Mystery of the Map

Oliver, Mya, and Jorge take a ride in a hot-air balloon, only to crash-land on an unknown island filled with extinct animals and a horde of angry Vikings. Welcome to Poptropica, an uncharted group of islands whose existence is hidden from the rest of the world. As the three friends embark on a perilous search for a way home, they quickly discover the shocking reason they were brought there—something that threatens the very existence of Poptropica and their ability to ever make it off the island! 

Many kids already love Poptropica, a website that shares stories via gaming literacy. Kids familiar with the website will instantly connect to Poptropica: Mystery of the Map. Written by Jack Chabert, author of Eerie Elementary (published under a pen name), Mystery of the Map uses action and humor to entertain readers. The graphic novel features three diverse kids—Oliver, Mya, and Jorge. The three are somewhat stereotypical—Oliver is a nerd, Jorge is clueless, and Mya is frustrated by the boys’ antics. Despite this, readers will love this crazy adventure where the kids get the best of the Vikings.  

Some of the humor is comically childish. For example, after falling from the sky, Jorge gets caught in a tree and a bird pulls off his belt. Jorge’s pants fall, revealing bright pink, space underwear. Then, when the kids sneak into the Viking’s fort, one Viking picks his nose and eats the booger. In addition, two of the Vikings are sitting and their butt cracks show. Oliver says, “Seriously? These guys built ships that crossed the Atlantic, but they couldn’t invent belts?” 

Each page has brightly colored illustrations that use fun elements such as onomatopoeia—”Krash! Smash! Krak!”—as well as comical characters with oversized eyes. The illustrations clearly show the characters’ varying emotions such as annoyance, fear, and confusion. Some of the pages let the illustrations tell the story without text. Other pages contain up to nine sentences with easy-to-understand vocabulary. Most of the sentences are super short, which makes the book accessible to reluctant readers. 

While on the island, the kids meet Eric the Red. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t give much information on the well-known Viking and misses the chance to add historical facts. If readers are interested in more adventurous Viking stories, they can sail into history by reading Voyage with the Vikings by Marianne Hering & Paul McCusker. 

While there is little educational value in Mystery of the Map, the graphic novel will entertain readers with the funny, fast-action romp through an island filled with Vikings. Most of the violence comes from the kids running from danger, which is portrayed in humorous ways. The simple plot has a mysterious villain, Octavian, who the kids outwit. If you’re looking for a book series that kids will devour, the Poptropica Series should be on your must-read list. The conclusion ends with the kids sailing away from the island, leaving readers eager to start the next book in the series, The Lost Expedition 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • While on a balloon ride, Captain Octavian pushes Mya. To defend her, her brother Oliver pokes Octavian in the stomach. During the tussle, Jorge and Oliver fall out of the hot air balloon. Octavian then pushes Mya out. The three kids fall from the sky but are uninjured. 
  • Octavian tries to steal a Viking ship. When a Viking calls out, Octavian throws a stone at the Viking’s head, which knocks the man out. 
  • A large saber tooth cat chases the kids. When the cat jumps, Jorge ducks and the cat hits a tree and knocks itself out. 
  • When the Vikings try to put the kids into a cage, they run. There is a short fight that shows a Viking throwing a barrel at the kids. Then the Viking gets out his weapon. Before he can use it, Oliver knocks a container off a shelf. The container hits the Viking on the head and the kids are able to escape. 
  • A group of Vikings shoots arrows at the kids.  
  • A Viking chases the kids. The short chase ends when the saber tooth cat attacks the Viking and they both fall into a river. 
  • The kids find a man wearing only his underwear, tied to a tree. They free the man. 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • The Vikings drink mead. 

Language   

  • Octavian calls a boy a brat. 
  • Because Oliver can identify a rare bird, Jorge calls him a nerd. 
  • Jorge asks if Mya is a neat freak.  
  • When Jorge hears a Viking talking to himself, Jorge says, “He’s nuts.” 

Supernatural 

  • The kids find a magical map. Oliver explains, “I can pinch and zoom and stuff! I can see all sorts of details about the island. It’s some kind of new technology.” The map answers their questions and shows them where to go. For example, when Oliver says, “Map, please find shelter,” the map shows them where to go. 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

The Circus Ship

When a circus ship runs aground off the coast of Maine, the circus animals stagger to the shore of a small island. At first the townspeople view them with suspicion, but it’s not long before the locals and animals are sharing the island in harmony. Then, when the greedy circus owner returns, the townsfolk and the circus refugees come up with a delightfully original way to outsmart the fiend, exacting hilarious revenge in the process. 

The Circus Ship uses wonderfully expressive caricatures that evoke the early nineteenth century. Young readers will love the humorous illustrations. For instance, when a man sees an alligator sleeping on his wood pile, he jumps into the air and pulls his hair. When the circus master comes looking for the animals, readers will have fun finding all the hidden animals. Many of the animals are disguised in silly ways, such as one woman who is wearing a snake as a scarf and has a monkey in a stroller. 

