Rummanah Aasi
  The last few weeks of the school year are chaotic. 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. For the full list of books nominated by school librarians, teachers, and students, click here. Today I'll be reviewing Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford, The Shadows by Jacqueline West, and The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch.

Description: When ten-year-old Newton dresses up as an unusual superhero for Halloween, he decides to keep wearing the costume after the holiday to help save townspeople and eventually his injured brother.

Review: Newton, commonly known as Newt amongst friends and family, has always been in the shadow of his older brother, Chris, the star football player. He goes unnoticed by his workaholic parents and by his classmates at school. After Chris is seriously injured in a game, Newt begins to emerge from his usual anonymity. In the days that follow, he wears the cape and mask of his made-up Halloween persona, Captain Nobody, where he finds his confidence and importance. He is called for help in foiling a jewelry store robbery, clearing a landing path for a plane in distress, and climbing a water tower to save another boy. While his heroic actions are far from realistic, I did love reading this story of an underdog who found a way to prove that he is unique and special. Captain Nobody is a feel good book and is sure to be a great find for kids who love superheroes and who want to be one.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades

If you like this book try: How Oliver Olson Changed the World by Claudia Mills, Powerless by Matthew Cody

Description: When eleven-year-old Olive and her distracted parents move into an old Victorian mansion, Olive finds herself ensnared in a dark plan involving some mysterious paintings, a trapped and angry nine-year-old boy, and three talking cats.

Review: The plot of this book is very familiar amongst readers who enjoy a light fantasy with a few touches of horror thrown in for good measure. Olive is a likable heroine, who lives in her own world. She can't contact with her weird, nerdy, absent minded mathematician parents nor can she relate to her classmates at school. While exploring her new house, she comes across odd paintings and a pair of glasses that allow her to venture inside the art to Elsewhere filled with talking cats and people who found themselves in the paintings. I really like the balance of mystery, adventure, and with just the right touch of creepiness. My favorite part of this book aren't the humans, but rather the snarky talking cats who stole the show for me. This is the first book in The Books of Elsewhere series and I do plan on coming back to this series later.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 3-6.

If you like this book try: Coraline by Neil Gaiman, The Witches by Roald Dahl

Description (from Goodreads): Warning: this description has not been authorized by Pseudonymous Bosch. As much as he'd love to sing the praises of his book (he is very vain), he wouldn't want you to hear about his brave 11-year old heroes, Cass and Max-Ernest. Or about how a mysterious box of vials, the Symphony of Smells, sends them on the trail of a magician who has vanished under strange (and stinky) circumstances. And he certainly wouldn't want you to know about the hair-raising adventures that follow and the nefarious villains they face. You see, not only is the name of this book secret, the story inside is, too. For it concerns a secret. A Big Secret.

Review: I loved the snarky tone of this book, which really reminded me of the Lemony Snicket and the Series of Unfortunate Events. Two misfit kids become an investigating duo who find a puzzling box of "smells" and a message from a dead magician. Cassandra and Max-Ernest (not their real names) embark on an exciting adventure that involves a strange notebook written in secret code, a magician who has disappeared without a trace, and a so-called "golden lady" who seems to be ageless and will do whatever she can to stay that way. It's a fun adventure story that packs plenty of chuckles, entertainment, puzzles that will keep children's attention.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 3-6

If you like this book try: If You're Reading This, It's Too Late (Secret #2) by Pseudonymous Bosch, Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson, and for a more clever and sophisticated children mystery try The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.

4 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Yeah snark! I want some snarky cats, I think they would be hugely entertaining to have around the house:) Can you imagine? Every day I could just sit and wait to see what came out of their mouths.

  2. Thanks for these reviews! The Book of Elsewhere looks especially cute. I need to read more MG. I haven't read much lately.

  3. I am a bit jealous of you getting to work in a library and read all these fun little middle grade books. I think the first one sounds adorable, a cute little underdog story and the second intrigues me. I want to meet those snarky cats. I am excited for my almost four year old to start moving into bigger books and then I will come to you for recommendations.

  4. Yay! Books I've actually heard of before! My little cousin loves Captain Nobody. I'm gonna see if I can borrow his copy. LOL

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