Book Review: BOB

Screen Shot 2018-05-04 at 9.13.21 AMBOB by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead is a charming story about an almost 11-year-old girl and a small, green creature named Bob.

When Livy goes to visit her grandmother in Australia, she finds Bob in the closet. She’d forgotten all about him, but he’s been waiting for her since she last visited five years ago. He doesn’t remember how he got there, and he’s counting on her to help him find his way home.

The story is told from both Bob’s and Livy’s point of view as they try to solve the mystery of his presence on her grandmother’s farm. I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I won’t say what kind of creature Bob actually is or where he’s from. You’ll just have to read the book!

Some of the things I liked best about this book are:

  • Bob: Every kid should have a funny, thoughtful friend like Bob. He wears Livy’s old chicken PJs with some extra feathers taped on, he likes licorice and Legos, and he reads the dictionary.
  • The Old Livy and the New Livy: Livy’s story starts like this:

“I feel bad that I can’t remember anything about Gran Nicholas’s house. On the table in her kitchen Gran has lined up three things I do not remember:
1. A green stuffed elephant in overalls.
2. A net bag full of black chess pieces.
3. A clunky old tape recorder.
‘You loved these things when you were here before,’ Gran Nicholas tells me.
But I don’t remember any of it.”

Livy’s grown up now–almost 11–different but still the same. And with Bob’s help, she rediscovers something about her fearless, fun-loving 5-year-old self.

  • The Australian setting: From the drought-stricken farm to the chicken coop to Livy’s bedroom, the setting is vivid and interesting.
  • These lines (from Bob’s point of view): “All the things I choose to put in my head are what makes me, me. I plan to choose wisely.”

BOB is a quick, easy read that would make a perfect first summer reading book. Larrabee has heard me talk about it so much that he’s been asking when he can read the book about the green creature. He recently read and enjoyed Wendy Mass’s Pi in the Sky.

Thank you to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of this book. It was published at the beginning of the month and is available in bookstores now.

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Book Review: Soar

Screen Shot 2018-04-12 at 1.24.10 PM.pngWe’re a baseball-loving family, so I always have an eye out for books about the game. I recently made a lucky find at the library: Soar by Joan Bauer. Like its protagonist, twelve-year-old Jeremiah, this book is funny, profound, quirky, and inspiring all at the same time.

Jeremiah loves baseball. He can’t play, though, because he’s recovering from a heart transplant. He even has to get his doctor’s approval to accompany his adoptive father on a two month consulting job.

Their temporary new home, Hillcrest, Ohio, is known for its championship baseball team. But when the high school coach is embroiled in a steroids scandal, the middle school is ready to abandon its baseball team. Jeremiah doesn’t want to see the kids or the town give up on baseball, so he steps up to coach the team.

I read this book first and recommended to Larrabee. He was skeptical, but he agreed to take a chance on it and ended up a big fan.

This book is all about baseball, and yet it’s not just about baseball. Jeremiah also watches eagle cams, interacts with his dad’s robots, and befriends a neighborhood dog, among other adventures. It raises important issues, such as winning in youth sports, without being preachy. Instead, it’s a fun book about a lovable group of kids playing a great game.

Book Review: Book Scavenger

Screen Shot 2018-04-04 at 12.48.46 PMBook Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is a terrific book and code lover’s mystery. It’s exactly the type of book my Nancy Drew-reading younger self would have loved. Larrabee enjoyed it too.

Twelve-year-old Emily’s family moves all the time. Their latest move has brought them to San Francisco, home of Garrison Griswold, the creator of Book Scavenger. Book Scavenger is a game in which players hide books and then post clues in the form of puzzles, and Emily is a big fan. (Larrabee’s first comment: “Is this game real? It should be!”)

Emily stumbles across a mysterious book, a copy of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Gold-Bug. At first, she thinks it’s a Book Scavenger find, but it’s not listed online. When she finds typos in the story, she becomes convinced that the book contains a code that’s part of Mr. Griswold’s new game. With the help of her friend James and her older brother Matthew, she must solve the puzzles and find the hidden treasure while staying one step ahead of the bad guys.