Even though The Circus Ship 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 eight to twelve rhyming lines. The story uses complex sentence structure and some difficult vocabulary words such as menagerie, tuckered out, and bothersome. Despite this, the story’s plot is easy to follow.  

Not only is The Circus Ship highly entertaining, but the illustrations are also wonderful as well. Plus, the story has a positive message about not judging others (in this case, animals) by their appearance. Anyone, young or old, who loves animals will enjoy The Circus Ship. If you’re looking for a silly picture book that young readers will want to read again and again, The Circus Ship is the book for you. For more stories with silly shenanigans with animals, check out the Mercy Watson Series by Kate DiCamillo. 

Sexual Content 

  • None 

Violence 

  • The boat hits a rock. “Then came a CRASH! An awful BASH! Things flew into the air! . . . The splashing, thrashing animals swam round and round and round.” The animals swim to the island.  
  • A little girl gets caught inside a burning building. The tiger “ran past all the people, and he leapt into the blaze.” The girl comes out of the fire unharmed and riding on the tiger’s back.

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None

Language   

  • None 

Supernatural 

  • None 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 

Vampire Hunter

Ham Helsing is the descendant of a long line of monster hunters—who often don’t live long enough to rest on their laurels. Ham has always been the odd pig out, preferring to paint or write poetry instead of inventing dangerous new ways to catch dangerous creatures.

Ham’s brother Chad was the daredevil, carrying on the family legacy of leaping before looking, but after Chad’s death, the family business is left to Ham. Reluctantly, Ham sets out on his first assignment: to hunt a vampire. But Ham soon learns that people aren’t always what they seem and that you need a good team around you to help save your bacon!  

Ham Helsing is a unique protagonist who doesn’t jump to assumptions about others. Ham’s original mission was to kill the vampire. Instead of killing him, Ham befriends the vampire and the two join up to find the real villain. Not only does the vampire forgive Ham for his original intent, he praises Ham saying, “The brave can make their own path—their own way.” Despite being from a long line of vampire hunters, Ham departs from his family’s ways and instead of slaying vampires, Ham is a kind and selfless pig who uses his head. The story reinforces the idea that fate doesn’t determine a person’s (or a pig’s) decisions. 

While the story focuses on Ham, there are many other interesting characters. There’s a boy who keeps turning into a werewolf, a warthog who has social anxiety, a huge bear who frightens easily and cries, a cute female pig who isn’t afraid to use her sword, and a rat who loves big words. These interesting characters add humor and depth to the story. In the end, the large group of characters works together to defeat an evil chicken, who will be back to rain terror in the second book of the series, Monster Hunter 

Vampire Hunter is told through full-color panels that are full of humor and action and have unexpected surprises. For example, the villain jumps out of a plane and is falling toward a hungry shark, but instead of being eaten, the villain “hugged his way out of it.” Readers will giggle as the villain clings to the shark. Each page has one to six sentences and many of them use onomatopoeia. The low word count and easy vocabulary make Vampire Hunter an easy read. Plus, readers will love the silly puns and jokes. For example, when Ham sees a group supporting vampires, a rabbit says vampires are just “immortal heartthrobs who are trapped in the bodies of lovesick teens!” 

Full of adventure, humor, visual gags, and interesting characters, Vampire Hunter is sure to entertain readers. There is plenty of sarcasm and suspense to keep readers flipping the pages. Readers looking for a fun read will come to love Ham Helsing and his friends. For another fast-paced graphic novel with an unexpected hero, grab a copy of The Boy Who Crashed to Earth by Judd Winick—but be warned, once you start reading you will want to read the entire series!  

Sexual Content 

  • When a warthog meets Ronin, a female pig, he says, “Hey there, cute thing.”  
  • When the warthog touches Ronin’s arm, she says, “I could be your undertaker. Hands off, vamp.”  

