Houndsley and Catina at the Library by James Howe

Houndsley and Catina at the Library

James Howe, Author

Marie-Louise Gay, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, 2020

Pages: 42

Suitable for ages: 5-8

Themes: Animals, Library, Change, Friendship

Synopsis:

It’s Saturday, and friends Houndsley, Catina, and Bert always go to the library. But when the trio arrives, librarian Trixie is sad. She doesn’t tell a joke or recommend a book. That’s when the friends find out the bad news: the library is closing because with Trixie retiring and off to circus school, there’s no one to take her place as head librarian. Or is there?

James Howe and Marie-Louis Gay have created another inspiring tale about being a supportive friend and how it’s never too late to try something new.

Why I like this book:

This is a perfect story for emerging readers and a fun summer read. Houndsley, Catina and Bert are friends and they always spend their Saturdays at the library. When they arrive, Trixie, the librarian, doesn’t greet them with a smile or as joke. In fact she looks sad. It turns out that Trixie is retiring and changing careers and the library will be closing it’s doors.

The story also involves themes that deal with change. What will they do without a library? It is their community gathering place. Houndsley teaches reading to those who don’t know how to read. Catina teaches a yoga class. and Bert returns books to shelves. But when the threesome stop by Trixie’s house to find out why the library is closing, they find her happily jumping on a trampoline. They discover Trixie is changing too — she wants to join the circus. 

There are three chapters in the book, with Marie-Louise Gay’s colorful pastel illustrations  set the tone and compliment the story. Make sure your young reader checks out the other entertaining books in this Houndsely and Catina series.

James Howe is the author of many books for children, including the Bunnicula series and the Misfits series. He is also the author of the Houndsley and Catina books, as well as Otter and Odder, illustrated by Chris Raschka; Brontorina, illustrated by Randy Cecil; and Big Bob, Little Bob, illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson. James Howe lives outside of New York City.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by Candlewick Press in exchange for a review.  

The Dragon in the Library by Louie Stowell

The Dragon in the Library (A Kit the Wizard Book 1)

Louie Stowell, Author

David Ortu, Illustrator

Walker Books US, Fiction, Mar. 16, 2021

Pages: 200

Suitable for ages: 7-9

Themes: Library, Magic, Wizards, Dragon, Villain 

Opening: “Do you seriously want to spend the first day of summer vacation with a bunch of dead people?” Josh asked.

Synopsis:

Kit Spencer can’t stand reading. She’d rather be outside playing and getting muddy than stuck inside with a book. But when her best friends, Josh and Alita, drag her to the local library, Kit discovers that there is something magical when she opens a book and finds herself standing in the middle of a beautiful garden. And there is something very unusual about the librarian, Faith, who follows her into the book and uses strange words to get them out. Kit learns that she’s a wizard — and maybe the youngest wizard in the world. Kit’s response: “Wow.”  

Kit must keep her secret or she will put the entire wizarding world in danger. She can’t tell her best friends or the librarian will have to erase their memories. Too late. Josh and Alita have been eavesdropping outside the room and burst in begging Faith not to “wipe their brains.” They promise to keep the secrets of the library and the threesome embark upon a journey to help Kit protect the sleeping dragon hidden beneath the library.

Kit discovers using magic isn’t easy and spells can be tricky.  Kit has a big learning curve, but she must learn quickly because there’s a power-hungry businessman who will stop at nothing to get his hands on some magic of his own. With the help of her librarian mentor, her best friends Josh and Alita, and a cute dragon-dog hybrid, Kit will have to find a way to save the dragon in the library — and maybe the world.

Why I like this book:

I really love introducing this wizarding series to emerging readers who aren’t ready for Harry Potter and other MG fantasy books. Louie Stowell creates an exciting and appealing adventure story with magical creatures, diverse characters, and an engaging plot with unexpected twists. The storytelling is straightforward and the pacing is fast and humorous. 

The three diverse friends are lovable characters, but have very different personalities. Kit is a spirited character who is reckless and makes a lot of mistakes. She’d rather play in a graveyard than read a book. When Kit is asked to read to children during story time, it is torture! Josh and Alita are smart, avid readers. Josh is always taking notes and keeping things straight. Alita is good at organizing, especially when they decide to hold a peaceful protest to “Save the Library.” An unlikely group of friends, they do support each other and work well together. Faith, the wizard librarian, is believable and grounds the story. There are many laughable moments. 

