Thursday, March 31, 2022

What's Coming in April?

Spring is coming...or here...or maybe? Flowers, sun, and a bit of cold with the warmer breeze leave me hoping for a few steps of hiking here and there. What about you? Ready for nature to awaken and give more reason to spend time outdoors? I'm going to try to mix homeschooling with reading and with pleasure and with farm work...because that has to work out well, right?

This month is as colorful as the incoming Spring with a hodge-podge on the reading end. I have a pretty even mix of picture books, middle grade, and young adult reads. Nonfiction is swirling in stronger to add to the usual fantasy and science fiction reads in the pile. There are a few cute Easter reads, some contemporary depth, a couple do-it-yourself books, glimpses into other cultures, graphic novels, and adventure with mystery as well as a horror, too. Oh, and let's not forget that poetry! As I said—it's a hodge-podge of genres and directions, which promises something for everyone.


This is the 2nd in the series, and I read the first (amazing, right?). I did enjoy that one. So, I was definitely going to continue and see where this wholesome, down-to-earth group of friends headed next. This is one of those series to get lost in during the summer months. Find out if it's worth continuing the adventure or not on the 2nd.

Middle Grade Contemporary


With Spring, Summer and tons of free days coming up (at least, for the kids), ideas and activities which invite outdoors are high on the list. This one comes from a 2nd generation, homeschooling mom and promises tons of projects, adventures, and things to do. Peek at it with me on the 4th.

Children's Nonfiction

Yes, I was drawn in by the cover, but the blurb is amazing, too. After seeing the 5-star reviews, I wasn't about to skip this read. Promises of mystery, supernatural, romance, and haunted houses drew me in. Add that there is a 'Mother', who keeps 'kids' on different floors according to how they do her bidding, and I was raising my hand to review this one on the 7th.

Young Adult Paranormal


This one comes from a newer publisher (2018), and this one has definitely caught my eye. They seem to bring out high-quality books. So, I bounded on the chance to grab up this one, which is coming this August. It's a fantasy with a girl, the underworld, an academy, evil powers, adventure, secrets, and all of that with darker tones. It's been getting great reviews, and we'll see if I agree on the 8th.

Middle Grade Fantasy


This is one of several Easter reads I'll be tossing in for the youngest readers. Each one looks so cute! Not to mention that my fingers are itching to dye those eggs. Let's get into the season with this one on the 12th.

Board Book

Who else wouldn't mind diving into a world with aliens, a race to save Earth, advanced technology, and robot wars? Add that this one is a graphic novel, and I couldn't wait to dive into the pages. It's been SO long since I've read something like this. Blast off with me on the 13th to see if it's as good as I hope.

Young Adult Science Fiction


I've got 2 young adult, non-fiction novels this month, both based on women, who had a large impact in their fields but are often overlooked. I've played back-and-forth on which one to present in this quick-glimpse list, and this one won out due to...actually, no real reason. So, keep an eye out this month because non-fiction is blooming! This one will be posted on the 14th.

Young Adult Non-Fiction


This one simply caught my eye...maybe because we love to cook all things Asian? It promises to be a lovely read. So, join me on the 19th to learn more.

Picture Book


This one comes from the award-winning author of Small Mercies and is placed in a village in South Africa. A 12-year-old hears the story of the Canadian, who traded his way up to a house from a paperclip, and hopes he could do the same so his family can have a house big enough for them. It's supposed to be a fun read with tons of heart. I'll be presenting this one on the 27th.

Middle Grade Contemporary


This is the 3rd book in a series (which I haven't visited before because I have a tendency to jump right in) and rotates around fairy tales and, in this case, Cinderella. Now, I did have a bit of a burn-out on Cinderella retellings a few years ago, but I'm ready to dive in again and see where this one goes. Find out if this was a good decision or not on the 30th.

Young Adult Fantasy

As always, my schedule is packed to the gills, but that doesn't mean there aren't more books waiting to be read. So, here's one I'm determined to toss into the mix, but I have no idea when it will slide in yet.


April is National Poetry Month, and I have a few books on the back-up pile, waiting to find a way to squeeze in. This one contains all sorts of animal poems and should have lovely illustrations. When will I get to all of them? I have no idea, but they are worth a peek!

