Monthly Archives: January 2015

Belly Up

Belly Up
book cover of Belly up by Stuart Gibbs

Belly Up

Title: Belly Up
Author: Stuart Gibbs
Series: n/a
Recommended for: 4th-7th grades
Pages: 294
Call Number/Link:  J FICTION GIBBS, S. 

Synopsis: Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt Fitzroy is a 12 year old heck raising wild child who find himself at the center of a mystery, a murder mystery. Henry, the hippopotamus, the mascot of the brand new adventure park FunJungle is dead.  This jerk of a hippo is dead and none of the adults seem to care to ask why.  Fitz joins forces with Summer McCraken, a fiesty girl with secrets of her own to solve the murder of a mascot and to find the dark secrets of the “happiest zoo on earth” 


Belly Up is a noir-style detective thriller packaged in the clothes of a lark-filled Wimpy kid-style juvie novel. Belly Up is a darker book; more in line with the works of Elmore Leonard than Jeff Kinney. It’s dark, not so much in the classic sense of “adorable side-kick animal dies to teach the hero a lesson” typical of most ‘Death by Newbery’ novels but more in that animals die and the villain deliberately tries to kill the hero and his family more than once.


Despite my classification as dark, the book is never gloom and doom—though there are a few moments of worry from the hero due to circumstances. Stuart Gibbs employs a light touch in the mystery, seemingly influenced by another juvie author Carl Hiaasen. In many ways this feels similar to “Hoot,” and could be recommended as such. Hero Teddy Fitzroy is not weighed down by the gravity of the mystery around him but empowered. The comic elements are strong, with Henry the Hippo being just enough of a jerk that his death comes across as unfortunate rather than tragic.


Overall I would suggest this book for 4th grade and up. The perilous elements—including the risk of deadly snake bite and a wild cat attack might be too intense for younger viewers. Additionally the resolution of the plot includes the mentioning of several animals being killed as a part of a smuggling plot, which could be upsetting to some readers. While having a male protagonist, the story would work well for either gender.

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Posted by on January 29, 2015 in Adventure, Funny, Juv, Mysteries, Realistic


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The Baby Tree

The Baby Tree book jacket


Title:   The Baby Tree
Author:   Sophie Blackall
Series:   none
Recommended for:   children ages 4-8 and their parents
Pages:   unpaged (probably about 32 pages)
Call Number/Link:   E BLACK


Synopsis:   After learning that his parents are expecting a baby, a young boy asks several people where babies come from and gets a different answer from each before his parents have a chance to give the right answer. Includes advice on answering questions about reproduction.

Rating:   ****

Comments:  I wonder how many patrons will borrow this “cute book about babies” and get more than they bargained for.  It isn’t clear from the whimsical cover that it actually provides sex education

When the child asks various adults where babies come from, their responses to his question include the idea that people plant a seed and it turns into a Baby Tree, babies come from the hospital, a stork delivers them, and that they come from eggs.

When he finally asks his parents, they explain the truth in an age-appropriate way.

This is a good source of information for parents to share with children, but parents might want to pre-read the book before reading it out loud to their kids.

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Posted by on January 26, 2015 in Picture Books


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Penny From Heaven


  Title: Penny From Heaven
  Author: Jennifer Holm
  Series: None
  Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  Pages: 274
  Call Number/Link:  J HOL


 It’s 1953 and 11-year-old Penny dreams of a summer of butter pecan ice cream, swimming, and     baseball. But nothing’s that easy in Penny’s family. For starters, she can’t go swimming because her mother’s afraid she’ll catch polio at the pool. To make matters worse, her favorite uncle is living in a car. Her Nonny cries every time her father’s name is mentioned. And the two sides of her family aren’t speaking to each other.  Penny also gains new insights into herself and her family while also learning a secret about her father’s death.

This book was our Girls Read Selection for January and although I have read the book before and was a fan I was not sure the girls would react the same way.  Historical fiction doesn’t appeal to everyone, but this book was a hit. The story has a little bit of everything, with relationships (especially between the two sides of her family), the historical aspects, and a little bit of mystery.  Most of all this Newberry Honor winner had the girls wanting a sequel and declaring it would be a great movie.  High praise from a 10 year old. Good suggestion for someone looking for historical fiction, but hesitant about the genre.   I would recommend it mainly for girls, but don’t rule it out for boys because of Penny’s relationship with her cousin Frankie.

