Tag Archives: Kidlit

Book Review: Armstrong & Charlie – Great Middle Grade Novel

Armstrong & Charlie

By Steven B. Frank

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the publisher.

Armstrong and Charlie are sixth graders this year. Both of them have reservations about the coming school year for very different reasons.

Armstrong is going to be bussed to a new school that is much better than the one in his neighborhood, so he will be leaving all of his friends. Everyone knows that friends are very important, and Armstrong is worried he won’t fit it.

Charlie will be losing some of his friends. Their parents aren’t as excepting as Charlie’s are about integrating his school. He also has a deeper problem. His brother died not too long ago and once he completes sixth grade, Charlie will be older than his brother ever was.

The school year starts out rocky, but soon the boys begin an awkward kind of friendship. It is shaky at best, and they don’t see each other out of school because Armstrong lives so far away.

Charlie’s mom and dad are not the same as before. The death of his brother has changed their family dynamic. Armstrong has a bustling family that includes four sisters and his parents. His mom is a nurse and his father was injured in the military.

The boy’s personal lives do not mingle – until a weekend trip with their class. The question is – will the boys grow closer or will they make choices that will cause their differences to explode?

This is a great book for kids in middle school. It is a time of changes and sometimes they feel like they are the only ones feeling left out or different. Armstrong & Charlie shows them they are like other kids their age.

I really like where this book ended up. At first it seemed a bit cliché with the racial issue of the white family being from the “better” area of town and the black family being from the “worse” side of town. For a few chapters I almost wished it had been flipped, with Charlie being bussed.

But as the story unfolds, the author squashes all of my doubts. It is an interesting plot with enough surprises to keep me turning the pages to see what happens next. The choices the boys make have consequences, both good and bad. The author isn’t afraid to let the reader know what could and does happen as the boys grow up during the school year.

I highly recommend this book.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Irena’s Children, Young Readers Edition – True Story of Courage

irenas-childrenIrena’s Children

Young Readers Edition

By Tilar J. Mazzeo

Adapted by Mary Cronk Farrell

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the publisher.

Tilar J. Mazzeo tells the true story of Irena Sendler. A woman who risked everything to save Jewish children she didn’t even know from the brutality of the Nazi’s in Poland during WWII. The things she saw happening around her frightened her, but she also became angry. She joined others in secret meetings that grew into a network of brave people that helped save hundreds of infants and children from certain death.

The brutalities and atrocities of the Nazi invasion of Poland have been widely documented. This book takes the reader into the burning buildings, the disease infested ghettos and in the brutal prisons of Poland. Irena and her group of brave, everyday heroes suffered greatly for their acts. Some lost their lives, some were arrested and tortured and others lost everything they had, but all of them worked tirelessly to save just one more child every moment of every day.

Through it all, Irena encouraged, helped and understood when others didn’t have the energy to go on. She kept lists of the children so that one day they could possibly be reunited with their families. If that wasn’t possible at least they would know their names and Jewish heritage and the love and sacrifice of the families that hid them and raised them as their own.

Irena lived through all of the danger, uncertainty and brutality she suffered to be reunited with some of “her children” in the 1980’s. She died peacefully in 2008 at the age of 98. Countless survived because of Irena and the network of others devoted to Irena’s children no matter what the cost.

This book was an amazing story of triumph over one of the worst things that happened in world history. It is told in story form with information from archives, historical sources, Tilar Mazzeo’s personal knowledge, personal interviews, historical photos (many included), maps, books and Mazzeo’s original book.

I absolutely enjoyed this book from the standpoint of history, WWII and the courage of people bringing hope to the youngest members of a nation in situations that seemed hopeless. It is not easy to read about the torture, pain and death of the group of innocent people. But not reading about it doesn’t make it go away. It is a painful part of history that needs never to be forgotten.

This is the young reader edition, based upon Mazzeo’s original book, and has been adapted by Mary Cronk Farrell. There is no way to “tone down” the events discussed in the book. The language may be an easier form for young readers, but it is still about a time a group of people were singled out and methodically murdered, maimed and tortured just because they were Jewish. It was a scary and difficult time for adults and children alike.