Mommy and Daddy's Day with Cassa Dark by Alex J. Cavanaugh

 Every so often, here on Bookworm for Kids, I present a book for all of those moms and dads out there. After all, parents like to read, too. These books are ... as far as I'm aware... completely safe to keep laying on the dining room table, when not being read, and don't need to be hidden due to child-inappropriate content. In other words, nothing worse than the average young adult read. 

Today's read comes out in just a few days and is the next in a series written by an amazing author friend. I'm just going to show you the information and if you enjoy science fiction, space, and adventure, suggest you take more than a peek.

by Alex J. Cavanaugh
Dancing Lemur Press, LLC
Science Fiction / Space Opera
226 pages

APRIL 5th!!!

His world is unraveling…


Bassan’s father is stepping down from command. His best friend almost dies when Bassan freezes. Now, he’s being sent across the galaxy to speak at an important conference. Despite saving the eleven races years ago, he’s paralyzed by doubt. Could things get any worse?


Once there, new acquaintance Zendar convinces Bassan to visit his planet for a humanitarian mission. Bassan’s special connection to ancient technology is the key to saving Zendar’s people. One problem though—it’s a prisoner planet.


On Ugar, he discovers things aren’t so straightforward. As each truth reveals itself, the situation grows more desperate. If he can’t find the right answers, he might die along with Zendar’s people. Can Bassan summon the courage to be a hero again?

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Review: The Nightmare Brigade by Franck Thilliez

 Today's read greets from France. This is a well-sold series from a well-known author, which is now being translated into English (yippee!). The second I read the blurb, I knew I had to get my hands on this one. It came out end of February and promises thrills, excitement, diversity, depth, and tons of imagination.

Ready to head into the darker side of dreams?

Vol. 1 The Girl From Deja Vu
by Franck Thilliez
Illustrated by Yomgui Dumont
Tween Science Fiction / Graphic Novel
112 pages
ages 8 to 12

The Nightmare Brigade is a dream team led by Professor Angus. With his two young sidekicks, 14 year-olds Esteban and Tristan, they have one goal: help people get rid of their worst nightmares. With unique skills, the team members can literally infiltrate their patient’s nightmare to seek its root and destroy the cause. Things are shaken up a bit, however, when they meet the young Sarah. The Brigade has a feeling they have seen her before… Then, an insomniac is invading other’s dreams. How does he do it and how can he be stopped? It’s a paranormal story you won’t want to sleep on!



A hint of thriller, a dash of friendship, mounds of secrets, and tons of mystery make this into a gripping science fiction/paranormal read with just the right amount of spook and tension.

Fourteen-year-olds Esteban and Tristan are more than friends; they're brothers thanks to Professor Angus. Together the boys help their father cure children, who are plagued by nightmares, by entering the dreams and figuring out what the cause really is. It might seem harmless, but the dangers in the dreams are real. Plus, time is always tight because if the sleeper awakes before they've left the dream, they'll be stuck in the nightmare.

Although not a horror, this tale leads to deliciously dark corners, where monsters lurk in the shadows. The tension remains high the whole way through, guaranteeing to keep the reader on the edge of their seats, and yet, there's a good dose of heroism, friendship, family, and even a bit of humor. This is an unique trio, who have each others' backs and are family, but they still each possess their own burdens in very different ways. There's a hint of 'crazy' experiments, which make the entire dream-entering-danger seem even that much more questionable, and yet, it's balanced by the good deeds they do as they truly help the patients. It's a constant edge which never crosses into scary or disturbing but rides it just enough to cause a bit of discomfort.

The illustrations are well done. The characters carry sharper lines and features, which fits perfectly with the dark tones of the tale and allows the dreamscapes and their horrors to unfold with wonderful atmosphere. The text is fitting to the audience level, never overpowering, and balances with the illustrations. 

Of course, there's mystery, too. The young band really has their job cut out for them as they dive into the realm of the mind and use the settings and happenings of the dreams to try to link them to problems the sleepers might have in real life (while trying to stay alive). These are not clear cut and will have the reader thinking. 

Add the every day life problems outside of the dream world that the characters face, and there are plenty of subplots to not only add depth but promise rich stories to come.  

And here they are...

