The Falcon’s Feather

In the exciting follow-up to The Nebula Secret in the seven-book Explorer Academy Series, Cruz, Sailor, and Emmett, along with their new ally Bryndis, embark on their first globe-trotting mission aboard the ship Orion. Cruz jumps right back into school and starts using the latest technology in submersible underwater dives, but is soon reminded of the dangers of exploration when his equipment fails and he almost drowns. Determined to keep his eyes on the prize, Cruz sneaks away to find answers but unknowingly lures his friends into bigger trouble. When a friend of Cruz’s mom meets an untimely end, Cruz’s luck seems about to run out and the questions multiply. What does his mother’s message mean? Where will it lead? Who is following him? And why?  

Cruz’s adventure takes him and his friends to the land of the Norse gods. While there, Cruz and his classmates are introduced to amazing technology that is prominently featured. The technology is interesting and gives The Falcon’s Feather the opportunity to educate readers on several different global threats facing our world, including melting glaciers, endangered whales, and the lack of biodiversity in crops. For example, Cruz and his team go on a mission to save whales trapped in fishing nets. Before they leave, they learn “it’s not uncommon for larger marine animals to get snagged in lines and nets. . . More than three hundred thousand whales, dolphins, and porpoises die this way every year—that’s one every two minutes.” The facts are well-integrated into the story and never feel like a lecture or an encyclopedia. 

The Falcon’s Feather combines a well-written story with maps and illustrations that appear every two to twelve pages. Many of the illustrations are a mix of photographs and drawings, which gives the pictures a touch of realism. Another positive aspect of the book is that the academy encourages cooperation, respect, and honor. While all the students do not necessarily like each other, they are still expected to work together to reach a common goal. Plus, the book includes a section titled The Truth Behind the Fiction, which combines pictures and short blurbs on people featured in the book who have interesting jobs. While this story recaps important plot points from the first book, the series should definitely be read in order. 

As the second installment of the Explorer Academy Series, The Falcon’s Feather ramps up the action and gives readers more insight into the different characters. The large cast of characters that appeared in The Nebula Secret are beginning to feel like friends. Plus, suspense is created because the reader knows there is someone inside the academy who wants Cruz dead. The Explorer Academy Series will appeal to many readers because it has mystery, technology, animals, and an interesting cast of characters. The Falcon’s Feather ends on a cliff-hanger, so readers will be eager to begin the next book in the series, The Double Helix.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • Cruz and his friends help whales who are trapped in nets. The group learns that if whales are “unable to break free in time, it can lead to serious injury or even death. The ropes can slice through their skin and cause infection. They can deform bones, cut off part of a tail, and restrict breathing, swimming, and eating.” Many whales die due to nets. 
  • A friend of Cruz’s mom, Nóri, was planning to meet Cruz at a hot spring. When Cruz arrives, he discovers that Nóri was pushed into the hot pools and “badly burned…From the chest down, Nóri was wet and violently shivering.” Nóri dies from his injuries. 
  • While looking for an artifact in an ice cave, Cruz and his friends are cornered. “Cruz was facing two men. One was Officer Wardincorn. The other was Tripp Scarlatos. Both were holding guns.” The two men question the kids and then “Tripp tossed something round and green into the air. . . a massive boom rocked the cave. Ice began raining. Cruz could feel the sting of hundreds of shards pelting his head, neck, shoulders, and back.” No one is seriously injured. 
  • During a phone conversation, one of the villains reveals that his henchman “is dead. Fell into a crevasse.” 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • Dang is used once.  
  • One of Cruz’s friends calls Tripp a jerk. 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • When someone knocks on the door to Cruz’s room, his roommate quickly hides a vacuum. Cruz says “a silent prayer of thanks that [his aunt] insisted he bring it.” 

Sweep

On a windy fall night, a young boy named Ed looks over his town. He has a broom in hand and is standing atop a towering mountain of leaves. The day began with him sweeping leaves, but below his mountain are all the other things he seemed to have collected along the way, including dogs, cats, bicycles, cars, buses, people, and buildings.   

The story of Sweep starts when a single leaf in the wind hits Ed’s face, causing him to trip over a broom. This puts Ed in a bad mood, but unlike all the bad moods he’s had before, this one grows and grows until he is ragefully sweeping every leaf around him into one large pile. His bad mood convinces him to go on, not accounting for all the animals, vehicles, or people in his way. Ed knows he is taking things too far. He even knows that if he looked up from the ground, he would see all the beautiful balloons, birds, and kites above it. But his bad mood is not satisfied until he has swept up his whole town. 

By the end of the day, there are no flowers left and the birds have stopped singing. Ed is tired, hungry, and questioning if he can really stop sweeping after going through all this trouble. As he ponders this, his bad mood begins to lift and a strong gust of wind picks up every person and thing in his pile. Not only does the wind put everything back to normal, but Ed believes the town looks even better than it did before.  

The wind gently lands a kite in front of Ed, who, finally looking up from the ground, flies it high in the air. He notices the beauty of all the other kites around him. The next time Ed finds himself in a bad mood, he makes sure to think twice and ask himself if there is a way to process it in a more constructive way. 

Sweep is a smart and funny story that teaches a valuable lesson about learning to process your feelings. The book has one to five sentences per page, making it a fast read. Readers of all ages will also enjoy the book’s art style, which makes use of bleaker autumn shades such as beige, gray, brown, and crimson during Ed’s rampage through his town and uses a wide spectrum of bright, vivid colors when his spirit lifts. The items and characters that amass in Ed’s constantly growing pile guarantee a laugh on every page, and the pile’s mountainous final form is full of clever gags and details for eagle-eyed readers to spot upon repeated readings. 

Younger readers will relate to Ed’s impulse to lash out when he’s in a bad mood. Plus, his journey will help them to understand the harmful nature of being negative. By reading Sweep, readers will also learn how to evaluate and express their feelings in a way that is beneficial to themselves and others. Readers who enjoy Sweep should also read Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry, a sweet book that shows how one man’s grumpy mood changes when he meets an unexpected friend.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language 

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Leif and the Fall

Leif is a small green leaf who lives in a tall oak tree. Being a leaf means being attached to a tree, but Leif doesn’t mind. He loves the view from his branch and getting to spend time with his best friend, Laurel. As the breeze gets harsher and the days get shorter, Leif realizes that it’s nearly fall. Leif has never seen fall, but its arrival worries him, as he knows that fall is the time when all leaves fall from their trees. Leif doesn’t want to be like all leaves. With the help of Laurel, he hatches a plan to catch himself. 

Leif and the Fall is a fun and pleasant read for the young reader who doesn’t let others tell them who they are and what they are capable of. It is also a testament to the power of thinking outside the box and surrounding yourself with the right people. While the other leaves mock and discourage Leif’s plan, Leif persists in his goal and chooses to surround himself with supportive friends like Laurel. While none of Leif’s plans work in the way he intended, the story tells a thoughtful message that all your hard work and skills will inevitably help you in some way, as all of Leif’s discarded contraptions form a pile big enough to soften his and Laurel’s fall. 

The book’s short and sweet story is well-matched with simple, charming illustrations.  The leaves are softly colored in shades of green, yellow, brown, and gray. Faces are drawn to personify them, while their stems are drawn as their arms and legs. The pages have blank backgrounds that are either white or colored with muted autumn shades. Readers can enjoy a second read-through to spot all the insects hiding on the tree’s branches. Each page has one to seven short sentences and easy vocabulary that makes it easy to understand for beginning readers.  

Leif and the Fall is an excellent book for young nature lovers and fans of autumn. Apart from being an enjoyable story, it is sure to help younger readers as they learn the importance of creativity, self-expression, and positive friendships. Readers ready to snuggle up with another fall-themed picture book with a positive message should add Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller to their must-read list. 

Sexual Content:

  • None 

Violence: 

  • None 

Drugs and Alcohol: 

  • None 

Language: 

  • None 

Supernatural: 

  • None 

Spiritual Content: 

  • None

Unplugged

Jett Baranov is the son of one of the wealthiest tech moguls in the world and has just been dubbed “Silicon Valley’s Number One Spoiled Brat” by the tabloids. As much as that title may seem cute and funny, Jett’s father finds it to be anything but, and he decides Jett needs some time away from the privileged world he knows all too well.  

In comes Oasis, the center for wellness and all things naturalism, where Jett will be spending the summer. There is just one catch . . . Oasis is completely unplugged and therefore Jett must surrender every piece of technology he has in order to ensure he can truly immerse himself in the experience. Without his phone, Jett has no idea how he is going to entertain himself for the whole summer or what he will eat since the camp is fully vegetarian. That is until he finds himself joining together with fellow campers: Grace, Tyrell, and Brooklyn, to raise a mysterious lizard named Needles. Soon, the group dubbed Team Lizard find themselves taking late night trips to a small island off the coast of the Oasis to get fresh meat for Needles and to enjoy a few non-vegetarian meals themselves.  