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Posted by on January 26, 2015 in Historical, Juv, Realistic


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Rain Reign

rain reign
Title: Rain Reign

Author:  Ann M. Martin
Series: none
Recommended for: 3rd-6th grade
Pages: 226
Call Number/Link: J FICTION MARTIN, A.


Rose Howard has OCD, Asperger’s syndrome, and an obsession with homonyms. She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms. Rose and Rain are practically inseparable. And they are often home alone, as Rose’s father spends most evenings at a bar, and doesn’t have much patience for his special-needs daughter. Just as a storm hits town, Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search.

This book was a wonderful story of a girl you can’t help liking, although she has a hard time making friends in school due to her special needs.  Her relationship with her dog and her uncle keep her grounded, and give her normalcy compared to her dysfunctional relationship with her dad.  I enjoyed reading Rose’s story and would enjoy reading more about her.

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Posted by on January 26, 2015 in Juv, Realistic


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Raindrops Roll

raindrops roll

Title: Raindrops Roll

Author: April Pulley Sayre
Series: None
Recommended for: Preschool-1
Pages: 40
Call Number/Link: E 551.48 SAY

Synopsis: Poetic book that has great realistic pictures about rain and plants in the outdoors. Simple action verbs to keep young readers engaged who are interested in science or nature. 

I loved the realistic photographs in the picture book.  This book is good to recommend for showing realistic visuals of how rain appears on plants in the outdoors. Boys and girls alike will want to look at these great photographs related to nature.  Excellent read aloud for people who want to keep young readers engaged. An appealing book for teachers,parents and caregivers because it implies information about the water cycle and nature.

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Posted by on January 23, 2015 in Non-Fiction, Picture Books, Realistic


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The Mother-Daughter Book Club


Title: The Mother-Daughter Book Club
Author: Heather Vogel-Frederick
Series: The Mother-Daughter Book Club
Recommended for: 4th thru 7th grade
Pages: 236
Call Number/Link: J FRE

Synopsis: “When the mothers of four sixth-grade girls with very different personalities pressure them into forming a book club, they find, as they read and discuss “Little Women,” that they have much more in common than they could have imagined. ”

I chose this book because it has to do with mothers and daughters, and it is the beginning of a series.  I love to read a continuing series.  I finished this book having mixed feelings.  I read the reviews on Novelist Plus, and together they mentioned most of what I was feeling.  I like the idea of the moms and girls having a club.  I liked how the girls ended up having each others’ backs in the end.  I did not appreciate how the author had the characters negatively discuss the large behind of the town’s librarian.  Her weight was mentioned often. I thought some of the plotlines for each girl were unrealistic, yet others involving cliques rang very true.  Having never read Little Women, I cannot say how well the book used the happenings from Little Women to further the storyline. I do think that this book could inspire girls to form their own book club, hopefully not using the book’s club as too much of an example.  It may inspire them to read Little Women, although there are spoilers discussed at the book club (Beth dies?!) I would point it out but not strongly recommend the book if I had a girl searching for something to read.  I do plan on reading the next book or two in the series to see if the author changes her approach to the storylines and the characters.

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Posted by on January 22, 2015 in Juv, Realistic


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Girl, Stolen

girl, stolen jacketTitle: Girl, Stolen
Author: April Henry
Series: n/a
Recommended for: Grades 7 – 10
Pages: 213 pages
Call Number/Link: TEEN FICTION HENRY, A.

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of the car while her stepmom fills a prescription for antibiotics. Before Cheyenne realizes what’s happening, the car is being stolen.

Griffin hadn’t meant to kidnap Cheyenne and once he finds out that not only does she have pneumonia, but that she’s blind, he really doesn’t know what to do. When his dad finds out that Cheyenne’s father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes–now there’s a reason to keep her.

How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare?

I liked this book because it has a fast pace, likable characters, strong female character and it’s interesting. The author does an alternating first person point of view for each chapter. You are able to see how Cheyenne and Griffin are feeling about the situation. The whole time you are wondering what is going to happen to Cheyenne and what role is Griffin going to play?  Cheyenne is blind so she has to use her other senses to help her throughout this ordeal. Griffin on the other hand has an internal fight about how to handle this situation that he has gotten himself in.


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Posted by on January 21, 2015 in Realistic, Teen


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