Franck Thilliez, former engineer in new technologies, is the author of about fifteen successful crime novels. With the adaptation of his novel "Room of Death" (winner of the SNCF prize for French crime fiction), Franck Thilliez is also a screenwriter. The Nightmare Brigade is his first book for younger audiences and sold over 20,000 copies in France upon its release.

After having completed his studies in applied arts, Yomgui dumont has worked wherever he was able to move a mouse and a pencil: cartoons, multimedia, advertising, and the press. His first series are Raph' and Potetoz, Chambres noires, and L'cole de PAN. He has published around twenty graphic novels and teen novels.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, Cress Watercress by Gregory Maguire!

 Today, we're celebrating a book birthday! I take any excuse I can to celebrate because we have enough things in life, which bring us down at it is. See the cute bunny on this cover? Notice who the author is? And to top it off, there are illustrations! This one is about the coming-of-age of a rabbit as his family moves from danger and into a new place, where things aren't always easy, either. Since it sounds promising to me...and I'm feeling Wind in the Willow vibes...let's take a peek!

by Gregory Maguire
Illustrated by David Litchfield
Candlewick Press
Middle Grade Fantasy
224 pages
ages 8 to 12

A lavishly illustrated woodland tale with a classic sensibility and modern flair—from the fertile imagination behind Wicked.

Gregory Maguire turns his trademark wit and wisdom to an animal adventure about growing up, moving on, and finding community. When Papa doesn't return from a nocturnal honey-gathering expedition, Cress holds out hope, but her mother assumes the worst. It’s a dangerous world for rabbits, after all. Mama moves what’s left of the Watercress family to the basement unit of the Broken Arms, a run-down apartment oak with a suspect owl landlord, a nosy mouse super, a rowdy family of squirrels, and a pair of songbirds who broadcast everyone’s business. Can a dead tree full of annoying neighbors, and no Papa, ever be home? In the timeless spirit of E. B. White and The Wind and the Willows—yet thoroughly of its time—this read-aloud and read-alone gem for animal lovers of all ages features an unforgettable cast that leaps off the page in glowing illustrations by David Litchfield. This tender meditation on coming-of-age invites us to flourish wherever we find ourselves.



Friendship, family, and adventure echo on every page of this novel and sink the reader into a wonderful world.

Cress' father never came back from gathering honey, forcing her mother to move with her and her baby brother. They take up residence in an old oak, which is filled with all sorts of odd neighbors and a grumpy landlord. Cress hopes to see her father again some day, but until then, she needs to figure out how to get along with everyone and find her place in their new life.

This is a gentle read as I'd hoped it'd be. It starts out a little slower, allowing the reader to sink in with Cress and her small family as they face the absence of their father and make their way to the new home. Although a gentle beginning, it's not boring and does a marvelous job at developing the familiar back-and-forth dynamics always found in family relationships. Cress loves her mother and baby brother, but their little quibbles and trying to cope with the difficult situation really bring this home. First then do the neighbors come in, and the adventures of Cress can really begin.

Cress is simply sweet. She's unsure and careful, and yet, packs curiosity and a sense of adventure. It makes her very likeable and easy to relate to. The characters around her are so colorful that it's hard not to like every single one. Each has quirks, good and bad, and each brings their own personality to the page. Adventure with this group is contagious and packs tons of heart. There are tension packed moments, where the reader will hold their breath and others simply touch the heart. Not only animal-tale lovers will get lost in this read.

And before I forget, the illustrations are lovely. Not only do they add great breaks to the text (which is nicely spaced, in a slightly larger font, and an easy read), but they do a wonderful job at setting each scene. I am looking forward to see what Cress will experience next.

And here he is...

Gregory Maguire is the author of the incredibly popular books in the Wicked Years series, including Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, which inspired the musical. He is also the author of several books for children, including What-the-Dickens, New York Times bestseller, and Egg & Spoon, New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of the Year. Gregory Maguire lives outside Boston.

David Litchfield started to draw when he was very young, creating comics for his older brother and sister. Since then his work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, and books and on T-shirts. His first picture book, The Bear and the Piano, won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize. He is also the illustrator of Rain Before Rainbows by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and War Is Over by David Almond. David Litchfield lives in England.

The Story of Ace the Dog That Comes From Space: English + Italian Edition by Anna 'Annina' Lorenz

I reviewed this one a month or two ago, which you can read here, and enjoyed it. The author has informed me that the Italian/English (yep, bilingual!) edition is now out. So, of course, I'm ready to help shout it to the world. 