Finally, with help from Needles and Team Lizard, Jett starts to feel that the summer spent at Oasis may just be bearable. But something suddenly seems to be going wrong with the other patrons at the Oasis, one of them being Jett’s babysitter, Matt. All the patrons are beginning to take private meditation sessions with the Oasis’s second in command, Ivory. But Jett can’t seem to figure out why everyone raves about Ivory. And why are they donating large sums of money to her? Whatever the reason may be, Jett and Team Lizard must figure it out immediately!  

As the team works to uncover the secrets of the Oasis and its workers, they find themselves in more trouble than they know what to do with. Solving the secrets of the wellness center will take them everywhere from a creepy mansion that sits on a small island near the Oasis to an alligator infested swamp. As Team Lizard take on each new mystery, they find that sometimes the friends you always needed can be found where you never expected them to be. 

Each chapter is narrated by a different member of Team Lizard and provides the reader with more insight into the inner thoughts of each character. This format of storytelling adds a fun twist and makes the plot more intriguing than if it had been told through Jett’s perspective alone. In addition, each member of Team Lizard was brought up in different circumstances which changes the way each member views challenges. For example, Jett grew up never needing to obey the word no, and he therefore refuses to stop digging for clues to solve the mystery of the Oasis, even when the rest of Team Lizard tells him to stop. While Jett and Grace are sometimes annoying, they eventually evolve into more mature individuals. Jett finally understands that not every problem in life can be solved through technology and Grace comes to terms with the fact that sometimes our initial perception of someone can be wrong.  

Unplugged is the perfect novel for readers who want a simple and fun read. While the novel may be lacking in heavy-hitting topics, it does reinforce valuable lessons in friendship and courage. For example, Jett begins the novel unable to complete any small task without the use of his phone and by the end, he is setting out on a dangerous mission by himself for the sake of saving others. Jett and Team Lizard set out to solve the mystery of the Oasis and to save the other attendees showcasing that courage is within all of us; it just takes one small moment for courage to shine through.  

A story of friendship, laughter, and mystery, Unplugged is the perfect feel-good book for those that want a little bit of mystery mixed with a coming-of-age story of friendship. The reader will actively feel as though they are in the novel, solving mysteries with Team Lizard and growing in friendship with each character. The friendships formed between the characters of Team Lizard allow for this novel to be one that radiates love and that content feeling that comes from having a friend that knows you better than you know yourself.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • Jett bites down on his tongue in order to stop himself from telling Ivory about his illegal candy bar business. “I bite down on my own tongue hard enough to taste blood. The sudden spasm of pain jolts me from my trance. I lash out and smack that pen from Ivory’s hands.” 
  • Brandon talks of wanting to punch Jett because Jett is lying about his secret candy stash. “Jett pops the last piece into his mouth, chews, swallows, and has the nerve to demand, ‘What snickers?’ I unfold the wrapper and hold it about an inch away from his face. ‘The one that came from this?’ He looks me right in the eye. ‘I never saw that before in my life.’ The urge to punch him is almost irresistible.” 
  • Needles, the pet alligator, bites Brandon’s finger and causes it to bleed. “[Grace] joins the tug-of-war on my finger, and between the two of them, they manage to get the jaws apart. I whip my hand away and grab Jett by the front of his shirt. That’s when I see that my finger is covered in blood. My anger disappears in a wave of queasiness and I have to sit down on the floor and keep my head at knee level so I won’t pass out.”  

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • While talking about Jett, Brandon says, “Jett’s such a loser that he needs an extra guy whose whole job is to make sure that his life is smooth and happy. Who gets that? Not me, that’s for sure.”  

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Ice Wreck

In 1914, Ernest Shackleton and his crew set out for the South Pole. They never made it. Within sight of land, the ship ran into dangerous waters filled with chunks of ice. Then the sea froze around them! There was no hope of rescue. Could Shackleton find a way to save himself and his men?

Ernest Shackleton is an admirable explorer who demonstrates bravery and quick thinking. Even though the expedition to the South Pole was not a success, Shackleton and all of his men survived the brutal cold after their ship sank below the ocean. Ice Wreck explains Shackleton’s experiences through nonfiction text. Unlike a story, Ice Wreck only focuses on Shackleton and contains no dialogue or suspense.

Ice Wreck’s format will appeal to readers because of the short chapters, large font, and illustrations. The book contains photographs of the expedition as well as full-color drawings that appear every 1 to 2 pages. The Stepping Stones Series is specifically written for young readers and allows readers to explore different genres such as history, humor, mysteries, and classics.

Ice Wreck is an excellent choice for parents and teachers who want to introduce non-fiction reading to their children. Ernest Shackleton’s quick thinking and dedication to his men highlight the qualities of a great leader. To learn more about Shackleton’s expedition, Ice Wreck can be paired with Race to the South Pole.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • While stranded on an ice flow, the men were running out of food. “One sad day, there wasn’t enough left to feed the dogs. Soon they would starve. The men had to shoot them.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Nebula Secret

Adventure, danger, and a thrilling global mission await 12-year-old Cruz Coronado as he joins an elite school for explorers.

Cruz leaves his tranquil home in Hawaii to join 23 talented kids from around the globe to train at the Explorer Academy with the world’s leading scientists. Their goal is to become the next generation of great explorers.  

But for Cruz, there’s more at stake. The moment he arrives at the Academy, he discovers his family has a mysterious past with the organization that could jeopardize his future. In the midst of codebreaking and cool classes, new friends and augmented-reality expeditions, Cruz must tackle the biggest question of all: who is out to get him … and why? 

The Nebula Secret focuses on Cruz, but the third-person narration allows readers to get a glimpse into other characters as well. Due to the large cast of characters, Cruz is the only character that has any depth. As far as the other academy students, most of them are only introduced briefly and readers will have to pay close attention to remember all their names.  

Cruz’s conflict is multifaceted. Someone is trying to kill him, but Cruz doesn’t know who or why. This makes it difficult for Cruz to know which students and teachers to trust. In addition, Cruz’s mother left him clues to decode. The questions behind Cruz’s mother’s death add to the mystery. Plus, the story is interspersed with suspense and high action that keeps readers entertained until the very end. 

The Explorer Academy has high expectations for the students. Despite this, making mistakes is seen as a learning opportunity. While students’ grades are important, getting an A isn’t the priority. Instead, the school encourages integrity, honesty, and compassion. Furthermore, teachers reinforce the importance of teamwork and often require students to work with their classmates. No one is expected to be a perfectionist. In the end, this theme is reinforced when one student’s desire to be perfect leads to him being expelled. 

The Nebula Secret combines a well-written story with maps and illustrations that appear every two to twelve pages. Many of the illustrations are a mix of photographs and drawings, which give the pictures a touch of realism. Another positive aspect of the book is that famous people and places are mentioned, including the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve and Nellie Bly, who said, “Energy rightly applied and directed will accomplish anything.” These references may spark readers’ interest to learn more about these people and places. Plus, the book includes a section titled The Truth Behind the Fiction; these pages combine pictures and short blurbs on people mentioned in the book who have interesting jobs.  

Unfortunately, the conclusion of this story isn’t believable. Instead of wrapping up the story thread, Cruz learns that his mother has left more clues that will lead him to a formula that she invented. Even though Cruz’s mother knew it would endanger her son’s life, she left him these clues that only he can follow. To make matters worse, Cruz will have to find eight different locations to piece the formula together. Not only does this make the scenario difficult to believe, but it also sets up a series that must be read in order. Before you pick up the Explorer Academy Series, make sure you’re willing to invest the time to read all seven books in the series. Readers who aren’t ready to jump into a long series may want to check out the Secrets of the Seven Series by Sarah L. Thomson or the City Spies Series by James Ponti instead. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • While surfing, a scuba diver grabs Cruz and pulls him under water. Cruz “lashed out and his fist hit something smooth and hard. . . His thrashing had knocked the air hose loose from the diver’s tank. Cruz felt a sharp pain in his ankle and then, suddenly, he was free!” Cruz makes it to safety with only a cut ankle. 
  • Cruz was alone in a hallway when “he saw an arm shoot out. Fingers locked on to the front of his shirt and spun him around so fast he nearly went airborne. Cruz’s spine hit cold stone. The person warns Cruz, ‘They killed your mother. They will not hesitate to kill you, too.’” 
  • A man chases Cruz and his friends, who run and hide in a janitor’s closet. “Tendrils of smoke were curling up from under the door. . . His vision blurring, Cruz couldn’t tell if his friends were still conscious.” The students realize that the gas is deadly. With the help of Cruz’s drone, they escape. A teacher finds them and gives them an antidote to the gas.  
  • During a simulated mission, Cruz and his classmate Sailor see men illegally chopping down trees. When the men see the students, they begin shooting. “Cruz had lost the trail, but spotted an opening in the trees ahead of them. The clearing! If they could reach the group, maybe the men would give up chase . . .” The kids become trapped between the men and a waterfall. Cruz says, “We might survive the fall. We won’t survive the gunshots.” They jump over the cliff. “In the simulator, however, the pair had dropped only about 15 feet before landing on a huge inflatable cushion.” 
  • While on a simulated mission, a man corners Cruz. The man tells Cruz that he is going to kill him, but before he can attack “his attacker collapsed at his feet. . . Next to him was a lanky man in a lab coat clutching a giant dinosaur bone.” The attacker is arrested. 
  • The academy’s librarian, Rook, threatens Cruz and his father with a laser. “A red laser beam shot from the device. In seconds, the burst had burned a hole clean through the ceiling. And the roof, too!” 
  • In order to get free from Rook, Cruz “flung the book at Rook, who ducked, but not fast enough. The novel smacked him in the face. . .” Then Cruz’s honeybee drone “zeroed in on Rook, and began poking the librarian. She zipped up and down, left and right, stinging him on the shoulder, the face, the head, the chest, then back to the face.” Rook is arrested. 
  • While struggling with Rook, Cruz is hit with the laser. The doctor tells him, “A few millimeters to the right and it would have burned a hole right through you.” As it was, Cruz’s injury was “starting to blister and ooze.” 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • Occasionally, a student calls another boy a dingleberry. 
  • Heck and darn are both used once. 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

The Nature of Witches

Witches have been in control of the weather for hundreds of years, keeping the atmosphere calm and stable. Each witch has powers based in the seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall. Shaders, or people without magic, depend too much on the witches to keep the weather steady, pushing the limits of the witches. Thus, shaders have been starting to think that the magic is infinite and, as Clara says, “As if this planet were infinite.” More and more witches are being depleted of their powers and dying, causing the witch community to grow tired.

