June 20, 2018

Book Review: Argos: The Story of Odysseus as Told by His Loyal Dog by Ralph Hardy

Title: Argo: The Story of Odysseus as Told by His Loyal Dog
Author: Ralph Hardy
Copy Obtained: From publisher

From a compelling new voice in middle grade comes a reimagination of The Odyssey told from the point of view of Odysseus’s loyal dog—a thrilling tale of loyalty, determination, and adventure.

For twenty years, the great hero Odysseus struggles to return to Ithaka. After ten years beneath the walls of Troy, he begins the long journey back home. He defeats monsters. He outsmarts the Cyclops. He battles the gods. He struggles to survive and do whatever it takes to reunite with his family.

And what of that family—his devoted wife, Penelope; his young son, Telemachos; his dog, Argos? For those twenty years, they wait, unsure if they will ever see Odysseus again. But Argos has found a way to track his master. Any animal who sets foot or wing on Ithaka brings him news of Odysseus’s voyage—and hope that one day his master will return. Meanwhile, Argos watches over his master’s family and protects them from the dangers that surround a throne without its king.

It has been a very long time since I read The Odyssey, so I will fully admit that a lot of what would be connections to the two stories were lost on me! I instead looked at it as a story of a dog's master as told by the dog.  I absolutely loved this concept, and I know that my students would love it as well.  What I really like about the book is that I can "sell" it to two different groups of readers.  I can sell it to the animal lovers that come in, AND I can sell it to the students who love to read adventure novels.  Wait - I can also sell it to my readers that like to read about gods and goddesses.  So that's great! 

I loved the character of Argos.  I'm a dog lover, so that helped.  What I liked about him was that he was loyal (of course), but also real.  There is a scene where he's taking a nap, and he's crabby that his nap was interrupted.  I loved that because it was what you'd think would happen with a dog or anyone! Who wants their nap interrupted.  That small scene made it much more real to me.  Silly I know, but true.  I also liked all the other animals in the story.  The birds made me giggle now and again.  

One aspect of the book I'll need to keep in mind when suggesting the books to kids is the language.  Some of the writing has an old-fashioned sound to it, and I know some kids will struggle with that.  And because of that, it can slow down the pace of the story.  For some kids this will be a big issue no matter how much they like dogs etc.  

Final thought: Fun to read the story from the perspective of the animal.  
Library Thoughts:  Yes I'd get it for the library, but would need to be a bit selective who I suggest it to.

Similar to: Any Rick Riordan book, Erin Hunt books.  

June 8, 2018

Daring Dreamers Club #1: Milla Takes Charge by Erin Soderberg

Title: Milla Takes Charge, Daring Dreamers Club #1
Author: Erin Soderberg
Copy Obtained: From publisher for an honest review

Milla loves nothing more than imagining grand adventures in the great wide somewhere, just like Belle. She dreams of traveling the world and writing about her incredible discoveries. Unfortunately, there is nothing pretend about the fifth-grade overnight and Milla's fear that her moms won't let her go.

Enter Piper, Mariana, Zahra, and Ruby. Together with Milla, they form the Daring Dreamers Club and become best friends. But can they help Milla believe she's ready for this real grand adventure?

Diverse, talented, and smart--these five girls found each other because they all had one thing in common: big dreams. 

When I was offered this book for review I jumped at the chance.  I'm always looking for new series to add to the library or suggest to my readers.  And I loved the idea that this one contained an array of diverse characters that are pursuing their dreams.

What I like about this book is that if the reader doesn't relate to Milla the main character, there are several other characters they could connect with.  I love that! I'm wondering in future books if the narrator will shift to some of the other girls.  I also love that it shows girls supporting one another in their dreams.  It's such a great example of how we can do that in our own lives.  I've seen examples of that in other books but usually only between two friends, so it was nice to see a whole group supporting and helping each other.  

I really liked Milla.  She is so kind and thoughtful, but not to the point of being annoying.  I think the girls reading this will really like her too.  They'll wish they had a friend like her.  I also loved how her moms were shown in the story.  It was so matter-of-fact, and that was great.  I think kids now see it that way too a lot of times so they wouldn't need a big deal made of it.  

As for the story itself - nicely done.  As an adult, it was kind of simplified, but for the age group it's geared toward it was fine.  They'll relate and definitely be pulled in.  And in the end I think they'll want to learn more about the girls in the Daring Dreamers Club.

Final thought:  Great start to a new series for the tween set.
Library Thoughts: For an elementary with 3-5th graders for sure.  It's probably best for grades 3 and 4.  

June 5, 2018

Blog Tour: God Bless American: The Story of an Immigrant Named Irving Berlin by Adah Nuchi +GIVEAWAY

I'm always on the lookout for picture books I can recommend to the teachers I work with.  So when RockStar Tours asked for help promoting God Bless America, I knew I had to help! 