What happens when an author, such as Anna “Annina” Lorenzi, of stories, novels, poetry, and various other kinds of texts, decides to write a book illustrated ironicallyand she encounters “the pencil” and the brilliant mind of a famous Italian cartoonist, such as Lele Corvi?  Well, what a question, Ace is born!

The story of Ace was written with a smile to make readers smile, but also to reflect. It was born as a book for everyone. If a range of ages had to be specified, it would surely be “from 0 to 100.” 

Ace is determined, with his principles, his ideas, and his convictions, but he is also one who knows how to be ironic and to “play” with his weaknesses, his uncertainties, and delusions, reflecting on himself and on the world in which he was “catapulted” when born. Ace will know how to make himself loved, immediately, because – as Lele Corvi writes in his preface – “…even though he comes from another planet and is a dog, he is one of us. Ace is EVERYONE of us.” 

Monday, March 28, 2022

Review: Road Trip Earth by podcast creators of Brains On!

 I'm a little late with today's read and have done a change-up to my announced schedule. The other book is still in my sights but will come next month, instead.  But be excited, anyway, because today's review heads into science and fun (I love the two combined!). Brain's On! is a kid's podcast over science, and this one comes from its creators. I have not heard this podcast, but I was still thrilled to get my hands on this book.

Ready for some STEM? (Oh, and homeschoolers will definitely want to toss a glimpse at this one!)

Brain's On!
by Molly Bloom, Marc Sanchez, and Sanden Totten
Little, Brown and Company
Middle Grade Non-Fiction
160 pages
ages 8 to 12

The creators of the award-winning science podcast for kids, Brains On!, take readers on a humorous, highly illustrated, fact- and fun-filled journey through Earth—from the core, to the outer atmosphere, and everywhere in between. Perfect for STEM enthusiasts!

Did you ever wonder why volcanoes erupt? Or why the ocean is salty? How about why no two snowflakes are the same?

Embark on an epic road trip to find the answers to these burning questions and more! The Brains On! team is traveling from deep inside the earth, through the oceans, the land, the clouds, and even into the outer atmosphere in their high-tech ride—to uncover the coolest facts, strangest mysteries, and most incredible marvels of our planet.

Packed with scientific research, mind-boggling trivia, and laugh-out-loud jokes, this highly illustrated fact-filled exploration of the earth promises a brain-bending, jaw-dropping, belly-laughing good time that curious kids and budding scientists won’t be able to resist.



Science gains tons of humor and fun as young readers explore Earth in four different levels.

I haven't had the pleasure of tuning in on the podcast from these authors, but after reading this book, I'm sure it's more than a little interesting. This book is broken down into four sections, each covering a 'level' of Earth: the inside, waters, dry surface, and atmosphere. These are, then, each hit from various directions: geology, biology, chemistry, physics and so on. This last bit is more of a mish-mash in so far that the topics addressed flow together and aren't harshly broken down. But then, harsh isn't a word which fits this book in the slightest.

Science is hit with relaxed, light-hearted, and down-to-earth tones (no pun intended). The facts are there, and these are solid and thorough enough to slide nicely into a homeschooling situation or simply be of interest to science fans. The authors throw in a pinch of nonsense, silliness, interesting facts, and other things, which really have little to do with science, to create a friendly atmosphere and entertaining visit into each topic as well as a broad informational field. There is a detailed index at the end (packed with things, btw) and a bibliography. 

Photographs and colorful illustrations add to the information and keep boredom away. Both are used in strengthening ways, making information clearer. I did find some of the text sections, in compared to the light tone, tread a little heavy on the word end...not because of the writing style but simply the amount. Reluctant readers risk being a bit overwhelmed for those moments, although they are interesting to those, who are into the topic and flow.

This is a fun read which does a great job at bringing science across in a fun and yet informative way.

And here they are...

Molly BloomMarc Sanchez, and Sanden Totten are the creators of American Public Media’s Brains On! and the authors of It’s Alive and Road Trip Earth. They became friends while working at Minnesota Public Radio and decided to make a show for kids, because kids are awesome. They invite you to visit them at, follow them @Brains_On, or listen wherever you get your podcasts.