Clara Densmore is not just any ordinary 17-year-old witch, she is an Everwitch. An Everwitch is a witch that is tied to all four seasons. It is a rare and powerful magic; she can use her magic year-round whereas regular witches can only use their magic during their designated season. However, Clara cannot fully control her magic, which resulted in the deaths of her parents and best friend, Nikki. Clara fears her powers, and she is scared that by using her magic she will hurt other people she loves.

Then, Clara’s mentor and teacher, Mr. Hart, dies. Clara must continue her Everwitch training with two new visitors: a teacher named Mr. Burrows and his assistant, Sang Park, from the Western School of Solar Magic. Sang, a spring witch who has an interest in botany, is tasked as Clara’s primary trainer, and soon becomes Clara’s love interest. As Clara struggles with her Everwitch magic and explores the romantic pull she feels toward Sang, she must decide if she wants to improve her control over her magic or be stripped of her magic.

The Nature of Witches is a riveting story filled with romance, self-discovery, and magic. Readers may become very emotional because they are immersed in Clara’s first-person perspective. The story focuses on Clara, which allows readers to understand her thoughts and actions. Readers watch as Clara switches between wanting to be stripped of her magic and accepting it. Clara’s mental struggle is relatable because she is deciding between what she wants, what would be “easy,” and her duty as the most powerful witch. In the end, Clara realizes that her magic is a part of her and is something she can’t live without. Through her experiences, Clara learns the importance of loving both herself and her powers.

Readers will meet several complex, lovable characters inside the pages of The Nature of Witches. Clara and the other characters are portrayed with depth, showing both their good and bad traits. LGBTQ themes are expressed through Paige’s and Clara’s romantic past; the two girls were friends who became partners. There were no labels put on either person or judgment from anyone, suggesting that it is wholly accepted and integrated into society.

Griffin also includes thought-out and vivid worldbuilding by using mystical and descriptive language. The Nature of Witches is engrossing and easy to read, so readers will fly through the pages. Although the inclusion of witches and magic that controls the atmosphere is highly fictional, the story’s main idea is based on the possibility of snowstorms in June and tornadoes in winter. Climate change has been a hot topic for years and this story serves as a reminder that our world is still suffering, and readers must do something before it’s too late.

The Nature of Witches lets readers know that the first step to help stop climate change is to understand the harmful things humans do that affect the climate. The book does not give specific ways to make changes. However, it implies that people will have to face some type of horrible disaster before they accept that things must change. As Clara points out, “We aren’t in this alone and shouldn’t act like we are; the atmosphere is hurting, and that’s a problem for all of us, witches and shaders alike. The challenge is great, and we have a lot of work ahead of us. But we’re in this together, and if there’s anything I’ve learned this past year, it’s that together is where the magic lies.” At the end of the day, we must communicate with each other and work together to effect change.

Griffin gives readers an earnest, thoughtful, and fantastical story about magic and self-acceptance. Both the characters and plot will keep readers interested. While The Nature of Witches has a timely and important message attached to it, the message is not shoved in readers’ faces. The story’s vivid worldbuilding, the interesting plot, and the lovable characters make The Nature of Witches the perfect book for readers who love fantasy and climate fiction. Readers interested in reading another fantastical story that shows the dangers of climate change should grab a copy of Spark by Sarah Beth Durst.

Sexual Content

  • Clara spends the day with her summer fling Josh. After a long day, needing the comfort of his warm body, she “take[s] Josh’s hand, and he follows me the three steps to the bed. He tugs me close to him, brushes his lips against my neck.” They “fill the darkness with heavy breaths and tangled limbs and swollen lips, and by the time the mood reaches its highest point in the sky, Josh is asleep beside me.”
  • After a training incident with Clara’s ex-girlfriend, Paige, Clara remembers the time when they dated. Paige asked Clara to kiss her. “When our lips touched for the first time, [Clara] knew there was no going back.”
  • Sang, a spring witch, as well as Clara’s trainer and love interest, almost kisses Clara. “‘Clara,’ he says, his voice rough with something that sets my insides on fire. ‘If you don’t want me to kiss you right now, you’re going to have to stop looking at me like that.’ But that’s exactly what I want, I don’t care that his lip is bleeding and I’m out of breath, I want it so badly it doesn’t feel like a want. It feels like a need.” But they do not kiss.
  • Sang tells Clara that he likes her. Clara admits she’s tired of fighting her attraction. They hug and share their first kiss. “He kisses me as if it might never happen again, slow and deep and deliberate. There’s a gentleness to the way he opens his mouth and twists his tongue with mine, the way he traces his fingertips down the sides of my face and onto my neck as if he’s memorizing me.”
  • After Sang and Clara’s kiss, Clara admits, “I couldn’t sleep last night, kept awake by the ghost of Sang’s lips on mine, by the way his hand felt pressed against my lower back.”
  • Clara meets Sang outside a school building before their meeting with their teachers. “I can’t help the way my eyes drift to his lips, the way the back of my hand brushes against his.”
  • Clara walks a campus trail early and goes into the woods. She suddenly hears Sang’s voice coming toward her, but she hides. When she sees him, she confesses, “I want to run to him and wrap my arms around his waist and kiss him beneath the branches of our tree, but something keeps me rooted in place.”
  • While driving, Sang calls Clara impressive. “And before I know what’s happening, he pulls over to the side of the road, and I’m closing the distance between us, crawling onto his lap and wrapping my arms around his neck, I kiss him with the urgency of the water roaring down the mountainside and my magic rushing out to meet it.” They continue to kiss into the night. “His hands find my hips and his lips drift down my neck. My head falls back and I arch into him before returning my mouth to his. I kiss him until the sun sets and the moon rises, until my entire body hums with want.”
  • During one of Clara’s classes, Sang comes in as a special guest. When she looks at him, “My face heats with the memory of his body under mine, his face tilting up to me, his mouth on my neck and his hands in my hair.”
  • Clara hopes Paige can’t tell her heart is racing when she sees Sang. Clara remembers “echoes of his mouth on mine and his fingers on my skin and the way he breathes out when I kiss the notch in his neck flood my mind when I see him.”
  • Sang tucks Clara into bed, and “he gives me a soft, slow, lingering kiss.”
  • During the Spring Fling, Sang and Clara hug and admit how happy they are with each other. “Kissing him under the light of the stars makes me feel as if he is who I was always meant to find.” Clara admits to herself that Sang is magic to her, causing, “My lips [to] part, and the kiss deepens, each of us breathing the other in as if we’re the cool night breeze or the perfect scent of daphne.” When Clara falls backwards, “Sang follows, his mouth back on mine, and I think for a moment how perfect it is that two spring witches are falling for each other in the gardens at night.”
  • When Clara breaks up with Sang, she put “my hands on either side of his face and kiss him through my tears and his.”
  • In the aftermath of the solar eclipse, Sang runs to meet Clara and, “his lips meet mine, and I kiss him without hesitation or fear or worry. He weaves his hands through my hair, and his breaths are heavy, matching my own. I open my mouth and tangle my tongue with his, kiss him deeply, kiss him with greed and desire and longing.”
  • As Sang and Clara lay in bed, “I close my eyes, bend down, and kiss him. He puts his hands on either side of my face and opens his mouth, and I get lost in him, lost in the way his fingers feel on my skin, the way his hair tickles my face, the way his lips are soft and taste like black tea and honey.”
  • When Sang gifts Clara a journal, she thanks him and leans in to kiss him. “He kisses me again, then looks out over the meadow.”
  • Sang summons a small storm in his hand and commands thunder while Clara commands lightning. Sang tells Clara thunder will always follow lightning and they walk up to each other, and Clara describes, “I pull Sang into me and kiss him, greedy, deep, long, and eager, soaking up every drop of him before I leave.”
  • The storms dissipate and Sang and Clara cling to each other as they continue to kiss until the Autumnal equinox starts. “His lips are on my mouth, my neck, my chest, and I hold his face between my hands, run my fingers through his hair and down his back.”

