Monday, September 04, 2017

Review: Pirate Penguin Vs Ninja Chicken

Pirate Penguin Vs Ninja Chicken, Volume 1: Troublems with Frenemies by Ray Friesen

Pirate Penguin and Ninja Chicken are the perfect definition of frenemies. One minute they’re the best of friends, and then the next they’re fighting and trying to beat each other. But you can count on them having lots of fun along the way.

There is something so endearing about this book, and it’s not just the charming illustrative style (which I really enjoyed). It was instant book love for me. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that consistently made me genuinely belly laugh. And then I was not only laughing, but also running to the next room to share my favorite jokes with family members. The antics of these two characters are completely silly and ridiculous, but somehow that works for their personalities. The “troublems” in the title should give you a clue that there’s a lot of odd word combinations, which sometimes works great for the storylines and sometimes not so much.

 My one complaint was that the format of the book was a little weird. The first half is made up of mini-comics episodes 1-3 pages long, while the second half of the book was a longer continuous story (albeit made of up of smaller episodes). If you can’t stand silly or ridiculous things, you’re probably not going to enjoy this one, but I can see kids totally eating this up (and adults who don’t take life too seriously will enjoy it too).

Shady Glade Rating: 5 leaves


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Monday, August 28, 2017

Review: Drama

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

The plot of Drama is hard to sum up.  I think this is because I see it more as a "slice in the life of" book.  Callie is a middle school student who loves theater (especailly musicals).  Due to a less than stellar singing voice though, rather than trying out for a role in her school's production of Moon Over Mississippi, she's part of the stage crew.   And you can bet there will be a whole lot of drama to ensue.

I’ll start by getting the controversial out of the way first. This is a middle grade book, featuring middle school aged characters, a book aimed at 9-12ish years of age. And one of the characters is gay. So if you’re a parent and that’s something that will bother you, keep that in mind. For me, personally, it didn’t bother me, and I say that coming from a conservative perspective. It is definitely presented as a situation where being gay is not a big deal, so parents you may want to use that to start a conversation with your children. Personally, I am of the opinion that a child in middle school doesn’t know enough about him/herself to know if he/she is gay yet, but that’s a discussion for a different medium.

 Moving on to the book itself, I have to start by saying that I love Raina Telgemeier’s books. I have read pretty much every one she’s done, and Smile in particular ranks up there in my favorite books of all time. That being said, I felt something was missing in Drama. There were parts of it that I loved. The artwork and characterization is spectacular as always, and I enjoyed the theater aspect greatly because it reminded me of my (brief) stint in high school theater. But as mentioned above I just didn’t feel like there was much of a plot. Callie seemed a little too boy crazy for my taste (although I realize some girls are really like that), I just felt like it didn’t gel well with the whole theater plot thread. I will also say that I wasn’t very happy with the shoehorned climax at the school dance, which I won’t talk more about because it would give the ending away. But it just felt a tad too cliché for me.

 All that being said, I would still recommend this, especially if like me you’re a fan of Telgemeier’s other books. I just think it’s going to need to find the right audience to really enjoy it.

Shady Glade Rating: 3 leaves



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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Have you got your nominations in yet?

There's just 5 days left to nominate your favorite books of the year for the Cybils awards!  If you haven't yet, head over to the Cybils blog right now to submit your favorites.

About this time each year, the Cybils blog collects lists of items that haven't been nominated yet, but
someone would like to see still make the list.  If you haven't used of your one item per category nomination yet, you might want to peruse the lists to see if you can help someone out.

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm judging in the new audiobook category this year, and we could still really use some nominations!  So I thought I'd put together this list of things I found on audible that are definitely eligible.

And if none of these float your boat, remember that most books nominated in another Cybils category this year that has an audio version available is eligible for the audiobook category.  Even if you haven't listened to the audio version, but you know the book is good, then it might still deserve and audio nomination.

Here's some audiobooks that are eligible based on their date and the middle grade criteria for this year.  I haven't read all of these yet, but if you have read any of these and you loved it, consider nominating it for our category.  Hopefully this list helps you think of a great audiobook nomination!

