Pip Bartlett's Guide to Unicorn Training is Witty Fun for Young Animal Lovers

PIP BARTLETT’S GUIDE TO UNICORN TRAINING is the second book in Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pearce’s whimsical Pip Bartlett series. I have not read the first book, PIP BARTLETT’S GUIDE TO MAGICAL CREATURES, but I had no problem following along in this fun, cute, and witty sequel.

Pip Bartlett assists her Aunt Emma in her job as a vet. However, these aren’t cats and dogs coming to the clinic – these are magical creatures like Rockshines, Griffins, and Greater Rainbow Minks. Never heard of them? Don’t worry – there are full-page textbook entries with pictures of each species throughout the book, so it’s easy to keep them straight.

Pip has a special skill to aid her in her work: she can speak with these creatures as easily as speaking with a friend. And they’re full of personality.


The latest NOTEBOOK OF DOOM installment is great fun for early readers!

My nephew has loved Troy Cummings’ Notebook of Doom series for a couple years now. So when I noticed the eleventh book in the series, SNEEZE OF THE OCTO-SCHNOZZ, was available for review, I had to check it out.

The Notebook of Doom series features Alexander and his friends – members of the exclusive S.S.M.P. (Super Secret Monster Patrol) – as they hunt down monsters in their neighborhood and school.

In OCTO-SCHNOZZ, there’s a honking, stinky monster afoot – and it’s stealing rotten food! Alexander and his friends must work together to take down this smelly fiend, chasing it all the way to their newest member, Dottie’s, mini golf birthday party. If that’s not bad enough, Alexander is forced to attend private classes with their mean – and possibly monstrous – principal, Ms. Vanderpants.



The Bad Guys #1

I think I have a new favorite Middle Grade series!

THE BAD GUYS by Aaron Blabey is just so FUN! In this new middle grade graphic novel series (I read the original BAD GUYS and the second installment, MISSION UNPLUCKABLE), Mr. Wolf sets out to show once and for all that he is NOT a bad guy! Along with three other antiheroes – Mr. Snake, Mr. Piranha, and Mr. Shark, they set out to prove that they’re more than their stereotypes. Starting “The Good Guys’ Club,” these four friends set out to rescue a cat from a tree and spring some dogs loose from the pound (I mean, if Mr. Snake can stop trying to eat Mr. Piranha).


What Happens When a Squirrel Discovers the Wheel? Evolution Revolution!

Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines by Charlotte Bennardo

Jack is a squirrel who's just a little bit smarter than others. He knows how to avoid traps, and he knows how to get around barriers to bird feeders. And he knows that the young boy, Collin, who sits outside in his wheelchair, will feed him treats.

He also knows that when the big yellow machines show up, it means more trees will be torn down and more human dens will appear. And now the big machines have shown up at the edge of the woods where his nest is.

But Jack -- so named by Collin -- has also learned something. He's learned what a wheel is, how it works -- and how it can be stopped. Using this tiny bit of knowledge, Squirrel communicates to the rest of the forest creatures and organizes them to work together to stop the machines from threatening their homes and their lives. But as Jack and the other animals are about to discover: a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Because humans don't like to lose.



Username: Regenerated Returns Readers to Digital Fantasy World

Username Regenerated

Fantasy stories that find a person transported to another world have always been a staple in the industry. Whether the protagonist walks through a wardrobe or falls down a rabbit hole, falls asleep in a cave of mists (like Edgar Rice Burroughs' A PRINCESS OF MARS) or gets swallowed by a hippo at the zoo (Brandon Mull's BEYONDERS), the method is usually nothing more than a convenient story device to get Person A to Plot B for the sake of expediency so the action can begin.


BLACK FLOWERS, WHITE LIES is a Creepy, Ghostly New Psychological Thriller

Black Flowers White Lies

BLACK FLOWERS, WHITE LIES by Yvonne Ventresca (Sky Pony Press) is a creepy, psychological thriller about a girl whose life is upheaved when she learns her mother may have lied about her father’s death – and life.

Despite the fact that her father died before she was born, Ella Benton always felt a connection with him. Deeper than their shared love of animals, she believes her father has been her guardian angel ever since a mysterious voice shouted her name as a child, saving her from stepping into what became a car wreck.


KOOKABUK - Half Picture Book, Half Parenting Guide

When I picked up KOOKABUK SHARES HIS SHOVEL by Kevin Howard and Jesse Howard (illustrated by Lorian Dean), I was expecting a didactic book for children that teaches about sharing. As someone who hated “lesson” books as a child, I was a bit hesitant.

However, this book is way more than that. Half picture book, half parenting guide, KOOKABUK demonstrates how to navigate difficult situations when your child is on the autism spectrum or has a developmental disability.