Mike Orodán is the author-illustrator of the Peek-a-Baby series, as well as Crossings by Katy S. Duffield. He lives in Surrey, England. He invites you to follow him on Instagram @thebundad.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Review: Sea Serpent's Heir by Mairghread Scott

It's graphic novel time! Today's read caught my attention thanks to its cover and the promise of salty air. Throw in the known author, and well, I was excited to dive in. Do you see that crab at the girl's feet? Isn't he cute? That's what I thought until I read this one...but I'm keeping my lips tight, since the review is below. Let's just say that one never knows which way a wind will blow.

Book One: Pirate's Daughter
by Mairghread Scott
Illustrated by Pablo Tunica
Image Comics
Young Adult Fantasy
128 pages

OCTOBER 22nd!!!

For teenage Aella, growing up is hard. Even harder when you find out that you're the reincarnation of an ancient sea serpent that's destined to destroy the world, in a graphic novel trilogy from acclaimed creators Mairghread Scott and Pablo Tunica.


For Aella, life on Kinamen Isle is one of boredom. Spending her days fishing and minding her aunts, she dreams of life beyond the horizon.

Everything changes, however, when she awakens an ancient evil within herself as it's revealed that she's the reincarnation of Xir, the serpent that almost destroyed the world. Worse yet, a fanatical religious organization has arrived on Kinamen Isle in search of Xir.

As Aella is forced to fight for her life, she'll discover that her entire world is not what it seems. Her aunts know more than they let on and what exactly does the infamous Pirate Queen want with Aella?

From the team of Mairghread Scott (Star Wars: Resistance, Guardians of the Galaxy) and Pablo Tunica (TMNT Universe) comes an extraordinary tale of growing up and changing your fate.



Pirates and demons and prophecies and knights and—oh my! Take it with a swing toward the end of the world and crusades...and well, need I say more?

Aella has grown up on an island with a small village, whose occupants are as much a family as anyone can have, since her mother sails around the seas and leaves her feeling a bit abandoned. When the knights of the light visit the island in search of demons, Aella sees her chance to escape her narrow world and head into adventure, but she doesn't expect that the knights attack her, believing she's Xir, the demon prophesied to end the world in a wave of darkness. Aella wants nothing more than to end the madness as the island enters a bloody battle, but it's just beginning, especially when she discovers the entire island isn't what it seems, nor is her own mother.

The first pages thrust right into the story and left me a little confused, trying to piece together what was going on. With a lack of patience, I almost set it down, but that's when everything finally started to flow, and I was hooked. 

The cover and the blurb had left with a slightly different impression of Aella than what she really is. While I expected a sweet girl, who needs to fight for her own, Aella is anything but that. The illustrations of her are actually on the rawer side and give her an edge, which is anything but sweet. It's also clear that she isn't human, thanks to her ear...or is that a decoration, since the knights see her as human? Let's just say it took a second for me to re-warp my mind and get into the different flow. But once I was there, I truly enjoyed it.

The illustrations hold a more harsh and dangerous tone, which fits to the atmosphere well and adds a new direction on the imagination end. Yet, there are moments of softness and emotion...just don't expect it to get overly-sticky-sweet because that doesn't exist. This world is rough, tough, and even the 'good' borders on evil, which hits right on the point. It contrasts well to Aella and sets the stage in sharp contrast to the true heart of this tale. 

Throwing all symbolism and meaning aside (and this is snuck in masterfully, btw), it's action and intrigue and secrets and battles and magic and more. Adventure rings high on every single page with a delicious richness, which promises excitement after excitement. So, it's the beginning of a true adventure, where anything could happen, and I'm looking forward to continuing the ride with book two. 

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Review: Be the Boss of Your Stuff by Allie Casazza

Today's read is one that will make parent's smile. Written by a well-known, minimalistic podcaster, this book tackles the nightmare of kids cleaning their bedrooms. Now, I'm not a complete believer that things like this can change the world, but it doesn't hurt to give it a go and hope. If nothing else, this one looked like it might be a bit of fun, too.

So, let's take a peek! 