Some of the things I liked best about this book:

  • The San Francisco setting: I recommend this book for anyone planning a trip to the City by the Bay.
  • The friendship between Emily and James: I love friendship stories!
  • The relationship between Emily and Matthew: For anyone who’s watched a younger sibling trying to figure out what’s happening to a teenage sibling, their interactions will ring true.
  • The codes: From substitution ciphers to Pigpen ciphers, this book is full of cool codes.

For readers (like us!) who can’t get enough, there is already a sequel, The Unbreakable Code. And the third book in the series, The Alcatraz Escape, is coming out next month!

 

Book Review: Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe

Screen Shot 2018-04-04 at 12.40.01 PMSmack Dab in the Middle of Maybe by Jo Watson Hackl is the story of twelve-year-old Ariana “Cricket” Overland’s quest to find the mysterious Bird Room and convince her mama to come home for good. Set in a Mississippi ghost town, this book is part survival story, part mystery, and part coming-of-age story.

Some of the things I liked best about this book are:

  • The beginning.
    “Turns out, it’s easier than you might think to sneak out of town smuggling a live cricket, three pocketfuls of jerky, and two bags of half-paid-for merchandise from Thelma’s Cash ‘n’ Carry grocery store. The hard part was getting up the guts to go.”
  • Cricket. Her story is in many ways a sad one. Her father has died, her mentally ill mother has left, and her aunt wants to ship her off to live with a great-aunt. But Cricket stays determined and hopeful.
    When she was younger, her mother told her, “We’re meanderers, Cricket. We pay attention.” Those qualities make her a good artist, a good detective, and a good narrator.
  • The Bird Room. I like the idea of a secret room whose four walls are painted with a garden in spring, summer, winter, and fall. And I was excited to learn from the author’s note that it was inspired by the work of a real artist, Walter Inglis Anderson.

Thank you to Random House Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of this book. Its expected publication date is July 10.

 

Book Review: The Language of Spells

Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 2.07.52 PMThe Language of Spells by Garret Weyr is a wonderful book. It reads like a modern fairy tale. Ironic, really, because it’s the story of a dragon who hates Once upon a time stories.

Benevolentia Gaudium, the dragon known as Grisha, is born in the Black Forest in 1803, the last year that any dragon is born. As a young dragon, he is captured by a sorcerer and imprisoned in a teapot. By the time he’s released from the spell, World War II is over and the world of magic has largely disappeared. All of the dragons are summoned to Vienna, but many disappear, and no one but Grisha seems to remember them. Then, he befriends an unusual girl, Anna Marguerite, or Maggie for short. Together, they set off on a quest to find and save the missing dragons.

Some of the things I like about this book:

  • Maggie and Grisha’s relationship. I love stories about friendship and this is a special one. Listen to the way Maggie describes her friend Grisha: “The dragon had a way of seeing clearly, taking her side, and yet empathizing with everyone involved… When she was with him, she felt like her best self, and when she wasn’t with him she looked forward to seeing him.”
  • The magic. As Grisha explains, magic demands its exact price. It’s simple to practice, but you have to give up what you most love,
  • The dragons. This book is full of interesting tidbits about dragons. Did you know that they can scale up and down in size? And that they need very little sleep?
  • The juxtaposition of magical beings and real history. For example, Grisha, when in teapot form, spends time in the pocket of the Emperor Franz Joseph.
  • The ending. It’s bittersweet but fitting.

Thank you to Chronicle Books and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of this book. Its expected publication date is June 26.

Book Review: When You Reach Me

Screen Shot 2018-02-21 at 10.28.13 AMI’ve had Rebecca Stead‘s When You Reach Me on my TBR list for a long time. It won the Newbery Medal in 2010. It comes highly recommended by several friends. It involves time travel, which I love…

I don’t know why I waited. It’s a quick read and a very cool book.

It’s set in New York City in the late 1970s. Miranda, a sixth grader, lives with her mother. One day she finds a mysterious note stuck in her library book. It asks her to write a letter and to mention the location of her hidden house key: It says: “I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own… The trip is a difficult one. I will not be myself when I reach you.”

If you’ve just reread A Wrinkle in Time before seeing the new movie adaptation, you should add this book to your TBR pile too.