Fourth Friday – May 2020

monthly book listNot sure if it was related to the writing slump, but despite reading 20-ish books in April, none of the titles hit the “wow” threshold for our monthly round-up. Hence, no April Fourth Fridays post.

Yes, technically this is the fifth Friday, but when April starts with a Fool’s Day and a Friday, well, we fudged it. [Can we really tell the days apart right now? Ha!]

I’m happy to report that reading excitement was looking up in May! First, we have three new student reviewers!

Second, I am participating in the #CybilsReaddown, so I am tackling the picture book shelves. My goal was 200 books, which turned out to be too ambitious – even for picture books. Two last points:

  • We never have more than 10 books on our Fourth Friday list. This helps us really hone in on the best-of-the-best reads for the month.
  • The titles may not be new books by publication date, but they are new to the reader. If a reader discovers a book they love, then it doesn’t matter if it was published “a long time ago.”

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math picture bookDirt + Water = MUD
written and illustrated by Katherine Hannigan
Greenwillow Books 2016

friendship, imagination

Picture Book
Listener Ages: 3 to 7 | Ready-to-Read Ages: 8 and Up

Review Tagline: Clever + Colorful = Fun

Using a simple “addition” formula, a young girl and her dog spend the afternoon pairing two items together to create something new. Sometimes the “sum” equals something literal, like mud. Other times it is built from imagination (like a flower pot for a crown). Follow along as a girl and her dog spend the afternoon together.

Review Excerpt: Put two things together, and what do you have? Something fun to do. The story is a testament to imagination and “repurposing” what you already have to create your own fun. A perfect choice for busy kids with lots of imagination.

Buy @ Read the review. Buy @ Borrow @ your library.

monster son david larochelleMonster and Son
written by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Joey Chou
Chronicle Books, 2016

family, poetry & rhyme, humor

Picture Book
Listener Ages: 3 to 8 | Ready-to-Read Ages: 6 to 9

Review Tagline: Get this for your Bedtime Story bookshelf!

Little Monster wakes up with a roar and is ready to spend time with dad today! Different kinds of father-son monsters share the activities that filled their day: skeletons playing catch (in the graveyard); Frankensteins in a tickle fight; ghost musicians; and Yetis building secret hideouts; and more! After a busy day, it is time for dad to tuck the little monster into bed and say “good night.”

Review Excerpt: This is a lovely bedtime story about fathers and sons – albeit monsters – spending time and having fun together. What a great Father’s Day or new dad gift this would be.

Buy @ Read the review. Buy @ Borrow @ your library.

None this month.

gamer squad kim harringtonAttack of the Not-So-Virtual Monsters
Gamer Squad, Book 1

written by Kim Harrington
Sterling Children’s Books, 2017

adventure, family, friendship, gaming

Ages 10 and Up

Review tagline: Gaming comes to life. It’s real … and fun! 

Lifelong friends Bex Grayson and Charlie Tepper (both 12) are having a blast playing Monsters Unleashed, a game similar to Pokemon Go. When the duo figured out that the monsters liked to haunt old buildings, they paid a visit to Grandpa Tepper, who has a collection of old town maps. Up in Grandpa’s attic, Charlie discovered this odd looking machine. Despite Grandpa’s “don’t touch anything” instructions, Charlie couldn’t resist! With the flip of a switch, the monsters Bex had captured moved from the virtual world to the real one!

BUT! Only people who had played the game could see the monsters. Bex and Charlie are going ot need help getting the monsters back into the game. Two problems: (1) other gamers didn’t believe them and wouldn’t help; and (2) the only gamer who does believe them is Willa Tanaka, Bexley’s ex best friend. Things are NOT looking good!

Review Excerpt: Preteens will love this fun, clever, and contemporary adventure. The gaming will draw them in, but the heart of the story is the friendship of the two main characters. Bex and Charlie have a natural give-and-take that is quite realistic. Overall a fun, quick read that preteens – especially those getting ready for middle school – will enjoy.

Notes:  We also read Close Encounters of the Nerd Kind (Book 2). It was equally fun, but we have not yet reviewed it. The links below go to Book 1.

Buy @ Read the review. Buy @ Borrow @ your library.

el deafo cece bellEl Deafo
written and illustrated by Cece Bell

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014

diverse characters, friendship, graphic novel, personal growth, superhero

Ages 9 and Up

Review tagline: Personal, insightful and fun to read.  

When she was four, Cece Bell had spinal meningitis. Her illness caused hearing loss, and Cece’s doctors gave her the ultimate Phonic Ear. The device helps her hear better, so she can interact with other people; but, it is also super noticeable on her chest and ears. In her old school in a class full of people just like her it wasn’t so bad. At her new school, Cece feels out of place. Her giant Phonic Ear seems to repel everyone, and she gets lots of awkward stares.

Then Cece discovers that, surprisingly, that her Phonic Ear has a lot of perks. First, she can hear her teacher anywhere in the school … almost like a superpower! Calling herself El Deafo, Cece sets off on a journey to find a true friend who will stand by her side.