The Kids' Guide to Decluttering and Creating Your Own Space
by Allie Casazza
Thomas Nelson
Middle Grade Non-Fiction
160 pages
ages 8 to 12

Give your kids the decluttering guide that will encourage their independence and create a more peaceful home for your family. Allie Casazza has created a resource for you to show kids how to create and design their own space, offering practical ideas on organization and productivity, kid-friendly inspiration for mindfulness, and interactive pages for creativity.

Allie has encouraged women to simplify and unburden their lives as the host of The Purpose Show podcast and through her first book Declutter Like a Mother. Now she's helping you equip your kids and tweens to discover the same joy of decluttering as they
design and create a space that supports their interests and goals,
make more room in their lives for playtime and creativity,
increase productivity and find renewed focus for schoolwork,
learn valuable life skills, and
cut down on cleaning time, reduce stress, and feel more peaceful.
Your kids will start to understand that the less they own, the more time they have for what's important. Written in Allie's fun, motivational voice, Be the Boss of Your Stuff

It is ideal for boys and girls ages 8 to 12,
includes photography and interactive activities with space to write, draw, imagine, and plan,
shares step-by-step instructions for decluttering,
offers added practical, personalized instruction from Allie's children, Bella and Leeland,
and is a great gift for coming-of-age celebrations, the first day of spring, New Year's, Easter, birthdays, back-to-school, or school milestones.
As your kids become more proactive in taking care of their stuff, you'll find your whole family has more time and space for creativity and fun. After all, less clutter, less stress, and less chaos in your kids' lives means more peace, more independence, and more opportunity to grow into who they're meant to be.

Read Allie's first book, Declutter Like a Mother, to further equip yourself in decluttering while you empower your kids to embrace their space.



Minimalistic living swings down to a middle grade level to spark ideas, possibilities, and inspiration to get rid of unnecessary clutter and such.

This book gets down to business and explains not only how to transform a messy room into a decluttered bedroom but presents the reasons why it's worth giving it a go. It's clear that the author does have kids of their own as the writing, while rolling through with a clear purpose, doesn't talk down to the reader or hold a preachy tone. It explains things clearly and addresses the areas which are important to the age group, and never makes their belongings seem childish or ridiculous. The tips are, for the most part, do-able and never come across as forceful.

For each chapter, which leads down the path of de-clutterisation, there aren't only reasons and hints, but plenty of questions readers can answer or images they can create to help them along the way (such as sketching their own dream room). There are quite a few of these to fill in, and while fun for some readers, I can see it getting to be a bit much for others. But decluttering isn't everyone's thing. This book also gives hints to parents to help them guide the reader in the right direction without taking over. There are bright illustrations included right along with photographs, which are supposed to inspire. Unfortunately, the photos are not realistic and fit more of the type of room found in a magazine than one many middle graders would enjoy living in. Also, the messy end would have been nice to see as well so readers could see a transformation.

This is a pretty well-done guide to help edge middle graders toward a more orderly room. There is quite a bit of text and explanation, but this can also be skimmed across and used a little more as a pick and choose. The ideas are good, the writing well done, and readers will leave with, at least, a few ideas of how they can approach their own rooms.

Friday, March 25, 2022

Review: Jestin Kase and the Masters of Dragon Metal by J. Michael White

Today's read kicks up the action into full gear and dives into a world where pure evil versus an already weakened good. I was won over by the blurb on this one, especially the last half. I want to give extra kudos to whoever was able to build up the tension perfectly on that. 

So before I say more, let's just jump right in! 

by J. Michael White
Teer Publishing
Young Adult Fantasy
402 pages

MAY 3rd!!!

Mankind lost the battle for its soul without knowing. Evil won. And no Chosen Ones are coming to the rescue.

Enter Jestin Kase, a foster kid on the run in Chicago. He finds himself drawn into the underbelly of civilization, where the Three Great Schools of Magic are crippled by their own corruption and unable to push back against the Great Dark. Monsters from Babylonian myth, demons, and the enthralled thrive beneath the notice of everyone. Only one force of good remains: an ancient magic called Dragon Metal. And Jestin is determined to learn its secrets.

But how much of a difference can one person make in a world that’s already fallen?

There’s no fate.

No destiny.

Only Metal. And those brave enough to wield it.



Action, sarcasm, and fighting-grit fill a modern world, which has long since been taken over by demons and isn't even aware of it.