David Ortu’s pen and ink illustrations are playful. They capture the characters personalities, their reactions to stepping into the pages of a book, and their encounters with magical creatures. Ortu shares just enough art to spark readers imaginations! 

I really found this book a charming and humorous chapter book. There is a second book in the works, The Monster in the Lake, and the author leaves a lot of room for adventure and Kit’s character growth. I think Kit’s going to be an amazing wizard. This is the perfect summer adventure for young readers looking to escape into a world of magic, libraries, spells, a dragon-dog, and an evil villain!

Louie Stowell started her career writing carefully researched books about space, ancient Egypt, politics and science, but eventually lapsed into making things up. She likes writing about dragons, wizards, vampires, fairies, monsters and parallel worlds. Stowell lives in London with her wife, Karen; her dog, Buffy; and a creepy puppet that is probably cursed. Visit Stowell at her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by Walker Books in exchange for a review. 

The Story of the Wright Brothers by Annette Whipple

Dec. 17, 2020 Marks the 117th Anniversary of Powered Flight

See Virtual Celebration Details Below

The Story of the Wright Brothers: A Biography Book for New Readers

Annette Whipple, Author

Alessandra Santelli, Illustrator

Rockridge Press, Biography, Jul. 28, 2020

Page: 66

Suitable for ages: 6-12

Themes: Airplane, Wilbur and Orville Wright, Childhood, Curiosity, Dreams, Imagination, Inventions

Opening: “Impossible! Most people thought a flying machine would never work. For hundreds of years, people had been trying to figure out how to fly.”

Synopsis:

The Wright brothers were the first to build and fly an airplane. Before they made history, Wilbur and Orville were curious kids who loved learning about the world around them. They weren’t rich. They didn’t go to college. But they fell in love with the idea of flying and taught themselves everything they needed to know to make their dream come true.

Young people will enjoy reading about Wilbur and Orville’s childhood. They were born just after the Civil War at a time when people traveled by horse and buggy or train. Their home had no electricity or telephones. There was no indoor plumbing and they used outhouses.

But they grew up in a loving home filled with books and parents who encouraged them to figure out how things worked. They grew up taking things a part and putting them back together again. They had a favorite flying “bat” toy that was propelled by a rubber band.  When it broke they studied the design and made their own. Later they built kites and sold them to friends. Their curiosity continued in many areas. They learned how to make the first self-inking printing press and published a newspaper, flyers and business cards for customers.

In the 1890s cars and bicycles appeared. The Wright brothers bought bicycles, took them a part to figure out how they worked and then began fixing bicycles for friends. They opened the Wright Cycle Company and fixed and sold bicycles. Eventually they began to design their own models.

Explore how the Wright brothers went from young boys in Dayton, Ohio who designed bicycles to world-famous inventors, the first aviators, and businessmen.

Why I like this book:

Annette Whipple has written an inspiring introductory book for young readers, who are curious and imaginative, and dare to dream. They will also learn how important it is to think outside of the box. For instance, Wilbur began studying flight by watching birds. He observed how birds tipped their wings when they flew. “Learning the secret of flight from a bird was a good deal like learning the secret of magic from a magician.”— Orville Wright

The book is beautifully designed and well-researched. It follows the brothers lives chronologically. The flowing narrative tells their story with a lot of boxed inserts about timelines, myths/facts, quotes from the Wright brothers and their legacy. My favorite are “Jump into the Think Tank” questions for kids. The chapters are short and each page features colorful and evocative illustrations. Chapter 8 features a quiz for readers about what they’ve learned, followed by a section about how the Wright brothers’ invention changed our world. There is also a glossary.

Both children and adults will enjoy learning details about the early lives of these young inventors, best friends and business partners. The book is perfect for children who like to take things a part and figure out how they work. And it will encourage young scientists and dreamers everywhere to create their own inventions.

I live in Dayton, Ohio and worked many years at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB). The Wright brothers may have flown their first glider from Kitty Hawk, but they tested and perfected their early aircraft on Huffman Prairie, which is at the end of the major flight line at Wright-Patterson.

The 88th Air Base Wing commander, along with members of the Wright brothers’ family and a limited number of Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park representatives, will join together Dec. 17, 2020 at 9:30 a.m. to lay a wreath commemorating the 117th anniversary of practical powered flight. This wreath-laying tradition began in 1978 at the Wright Brothers Memorial on top of Wright Brothers Memorial Hill overlooking Huffman Prairie.

VIEW THE CEREMONY VIRTUALLY:  Because of COVID-19 protocols limiting gathering sizes, the general public is encouraged to view the event online at https://www.facebook.com/WPAFB.