Teen Review Excerpt: Cece Bell’s autobiographical novel is a truly worthwhile read that shines a light on – and accurately portrays – the experiences of people dealing with hearing loss and deafness. She uses humor and adorable illustrations to tell her own story and help the reader understand and empathize with these serious experiences. This child-friendly book can open discussions on issues of loneliness, fitting in, self-acceptance, and conflict management. Cece is a likeable character with personality whom readers will relate to and can learn from. I recommend El Deafo to  readers of all ages as book that offers new perspectives and empathy. [reviewer age: 17]

Buy @ Read the review. Buy @ Borrow @ your library.

poet x elizabeth acevedoThe Poet X
by Elizabeth Acevedo
Quill Tree Books, 2018

diverse characters, family, ethics & values, relationships,
stories in verse, urban setting

Ages 15 and Up

Note: The characters use profanity; and the plot contains violence and sexual situations.

Review tagline: Don’t think you like poetry or verse novels? Read this (it will change your mind). 

Xiomara Batista, a high schooler in Harlem, feels as though she is exposed. She has learned to protect herself physically and hide her own thoughts within herself. She writes poems expressing her feelings about her daily life in a leather notebook: a boy; a religious mother; a poetry club. Conflicts built upon one another and it is up to Xiomara to take them on. She has so much she wants to say, but it seems like a far away future to spill out all of her thoughts. Xiomara cannot pretend to be invisible any longer. 

Teen Review Excerpt: I really enjoyed this book and want to read it again. The Poet X is a collection of poems, which I usually never go for, but after reading this book I have definitely gotten more interested in poetry. It’s a very quick and easy read and I especially recommend it to people who either have a hard time finishing books or just cannot get into books in general. The story is very powerful and offers something that will linger with you for quite a while. [reviewer age: 15]

Buy @ Read the review. Buy @ Borrow @ your library.

cherub robert muchamoreShadow Wave
CHERUB: A Division of MI5, Mission 12
by Robert Muchamore
Simon Pulse, 2017

Ages 13 and Up

Note: This story includes references to and/or themes of include suicide, alcohol abuse, corruption, and poor treatment of native peoples.

Review tagline: Good v. Evil, Round 1. 

Series premise: the British government trains orphaned children to become powerful spies because criminals never expect teens to be spying on them. | Mission 12 begins with a flashback: James Adams’ friend Kyle Blueman was on a mission off the coast of Malaysia to train new recruits. James was one of them. When a terrible hurricane destroys the country, the Malaysian Government uses this as an excuse to push native off their land so the government can build apartments. Kyle took a liking to Aizat, one of the natives, and wanted to avenge this criminal act.

Fast-forward: James has his own undercover mission in Malaysia. He poses as the son of a high-ranking British politician trying to sell weapons to the Malaysian Government. After letting Kyle (now retired) read the mission briefing, James pulls out of the operation. Kyle recognized the name of the Malaysian and convinced James to help him bring down the criminal. They intercept the weapons intended for the government, and Kyle gets revenge for Aizat, but what price will James pay for leaking information? 

Teen Review Excerpt: This is a satisfying, typical young adult novel. The diversity is great, and there are great LGBTQ+ characters depicted, different races (Nova is biracial and Adrian has dark skin). There isn’t a lot of grayness in the story. For example villains are redeemable, misguided, or truly evil. Not a blend. Renegades is a YA novel that could definitely be read by older tweens as well. Readers who love superhero stories will enjoy this good v. evil adventure.

Buy @ Read the review. Buy @ Borrow @ your library.

renegades marissa meyerRenegades
Renegades, Book 1
written by Marissa Meyer
Feiwel & Friends, 2017

adventure, diverse characters, family/step family, fantasy, superhero

Ages 13 and Up

Note: There is some profanity, but no sexual content.

Review tagline: Good v. Evil, Round 1. 

Adrian Everhart, alias: Sketch, is a superhero with the ability to bring his drawings to life. He is as close to Renegade royalty as there is. His adopted fathers, Hugh Everhart and Simon Westwood, known to the world as Captain Chromium and The Dread Warden, are founding members and de facto leaders of this superhero organization.

Nova Artino (alias: Nightmare) is a villain who can induce sleep with a single touch. Nova was raised by her uncle Ace, the most infamous villain in history. Her Uncle Ace, known to the world as Ace Anarchy, ruled Gatlon City until the Renegades took him down.

Now Nova and the rest of the Anarchists live in the subway tunnels below the city while the renegades are celebrated and revered. When the chance came for Nova to exact revenge by infiltrating the renegades, she welcomed the opportunities with open arms. When Nova ‘Mclain’ joins Adrian’s team, they both have to alter their previous conceptions about the divide between good and evil, villains and heroes.

Teen Review Excerpt: This is a series where you need to read the books in order and I’d read it again! Shadow Wave is an amazing book to finish the series.It has lots of action and is a very well crafted, dramatic story. It also has some great comic moments. Because of the more serious topics and the inclusion of British dialect, CHERUB is for a more mature audience, not young readers. [reviewer age: 13]

Buy @ Read the review. Buy @ Borrow @ your library.