Rummanah Aasi
  School registration is currently in full force. Thankfully, I survived the first day.  I've read and finished quite a number of children's books. My reviews of these books are starting to pile up so I thought I would do a few pithy mini-reviews for you. All of these books are found on this year's Illinois School Library Media Association's (ISLMA) Bluestem Reading Award and Rebecca Caudill. For the full list of books nominated by school librarians, teachers, and students, click here for Bluestem Awards and click here for Rebecca Caudill Awards. Today I'll be reviewing The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger, Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein, and Dark Life by Kat Falls.

Description (from the Publisher): Sixth-grader Tommy and his friends describe their interactions with a paper finger puppet of Yoda, worn by their weird classmate Dwight, as they try to figure out whether or not the puppet can really predict the future. Includes instructions for making Origami Yoda.

Review:  Tommy and his friends think that Dwight is a weirdo who's always talking about robots or spiders or something. In true Dwight fashion, he shows up at school one day with his latest creation, a little origami Yoda finger puppet. Origami Yoda is not like Dwight at all as it doles out bits of wisdom to Tommy and his friends. The mystery of the book is whether the Yoda is just Dwight talking in a funny voice or if it actually has mystical powers. Told from a collection of stories gathered by Tommy and told by kids who either believe or don't in Origami Yoda. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is a quirky, fast paced book that sure to please many Star War fans.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: Mild boy humor, but otherwise relatively clean. Recommended for Grades 3-6.

If you like this book try: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger

Description (from the Publisher): When a scrappy alley cat named Aldwyn passes himself off as a magical animal companion to Jack, a young wizard in training, Aldwyn and his fellow "familiars," a know-it-all blue jay and bumbling tree frog, must save the kingdom after the evil queen of Vastia kidnaps Jack and two other wizards.

Review: The Familiars is a great choice for young readers who may be too young for Harry Potter. Just imagine Harry Potter and other popular fantasy series where the animals or familiars take center stage. The book contains your usual trope of a children's fantasy book. Characters who are trying to prove themselves and gaining self confidence as well as coming together to fit a big evil.  The consistently suspenseful narrative moves quickly and is full of twists and turns. The great combination of action and humor will keep readers' attention. For me, I don't really take an interest in animal driven stories, but I do several kids who would eagerly line up and read this one.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 3 to 7.

If you like this book try: Secrets of the Crown (Familiars #2) by Adam Jay Epstein, Warriors series by Erin Hunter

Description (from the Publisher): When fifteen-year-old Ty, who has always lived on the ocean floor, joins Topside girl Gemma in the frontier's underworld to seek and stop outlaws who threaten his home, they learn that the government may pose an even greater threat.

Review: Dark Life is essentially your typical western that takes place in the ocean. Sixteen-year-old Ty is the first child born to the pioneers who live in the depths of the ocean. He has little to no patience for topsiders (aka land dwellers) until he meets feisty Gemma, who immediately enlists his help to locate her missing older brother. The heroes and villains are fairly easy to detect and the plot was too predictable for me, but those who are interested in marine life and what would it be like living under the sea would find this book worthwhile.

Words of Caution: PG violence otherwise pretty clean. Recommended for strong Grade 5 readers and up.  

If you like this book try: Riptide by Kat Falls, Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi , Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi, Stuck on Earth by David Klass
4 Responses
  1. The Familiars sounds like a story my brother might be interested in so I'll have to see if a copy of it is available at my library. Thanks, Rummanah!

  2. Must make a plug for the Abraham Lincoln, the High School book award in Illinois! You can get to the list from and most of the books have been reviewed on my blog. Love lots of the Caudills too. Great post!

  3. Candace Says:

    The Familiars has been on my tbr for awhile but I haven't read it just yet. I haven't heard of Dark Life but it sounds like one my daughter might enjoy when she's a litlle older. Thanks for the quick reviews!

  4. I've always wondered about Origami Yoda, glad you reviewed it. And the Familiars. I read a lot about their books when they first came out and wondered just how good they were. Average. I've never heard of the last one but it sounds like it's for an older reader. My 15 yr old read Ship Breaker. But this story sounds a bit simple for him. What do you think? Don't worry about answering me right away. I know what you're up against right now. I can't believe you're not taking a break right now! Take care. Breathe! One day down....


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