Annette Whipple celebrates curiosity and inspires a sense of wonder in young readers while exciting them about science and history. In 2020, She’s the author of several books including The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide, and Whooo Knew? Discover Owls.  When she’s not reading or writing, you might find Annette snacking on warm chocolate chip cookies with her family in Pennsylvania. Learn more about Annette’s books and presentations at her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy won in a book giveaway by Annette Whipple on Vivian Kirkfield – Children’s Writer blog, in exchange for a review.

Dot. Goes Fishing

Dot. Goes Fishing

Candlewick Entertainment, Author, Fiction, Mar. 23, 2020

Suitable for ages: 5-8

Pages: 80

Themes: Fishing, Father and daughter, High tech gadgets, Nature

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Dot is all set to spend the day on the lake fishing with her dad. They’ve got fishing rods, bait, and lots of sandwiches. And since Dad always comes home from his fishing trips empty-handed, Dot has figured out the perfect high-tech way to make this the most successful trip ever: the Fisherman Joe Fish-Finder! All she has to do is put this amazing frog gadget in the water and open up the app on her tablet, and she and Dad can use sonar to detect all the fish in the lake. But Dot and Dad get a little more than they bargained for when the gadget gets eaten by a giant fish that is bent on traveling with it. Can Dad’s fishing expertise help save the day?

Why I like this book:

This is a clever and timely story about a father and daughter who have very different ideas about fishing. Dad enjoys making his salami sandwiches, relaxing in his rocking boat on the lake, enjoying the beautiful view, and spending time with his daughter. Dot is concerned that her father never brings home any fish from his trips.  For Dot, the fish always seem to outsmart her dad. So Dot goes high tech and surprises her dad with a “fish-finder.” Perhaps high tech isn’t always best — a great theme to discuss with kids.

Dot. Goes Fishing is a perfect summer read for children who are reading on their on and are preparing for middle grade books. The story is very entertaining for this age group. There are eight chapters with colorful and lively digital illustrations on every page by the Jim Henson Company.

This is new adventure is based on the animated TV series Dot, which debuted in 2016. Now, viewers can read about their favorite TV character in chapter books which include diversity.

Dot. Goes Fishing, based on a character created by Randi Zuckerberg, is the award-winning animated TV series produced by Industrial Brothers in association with the Jim Henson Company and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). The series has received a Kidscreen Award for Best New Series, a Parents’ Choice Silver Honor, a Common Sense Media five-star rating, a BANFF World Media Festival Rogers Prize for Excellence in Canadian Content, and other accolades. Dot. airs on Universal Kids and Hulu.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review

Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem by Kate DiCamillo

Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem: Tales from Deckawoo Drive #5

Kate DiCamillo, Author

Chris Van Dusen, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Jun. 9, 2020

Suitable for ages: 6 – 9

Themes: School, Poetry, Metaphors, Arguement, Friendship

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Stella Endicott loves her teacher, Miss Liliana, and she is thrilled when the class is assigned to write a poem. Stella crafts a beautiful poem about Mercy Watson, the pig who lives next door — a poem complete with a metaphor and full of curiosity and courage.

But Horace Broom, Stella’s irritating classmate, insists that Stella’s poem is full of lies and that pigs do not live in houses. And when Stella and Horace get into a shouting match in the classroom, Miss Liliana banishes them to the principal’s office. Will the two of them find a way to turn this opposite-of-a-poem day around?

Why I like this book:

Kate DiCamillo’s sweetly satisfying chapter book speaks to children about everyday struggles that are inherhent with school and friendships. As the title eludes to, the theme in this story is anything is possible — even a pig that sleeps on a couch and a friendship with a boy, who metaphorically speaking, is an overblown balloon.

Stella is a spirited, imaginative and determined. She looks for the good in situations. Horace is smug and a know-it-all. When Stella and Horace are sent to principal’s office, Horace buckles in fear. Not Stella. She remembers that “in good stories, the characters face their fate with curiosity and courage” and leads the way. And throughout the story Stella reminds herself that surprises are everywhere and that anything is possible.

The story introduces children to writing poetry and using a metaphor in their poem. It becomes a game for Stella as she begins to see metaphors in everything around her.  The story is also peppered with a few large words like, absconder. The book has seven chapters with 85 pages, perfect for elementary students learning to read longer books.

Chris Van Dusen’s pen and ink illustrations are lively, expressive and entertaining. They are perfect for text.