Violence

  • As part of training, Clara and the other summer witches try to put out a fire. Clara is taken aback by the memories of the death of her best friend. Clara thinks, “This is the first time I’ve been involved in a group training session since I was on this same field last year, practicing with my best friend. Since the magic inside me rushed toward her in a flash of light, as bright as the fire in front of me. Since she screamed so loudly the sound still echoes in my ears.”
  • Clara’s teacher asks why she fights against her magic. Clara tells him that he knows the reason, elaborating, “He wasn’t here when my best friend died, when my magic sought her out and killed her in one instant, one single breath. But he’s heard the stories.”
  • Clara is paired with Paige for her training on how to handle storms. Clara recognizes that the storm is unstable and tries to pull Paige away. Clara tries to tackle Paige before the storm hurts her but the lightning strikes Clara and goes toward the gold chain around Paige’s neck. “Paige shakes beneath me. I scramble off her and stay by her side.” Paige ends up with a burn on her neck but is otherwise unharmed.
  • Sang accidentally poisoned his mother after growing a plant that has poisonous seeds that she put on her salad. He says, “She got really ill. Vomiting and pain, so weak she could hardly stand. My dad saw the seeds on her plate. He looked them up and realized they were toxic.”
  • After the Spring Fling dance, Clara, Sang, and some of their peers decide to play the ring of fire – a game where the witches need to keep a lightning bolt alive without it dying or touching them while passing it to each other. During a round where the lightning starts to get too strong, it aims for Sang, and, “lightning enters his chest and shoots down his left arm, exiting out his fingertips. He convulses and is thrown several yards before slamming into the ground, shaking, shaking, shaking.” Sang passes out and “a superficial burn is already forming on his skin, an intricate, fractal-like pattern that’s deep red and looks like the leaves of a fern. It covers all the skin I can see on his chest and neck.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • During the Spring Fling, Clara is talking to Paige. On Paige’s breath is “the sharp smell of alcohol.”

Language

  • Badass is used twice.
  • Shit and fuck are both used once.

Supernatural

  • The book is centered around witches and magic. Below are some, but not all examples of the witch’s magic.
  • Spring magic is calm as “its sole purpose is bringing beauty into the world,” says Clara. It helps plants grow and deals with spring atmospheric occurrences such as tornadoes.
  • Summer magic is intense and bold. Summer witches specialize in thunderstorms and fires. Clara says, “No other season can absorb as much magic from the sun as summers,” making the season strong because witch magic derives from their connection with the sun.
  • Winter magic is aggressive and precise. Witches with winter magic deal with blizzards, wind, the cold, and moisture. According to Clara, “Winters are more straightforward than anyone else. We don’t soften ourselves with indirectness or white lies or fake niceties. What you see is what you get.”
  • Autumn magic is slow and steady, building “on an undercurrent of thankfulness and sorrow.” Since it is a transitional season, it is attuned to its environment and can easily change to accommodate it.
  • Sang picks a fight with Clara, hoping to get her mad so she will use her magic without restriction and to relieve any anger built up between them. They have a small magic fight and by the end of it, Clara has unknowingly pulled spring magic from Sang to create a birch tree. When Clara uses her magic, “The earth shifts as a birch tree shoves through the ground and grows right next to us, tall and white and real. Spring magic heightened to its full strength in the dead of winter.”
  • When Mr. Burrows takes Clara to a field test, she is trapped with a family of shaders. They are stuck in a field surrounded by a wall of rocks and a sunbar, a concentrated wall of sunlight, and triple-digit temperatures. To help the family survive, Clara creates hailstones to keep them cool. Clara is “in a free fall of magic, power bursting from my fingers and into the air, tossing the hail higher and higher as if it’s weightless. I create as much hail as possible, stones dropping out of the sky in rapid succession.”
  • During the Eclipse of the Heart Music Festival, a huge storm breaks and threatens to flood the river. Clara must stop the storm and the river before thousands are flooded. As she tries to stop the storm, she “throw[s] my magic into the storm, and all four seasons follow, tumbling into the cloudburst and taking hold. Winter magic dries out the air, lessening the humidity. Summer focuses on the updraft, pushing down as hard as it can. Spring lines the bank of the river, forcing the water to hold. And autumn cools the air so it can’t rise.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Brynn Jankowski

Haven’s Secret

Twin sisters, Parker and Ellie McFadden, could not be more different. Parker is a firecracker, always bursting with energy, which she channels into her athletic activities. Ellie is gentle and quiet with a big heart for all types of animals, even spiders. Their mom, who was an environmental scientist, inspired the girls’ love for nature and was always traveling for dangerous research projects until one fateful scuba diving mission that led to her death. Before their mom died or abandoned them as Parker likes to believe, she set aside special gifts for each of her daughters to receive on their birthday. This year, they receive two bracelets and two notes reminding them to “listen carefully,” and “sisterhood comes first,” and “the magic will follow.”

Aside from the bracelets, Parker and Ellie get an even bigger surprise when their father informs them they will be spending the summer with their Great Aunt Mabel and Great Uncle George from their mom’s side of the family. Despite Parker’s protests, Mr. McFadden insists this trip will be good for the girls and that their mother had also spent time with her aunt and uncle as a kid. The next day, George and Mabel, an eccentric pair of twins, arrive to take Parker and Ellie to their mountain home which they call Haven.

Since arriving in Haven, Parker and Ellie find strange things happening. Ellie can hear animals’ thoughts and control plants, while Parker can generate fire and heat from her hands and make the ground move. Determined to find answers, Parker and Ellie explore Haven. In their mom’s old room, Ellie finds a box of pictures and notes from her mom and another girl, Sadie. Meanwhile, Parker uses an astrolabe, a special birthday gift from a previous year, to decipher the coordinates of their mom’s last locations before she went away. After demanding information, George and Mabel explain that Haven is no ordinary farm, but a sanctuary that offers protection from The Danger, a harmful force caused by human greed. Those who possess powers, like Parker and Ellie, George and Mabel, and their mother, have the responsibility to work with the environment to restore balance.

Even with this information, Parker and Ellie become suspicious of Haven and its secrets. George and Mabel are obviously withholding information, and Mabel grows increasingly wary of Parker’s strong powers and her inability to control them. Eventually, Mabel confesses that Sadie was their mom’s twin sister, and her thirst for power led to their mom’s death. Mabel expresses concern that Parker will betray Ellie in the same way if her powers are not controlled.

Suspense increases for Parker and Ellie after their dad warns them over the phone that they are in danger and must leave Haven immediately. Suddenly, everything becomes clear when Parker cracks the last astrolabe coordinate and discovers the last place her mom was before her death was Haven. The girls realize Haven is no longer safe and Mabel can’t be trusted. Parker and Ellie must work together and trust in their powers to stop Mabel from disturbing the earth’s balance and letting The Danger win.

Haven’s Secret is the first book in The Powers Series, and the story ends with a cliffhanger teasing more adventure to come. Although the book is written in third person, the chapters go back and forth between focusing on Parker’s and Ellie’s perspective. Because of their unique personalities, readers will be able to relate to either Parker or Ellie. In addition, the novel has strong themes of sisterhood and teamwork as Parker and Ellie realize they are stronger together. The book also has important environmental themes such as practicing sustainability by utilizing recycled materials. The Danger is also a symbol for climate change and environmental neglect, and Parker and Ellie’s powers are used to support environmental activism.

With its environmental themes, Haven’s Secret is an important and timely book. Overall, it is an exciting read with all the twists and secrets Parker and Ellie uncover at Haven. The ending, especially, is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. Although the pacing is a little slow in the beginning, readers will admire Parker and Ellie’s sisterly bond and get inspired to help the environment. If you’d like to read another magical book that has environmental themes, pick up a copy of Spark by Sarah Beth Durst.

