Book Review: The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise

36292177In the first chapter of The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart, 12-year-old Ella (a.k.a. Coyote) accepts a free kitten from two boys outside a mini mart. Despite her dad Rodeo’s strict no-pets policy, she smuggles the kitten aboard their converted school bus home. And she names him Ivan after the gorilla in her favorite book, The One and Only Ivan. At that point, I was hooked and eager to follow Coyote on her remarkable journey.

Coyote and her dad have been living on the road for five years. They haven’t been back to their home in Washington state since her mother and two sisters were killed in a car crash. But one day, when they’re in Florida, Coyote talks to her grandmother on the phone and learns that her neighborhood park is going to be torn down in less than a week. She and her mother and sisters buried a memory box in that park, and she’s determined to retrieve it. The problem is that home is even more of a no-go than a pet for Rodeo. So, Coyote hatches a plan to get back there without her father figuring out their true destination. Along the way, they pick up several interesting passengers with missions of their own, and they have lots of adventures.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes a good road trip story. It’s one of those stories that has sad parts but overall has an upbeat tone. Larrabee enjoyed it too. Thanks to my friend Lindsay for recommending it to me!

 

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Book Review: The Doughnut King

41800976The minute Larrabee finishes a book he loves, he always asks, “Is there a sequel?”

If, like us, you loved The Doughnut Fix by Jessie Janowitz (a 2018 Cybils finalist), then I have good news for you. Tris’s adventures continue in The Doughnut King!

The doughnut business that Tris started with his friend Josh is a huge success. It’s so popular, actually, that they can’t keep up with demand, and that’s a problem. Meanwhile, the town of Petersville has problems too. If it’s not able to attract tourists, it may disappear.

When all his other options to fix his supply issues fail, Tris reluctantly goes on a reality TV kids’ cooking show in the hopes that he can use the prize money to buy a doughnut-making robot to save his business and his new town. But the contest will test more than just his baking skills.

The best thing about this book is the characters. They’re vivid and interesting, especially Tris and his family. His dad speaks French when he gets angry and takes on crazy projects, such as trying to make maple syrup from sycamore trees. His mom, a professional chef, thinks baking is a more important life skill than swimming. His middle sister Jeanine is an academic superstar, and his youngest sister Zoe eats chocolate cream straight from the pastry gun. And Tris is one of those ordinary kids who ends up doing extraordinary things.

I recommend this book to kids who are foodies, bakers, entrepreneurs, or fans of fun stories. Just don’t read it when you’re hungry!

Thank you to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book. Its expected publication date is May 7.

 

Book Review: Sweep

37811512If you’re looking for something to read aloud to your kids, I highly recommend Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster by Jonathan Auxier. It’s a wonderful book that will appeal to both kids and adults.

Set in Victorian London, Sweep is the story of an 11-year-old orphan named Nan. Nan was raised by a kindly sweep, who fed her story soup when there was no food and taught her to see the wonder in the world. But when she was six years old, he disappeared, leaving only his hat and a warm lump of char. Since then, she’s worked for a cruel sweep as a climber, a dirty and dangerous job. One day, she’s caught in a chimney fire, and she thinks that’s the end for her. Instead, it’s the beginning of a new adventure with her unlikely savior, a soot golem she names Charlie.

This book is a heartbreaking story about poverty, child labor, anti-Semitism, and sacrifice. It’s also a heartwarming story about friendship, love, and a life of purpose. And it’s a delightful story about Nan and Charlie’s time together in the House of One Hundred Chimneys. Larrabee and I both loved it.

Book Review: Max and the Midknights

40642963Max and the Midknights is a medieval adventure story by Lincoln Pierce, the author of the Big Nate series.

Max’s Uncle Budrick is a troubadour, who travels around singing, juggling, and playing the lute. And Max is an apprentice troubadour who dreams of being a knight.

When the evil King Gastley forces Uncle Budrick to become his court jester, it’s up to Max and a group of kids who call themselves the Midknights to save the day. To do so, they’ll have to use all their talents and face all sorts of dangers.