If they are interested in history, I would highly recommend Irena’s Children. They may have questions that would require further discussion. Adults should read this also. While it is the story of undeniable horrors, it is the story of hope and the triumph of human spirit that encourages all of us to help one another and to make the world a better place no matter who we are or where we live. Everyone can help in his or her way.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: Liberty – Pigs Take to the High Seas in this Adventure Filled Children’s Book

LibertyLiberty
by Darcy Pattison

Darcy Pattison’s newest children’s fiction book, Liberty takes place in a fantasy world. Once the characters cross over into a land called Liberty, man and animal understand and work with each other. The animals become humanlike as they use utensils to eat, wear human clothing and have to work to earn money to pay for life’s necessities.

The novel starts out in a barn yard with the arrival of a new pig. SanitagoTalbert is unlike any pig Penelope pig has ever seen. He is a proud Berkshire pig with grand thoughts of breaking out of the pen he lives in to escape to Liberty. With plans to sail the seven seas, he convinces Penelope that life is more than living in a pen. Her life will be spent having litter after litter of piglets who will all be sold for bacon until she is too old. Then she will be taken away too.

Penelope soon realizes that she wants more than living in the farmer’s pen, so she plans to leave with Sanitago. Liberty is far from the farm, but with her mother’s blessing, Penelope and Santiago escape and begin their adventure.

Their travels and adventures are full of dangerous characters. The newly freed pigs need to find out who they can trust and who is dangerous in their brave new world. They have to race for their lives when an evil captain tries to capture them. They’ve found out his secret and he is willing to do anything to keep them quiet.

Pattison creates an interesting setting, reminiscent of colonial America for the pig’s adventures. The characters come alive with her words. I felt sorry for Penelope when she tried to climb the rigging in the ship but had too much trouble since she had hooves instead of hands.  It is interesting to see how Penelope and Santiago learn to adapt to get the job done.

The ongoing thread of kindness and generosity is woven throughout this manuscript. The pigs are kind to everyone they meet, often putting themselves in danger to help another animal out of trouble. Their kindness is paid back one hundredfold, but they truly are goodhearted and would have helped others without repayment.

Liberty was a fast-paced work of juvenile fiction. Due to the length, I would suggest 3rd to 4th  grade school students might enjoy it more than first or second graders. It could be read to them by an adult at home, teacher at school or a caregiver. There are a few scary parts for younger children, but nothing that would give them nightmares, especially if read to them by an adult.

Darcy Pattison is an award winning of fiction and non-fiction children’s books. Liberty will be available at your local bookstore, Barnes and Nobel and Amazon on July 19, 2016. Pre-order now!

 

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from NetGalley that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

 

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Book Reviews: The Magic School Bus Series for Early Readers

The Wild Whale Watch is one of many in the Magic School Bus series. The crazy field trips in Ms. Frizzle’s science class always involve magic, science and fun.

On thisDSC_0048 trip, the class learns all about whales. The journey is fun for the reader and fun facts are learned about whales.

The illustrations and format breaks up the information into bite sized pieces that avoids early reader overload. There is a lot of information, but all of it is easily read, interestingly changing formats.

Things I learned about whales that I didn’t know are:

* Each type of whale has a different blow pattern
* Flukes are different for each type of whale
* Narwhals are actually whales

Voyage to the Volcano is another book in the Magic School Bus series.

Kilauea at night

Kilauea at night

In this science based chapter book, the kids and Ms. Frizzle head out in the Magic School Bus to Hawaii to learn all about volcanoes.

It is formatted like the other books in the series. This one has illustrations and sidebars that look like notebook paper reports written by the kids in the class.

In this adventure the bus turns into a raft, a helicopter and a submarine to take the young readers along on a fun trip. Learning about volcanoes on the land and under the sea becomes an interesting and sometimes scary adventure that will have your kids turning the pages to find out what happens next.

We were fortunate enough to see Kilauea at night while on Hawaii – it is amazing! If you are planning a trip with a grade school age child, this book would be a wonderful way to introduce them to the wonder of volcanoes.

This series is a great way to teach children about the world around them. It encourages looking for answers by asking questions and going to other sources to find out how and why.

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