In this story, Emily – a neuro-typical child (a child without developmental disabilities) – befriends Kookabuk, a child on the autism spectrum, at the park. But they struggle when Kookabuk won’t share his shovel with Emily. Kookabuk’s mother implements several strategies, and soon all three are playing happily together.


Looking for the Next Big Thing in YA? Scot Westerfeld's HORIZON is it.

There are two words that will always make me pick up a book to read it: "Scott" and "Westerfeld." So it was a given that when Scholastic sent me the advance of HORIZON, I was going to read it. And now that I have, I can safely say, "So should you."

HORIZON is more than the name of the airline that crashes early in the book, carrying a high school robotics team among other passengers. But this is no ordinary crash. The survivors survive because they were chosen to survive, crashing in a jungle that is passing strange -- and not just because the plane was flying over the North Pole (en route to Japan) when it went down.

Are they wildly off course? Are they even on Earth anymore? The questions and theories build as this unique group of kids encounter unusual plants, unrecorded species of animals, and technology that defies anything known to man.




Like the fictional Fox Mulder of THE X FILES, I want to believe. Since I was a kid I would eat up all the writings of J. Allen Hyneck and Erich von Daniken. It didn't hurt that it was the heyday of Stephen Spielberg's wildly successful CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND and the television film adaptation of Barney and Betty Hill.

So I've read just about everything that could possibly be interesting about UFOs. Not.

Because now David J. Hogan has released the UFO FAQ through Backbeat Books, and it lives up to its subtitle: All That's Left to Know About Roswell, Aliens, Whirling Discs, and Flying Saucers.


DK Preps Moviegoers in Advance with Mysterious Worlds of Doctor Strange

Mysterious Worlds of Doctor Strange

Just in time for the release of Marvel's latest superhero epic, DOCTOR STRANGE, comes this DK tome dedicated to THE MYSTERIOUS WORLDS OF DOCTOR STRANGE.

As with nearly every DK book I've ever read, this collection by Billy Wrecks and Danny Graydon (with a foreword by comics writing icon, Roger Stern) succeeds in being exhaustive yet condensed, providing the reader with access to just about everything that has touched Doctor Stephen Strange's life since he became the Master of the Mystic Arts. Hardcover with gilt-edged pages (a nice touch!), this oversized book takes readers on an encyclopedic tour of Strange's origins, his allies, his associates, his enemies, and the notable turning points in his life.


Of Kangaroo Kisses and Hippo Headaches

Nandana's muse for Kangaroo Kisses, her niece, Hiya.

by Nandana Dev Sen

Well, it all started with a rather ordinary bath, and a naughty little girl called Hiya. When asked to get out of the tub and go to bed, my niece noisily turned the tap on. "Two more minutes!" she yelled over the water. "I’m just NOT clean enough yet for bed!" Then – a succession of "two more" minutes later -- when I finally handed her a hippo-headed toothbrush, out burst another loud protest. "Two more minutes, Toom-Ma!" She flashed her almond-shaped eyes at me with reproach. "My hippottamouse has a bad headache, you see – if I brush my teeth now it’ll only get WORSE! We have to wait for it to go away!"


All the Wrong Messages in Pig the Pug

Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey

At first blush, PIG THE PUG is a cute story set to rhyme about a greedy pug dog who refuses to share with his fellow housemate, a happy little dachshund named Trevor. So he piles all his toys up and sits on them like he's king of the castle.

At second blush, there's a little too much schadenfreude at Pig's ultimate fate after he falls from his perch -- and out a window that's higher than the first floor, resulting in Trevor getting to play with all the toys while Pig recuperates in a body cast.


Tan's THE SINGING BONES Seduces Readers with Compelling Imagery and Stories

Shaun Tan has simultaneously mesmerized and confounded readers with his surreal fables like TALES FROM OUTER SUBURBIA and THE ARRIVAL. His use of imagery and text -- and sometimes complete absence of text -- deliver artistic works of bizarre elegance.

Thus it is with THE SINGING BONES, a collection of snippets from the Grimm Fairy Tales juxtaposed with photos of sculpture created and photographed by Tan. With every turn of the page, readers are treated to a compelling passage of a fairy tale -- hardly ever the whole story but enough of it to feel as though you've experienced something important -- placed in parallel with an illustrative photograph that supports the passage in a way that is perfectly grotesque and stunningly beautiful.


Run, Run Gingerbread Boy!

Kid's Book Elisa Kleven Gingerbread Boy


The Horribly Hungry Gingerbread Boy: A San Francisco Story by Elisa Kleven is a wonderful newly-imagined romp through a classic tale. Everybody knows the Gingerbread Man tale and each generation has a retelling of the same story, ie cookie comes to life, causes mayhem, ends abruptly, usually in someone’s stomach. In this version of the folk tale, we are allowed a completely unique look at the boy who cried ginger and a bold location with a ton of personality.


