Amulet series, books #1-8 by Kazuo Ish…

This is one of THE most popular series in my library and knew I really had to get around to reading it. I read them all pretty quickly together. I thought the first book was a lot of magical set up, but I liked it. Books 2 and 3 got a little laggy for me, but then it really started picking up momentum for me and eventually, like all my students, found myself at the end saying “I can’t believe he hasn’t published #9 yet!!!”
Overall, it’s a good fantasy adventure graphic novel. Episodic, though I’d definitely read in order.

Charlie Thorne & The Curse of Cleopatra by Stuart Gibbs

Charlie Thorne just gets better and better. I love the research and detail and don’t understand how it is not boring to have so much information doled out by the main character, but it’s not. It’s exciting and fascinating and you keep thinking “why didn’t I know that?” Very exciting and honestly, a great set up for the series to just keep going on and on.

*So interesting was all of this that after Paul read it he got the nonfiction Cleopatra book that Gibbs says he got a lot of his information from.

The Aquanaut by Dan Santat

I didn’t love this as much as I wanted to. I loved the illustrations as I really like Santat’s style. I did enjoy this story (sea creatures come to land in an old diving suit and meet up with the girl whose father perished in a shipwreck, which is where they got the equipment from) and the whimsy and nods to Cousteau, but I found myself with a lot of questions about details about the story itself. The research, the dubious aquarium, the creatures themselves– I felt like that all needed to be developed more.

The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat

This was very good, solid children’s high seas adventure and intrigue. I have one major criticism–as I was nearing the end I thought “oh, clearly this will be having a sequel as there’s not much time left and we’re on the brink of standard new challenge type moment.” And there wasn’t. It just wrapped everything up very suddenly. And while I normally love it when there’s NOT a sequel set up this felt like she just got tired of writing the story and so the last two chapters are a quick summary. And that pacing/style was inconsistent with the entire rest of the story.

Shirley & Jamila’s Big Fall by Gillian Goerz

Terrific! Even better than the first. Shirley and Jamila are unlikely friends, with one of them being a keen observer, which allows her to be a wonderful detective (kind of like Sherlock Holmes, and like him her single mindedness makes her a bit of an acquired taste, friendship wise.) It’s a new school year and Jamila is on the basketball team and making new friends. This causes some friend conflict. I loved the writing,especially with regard to bad guy, Chuck. He’s a blackmailing bully that Shirley and Jamila are trying to take down. It’s nice seeing Shirley and Jamila branch out a little bit and I just really enjoyed the plot.

Best Friends for Never by Colleen A.F. Venable

Katie the Catsitter #2

I loved the first one, so it’s saying something that I liked this one even better than the first!

In this installment everyone is watching a show that is essentially the Great British Bake Off and they are obsessed with it. As a GBBO fan I loved this part. It was hilarious. There are also some goth kids in this who are hilarious. So many funny details and a good mystery.

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1

I’m not a huge Rick Riordan fan, though I don’t dislike him. I loved the first Percy Jackson book but didn’t feel like I needed to read the whole series. This series I think gets even better reviews and I felt like I really ought to read it. I liked it! I thought it was very funny and read like a movie in my head. The slightly disappointing aspect for me is that my favorite parts were in Valhalla and I didn’t think enough time was spent in this fascinating comically large place that is like a resort. I did mean to immediately read book #2, but I didn’t. Maybe this year…

Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

This was highly recommended to me by a student and I can see why she loved it, though I did not find it great. Kind of a DaVinci code for kids. I do love historical secrets and secret society stuff and I did enjoy this, though to be honest not nearly as much as, say, Charlie Thorne. That said, I’ll probably read the sequel because I am curious to find out what happens next. I could see the “twist” coming a mile away.

The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill

This was good, though not nearly as good as her wonderful Newbery Award winning Girl Who Drank the Moon. I think part of the reason for that, for me, is that this is pretty clearly an allegory. Or at least a fairy tale type story that is mimicking the terrible world we live in and certain terrible people and their terrible administrations. And while I agree 100% with everything being said or not said in the book, it felt very obvious to me. But maybe all stories like this are obvious. Or, possibly more likely, I’m an adult and children are the intended audience. So maybe not feeling obvious to kids? It has a wonderful message of caring and questioning and thinking and acting and not blindly supporting a megalomaniac, so hopefully all that sinks in. Now, that aside, I also just enjoyed this as a tale itself. The ogress, her history, the magical elements, and so on.

The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera

This was this year’s Newbery Award winner and honestly I hadn’t had much interest in reading it. BUT, like many other Newberys, I found myself reading this and loving it and nodding and saying “Ahh, I see why it won.” Not only did I read it, but I also picked it for my staff book club and got a few other teachers to read it so we could discuss it together.

One of the things that first captured my attention with this book was that in the descriptions it is mentioned that the book Dreamers by Yuyi Morales plays a pivotal role in it. I thought that was intriguing because Dreamers came out in 2018. It’s a great book, a picture book that won several awards. And in this story it is referenced as if it was as beloved and well known in a child’s life as The Cat in the Hat. So I was intrigued to see how this book would fit in.

One way it fits in is that this story is a science fiction story (intriguing for Newbery!) and takes place many years in the future, so Dreamers is an old beloved story.

There’s a pretty standard sci-fi premise-the world is going to end due to a comet, a small select population gets to leave Earth in spaceships will find another place for them to begin again. While on the ships everyone will be in stasis. Petra is lucky enough, along with her parents and brother, to get to leave Earth. She is heartbroken to leave her abuelita, who has taught her all she knows about stories and the power of storytelling. Petra also wants to be a storyteller. Well, Petra wakes up early and figures out all kinds of stuff did NOT go according to the plan.

This was so beautifully written-I can see why it won this year. This was my favorite thing about this book: there were many classic sci-fi elements that most readers would recognize, but with a wonderful unique spin on it , which is much like Petra herself is encouraged to make her cuentas her own by adding her unique elements!

And if you are a young reader who hasn’t encountered the classic sci-fi elements before, well then you get to be introduced to them here and these wonderful types of stories that have us wonder about civilizations, survival, space, and the power of storytelling.