 Sexual content

  • None

Violence

  • While running through the forest, “Parker’s foot skidded on the mud a second time and she pitched forward, right into a stupid tree. Face first . . . Her head flooded with pain, grimy water seeped through the knees of her jeans, and something primal rose up within her, overtaking her body and mind.” Parker is hurt.
  • A wounded cow arrives at Haven. “It’s left hind leg had a giant gash in it, almost as if the animal had gotten in a barn fight.” George and Ellie work together to help heal the cow.
  • As part of her powers, Ellie feels the pain of the wounded animals around her. As she walks closer to them, she feels “pain shimmering through every end of her body, until she was doubled over with it.” Ellie has to focus and stay strong in order for the pain to subside.
  • Ellie helps heal an injured wolf that has “a deep gash between his ribs—his blood pooled beneath him.” The animal is hurt by a growing storm caused by The Danger. We do not see exactly when the wolf was injured.
  • To protect her and her sister, Ellie blows a magical whistle their mother had given them, and “Mabel screeched as if the pain of the entire world was upon her.”
  • As Parker and Mabel fight each other, “glass shards skittered across the floor. Parker focused on the rain outside the window, drawing it into her own private tempest, thrusting it against Mabel’s wintry hailstorm. The two storms crashed together above George’s bed, and he lifted a frail arm to shield his face from the deluge of rain and hail.”
  • When Mabel’s storm falters, “the wolf Ellie had healed chose its moment to spring onto Mabel’s back.” As a result, “Mabel shrieked.” Her cries reveal she is in pain, but neither the pain nor the violence is described in detail.
  • Mabel’s rage destroyed Haven. It is implied that George and Mabel were killed in the destruction.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

 Language

  • None

 Supernatural

  • In the prologue, The Danger, a dark, magical force attacks an unknown character. The Danger “made its presence felt in the swirling wind, the bending trees, the keening animals, the shadows cast by the waning moon . . . It filled her, and she let it. It fused to her body from the inside out, banishing all the parts she’d kept hidden and protected for so long.”
  • In a moment of frustration, Parker slams her foot on the ground and “the ground cracked and jolted Parker out of her rage. For a second her whole body rattled like someone was shaking her . . . There, clearly, beneath her sneaker, was a split in the ground.” Before realizing her powers, Parker assumes the crack was caused by an earthquake.
  • After meeting Arlo the dog, who lives at Haven, Ellie discovers she can communicate with animals. After Ellie asked Arlo if he would like to come in inside, she could feel him say yes. “It wasn’t like he had actually spoken, but a strong feeling of ‘yes’ had come out of nowhere.” Ellie continues to hear the thoughts of animals throughout the book.
  • In the forest, Parker “felt as if a million slender tendrils from the forest were fighting to pull her back and eat her alive.” This is The Danger trying to get her.
  • As Ellie walked around Haven, “she noticed buttercups springing up around her feet, almost as if to mark her path.” Later, Ellie discovers that she has some control over plants.
  • Parker produces light from her hands, and “the skin on her palms was briefly translucent, exposing what had just been jumping underneath—a landscape of sparks, a million bright pinpricks, all of them screaming and clawing to get out out out into the world—”
  • Mabel explains to Parker and Ellie that The Danger “is a malevolent, shape-shifting force created by people’s greed.”
  • After getting frustrated with Mabel for not telling the truth, Parker creates a burst of fire and light. “Parker opened her arms wide as the searing heat coursed through her and enveloped the palms of her hands.” As a result, Parker notices the mountain side of the road “was mostly uniform except for a gaping chunk in the middle, the space for the last missing piece of puzzle.” Parker had caused an explosion and shifted bits of the earth. Parker has “the ability to produce light and manipulate the earth’s surface matter.”
  • Ellie comes to realize that “all her life, she had been able to see how people were feeling, sometimes even before they saw it themselves.”
  • When George grew weak after healing animals, Ellie “stepped in and discovered she could heal animals too.”
  • Parker and Ellie notice a mysterious shadow but “light had nothing to do with it. Nothing was casting it. The shadow simply crept of its own accord. And then it was gone.”
  • When a vine begins to choke Ellie, “she visualized the vine receding, herself taming it with merely a thought,” and, “around her neck and shoulders, the vines loosened.”
  • George explains to Parker “that the powers don’t just run in our This is bigger than just us. Lots of other people have powers.”
  • As Mabel becomes more power-hungry, “showers of sparks danced from her irises and arced down to the floor trailing thin ribbons of black smoke.”

Spiritual content

  • None

by Elena Brown

Fly High, Fly Guy!

Mom and Dad won’t let Fly Guy go along on the family road trip. They’re afraid he’ll get lost. But when Dad accidentally shuts him in the trunk, Fly Guy goes along for the ride! First, Fly Guy gets lost at the picnic site—but he shows up in the garbage can. Then he gets lost at the art museum, but he shows up as part of a modern painting. At the beach, he turns up in a shell, and at the amusement park, on Buzz’s hot dog (yuck!).

Beginning readers will have fun reading about Fly Guy’s adventures which come to life in comical illustrations. Each page has large, brightly colored illustrations. The cartoonish characters have exaggerated facial features to help readers understand the characters’ emotions. The story will give emerging readers confidence as they move from picture books to chapter books. Fly High, Fly Guy has three chapters, and most pages have one to three simple sentences. The story’s short sentences and simple vocabulary make Fly High, Fly Guy a good choice for younger readers.

Although Fly High, Fly Guy doesn’t have a lesson, the creative story will engage readers and have them wondering what Fly Guy will do next. Readers will giggle at some of the illustrations such as when Fly Guy goes to a museum and kisses Mona Lisa on the nose. The Fly Guy Series uses humor to show that reading can be fun. Readers who enjoy Fly High, Fly Guy may also want to read 13 Ways to Eat a Fly by Sue Heavenrich.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

 

Firefly Hollow

There are certain things that are taught to the young fireflies and crickets of the Hollow. But Firefly doesn’t only want to learn how to fly—she wants to fly to the moon. And Cricket doesn’t only want to sing about baseball games—he wants to play in one.

Their dreams seem too big for the Hollow, and as Firefly and Cricket chase them beyond the trees, they stumble upon a giant, like the ones they have always been warned about. But this giant is different—he’s miniature, and his name is Peter.

Peter is in need of friends, even small ones, even if his dad thinks they are imaginary. But Firefly and Cricket are actual, not imaginary. And so are their dreams. And sometimes dreams, like friendships, lead to something extraordinary.

In the Hollow, both fireflies and crickets have been warned to stay away from humans, who are dangerous. “The worlds of tiny creatures and humans were unbridgeable, or at least that’s what crickets and fireflies were always told. But every once in a while, there was one—sometimes two—who ventured out of firefly nation, out of the cricket nation, to test the waters on their own.” Despite their fear, Firefly and Cricket leave the hollow and become friends with Peter. In the process, they learn that friends—no matter how small—can come in unlikely places.

Firefly Hollow shows how dreams can come true in unexpected ways. Unlike most of the Hollow’s creatures, Peter doesn’t make fun of Firefly’s and Cricket’s dreams. Instead, he helps them achieve their goals through encouragement and advice. Through the three friends’ experiences, readers will learn that true friends are kindred spirits who accept you as you are. As Vole says, “A kindred spirit is someone who understands the deepest dream of your heart.”

The Hollow is portrayed in a magical way through beautiful illustrations. Both black and white drawings and full-color illustrations appear every 3 to 7 pages. Most of the black and white illustrations focus on the characters. The colored illustrations show the beautiful light from fireflies as well as the scale of Firefly and Cricket compared to their surroundings. While younger readers will love the story, they may need help with the book’s advanced vocabulary which includes words like carapace, heedless, disintegrate, circumnavigated and kindred.

Firefly Hollow is a must-read because it is a beautiful story about friendship that shows the importance of determination, preservation, practice, and trying new things. The story also explores the idea of death by focusing on how people are missed after they die. Even though Firefly and Cricket are bugs, they are completely loveable and relatable. Readers will fall in love with the two friends who remind us that dreams are never too big.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • The Museum of Giant Artifacts has items from the human world. In the museum, “the Jar that was especially horrifying to the firefly nation. The Jar! It contained actual firefly corpses!”
  • A cricket named Gloria is injured by a human. “One lollipop stick flung carelessly from the hand of a miniature giant and now there she is—one front leg and one wing permanently damaged.”
  • Vole’s nation was washed away. “The giants who lived upstream had struck down a beaver dam. This caused the river to rise up in fury, swamping the fishing boats of the river voles and sweeping both boats and voles downriver, never to be seen again. All except one. Vole.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Many think that Cricket and Firefly are “nuts” or “crazy.” For example, when Cricket says he’d like to catch a baseball, someone asks, “Are you nuts?”
  • At one point, Peter’s father says that Firefly is insane.
  • A cricket is talking about Cricket when he says, “He’s weird and he’s a pain, but we miss him anyway.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • An elder asks Firefly, “Did you know that when fireflies get very old, they turn into stars? And what that means is that if the day ever comes when I’m not here, I’ll be up in the sky. . .Just remember that,” he said. “Remember that one of the stars in the sky will be me, and I’ll be watching over you.”
  • After crickets die, they “turn into music and we are everywhere. . .They turned into the sound of the wind, rustling the leaves on the trees. The crunch of an acorn in the fall.”

The Firefly with No Glow

Luke is a firefly who lives in a garden, but unlike his friends, Luke doesn’t have a light and “no light means no glow.” As Luke and his friends explore the world, Luke’s friends help him. But one night, a boy catches Luke’s friends and puts them into a jar. None of the other fireflies can help, but because Luke doesn’t glow, the boy doesn’t see him. Luke frees his friends. While he doesn’t have a light that glows, after he helps his friends, Luke is glowing with pride.

By reading The Firefly with No Glow, children can fly into the world of the fireflies and explore. Every page has illustrations that show the adorably cute fireflies who live in a beautiful world full of creatures—an owl in a tree, ladybugs on a leaf, and crickets playing a song. Young readers will have fun trying to find all the creatures in the illustrations. Most of the full-page illustrations show the dark blue night sky which allows the fireflies light to shine bright. When the fireflies are trapped in a jar, their frowns are evident, but the scenes are not scary.