Good Morning Superman Latest Edition of Michael Dahl Superhero Readers

Good Morning Superman

Sometimes, when I get up in the morning, I certainly feel as though the effort to do so is a superhuman one.

Serving as an excellent companion piece to his previous book, BEDTIME FOR BATMAN, Michael Dahl's GOOD MORNING, SUPERMAN retains the look established by the animated television series, this time with Omar Lozano illustrating the examples.

As with BEDTIME FOR BATMAN, the narrative follows the morning rituals of a young boy preparing to tackle the day, with a direct comparison to the activities of the Man of Steel undertaking an adventure. There are duties to be performed, and friends who will assist you as Supergirl and Krypto show up to lend a hand.


DC Comics Covergirls a Thing of Beauty, Flaws and All

DC Comics Covergirls by Louise Simonson, cover by Adam Hughes

Being a comic book trivia geek, I love books featuring comic book trivia. Being blessed/cursed with a Y-chromosome and a heteronormative perspective, I also happen to love comic books that feature female artwork on the cover. Good girl, bad girl, it doesn't matter.

So how could I pass up the opportunity to review Louise Simonson's DC COMICS COVERGIRLS, a collection of some of the best of the best featuring DC Comics (or is it DC Entertainment these days?) heroines, villainesses, and supporting characters? The answer, of course, is that I couldn't, especially when it's as big as a coffee table and sporting a gorgeous Adam Hughes' cover.


Review of Jennifer Nielsen’s The Scourge

The Scourge by Jennifer Nielsen

Even though this book is called The Scourge, it is anything but. For fans of Jennifer Nielsen’s The False Prince, they will find a similar love in Ani and Weevil the stars of her latest dystopian middle grade novel. And if you haven’t checked out The False Prince, I highly recommend it alongside The Scourge.

The Scourge follows the story of Ani Mells, a bit of a troublemaker, who finds herself captured by the governor’s wardens. When her best friend Weevil tries to rescue her, the wardens arrest him as well. In prison, the governor has Ani tested for the scourge, a deadly plague that is ravaging her country. When her tests surprisingly (or not) come back positive, she is sent to a colony where scourge victims live out their remaining days before death. Weevil manages to weasel himself onto the boat to the colony alongside his friend despite remaining untested from the scourge.


Kangaroo Kisses - a Cute Bedtime Story

Kangaroo Kisses

In KANGAROO KISSES, an adorable new picture book written by Nandana Dev Sen and illustrated by Pippa Curnick, a mother struggles to get her daughter ready for bed - when all the little girl wants to do is daydream about her favorite animals. 

Told in a familiar whimsical rhyming style that was always my favorite as a child, Kangaroo Kisses is a short and fun tale perfect for bedtime.

"It's late, darling, hush! 
Let's find your toothbrush. 

Not yet! 

Elephant must floss, 
To make his tusk gloss."

Curnick brings colorful and friendly animals to life on the page, from bears to giraffes to geese to kangaroos, and the illustrations are beautiful. Sometimes I find picture books to be too verbose - especially for sleepy children at bedtime - but this one manages a great balance of minimal words and full-page illustrations. 

I highly recommend this one! Super cute, and definitely an author/illustrator duo to watch. 


THE NINJABREAD MAN One Tough Cookie for Opponents

The Ninjabread Man

When a kind old sensei wants to do something special for his four students -- Ninja Bear, Ninja Snake, Ninja Mouse and Ninja Fox -- he works through the night on a special tasty recipe of ninjabread. When he opens the oven, however, he is unprepared for the surprise awaiting him.

C.J. Leigh's retelling of the classic fairy tale stays true to the original while giving it a whole new flavor by decorating it with ninja martial arts. With the successes of KUNG FU PANDA and its knockoffs, THE NINJABREAD MAN is a natural choice for younger readers who may, at their tender ages, already be too world-wise to sit through the tale of an old lady baking cookies.


Bedtime for Batman Successfully Reaches Younger Superheroes

Bedtime for Batman

Would you believe that bedtime could be the start of a great adventure?

That's the underlying theme of BEDTIME FOR BATMAN, the picture book from Michael Dahl and Ethen Beavers that tells two parallel stories using the same set of text and contrasted images.

On one page, you see the young protagonist, as he makes his preparations for the night. On the other page, there is Batman. For the boy, the signal is the clock (cleverly drawn), while for Batman the signal is the spotlight that shines his symbol on the clouds. Both have to clean things up and lock things away, and the juxtaposition of the images is genius -- and engaging -- turning bedtime into adventure time.


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