Like the Big Nate novels, this story is told in a combination of text and comic panels. It’s fast-paced and funny with everything you could want in a medieval adventure from swords to sorcery to dragons. Larrabee and I both liked it a lot.

 

Book Review: The Giver

8309278I don’t know why it took me twenty-five years to read The Giver by Lois Lowry. It’s so good.

It’s the story of 12-year-old Jonas, who lives in what seems like a utopian community. At the Ceremony of Twelve, when his classmates are given their Assignments, roles like Birthmother, Instructor, or Laborer, Jonas is not assigned. Instead, he is selected at the next Receiver of Memory and is apprenticed to a man who calls himself The Giver. As he learns his new role, he begins to understand that when his community suppressed its bad memories (war, poverty, pain), it also gave up good memories (color, music, strong emotion)

The Giver won the Newbery Medal in 1994, and I’ve picked it up in the bookstore or library many times since then (including when the movie version came out in 2014). It was Larrabee who finally prompted me to read it, though. His teacher recommended it, and he decided he needed to read since it has also been suggested by someone at camp last summer. So maybe it’s one of those books that needs multiple recommendations. If so, let this blog post be the one that pushes you over the edge. It’s the type of story that will linger in your thoughts.

The other books in The Giver Quartet are Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son, but they are companion books rather than sequels to Jonas’s story. Larrabee has enjoyed the second and third books. We also enjoyed the movie, although it’s no substitute for the book in this case.

Book Review: 24 Hours in Nowhere

3835084724 Hours in Nowhere  by Dusti Bowling is the story of  a smart kid named Gus who decides to do something incredibly stupid: venture into Dead Frenchman’s Mine.

Gus doesn’t set out to risk his life on that hot summer day. He’s minding his own business when a bully named Bo tries to make him eat a cactus. When he’s rescued by a girl named Rossi, she trades her dirt bike for his safety. That’s a problem because Rossi is the best racer in town, and she needs that bike if she’s going to beat Bo in the final race of the season the next day. But Gus, who lives with his grandmother in a trailer in Nowhere, Arizona, only has $7 to his name. So he agrees to bring Bo a bar of gold from the dangerous Dead Frenchman’s Mine to get the bike back.

Gus has three companions on his crazy adventure: Matthew, one of Bo’s sidekicks who’s sent to supervise him, Jessie, his former best friend in elementary school who bumps into him when he’s buying supplies, and Rossi, who hears about his plan from Jessie. Over the course of 24 hours, this unlikely team finds many unexpected things in the old abandoned mine.

24 Hours in Nowhere is a satisfying adventure story. I particularly like the way the characters interact with each other. Larrabee enjoyed this one too.

 

Book Review: Al Capone Throws Me a Curve

36960177Little League tryouts were this weekend, so I have baseball on my mind. One of the best baseball books I read last year was Al Capone Throws Me a Curve

This book is the fourth in Gennifer Choldenko’s terrific Tales from Alcatraz series.

Like the others, it’s set during the 1930s on Alcatraz Island and stars Moose Flanagan. In this book, Moose is thirteen and a half, and his father is the assistant prison warden.

Moose just wants to spend the summer before 9th grade playing baseball, but his life is never that easy. The captain of the high school baseball team demands Alcatraz souvenirs as the price of allowing Moose and his friend to play. The warden asks Moose to keep an eye on his willful daughter Piper. And his parents often make him responsible for his 17-year-old autistic sister Natalie.

For a good-hearted kid who tries to do the right thing, Moose ends up in some crazy predicaments. His story has both humorous and touching moments. It also has fascinating historical details, but they never bog down the fast-paced plot.

It’s possible to read this book without reading the other three first. Larrabee did. But for me, part of the fun of this book was revisiting the characters and setting that I loved so much from the earlier books in the series.

I’d recommend reading them in order–and then taking a field trip to Alcatraz.