The Firefly with No Glow is part of the Step into Reading level two, which is geared toward preschool through first grade readers. With large font and 1 to 2 short sentences per page, young readers will enjoy the simple story. However, some readers will need help sounding out unfamiliar words.

The story focuses on Luke, a firefly who is different than the other fireflies. However, it is Luke’s difference that allows him to save his friends. While Luke doesn’t have a light that glows, he is portrayed in a positive light. The Firefly with No Glow highlights how one firefly’s difference makes him the perfect firefly to help his friends. The cute, engaging story will leave readers with a warm glow and help them understand that being unique is a good thing.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A boy “catches a few of Luke’s friends. They are trapped in a jar.” Every firefly that tries to help, gets caught by the boy.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Sophie’s Squash

One fall day, Sophie makes a surprising friend during her family’s sunny trip to the local farmers’ market. The friend just happens to be a squash. Sophie calls her Bernice. At first, Sophie’s parents let Sophie care for and love Bernice—taking her to storytime at the library, introducing her to the other squash at the market, practicing somersaults in the garden, and tucking baby Bernice into a crib at night with a bottle. “Well, we did hope she’d love vegetables,” Sophie’s parents humorously justify. However, as Bernice begins to get older and rot, Sophie’s parents try to convince Sophie to cook Bernice, or send her to a food donation site. Even the other children during library storytime look down on Bernice as she ages. However, Sophie is not ready to ever give up her perfect friend—so when Bernice begins to soften and can no longer do somersaults, Sophie makes the difficult decision to put her in a bed of soft soil and wait for Bernice to grow again.

Sophie’s Squash is a wonderfully gentle tale that not only teaches children how to care for the things that they love, but also shows readers how letting go can sometimes lead to new possibilities. Miller thoughtfully weaves her story of Sophie and Bernice alongside whimsical watercolor illustrations in which illustrator Anne Wilsdorf fully showcases Sophie’s somersaults, Bernice’s baby carriage rides, and multiple family trips to the farmers’ market. Even though Sophie’s Squash is longer than most picture books, two or three illustrations sit on each page and break up the text so that there is no more than five to ten lines between each image. The watercolor illustrations also work to bring the entire narrative to life, so viewers still gain a complete grasp of the story by looking only at the pictures. This, coupled with the digestible nature of Miller’s prose, makes Sophie’s Squash perfect for new and learning readers.

Throughout all the quirky shenanigans of Sophie’s Squash, Sophie’s character shines with a heroic agency and independence. Sophie’s care towards Bernice turns this silly story about a girl and a squash into a truly heartwarming story about friendship, care, and even environmentalism. By exemplifying the new path Sophie must take in order to regrow her friend Bernice, Sophie’s Squash creates a powerful metaphor demonstrating the wondrous things that can come from putting something else’s needs— particularly the needs of nature— before your own.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • One of the children at the library points and stares at Bernice, saying to Sophie, “What’s that spotty thing?” In the narrative, this question takes on a teasing tone that may be hard for some children to read.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Hannah Olsson

Willodeen

Eleven-year-old Willodeen adores creatures of all kinds, but her favorites are the most unlovable beasts in the land; strange beasts known as “screechers.” The villagers of Perchance call them pests– even monsters– but Willodeen believes the animals serve a vital role in the complicated web of nature.
Lately, though, nature has seemed angry indeed. Perchance has been cursed with fires and mudslides, droughts and fevers, and even the annual migration of hummingbears, a source of local pride and income, has dwindled. For as long as anyone can remember, the tiny animals have overwintered in shimmering bubble nests perched atop blue willow trees, drawing tourists from far and wide. This year, however, not a single hummingbear has returned to Perchance, and no one knows why.

When a handmade birthday gift brings unexpected magic to Willodeen and her new friend, Connor, she’s determined to speak up for the animals she loves, and perhaps even uncover the answer to the mystery of the missing hummingbears.

Willodeen is a wonderfully relatable character who feels as if she’s odd and unlovable because she would rather spend time in nature than with people. Like many middle school readers, Willodeen is often self-conscious and struggles to find her voice. Many people make fun of Willodeen’s love of screechers because they don’t understand why she loves the ugly, smelly creatures. However, when Willodeen meets Connor, they connect over their love of all creatures. In the end, Willodeen becomes the heroine of the story when she uses her power of scientific observation to solve the town’s problem, saving the screechers in the process.

Through Willodeen’s experiences, readers will learn about the importance of community. When the town is threatened by fire, everyone joins in to help put the fire out. The theme is developed further when Willodeen and Connor go to the city council meetings—where both Willodeen and Connor find the bravery to speak up for the detested screechers. Readers will love how Mae, Birdie, and Connor’s father stand up for Willodeen and encourage her to “be what you are meant to be.” Even though Willodeen is different than others, the story shows that she has value and can contribute to her community in her own unique way.

Willodeen is also a story about caring for all nature—even the animals that aren’t adorably cute like the hummingbears. The story shows how all of nature is interconnected and how each animal has an important role in the ecosystem. Readers will love discovering how the screechers and the hummingbears are interconnected. In the end, the town learns to appreciate the screechers. And when tourists “complained about the horrible beasts stinking up the village, we learned to simply shrug and say, ‘when screechers were invented, Mother Nature made them scented.’”

Appplegate creates another beautiful story that advanced readers and middle school readers will love. The short chapters, loveable characters, and a bit of magic will captivate readers and leave them contemplating ways they can use their voice to impact their community.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Willodeen and her family are caught in a fire. Her father, mother and little brother died in the fire. Willodeen has a nightmare about the “flames grabbing for me like a hungry monster. The soles of my feet blistering. The poisonous smoke scorching my lungs.” Willodeen wonders why she “made it out” when her family didn’t.
  • Willodeen is looking at a screecher curled in a nest, when she “heard footsteps, movement. Thwap. The arrow hit with such force that the nest seemed to explode.” The screecher runs, but Willodeen sees “a thick trail of blood leading into the trees.” Later she finds the animal dead. “His eyes staring at nothing. His white snout was covered in blood.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Every year Perchance has a fair where “ale and trinkets” are sold.

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • Birdie tells Willodeen “angry tears have magic in them. . . There’s magic in all of us. Just a bit. You’re born with it, like fingers and toes and fuzzy baby hair. Some of us make use of it. And some do not.”
  • A screecher magically comes alive. “The creature has a maker, a boy with nimble fingers and a tender heart. He’s spent hours weaving weeds and thistledown in the milky moonlight, spinning her into existence.” The creature began as a screecher, made from weeds, wood, and other materials. But then Willodeen cried “for myself because I was alone and lonely on my birthday. And because I was odd and unlovable. For a long time, I let myself weep. . .” Willodeen’s “angry tears” had the magic to make the screecher alive.

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

The Sequoia Lives On

From tiny seeds to the largest trees, the giant sequoia is a living wonder of nature. Numbers fail when trying to describe this ancient and tremendous tree. The giant sequoia begins life as a seed no larger than an oatmeal flake yet can grow as tall as three blue whales stacked chin to tail. The oldest sequoias have lived as long as forty human lifetimes. The largest are so enormous that twenty children holding hands can’t wrap their arms around their trunks!

The sequoia’s majesty is shown with vibrant full-page illustrations while the text explains the tree’s size in kid-friendly terms. For example, a sequoia’s seed is “a flake no bigger than an ant” but the tiny seeds will eventually be “a tree as heavy as three hundred elephants.” The sequoia’s great size is emphasized, and the illustrations show a diverse group of children admiring the trees. The Sequoia Lives On is a picture book intended to be read aloud to a child the first time. Even though each two-page spread only has 1 to 5 sentences, young readers will struggle with the complex sentence structure and difficult vocabulary.

The Sequoia Lives On teaches readers about the life cycle of a sequoia. The book pairs sequoia facts with beautiful pictures. To give readers perspective, the illustrations compare the trees’ size to the forest animals. While no book can fully explain the majesty of the giant sequoias, The Sequoia Lives On does an excellent job explaining how the sequoia is important to other living creatures including chickarees and the long-horned beetle.

Young readers curious about trees will enjoy The Sequoia Lives On. While some of the text may be confusing to young readers, the illustrations beautifully show the information given in the text. Children will be amazed as they learn about the giant trees. If you are planning a trip to see the sequoias, The Sequoia Lives On is a must-read. However, young readers who aren’t interested in trees may quickly become bored. The Sequoia Lives On will educate readers as well as inspire awe, but younger reads will need an adult’s help to get through to the end of the book.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Such a Little Mouse

In the middle of a meadow, under a clump of dandelions, lives a curious and adventurous mouse—such a little mouse. Every morning in spring, summer, fall, and winter, one, two, three! He pops out of his hole. And off he goes exploring in the wild world.

Spend a year with a little mouse, with his smart gray coat, with his ears pink as petals, with three twitchety whiskers on each side of his nose. The wide world holds many surprises for such a little creature.