Make sure you check out the first four books in the Deckawoo Drive series: Leroy Ninker Saddles Up,  Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon, Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln?, Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package.

Kate DiCamillo is the beloved author of many books for young readers, including the Mercy Watson and Tales from Deckawoo Drive series. Her books Flora & Ulysses, and The Tale of Despereaux both received Newbery Medals. Her first published middle grade novel, Because of Winn-Dixie, snapped up a Newbery Honor. The Tiger Rising, her second novel, also went on to become a National Book Award finalist.  She has almost 30 million books in print worldwide. She is a former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the MMGM link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy from the publisher in exchange for a review.

Egg or Eyeball? by Cece Bell

Egg of Eyeball?

Cece Bell, Author and Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Mar. 8 2020

Pages: 72

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes:  Animals, Humor, Cartoons

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Oh! Oh, oh, oh! Look what Brain found. Chick and Spot say it is an egg. Brain says it is an eyeball. Is it an egg or an eyeball? The inimitable Cece Bell is back with a second hilarious primer on good manners gone awry and arguments run amok. Perfectly pitched to kids just learning to read and loaded with verbal and visual comedy, this offbeat graphic story by a master of the genre builds to an exhilaratingly absurd surprise ending.

Why I like this book:

Silly…Silly…Silly!  Just what children will adore most about this book.  Brain is once again in a tug-a-war with Chick and Spot, over an eyeball he found. The entertaining banter and rising tension will keep kids giggling until the surprise ending.

There are four chapters in this graphic story. Kids will enjoy the hilarious cartoon-like appearance and easily make out the repetitive words and sentences in each bubble — a great way to help children sound out and remember new words. The book is an early chapter book and will help them transition to more challenging books.

Verdict: Egg or Eyeball? is a rollicking summer read!

Cece Bell is the author-illustrator of the Geisel Honor Books Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot! and Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover, as well as the Newbery Honor Book El Deafo. She is also the creator of the Sock Monkey picture books and Chuck and Woodchuck. Cece Bell learned to read with Dick and Jane, and now she hopes children will learn to read with Chick and Brain. She lives in Virginia with her family.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for a review.

Mia Mayhem Breaks Down Walls by Kara West

Mia Mayhem Breaks Down Walls (Book 4)

Kara West, Author

Leeza Hernandez, Illustrator

Little Simon, Fiction, Jul. 16, 2019

Suitable for Ages:  5-9

Themes: Superhero, Learning to use powers, Chaos, Friendship

Opening: My room is a mess. I’m digging around in my closet because I’ve ripped another shoelace.

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Mia is determined to be the best in her top secret strength-training class, Program for In Training Superheroes (PITS), so she can learn how to lift cars, and climb super tall buildings! But when her own super strength gets the better of her, she ends up causing absolute mayhem — everywhere. Will Mia be able to rebuild the walls she broke down at PITS, one-by-one?

Why I like this book:

Mia Mayhem is a perfect chapter book series that will captivate the hearts and imaginations of young readers who are transitioning from picture books. The language is simple, with short sentences. The print is bold and a little larger, making reading easier. The writing is fast-paced with a lot of action to satisfy readers.  The plot is simple and deals with everyday real-life situations for kids, like panic, clumsiness and friendship. And, their are places with bold words, like “CRASH!…SNAP…BAM…SPLOSH!” will entertain young readers.

Mia is a spunky, high-energy character, who creates a lot of chaos in her wake.  She is strong and ambitious, and kind.  At regular school, she is regular Mia Macarooney, and keeps her hero status a secret. “I admit, sometimes I wish I could tell the whole world, But as a superhero, I need to protect my secret identity.” Her ego is well intact, after all she is able “to save the day before the day even starts.”  Mia’s best friend Eddie knows her secret, and is a great side-kick in covering for her when she accidentally pulls off the classroom doorknob, breaks the her desk leg and punches a hole in the gym ceiling during volleyball game. Will she get her superpowers under control. There is a great cast of diverse characters in the story.

The cartoon-like illustrations are just right for this series. They are part of the text at times, which help young readers understand the action.

Make sure you check out the Mia Mayhem series: Mia Mayhem Superhero!, Mia Mayhem Learns to Fly!, Mia Mayhem vs. the Bully!, Mia Mayhem Stops Time!