A Most Magical Girl by Karen Foxlee
All Four Stars by Tara Dairman
Audacity Jones to the Rescue by Kirby Larson
Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
Case of the Girl in Grey by Jordan Stratford
Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison
Foxheart by Claire Legrand 
Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom by Booki Vivat 
Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger
Going Wild by Lisa McMann
Grayling's Song by Karen Cushman
Grounded by Megan Morrison
Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar 
I Survived the Eruption of Mount St. Helens, 1980 by Lauren Tarshis
Impyrium by Henry H Neff
It Ain't So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas
Knights of the Borrowed Dark by Dave Rudden
Lock and Key by Ridley Pearson
Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts by Esta Spalding
Milo Speck, Accidental Agent by Linda Urban
Moo by Sharon Creech
Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein
Ned's Circus of Marvels by Justin Fisher
Once Upon a Toad by Heather Vogel Frederick
Out of Abaton by John Claude Bemis
Pax by Sara Pennypacker
Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Shurtliff 
Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks
Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan
Six Kids and a Stuffed Cat by Gary Paulsen
Slacker by Gordon Korman 
Sting: A Loot Novel by Jude Watson
Summerlost by Ally Condie
Sweet Home Alaska by Carole Estby Dagg
The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes by Wade Albert White
The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase by Wendy Mass
The Case of the Vanishing Emerald by Holly Webb
The Charmed Children of Rooksill Castle by Janet Fox
The Dala Horse by Lissa Jonston
The Door by the Staircase by Katherine March 
The Firefly Code by Megan Frazer Blakemore
The Girl in the Well Is Me by Karen Rivers 
The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst 
The Glass Castle by Trisha Priebe
The Haunting of Falcon House by Eugene Yelchin
The Lincoln Project by Dan Gutman
The Scourge by Jennifer Nielson
The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse by Brian Farrey 
The Trilogy of Two by Juman Malouf
Time Stoppers by Carrie Jones
Time Traveling With a Hamster by Ross Welford
True Heroes: A Treasury of Modern-Day Fairy Tales Written by Bestselling Authors
Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio
What Elephants Know by Eric Dinerstein
When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin
Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls by Raymond Arroyo
Wish by Barbara O'Connor 
Wishing Day by Lauren Myracle
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Thursday, October 06, 2016

It's that time again...

I'm a few days behind on announcing this, but things have been crazy the past few weeks.  In addition to getting the usual autumn cold, helping mom continue to recover from surgery, and trying to keep up with things at work, we also bought a new car.  Which came with its own long weeks of shopping and deal wrangling.  O.o

Anyway, things are getting back to normal for me, and a few days ago the Cybils Awards opened up for nominations!  For those of you who are not familiar with the Cybils, they are the Children's and Young Adult Literary Blogging awards.  Basically it's the kidlitosphere's blogging version of the literary merit of awards like the Newberry medal combined with the popular vote of the Webby Awards.  The biggest criteria for the Cybils is both good writing/literary merit and kid appeal.

I'm happy to be participating again as a Round 1 judge this year, in a brand new category, audiobooks!  It will be fun to break ground in this new area for the Cybils.

The biggest part of the "popular vote" section of the awards is now.  The awards accept nominations for books in 11 categories from people just like you!  So if you have a favorite book for kids or teens published in the last year, make sure you go nominate it.

We especially need audiobook nominations!  So even if audiobooks aren't your thing, if you have a book that you want to nominate (or has already been nominated) in either of the middle grade categories this year, all you have to do is check if it has an audio version to qualify for the new category.  I found tons of great possible nominations on audible.com, there's lots that will qualify.

Happy reading everyone!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Review: The Forbidden Stone

The Forbidden Stone (The Copernicus Legacy #1) by Tony Abbott

Wade Kaplan loves astronomy, something he learned from his Uncle Henry. When Wade, his stepbrother Darrell, and their two friends Becca and Lily get a strange email from Uncle Henry shortly before receiving word of the old man’s death, Wade is sure it has something to do with the star map Uncle Henry gave him for his birthday. Together the group of friends, although with Wade’s father, travel to Germany to attend Uncle Henry’s funeral, where they discover the strange email was in fact a code. The code leads to a clue which leads the kids to discover the mysterious Copernicus Legacy. Now they must race against time to find the other clue and protect this ancient secret before a sinister secret society gets to it first.