Readers will love seeing the little mouse explore his own backyard. The little mouse finds wonder in every season and everything—a snail, a clover, a reflection of himself in a puddle. As he goes about his day, “he brings a little round seed home in his mouth. He packs it away in his storeroom, way down deep in his hole.” As winter approaches, the little mouse’s storeroom becomes full of leaves, fruits, acorns, and other yummy foods. When the snow covers the meadow and trees, “he goes, down into his warm hole.” The little mouse makes himself a meal of acorn bread and seed-and-watercress soup. Then he snuggles down with a book and a blanket. “Such a little mouse, all snug and warm, deep down in his hole, until spring.”

Even though Such a Little Mouse is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page has 1 to 3 sentences that use onomatopoeia and repetition to keep readers interested. Such a Little Mouse is a wonderful story that teaches about the different seasons.

Such a Little Mouse is a sweet story that highlights the importance of preparing for winter. Even though the little mouse stops to enjoy the little things in life, he also packs away supplies for the winter. The little mouse’s days come to life in full-page illustrations that use the colors of each season. Some of the pages include panels that give readers a closer view of the little mouse’s activities. If you’re looking for more books about the four seasons, check out City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Ace Lacewing, Bug Detective: Bad Bugs Are My Business

While on the way to the bank, someone knocks Scratch over the head and takes his money. The upset flea is desperate to find the culprit, so he goes to detective Ace Lacewing. The detective bug discovers that Scratch has a lot of enemies—a hissing roach, a carpenter ant, and bo weevil.

Ace’s investigation takes him to Scratch’s amusement park, where he goes through the Termite Tower of Terror, Anteater Falls, and the House of Mirrors. Ace’s girlfriend and the Police Sergeant Zito “The Mosquito” join Ace on his investigation. Will Ace be able to find the missing money?

Bad Bugs Are My Business uses first-person narration, which allows Ace’s personality to shine. Throughout the story, the characters use some funny insect humor. For example, while interrogating a ladybug, Ace says, “Seems like someone was trying to play flatten-the-flea with your boyfriend.”

As Ace talks to possible thieves, each one points the finger at someone else, which helps propel the story forward. In the end, it’s Ace’s knowledge of insects that allows him to solve the crime. The story has some interesting insect facts and reinforces the importance of family. Unfortunately, the message is watered down because the thief is the one who talks about the importance of family. He says, “You don’t have family, you don’t have nothin’.” In the end, the thief used his “little pupae” to hide his crime.

The picture book’s illustrations bring the bugs’ world to life with bright colors. Readers will have fun looking for all of the insect references. For example, while a group of bugs rides a roller coaster, they pass a sign that reads, “Please Keep Antenna and Legs inside.” The detailed illustrations have so many fun elements that readers will want to look at them again and again. While several pages have no words, many of the other pages are text heavy and include up to 9 sentences. Even though Bad Bugs Are My Business is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently.

Readers may not understand all of the story’s lessons, such as paying workers a fair wage. Despite this, the basic plot is easy to understand, and Ace’s investigation is fast-paced and interesting. Young readers who are looking for a fun detective story will enjoy Bad Bugs Are My Business. This creative story has all of the enjoyable elements of a mystery.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When Scratch was heading to the bank, “Bam! He got hit on the head with a carpenter ant toolbox.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle

Simple science text and dramatic illustrations give a close-up view of the fascinating world of the dung beetle. When an animal lightens its load, dung beetles race to the scene. They battle over, devour, hoard, and lay their eggs in the precious poop. Dung is food, drink, and fuel for new life – as crucial to these beetles as the beetles are to many habitats, including our own.

Young readers may get squeamish when they think of a beetle eating dung, but right from the start Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle explains dung in a neutral tone. “Somewhere in the world right now an animal is lightening its load.” Most of the time, animal waste is called dung, but it is also called poop or feces. While humans would never consider eating dung, for a dung beetle, “one animal’s waste is the dung beetle’s treasure.”

Readers may think a picture book that illustrates poop would be gross, but at times the illustrations make it seem surprisingly spectacular. Most of the time, the dung piles look like brown balls. The watercolor illustrations use hues of nature and most of the illustrations are done in shades of brown and gold. The illustrations give a close look at the beetle’s home and body parts. While the focus is on the different types of beetles, the pictures also show the other animals that live near dung beetles. Readers will have fun looking at the elephants, giraffes, and other animals that appear in the background.

Even though Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. Each page has 1 to 6 sentences. Because some of the text is written in complex sentences with advanced vocabulary, young readers may need help. The book ends with more beetle facts, a diagram, a glossary, and a bibliography.

Behold the Beautiful Dung Beetle is packed full of interesting facts and shows how beetles help the environment. By the time readers get to the last page, they will realize that dung beetles aren’t gross at all. Instead, readers will discover that beetles are amazing. “Clad in splendor, dung beetles ascend into our world. They are ancient symbols of life and renewal.”

Sexual Content

  • The book explains the mating of beetles. For example, “Tunnelers mate and stash their eggs deep inside underground vaults.”

Violence

  • Sometimes dung beetles fight for their food. “Rollers engage in head-to-head combat to defend their dung—and for the promise of finding a mate.”
  • Different types of dung beetles fight in different ways. “Tunnelers push and pry and twist and turn in underground battles . . . The bigger beetles with larger horns usually force smaller beetles out of the nest and away from dung supplies.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Secret Explorers and the Lost Whales

Meet the Secret Explorers! This group of brilliant kids comes together from all four corners of the globe to fix problems, solve mysteries, and gather knowledge from all over the planet – and beyond. Whenever their help is needed, a special sign will appear on a door. They step through to the Exploration Station and receive their mission…

In The Lost Whales, marine life expert Connor needs to use his underwater expertise to save a pod of humpback whales who have lost their way. Along with space expert Roshni, Connor sets out in a submarine to search for a way to steer the whales back on track. However, they encounter unexpected problems along the way, including lost baby whales and a fleet of boats. Will the Secret Explorers manage to succeed in their mission?

Even though The Secret Explorers are a large, diverse group of children, The Lost Whales focuses on Connor and Roshni. Even though the children are smart, they are not perfect, which makes them more relatable. Some humorous scenes are mixed in with the facts. For example, in order to get a pod of whales to swim in another direction, Connor raps. Roshni teases him by saying, “That has to be the worse rapping that I’ve heard in my life. I think I cringed my way into a parallel universe.”

The book is jam-packed with whale facts. While a lot of the information is integrated into the story’s plot, at times the lessons seem forced. For example, Connor and Roshni find red sea algae, which is bad for ocean animals. Connor thinks, “There’s no sense in blaming the algae though. They fed on farm fertilizer that had been washed out to sea and grew so fast because climate change had warmed the oceans.” Despite this, readers will enjoy learning about whales and other ocean creatures.

During the adventure, Connor and Roshni put on scuba gear and swim toward a boat. When Connor and Roshni approach the boat, they ask permission to board, and a young boy gives them permission even though he is on the boat deck alone. While this part of the plot is essential to solving a problem, parents may want to discuss why that could have been a dangerous situation.

The Lost Whales has large black and white illustrations that will help break up the text and help readers understand the plot. Characters’ thoughts are easy to distinguish because they are in bold text. While younger readers may struggle with some of the difficult vocabulary and the length of the book, the book’s educational value makes it worth parents’ time to read the book aloud to their children. The book ends with 6 pages of additional facts, a glossary, and a quiz.

The Lost Whales has a blend of action, problem-solving, and ocean life facts that will make parents and young readers happy. The books do not need to be read in order because each book describes a new adventure. Readers will be excited to read the rest of the books in the series because they cover a wide variety of topics, including archaeology, dinosaurs, space, and other high-interest topics.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • When there is a Secret Explorers mission, a “glowing shape” appears on the pantry door. When Connor goes into the pantry, “the shelves of food were gone, and instead there was a dazzling white light. Connor’s heart thudded. Wind whipped against his face, as if he were traveling really fast.” Connor is transported to the Exploration Station.
  • The Beagle can change into different types of transportation and magically takes its occupants to where they need to go.
  • The Beagle can also change shape. “The Beagle began to transform. The wheels slide away. A joystick replaced the steering wheel. Glass rose around them.” When the transformation is complete, the Beagle turns into a submarine.
  • When Connor gets back from his adventure, he discovers that no time has passed so no one has missed him.

Spiritual Content

  • None

We Are Water Protectors

Water is the first medicine. It affects and connects us all. When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth and poison her people’s water, one young water protector takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.

We Are Water Protectors was awarded the Caldecott Medal for being a distinguished American picture book for children. Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, this book issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard Earth’s water from harm and corruption. The story speaks against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was protested by the Standing Rock Sioux. The book ends with an “Earth Steward and Water Protector Pledge” for the child to sign and date.

Beautiful illustrations highlight the connection between people and nature. The parts of the story that tell about the importance of water are completed in shades of blue with other natural colors. Each page has 1 to 3 sentences written in poetry. Even though We Are Water Protectors is written for children, younger readers will not understand the symbolism or the connection between the black snake and the oil pipeline. The black snake only appears in the illustrations twice, but the snake’s red eyes, red tongue, and large teeth may frighten some readers.

We Are Water Protectors is a call of action that encourages readers to be “stewards of the Earth” and to “fight for those who cannot fight from themselves.” The last two-page spread shows a group of mostly Indigenous people protesting. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t include ways that young readers can help the cause, other than signing the “Earth Steward and Water Protector Pledge.” While the book shows the connection between people and nature, it misses the opportunity to show how young readers can take action.