Jestin is an orphan, whose gone through several homes...and killed several of the 'parents' of the homes along the way. Guilt never sets in since he knows that these were truly demons, sapping the life out of the children they supposedly cared for. His latest 'kill' has put him on the radar of the demon fighters and the head of a demon region. Now, he's being hunted and his only hope lies in joining a group, which is fighting an impossible battle. And even then, he only has a chance to survive if he learns to wield the dangerous ,yet, powerful dragon metal.

If you're looking for an action packed beginning with dark undertones, this is it. The first chapters grab with quick-pace and tension pure as Jestin runs from a burning home and cops and demons and more. This setting holds on for more than a couple pages, making it hard to put the read down and simply enjoy the dangerous situations, one right after the other for the first portion of the book. This follows a tight weaving of  magic and demons as well as villains, which demand to be feared. Jestin, of course, has a lot to learn and makes more than a couple huge mistakes, which he pays for dearly before growing. The battle of good versus evil is clear cut with high stakes, making this everything a story like this needs.

Fantasy fans are going to get a thrill as they come up against the monsters and watch Jestin slowly adapt into the situation. It is refreshing to have a story where the main character isn't a special snowflake, and his determination is inspiring. Jestin's hard life comes across in his snarky attitude, too. The only thing to mark against him (which isn't his fault) is the constant naming him as an 'orphan' instead of 'he' quite often. The reader watches him struggle with his own self-doubt and sees that sometimes our own demons are the biggest opponents we have.

The tale runs smoothly with a little slow-down in the middle, but it isn't enough to hurt the read. There are some unrealistic plot points, which irritate, and there's a little background missing on other points. Even the characters, especially the priest, had me wondering at their lifestyle and word usage, but action addicts will forgive all of this. Don't expect much character depth, but it's also not needed. If any of the characters truly won me over completely, it is the cat. Let's just say the tale wouldn't have been the same without him.

This is definitely worth a read to those who love action pure.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Review: Zara's Rules for Record-Breaking Fun by Hena Khan

Today's read comes from an author, whose works I've read and enjoyed before, but it was the title and the girl on the cover, which made me want to really take a peek. Doesn't she sound and look like a girl with tons of spunk and ideas? 

So, let's see how fun this one gets. 

by Hena Khan
Illustrated by Wastana Haikal
Salaam Reads
Middle Grade Contemporary
144 pages
ages 4 to 8

APRIL 19th!!!

From the beloved author of Amina’s Voice comes the first book in a humor-filled middle grade series starring a young Muslim girl with an endless list of hobbies who searches for ways to maximize fun for her family and neighborhood friends.

Meet Zara Saleem, the queen of the neighborhood.

Zara’s in charge of it all: she organizes the games, picks the teams, and makes sure everyone has a good time…and they always do.

When a new family moves in across the street, suddenly Zara’​s reign is threatened by Naomi, who has big ideas of her own about how the neighborhood kids can have fun. To get everyone to notice her again, Zara decides she’s going to break a Guinness World Record—if her little brother Zayd doesn’t mess things up.

But when she finds herself increasingly alone in her record-breaking quest, Zara starts to wonder if sharing the crown and making a new friend might end up being the best rule of all.



New neighbors, old friends, a little jealousy, and tons of ideas come together to create a fun read.

The nicest man in the world has moved away, leaving Zara and her family wondering who will move into the house across the street next. When the moving van pulls up and two kids appear, Zara and her neighborhood friends are a bit nervous. Being the Queen of the Neighborhood, Zara forces courage and brings cookies to greet the newcomers. What she doesn't expect is that the new girl is gaining quite a bit of attention from everyone. Soon, Zara feels a little ignored, but it's nothing she can't handle. She has a new goal and plans to breaking a world record. She just has to figure out which one it will be...and keep her eye on that new neighbor so she doesn't steal her 'Queen' position completely.

Especially lower middle graders will effortlessly slide into this tale. The writing fits the age group very well, and the tale flows smoothly. Each character comes across naturally and could be the kid next door. The situations are familiar and readers will have no trouble identifying with the insecurities involved when a new person joins a group of friends. It's a wholesome read with tons of heart, circling around neighbors, family, and friendships.