This book has all the hallmarks of a good adventure story, with international espionage, clues, secrets, codes, historical artifacts, and just enough wonder to push the book over the edge from realistic fiction to that speculative/science fiction “what if” sphere. This being the first book in a series, it does get bogged down a bit in the beginning through the introduction of the characters and the plot. That being said, it definitely does a good job of building the suspense through these introductions, which kept me going even though I felt a bit bored and confused at the beginning.

I may be posting a separate review of the additional books at another time, but I can confidently say that although my rating of this first book may be a little on the low side, the series definitely gets better the farther you go along. As of this post I’ve read all but the last (yet unpublished) volume, and I am eagerly awaiting its release in November of this year. I’m only awarding this one an “it was okay” rating, but I do still recommend it, especially as it gets better the farther the series goes on. This one also gets an Up All Night award leaf since the action kept me eagerly reading, especially near the end. Recommended especially for middle grade/teen readers that enjoy astronomy and/or spy stories.

Shady Glade Rating: 3 leaves and the Up All Night Award



Available at Amazon.com in Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, or Audiobook
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Thursday, September 08, 2016

Review: Princesses Comic #2

Disney Princess Comics #2 by Amy Mebberson and Geoffrey Golden

If you know me well, you know that I have a bit of a Disney obsession. Well, maybe more than a bit. My mom likes to say that my blood cells are probably Mickey shaped. And as a girly-girl at heart, there’s nothing I love more than the Disney Princesses. So when I found out about this new comic series that was being published, I knew it was a no brainer for me to try it. Sadly, I missed out on the first issue (it was sold out long before I got to the comic book store), but I was able to pick up this second volume on a birthday trip this year.

Unlike some serial comics, the Princess comics are done as a series of short stories with no correlation to each other, so it wasn’t a problem to pick up the second issue without reading the first at all. Each story is more of a behind-the-scenes type peek into the lives of the princesses, outside what the movies show of their stories. The balance of smaller 1 strip and large multi-strip stories is a good combination, and both types of strips have the perfect amount of humor. I particularly liked the story of Princess Jasmine dealing with her tiger Rajah at bedtime. Anyone who has ever owned a cat will understand that one.

And as much as I love the storytelling, I have to say that I love, love, love, the artwork. I am a big fan of Amy Mebberson from her Pocket Princesses fanfic comic on her Facebook page, and it is nice to see her Disney artwork in an official capacity. For those who haven’t seen her work before, I would describe this as a sort of Japanese “chibi” style, while still being very true to the actual Disney artwork. I will definitely look forward to collecting these comics!

Shady Glade Rating: 5 leaves and the Gold Leaf Award 



Available at Amazon.com in Kindle (hard copy sold out)
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Friday, September 02, 2016

Review: Wild Born

Wild Born (Spirit Animals #1) by Brandon Mull

In the fantasy world of Erdas, each child who comes of age must go through a special ceremony. The purpose of this ritual is to see if the child summons a spirit animal; a special animal with which you form a spiritual/mental bond with that grants additional strengths to both human and animal. It’s kind of like your own personal animal best friend. Conor, Abeke, Meilin, and Rollan all summon spirit animals. But not just any animals. The wolf, leopard, panda, and falcon who apper during their ceremony are special animals, great beasts; animals of legend who have been foretold to return to Erdas in its greatest need. Together the four must work together and learn how to use their spirit animals in battle before the sinister forces taking over Erdas one country at a time have a chance to succeed.

I went into this one with pretty high expectations, mostly because I just love Brandon Mull. On the other hand, I’m always a bit worried with these multi-author series that Scholastic does (39 Clues and Infinity Ring being two other examples) just because I’m worried about continuity between character traits, world settings, plots, etc. I’m happy to say that Mull does a good job introducing the series. For a book that’s much shorter than many introductory middle grade fantasy books, there’s a nice balance between character introduction and the initial conflict of the series’ overall plot. Readers really only get glimpses of settings and characters other than the main four characters, but I felt it was enough to keep me satisfied, expecting that further explorations will occur in later books in the series. While there may not be a lot of substance literarily to this series, I think the kid appeal is definitely there, especially for kids who like books with animal characters. I plan on continuing with the rest of the series, which is always a good indication it hasn’t lost my interest so far.

Shady Glade Rating: 4 leaves


Available at Amazon.com in Hardcover, Kindle, or Audiobook
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