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Warren and Dragon: Scary Sleepover by Ariel Bernstein

Warren and Dragon: Scary Sleepover, Book 4

Ariel Bernstein, Author

Mike Malbrough, Illustrator

Viking Books for Young Readers, Jun. 25, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Pages: 90

Themes: Sleepover, Fears, Homesickness, Family relationships, Imaginary friends

Opening: Some people might think that having a dragon for a pet is scary. I guess it sounds like it might be scary, because of the fire breathing and all, but I have a dragon for a pet and most of the time it’s pretty normal. Except when Dragon does his weird dancing jig. That’s always terrifying… He’s my pet.

Book Synopsis:

Warren’s friend Michael just got a cool new tent as a present. It’s too cold to go camping outdoors, so Michael invites Warren over for a sleepover where they can camp inside.

At first Warren is excited. They’ll order pizza, play foosball, and make ice-cream sundaes! Then they’ll  go down to the basement, crawl into their sleeping bags inside the tent and tell scary stories. Gulp! The more Warren thinks about sleeping somewhere besides his own safe bed, the more worried he gets. And his sidekick, Dragon, isn’t exactly reassuring.

But when Warren confesses his concerns to his friend Alison, he realizes that he isn’t the only kid nervous about sleepovers. The two of them make a pact to face their fears.  But will Warren be brave enough to camp in a dark basement that creaks and groans and listen to Michael’s scary stories?

Why I like this book:

This clever new chapter book series is realistic, heartfelt and delightful.  It is the fourth Warren & Dragon chapter book by Ariel Bernstein this past year. Sleeping overnight at a friend’s house for the first time can create a lot of anxiety for children. What if I get homesick? What if I get scared? What if I embarrass myself if I want to go home?  This fast-paced book is the perfect read-aloud at home or school. It is a great discussion starter for kids nervous about sleepovers.

Bernstein tackles this early right-of-passage with humor and authenticity. Warren’s character is a tad quirky and naïve, but believable. He is opposite of his outgoing twin sister. Warren’s imaginary marshmallow-loving, side-kick, Dragon, is quite the prankster and is good for many chuckles. Warren’s friendship with Alison is supportive as they come up with a pact and a plan. Mike Malbrough’s pen and ink illustrations are expressive and fun.

I like that the author shows diverse families with Warren’s friend, Michael, having two moms.  It’s always special when kids can see a family like theirs, whether it is a single parent, grandparent, two dads, or in this case two moms. Kudos to the author.

Ariel Bernstein loved sleepovers growing up, and was only afraid there wouldn’t be enough pizza and ice cream. Other books in the series include: Warren & Dragon 100 Friends; Warren & Dragon Weekend with Chewy; and Warren & Dragon Volcano Deluxe. She is also the author of I Have a Balloon and Where is my Balloon? Visit Bernstein at her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Copy reviewed from a library copy.

A Case for Buffy (Detective Gordon) by Ulf Nilsson

A Case for Buffy (Detective Gordon)

Ulf Nilsson, Author

Gitte Spee, Illustrator

Gekko Press, Fiction, Aug. 1, 2018

Pages: 105

Suitable for Ages: 6-10

Themes: Animals, Forest, Police Station, Detectives, Mystery, Adventure

Opening: In the forest was a small police station. Any animal with a problem could go there for help. It was painted red with white windowsills and had smoke coiling up from the chimney to the sky.  There was a garden too, and a lawn and currant bushes.

Synopsis:

Two police officers, Detective Gordon is snoozing while Detective Buffy is busy reviewing police reports — a missing blue scarf, a naughty child littering in the meadow, a lost hedgehog, and an angry grandfather badger who bullies a little mouse. Buffy organizes the cases and takes care of ordering new cakes — coconut, banana, nougat, and mint chip for the office cake tins.

When a small baby toad (Sune) and a little baby mouse (Gertrude) from the local kindergarten hop into the police station and ask to be police helpers, Detective Gordon sees an opportunity to interact positively with the younger members of the forest. He teaches them about policing, the law, saluting, creeping quietly around the forest, and investigating deep crannies. They are rewarded with paper police hats.

Detective Buffy remembers the day she came to the police station, but she can’t remember why. Her memories slowly begin to return and she remembers she lost her mother and siblings in a catastrophe involving a fox on Cave Island. The two detectives and two baby police set out to investigate their biggest case ever. What happened to Buffy’s mother and 15 siblings? Will they outsmart a fox?

Why I like this book:

Swedish author Ulf Nilsson has written an enchanting and heartwarming animal detective adventure for children. A Case for Buffy is the fourth and final volume in the series. It is an early reader mystery that is humorous with age-appropriate police action. Spees’ colorful pastels fill the chapters and compliment the story with many expressive and touching moments. This book can be read as a stand-alone story.

