Book Review: Lou Lou & Pea and the Mural Mystery

screen-shot-2017-01-12-at-4-00-26-pmLou Lou and Pea and the Mural Mystery by Jill Diamond is an intriguing and light-hearted mystery for younger readers.

Lou Lou Bombay and Peacock Pearl are 5th graders and best friends. Lou Lou lives in a house shaped like a ship and grows prize-worthy camellias. Pea loves art and has a flair for fashion.

When bad things start happening in their neighborhood, they want to help. Then, they notice that new images are appearing in the murals of El Corazón. Oddly, the new images all relate to the recent crimes. They have a mystery to solve! A cryptic riddle points the way for them to find the culprit just in time for the Día de Los Muertos procession.

In a recent interview, Jill Diamond reveals that the fictional  El Corazón neighborhood was inspired by her own neighborhood, San Francisco’s Mission District.


Ofrenda with 2nd graders’ skeleton dolls at Gateway School

I’m planning to donate a copy of this book to Larrabee’s 2nd grade classroom. Larrabee is reading it now, and I think his classmates would enjoy it too. They made skeleton dolls this fall as part of their study of Día de Los Muertos.

Good news: Jill Diamond is already planning a second adventure for Lou Lou and Pea!

Book Review: The Crimson Skew

screen-shot-2017-01-12-at-1-45-06-pmBlaine and I finally finished The Crimson Skew, the last book in S.E. Grove’s Mapmakers Trilogy. The novels are lengthy, and our read aloud time is limited, so we’ve been on this fantastical journey for a long time. Coming to the conclusion was bittersweet.

As I mentioned my review of the first book, The Glass Sentence, the premise of this trilogy is that the Great Disruption of 1799 flung the world’s continents into different historical periods. In the first book, we meet 13-year-old Sophia, a Boston resident and niece of a famous cartologist, and Theo, a refugee from the Baldlands with a mysterious past.

In the second book, The Golden Specific, Sophia and Theo are accidentally separated. Sophia travels to the Papal States (medieval Europe) in search of her missing parents. There she meets new allies, learns more about the Ages, and finds a new map. Meanwhile, Theo stays in 1892 Boston and attempts to discover who murdered the Prime Minister.

In The Crimson Skew, while Sophia continues her search for her parents, she and her friends must journey to the Eerie Sea to obtain a special memory map that may prevent a war between New Occident and the Indian Territories.

When we finished the book, Blaine commented: “It’s a good thing that memory maps aren’t real because you’d be obsessed with them. And you already take enough pictures of our vacations.” That’s quite true, but, all the same, I wish memory maps were real.

The publisher recommends this trilogy for fans of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, and I agree. That reminds me. I should find my copy of The Golden Compass for Blaine…

Book Review: The Rock and the River

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-11-51-28-amThe Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon is a coming-of-age story set in Chicago in 1968. Thirteen-year-old Sam Childs is caught in the middle. His father is a civil rights leader and colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His older brother is a member of the Black Panthers.

“You can’t be the rock and the river,” his brother tells him.

Blaine and I both enjoyed this book. It raises complex issues for discussion—both societal (race, class, police violence) and personal (family dynamics, relationships, growing up). And like the best historical fiction, it teaches the reader a lot about the time period in the context of a compelling story.


Book Review: Space Case

screen-shot-2017-01-01-at-1-24-30-pmSpace Case is the first book in Stuart Gibbs’ new Moon Base Alpha series. It’s a whodunit set on the moon! Blaine and I both enjoyed it.

The year is 2041, and twelve-year-old Dashiell Gibson is a lunarnaut. He has traveled with his scientist parents and his younger sister to live on Moon Base Alpha for three years.

Being one of the first kids on the moon sounds like an incredible adventure, but Dashiell mainly finds it dull and uncomfortable. Then, the base physician dies during an unauthorized moonwalk. Everyone assumes it was an accident, but Dashiell is convinced it was murder.

Part of the fun of this book is the mystery. Dashiell and his friends gather clues, evaluate multiple suspects, and end up in danger as they get closer to the truth.

Another part of the fun is the setting. Life on a moon base has many challenges, including going upstairs in low gravity, eating nothing but rehydrated food, and using space toilets. In addition, the future is different from Dashiell’s grandparents’ time (our present) in some interesting ways.

I have not yet read the second book in the series, Spaced Out, but Blaine recommends it. He’s also a big fan of Gibbs’ Spy School series. He’s read Spy School, Spy Camp, and Evil Spy School so far and is looking forward to Spy Ski School. That might be a good one to read at the beach!