freshman, he was attending a summer camp for the championship Walthorne High School team.  Told entirely in texts, newspaper stories, and transcripts of (one-sided) conversations from visiting family and friends, the narrative gradually reveals that there was more to Teddy’s injury than just an unfortunate accident.  Older players are trying to hush up what happened that day, and younger players, wracked with guilt, are trying to decide whether or not to tell the truth to their parents and friends. As the details slowly come to light, readers will have to decide what the difference is between right and wrong, and whether turning a blind eye to bullying can be just as dangerous as participating in it.  304 pages; grades 5-9.

Pros:  Tommy Greenwald turns to more serious topics than those covered in his Charlie Joe Jackson series, but this book will appeal to the same reluctant readers.  The format makes it a fast read, while the slow revelation of what happened to Teddy makes a gripping story right up until the end.

Cons:  The characters seemed like they were beginning to ramble on the last 30 pages or so… they could have been edited down a bit.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Imagine! By Raul Colon

Published by Simon and Schuster

Image result for raul colon imagine amazon

Image result for raul colon imagine amazon

Summary:  A boy rides his skateboard over the Brooklyn Bridge to the Museum of Modern Art.  Inside he is captivated by three painting: Pablo Picasso’s Three Musicians, Henri Rousseau’s The Sleeping Gypsy, and Henri Matisse’s Icarus.  As he gazes at them, the figure from Icarus steps out of the painting and starts dancing with the boy.  The three musicians soon join them, playing their instruments, and finally the woman and lion from Rousseau’s painting follow the group as they head out of the museum.  They explore the city, riding the subway, taking a dip on the Cyclone roller coaster, eating hot dogs, and climbing the Statue of Liberty before heading back to MOMA.  The boy says goodbye as they all return to their paintings, then he gets his skateboard and heads for home. Along the way, he sees a big building and is inspired to paint pictures of his new friends on its side.  An author’s note tells how he developed his own love of art and hopes to inspire readers. 48 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  This wordless picture book is a follow-up to Colon’s 2014 Draw!, sharing with readers a love of art and creativity that started when he was a child.  The watercolor paintings give the illustrations a dreamy quality that is appropriate for a story of imagination.  Maybe a contender for Caldecott recognition.

Cons:  I wish the original paintings had been shown somewhere in the book.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.