This is a book I know my social studies teachers will love!

About the Book

Author: Adah Nuchi, Rob Polivka (Illustrations)
Pub. Date: June 5, 2018
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Pages: 40
Find it: GoodreadsAmazonB&NiBooks,  TBD

An inspiring portrait of an immigrant and the gift he gave his new home.

Persecuted as Jews, Izzy Baline and his family emigrated from Russia to New York, where he fell in love with his new country. He heard music everywhere and was full to bursting with his own. Izzy's thump-two-three, ting-a-ling, whee tunes soon brought him acclaim as the sought-after songwriter Irving Berlin. He ignited the imaginations of fellow countrymen and women with his Broadway and Hollywood numbers, crafting tunes that have become classics we still sing today.

But when darker times came and the nation went to war, it was time for Irving to compose a new kind of song:

A boom-rah-rah song.

A big brass belter.

A loud heart-melter.

A song for America.

And so "God Bless America" was born, the heart swelling standard that Americans have returned to again and again after its 1918 composition.

This is the tale of how a former refugee gave America one of its most celebrated patriotic songs. With stirring, rhythmic text by Adah Nuchi and delightful, energetic art by Rob Polivka, readers will be ready to hum along to this exuberant picture book.

About Adah:
Adah Megged Nuchi was first introduced to the children's publishing world at home, as the daughter of a children's book art director. She began her own publishing career at the National Book Foundation, and later at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, where she was an acquiring editor of picture books, middle-grade, and young adult fiction for seven years. Her books have been named to the Kids' Indie Next List, YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, and Indies Introduce New Voices lists. As an editor, she most loved finding new talent and working with authors to shape a story.     Twitter

Giveaway Details:
3 winners will receive a finished copy of GOD BLESS AMERICA: THE STORY OF AN IMMIGRANT NAMED IRVING BERLIN, US Only.

Check out the rest of the tour stops!

Week One:
6/4/2018- RhythmicBooktrovertExcerpt
6/5/2018- The OWLReview
6/6/2018- Christen KrummReview
6/7/2018- BookHounds YAGuest Post
6/8/2018- Book-KeepingReview

Week Two:
6/11/2018- Savings in SecondsReview
6/12/2018- Little Red Reads- Review
6/13/2018- Reading Is My SuperPowerReview
6/14/2018- Two points of interestReview
6/15/2018- A Dream Within A DreamExcerpt

June 3, 2018

Review: Just Under the Clouds by Melissa Sarno

Title: Just Under the Clouds
Author: Melissa Sarno
Copy Obtained: From publisher for an honest review

Always think in threes and you'll never fall, Cora's father told her when she was a little girl. Two feet, one hand. Two hands, one foot. That was all Cora needed to know to climb the trees of Brooklyn.

But now Cora is a middle schooler, a big sister, and homeless. Her mother is trying to hold the family together after her father's death, and Cora must look after her sister, Adare, who's just different, their mother insists. Quick to smile, Adare hates wearing shoes, rarely speaks, and appears untroubled by the question Cora can't help but ask: How will she find a place to call home?

After their room at the shelter is ransacked, Cora's mother looks to an old friend for help, and Cora finally finds what she has been looking for: Ailanthus altissima, the "tree of heaven," which can grow in even the worst conditions. It sets her on a path to discover a deeper truth about where she really belongs.

This is the second book about being homeless that I've read recently.  That book (Crenshaw) dealt more with a family that was on the verge of becoming homeless while this book focuses on a family that is already homeless.  Although being homeless is not the only thing this book looks at.  Cora is still dealing with the loss of her father, and she has her sister to worry about.  It's a lot for a young girl.  So when she's put in a situation where she can make a friend, she doesn't trust it.  I think that part of the book made me the saddest.  I've kids like that while teaching.  You can tell they've been bounced around so much that they don't even bother to try to connect to the people around them.  I wanted to tell Cora that it would be ok, and she could make a friend but honestly, with situation her family is in, it was clearly possible they would move again.  It saddened me.  

That said - I think this would be a good book for middle school students.  I live in an area with very little homelessness, at least in the traditional sense.  I believe we have homeless students at my school, but they don't live in a shelter or in their car.  They might live with others instead.  And that is what ends up happening in this book, so I think it would be a great example to show my students what homelessness can look like.  It doesn't mean you leave on the street.  There are other types.  And I think kids, where I live, need to see that and understand that.  I've always believed that books should show students what they know so they know they aren't alone BUT they should always show students what they don't know so they learn how to empathize.  Thankfully Cora is a great character that I think will really draw the reader in and allow this to happen. 

Final thoughts: Great story with strong characters that grow and change.  
Library thoughts: For sure I would put this in my library for the reasons I discussed above!