The animal characters are endearing. Detective Gordon is an old toad (19 years) and brings professionalism, wisdom and compassion to the story. He also likes to snooze. Detective Buffy is a young mouse who shows up at the station one night. She is so happy about having a job and a home, that she’s suppressed some memories about her past. Detective Gordon makes her his assistant. She is organized and thoughtful. Fox is sneaky and can cause a lot of damage — the reason Detective Gordon has driven Fox out of his own police district.  Gordon realizes later, “If you simply drive your danger away, it becomes someone else’s danger.” Sweet nuggets of wisdom like this one are shared throughout the story.

A Case for Buffy has classic appeal and reminds me of books I read as a child. It is charming read-aloud to younger children, but is designed for more advanced readers who like adventure and action. Children don’t need to read the first books, to understand the story. Although I highly recommend reading the entire series, which will be a hit at home.

Ulf Nilsson is a celebrated Swedish children’s writer who has written over twenty books for all ages. He has written this series, Detective Gordon: The First Case, A Complicated Case (Detective Gordon), and A Case in Any Case (Detective Gordon). He has received the prestigious August award and the American Batchelder Award.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Dust Storm! (Survivor Diaries) by Terry Lynn Johnson

Dust Storm! (Survivor Diaries #4)

Terry Lynn Johnson, Author

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fiction, Nov. 6, 2018

Pages: 128

Suitable for Ages: 7-10

Themes: Dust Storm, Desert, New Mexico, Lost, Knowledge, Survival Skills, Courage

Synopsis:

Sixth-graders Jen Chiu and Martin Diaz are geared up to participate in one of the most exciting geocaching field trips ever in New Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert.  Former best friends, Jen wants to find all of the caches before Martin does. When their van gets a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, the students help the teacher pass out water bottles and set up a tarp next to the bus for shade. Jen returns her backpack to the bus and discovers Martin peeking into the teacher’s briefcase to get the latitudes and longitudes for the upcoming competition. He darts from the bus to the trailer and grabs his mountain bike and takes off. Jen grabs her bike from the trailer and races after him.

When Jen catches up with Martin, she sees a wall of dirt rise high into the air.  A dust storm. They ride as fast as they can to stay ahead of it, but the blinding dust storm overpowers them. They are knocked off their bikes when they ride off a cliff they can’t see. Nothing looks familiar. The dust burns their eyes and skin, and is gritty in their mouths. They are far from their group and in the desert alone. They don’t have water, food, tools, proper clothing, sunglasses, and survival gear. They left their backpacks on the bus. Jen and Martin are lost. Night is falling, coyotes are calling, and small critters are crawling. They will have to use all of their knowledge and grit to survive.

Why I like this book:

Dust Storm! Survivor Diaries is a great adventure series that will get kids, especially reluctant readers, interested in reading. Terry Lynn Johnson has written a fast-paced series that is authentic and fun to read. Pen and ink drawings add to the drama of what is unfolding in the story.

The plot is engaging and the tension palpable. Dust Storm! focuses on Jen and Martin using skills they know after they get caught in a desert dust storm and become disoriented. What do they do first? How much time do they have before they become dehydrated? How do they  stay calm? What skills do they need most?

Dust Storm! is the fourth book in the Survivor Diaries. This series will have huge kid-appeal because the element of danger and the universal need to know what to do if you are unexpectedly caught in a situation where your life depends upon what you know. Johnson’s words of real-life advice are clear: Stay calm. Stay Smart. Survive. This is an important story for kids and families who like to hike to read together. It is also an excellent classroom book that belongs in every school library.

Johnson stories are inspired by true events. She began researching this desert story after she learning about two separate tragedies involving tourists who both died from dehydration after trying to walk for help after a car became stuck on a back road.

Resources: The best part of Johnson’s Survivor Diaries is that backmatter she includes: Survival Tips if you get you get lost and the bare essentials you need to carry while hiking a wilderness trail. After you’ve read the book, readers can visit her website to play the interactive Game – Will You Survive? 

Terry Lynn Johnson, author of Ice Dogs, Sled Dog School, and the Survivor Diaries (Overboard, Avalanche, Lost and Dust Storm) series, has lived in northern Ontario, Canada, for more than forty years. Before becoming a conservation officer, she worked for twelve years as a canoe-ranger warden in a large wilderness park. Visit Johnson at her website.

Greg Pattridge is the permanent host for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Purchased Copy.