The author allows various cultures and traditions to weave into an everyday neighborhood. Zara's family holds their traditions dear, especially when it comes to foods, and the other kids aren't any different. While the reader is introduced to the various details, these flow right into the story without an extra wink or blink. Even when the new family brings their own traditions with them, no true attention is given or comments made from the other characters. It just flows together naturally.

This is great for fans of real life stories with characters to befriend. There's a bit of tension, and a gentle message or two. It will be fun to see what Zara and her friends will experience next.

And here she is...

Hena Khan is a Pakistani American writer. She is the author of the middle grade novels Amina’s VoiceAmina’s Song, More to the Story, and the Zara’s Rules series and picture books Golden Domes and Silver LanternsUnder My Hijab, and It’s Ramadan, Curious George, among others. Hena lives in her hometown of Rockville, Maryland, with her family. You can learn more about Hena and her books by visiting her website at or connecting with her @HenaKhanBooks.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Review: A Dinosaur Named Ruth by Julia Lyon

It's Women's History Month, and I'm not going to let that slip by without suggesting a read to celebrate. This one caught my attention because I loved to visit the various dinosaur bone displays as a child. We actually lived near a couple dig sights and went bone hunting, dreaming we might discover a few dinosaurs on our own. 

Read to dig into the past? 

by Julia Lyon 
Illustrated by Alexandra Bye
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 4 to 8

For fans of Shark Lady and from the New York Times bestselling illustrator of Dr. Fauci comes the incredible true story of a girl who discovered dinosaur bones in her own backyard and, after years of persistence, helped uncover one of the most exciting paleontological discoveries of our time.

There’s an extraordinary secret hidden just beneath Ruth Mason’s feet. The year is 1905, and Ruth is a prairie girl living in South Dakota. She has no way of knowing that millions of years ago, her family farm was once home to scores of dinosaurs. Until one day, when Ruth starts finding clues to the past: strange rocks and rubble scattered all across her land. They’re dinosaur fossils—but she doesn’t know that yet, either. It will take many years of collecting these clues, and many, many questions, but Ruth’s curiosity will one day help uncover thousands of fossils all across her land.

New York Times bestselling illustrator Alexandra Bye’s vibrant illustrations bring to life this inspiring and exciting debut picture book from award-winning journalist Julia Lyon



All those young collectors out there will be inspired by Ruth's hobby and determination...and who doesn't love dinosaurs?

Ruth Mason grew up in South Dakota and enjoyed heading outside to discover all sorts of things. In 1905, there was quite a bit of untouched land around her, and that's where she discovered the first of many bones. She collected them, knowing that they were special even when no one wanted to believe her. But after a very long time, that changed.

This is history masterfully woven into a story, which young readers can easily identify with. Ruth's desire to collect things is a hobby so many kids have done or do it rocks or shells or leaves or whatever. No one else finds her collection overly important, but she continues since she enjoys doing it. It's a situation many can relate to. Ruth didn't let others damage her fun and continued to believe that her collection was special, even when she did it just for herself. Even when disappointing comments hit, she never dwells on them or lets it get her down.

The illustrations and text are very well done. Each scene comes across familiar although it is set in historical times. The small details give hints at Ruth's life on the prairie without ever having to be mentioned in the text. The words are fitting to the age group and only carry a few sentences on each page. It makes a great read aloud for small as well as larger groups.

The theme of dinosaur bones and how they've been discovered also carries a large importance in this read. It shows how ordinary people can make large discoveries, and how some of the displays in museums came to be. So, this also works as an introduction to science lessons or historical discussions on that front.

And for those, who are more sure of their words, it's simply a wonderful read.

And here they are...

Julia Lyon is a graduate of the Columbia University School of Journalism and spent more than ten years working in daily newspapers in Oregon and Utah before becoming a freelance writer in 2013. She has won a United Nations Correspondents Association gold medal after visiting refugee camps in Thailand and has won many other journalism awards and distinctions for her reporting. A Dinosaur Named Ruth is her debut picture book.

Alexandra Bye is a freelance illustrator specializing in fun, colorful illustrations for a variety of media such as editorial and children’s publications. Her work is constantly inspired by her flourishing New England community and reflects the energy and dynamic personality of hometown pride. In her free time, she enjoys mountain biking, Nordic ski racing, Jiu Jitsu, studying nutritional therapy, and hiking in the White Mountains with her dog, Oliver.