We Are Water Protectors’ illustrations beautifully highlight the plants and animals that “cannot fight for themselves.” Despite this, the symbolism and deeper message will need to be explained by an adult. Parents should read the “more on water protectors” section at the end of the book to better explain the text to younger readers. While the story introduces the importance of water, We Are Water Protectors is better suited for older readers.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

 

Saving Kate’s Flowers

Fall is here and Kate, who is a rabbit, is determined to save her flowers from the winter cold. Mom shows her how to scoop the flowers out of the ground, transplant them into pots, and give them water. Kate pots a couple of flowers . . . and then some more … and a few more. ate has filled the house with flowers, but Dad’s sneezes mean the flowers have to go! Kate realizes she needs to find a new place for her flowers to spend the winter, but where?

Saving Kate’s Flowers is a fun story that introduces readers to different types of flowers—black-eyed susans, impatients, geraniums, and goldenrod just to name a few. The story also explains the difference between perennials and annuals. Readers will relate to Kate, who doesn’t want any of the flowers to die. When the overzealous Kate pots too many plants, her mom helps her find a way to save them. With a little help, Kate’s flowers find a new home with her neighbors.

Kate’s world comes to life in beautiful full-colored illustrations that are packed full of details. Readers will enjoy finding the snail that appears on almost every page. Butterflies, worms, and insects are also in many of the pictures. The story includes a 4-page “For Creative Minds” section in the back of the book and a 27-page cross-curricular “Teaching Activity Guide” online. Each page has 1 to 9 sentences which early readers will need help reading. Even though young readers may need help with the vocabulary, the story explains transplanting plants in a way that young readers will easily understand.

Children will love the adorable animals in Saving Kate’s Flowers, from a turtle listing to an ipod to a pug wearing pearls. Kate’s enthusiasm for plants is contagious and her kind actions show the importance of being a good neighbor. Whether you’re looking for a book that teaches about plants or just a fun family read-aloud, Saving Kate’s Flower is sure to delight. Readers who want to learn more about the joy of gardening should also read Mortimer’s First Garden by Karma Wilson.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

13 Ways to Eat a Fly

Thirteen flies become tasty snacks in this clever reverse counting book about subtraction, predators, and prey.

Science meets subtraction in this fresh and funny STEM picture book with plenty of ewww factor to please young readers. A swarm of thirteen flies buzzes along, losing one member to each predator along the way. Whether the unfortunate insects are zapped or wrapped, liquefied or zombified, the science is real—and hilariously gross. The story includes a guide to eating bugs, complete with nutritional information for a single serving of flies.

Each two-page spread shows how a different predator finds a fly to snack on. While the descriptions are not gory, squeamish readers may find the flies’ deaths disturbing. When a fly gets too close to a Venus flytrap, for instance, “Snap! Bye-bye, fly! Digestive juices inside the leaf dissolve the meaty parts of the fly.” The accompanying illustration shows a fly trying to escape from the plant.

13 Ways to Eat a Fly introduces readers to the cycle of life through rhyming lines and illustrations. The story begins with illustrations of different types of flies. Each page has an oversized number with one keyword, such as zapped and wrapped. Even though each page only has 2 to 4 sentences, the book is intended to be read aloud to a child, rather than for the child to read it for the first time independently. The illustrations use natural colors with pops of brighter colors. In many of the illustrations, the fly’s common name and scientific name appear underneath the fly.

Curious readers will love learning about the many animals, including humans, that rely on flies for food. Any reader who is interested in science and nature will enjoy 13 Ways to Eat a Fly. Readers will even learn about the nutritional value of flies and how humans can use them in their own meals. Readers who enjoy 13 Ways to Eat a Fly, may want to add the Fly Guy Series to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • The story shows the ways flies die. For example, a wasp “stings a fly, carries it home, and drags it down into a nest.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Because a Little Bug Went Ka-CHOO!

Just one “KA-CHOO” causes a whole chain of hilarity, from a splashing turtle to a wet hen, to a flying policeman, a sinking boat, and just about everyone crashing a circus parade! “Because that seed dropped, a worm got mad. Because he got mad, he kicked a tree. Because of that kick. . .” Turn the pages and find out what could possibly happen next!

Because a Little Bug Went Ka-CHOO! is a simple story that shows a chain reaction of cause and effect. The silly characters range from an angry worm to Farmer Brown and even a flying policeman. The simple story is perfect for beginning readers because every sentence uses the same format and only a few new words are introduced on each page. As part of the I Can Read It Myself Beginning Book Series, young readers should be able to read the book on their own.

The full-page illustrations are bright, hilarious, and have fun details. Each page adds more characters—soon cows, chickens, Farmer Brown, police officers, and even a fish follow the action to see what will happen next. Readers will have fun finding all of the familiar characters on each page. From a fish riding a motorcycle to a blue elephant in the sky, the characters will keep young readers engaged.

Because each page has 1 to 2 simple sentences that have rhythm, Because a Little Bug Went Ka-CHOO! makes a great story to read aloud. The combination of simple sentences and funny illustrations will have young children reading Because a Little Bug Went Ka-CHOO! again and again. The book allows beginning readers to gain confidence in reading. As readers follow the chaos that one little sneeze causes, they will learn that reading can be fun.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

On Beyond Bugs!

The Cat in the Hat, Thing 1, and Thing 2 go on a journey looking for the millions of bugs that live in the world. The Cat in the Hat introduces readers to all sorts of bugs from praying mantis, to grasshoppers, and even butterflies. The Cat in the Hat tells readers interesting facts about the bugs he meets. With the help of a magnifying glass, the smaller bugs grow large enough that readers can distinguish each bug’s differences. Fleas, bees, and bugs in trees all inhabit the world, and with the Cat in the Hat, readers will learn all sorts of interesting facts.

Cat in the Hat uses Thing 1 and Thing 2 to introduce bug facts. For example, they hold up a sign that reads, “Spiders aren’t insects! This news couldn’t wait! Instead of six legs, every spider has eight!” All of the bugs are labeled and some pages have diagrams of bug body parts. The book’s format makes it easy for readers to identify bugs and their body parts.

On Beyond Bugs uses full-page illustrations with bright colors to introduce all types of bugs. Each bug’s unique features are shown through pictures. For example, an underwing moth blends into a tree’s bark, and a spittlebug hides from birds by covering itself with spit bubbles. Some of the illustrations are humorous, such as when the queen bee is being taken care of by the worker bees.

On Beyond Bugs is intended to introduce beginning readers to the importance of basic concepts about the world. Each page has 2 to 4 rhyming sentences. Readers will enjoy seeing the Cat in the Hat, Thing 1, and Thing 2 throughout the story. The end of the book has a seven-word glossary and a list of books that bug lovers might want to read.

Young readers will enjoy the colorful illustrations and learning about bugs. However, every two-page spread introduces a new insect, which some readers may find overwhelming. On Beyond Bugs teaches the importance of learning about bugs because “The world that we know couldn’t go on without them. The butterfly, ladybug, ant, and the bee make everything better . . . for you. . . and for me!”

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Bug Girl (a true story)

Sophia loves bugs. When she was in kindergarten, some of her friends would hunt for bugs with her. But as she got older, kids began teasing her because she was a “bug lover.” Sophia was teased so much that she packed all of her bug stuff into boxes. This made her sad.

Then Sophia’s mom sent an email to a bug scientist. The entomologist Morgan Jackson wrote Sophia, encouraging her to keep studying bugs. When Morgan shared Sophia’s story, other bug scientists also helped Sophia see that loving bugs is not weird or strange. Today, Sophia is a fourth-grader who still loves bugs.

Each page of the picture book has large illustrations that look like watercolors. As Sophia’s classmates grow older and begin to tease her, the illustrations show Sophia’s sadness both in facial expressions and in dark colors. Most pages have 5 to 7 sentences as well as speech bubbles. Even with so few sentences, some pages are text-heavy which may make it difficult for younger readers to sit through a reading. Even though The Bug Girl is a picture book, the story is intended to be read aloud to a child rather than for a child to read it for the first time independently. The end of the book has general information on bugs as well as “super-cool bug facts.” In addition, the book explains the cycle of the butterfly and how to study bugs in the wild.

Any child who has been called weird will relate to Sophia’s struggle. Her story allows readers to see that having a unique hobby is not strange. Sophia realizes that there are many people who love bugs. This realization allows Sophia to enjoy studying bugs without feeling like there is something wrong with her. The Bug Girl will encourage readers to embrace being different and to continue doing what they enjoy, even if others make fun of them. The Bug Girl is a must-read for any child who loves bugs. If you’re looking for another book that encourages children to embrace their differences, add Angus All Aglow by Heather Smith to your reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • When Sophia takes a grasshopper to school, “a bunch of kids crowded around me and made fun of me. . . Then they knocked that beautiful grasshopper off my shoulder and stomped on it till it was dead.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Sophia’s classmates tease her and call her names such as show-off, bug lover, and weird. The kids wonder, “Why doesn’t she like regular things?

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

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