Violence 

  • Ham Helsing’s descendants all met their demise because of reckless behavior. For example, Bernard Helsing and his assistant both died when they jumped off a very tall cliff. Bernard’s plan was to “lather up our long johns with jelly from the Amazonian fling beetle. This will give us maximum zip. We’ll be like living toboggans, sledding past rock and creatures alike.” Their actual death is not illustrated, but their gravestones are shown.  
  • A large mechanical knight (controlled by a chicken) attacks Ham. The knight almost kills a female pig named Ronin who jumps in and takes the knight’s head off with her sword. The scene is illustrated over nine pages.  
  • After being defeated, the evil chicken is upset that “no one appreciates how diabolical I am.” To prove he’s evil, he kicks a squirrel.  
  • Ronin fights slices of bacon that attack her group. When Ronin cuts a piece of bacon, Ham yells, “AH! Watch it. That bacon grease burns. But it does smell good.” The bacon pieces run away.  
  • When a man ends up dead, Ham and his group are told that he was killed by, “Shadow creatures! Those spider-woman’s minions. She got Laurence. She made Laurence go bye-bye.” 
  • Ronin goes after a giant spider. Using her sword, Ronin cuts the spider in half. The spider’s green blood covers the ground. Later, the group finds Ronin cooking the spider and eating it. The attack is illustrated over three pages. 
  • In a multi-chapter battle, the spider-woman attacks Ham and his friends. The spider tries to impale Ham with her leg, but Ham slices it off with a sword. The spider-woman’s minions jump into the fight. During the fight, the warthog is tied up in spiderwebs.  
  • The spider-woman separates the group and ties up all of Ham’s friends. Someone goes into town and brings back reinforcements wearing clogs. The townspeople kill the spiders by stomping on them. The illustrations show two panels with dead spiders’ green blood.  
  • When the villain realizes that the spider-woman and her minions failed to kill Ham, he squishes one of the spiders to prove that they are “expendable.”  
  • When the villain flees, the townspeople finish stomping and squishing the spider minions. The spider killing is illustrated over a page. 
  • A doctor creates a monster. When the monster awakens, he beats up the doctor and flees.  

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • None 

Language   

  • Silly exclamations are used throughout the story like “pigeon pellets,” “horse cookies,” and “buffalo bagels.”  
  • One of Ham Helsing’s descendants’ tombstone says, “courage and stupidity—a fine line.” Another descendant’s tombstone reads, “He died as he lived. Like an idiot.” 
  • There is some name calling such as buffoon, knuckleheads, bloodsucker, and losers.  
  • Heck is used once.  

Supernatural 

  • At the story’s end, a doctor makes a Frankenstein monster. 

Spiritual Content 

  • The spider-woman says she is “like God herself. I wield the power to unseat the very hierarchy of the forest.”  

The Epic Escape from the Underworld

The gods of Mount Olympus Pet Center are ready to bust out of their habitats and find their next mythological mission. But as it turns out, the newest threat to ancient Greece—an all-seeing monster from another realm—sneaks up on them!

Now Zeus the hamster, Athena the cat, Demeter the grasshopper, Poseidon the pufferfish, Ares the pug, and Hermes the chicken, all face a daring quest that takes them deep into the mystifying world of the Underworld, a realm where nothing is as it seems. Will Zeus and his team succeed on their most otherworldly adventure yet?

In The Epic Escape from the Underworld, everyday objects become relics and monsters of ancient Greece. Boyer uses imagination and comedy to bring Hades and the Underworld to life. A high-action plot, humorous situations, and black-and-white illustrations blend to make a fun series that will keep readers turning the pages. Each illustration shows the Greek gods, which gives the reader a visual and helps them understand the plot and the gods’ emotions. Large illustrations appear every one to five pages.

Readers who aren’t familiar with Greek Mythology will easily understand the book because the pet store owner listens to a podcast called “Greeking Out.” This podcast about Greek myths gives the reader a quick lesson on the mythology that is necessary to fully appreciate the book. Despite this helpful intro, the Olympians do meet a lot of characters, which may confuse some readers, especially since some of the new characters are not mentioned in the podcast.

The fourth installment of the Zeus the Mighty Series has lots of laughs and shows the importance of teamwork. Each Olympian completes a different task based on their strongest traits. Without relying on each other, the Olympians would not have been able to complete their quest. In addition, the book briefly explores the idea of a democracy. The Epic Escape from the Underworld is another fun-filled story that will keep readers flipping the pages. The story ends with more information about myths, the Olympians, Hades, and the Underworld. Readers who love action-packed, humorous stories should also check out Knights vs. Dinosaurs by Matt Phelan.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Zeus takes Hades’s Cap of Shadows. When he does, “[Hades] dropped his rock on Zeus’s toe.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Drat is used once.
  • Hades calls Zeus a fool.

Supernatural

  • Hades has a Cap of Shadows that makes the wearer invisible.

Spiritual Content

  • Hermes tells a snake, “When Greeks want sweet dreams, they pray to me!”

The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever

Fifteen-year-old Justin and his friends Bobby and Gabe are amateur filmmakers . . . very amateur filmmakers. Their previous horror movies have gone unnoticed on YouTube (aside from a few derisive online comments) and no one seems particularly interested in their filmmaking endeavors. But after a minor setback during the trio’s recent vampire movie, Justin decides it’s time to pursue something new. Something ambitious. Something like making the Greatest Zombie Movie Ever.

Although Bobby and Gabe are immediately along for the ride, Justin’s plan to write, produce, and shoot the best feature length zombie movie of all time quickly hits a few roadblocks. For one thing, the trio has only a month to finish the project before Gabe leaves for the summer. Plus, they have no budget—just a highly dubious script that they cobbled together over two sleepless nights. But the boys’ luck turns around when they are able to get Alicia Howtz—the most popular girl in school and Justin’s longtime crush—to play the movie’s lead zombie-hunter Veronica Chaos, as well as secure a $5000 investment from Justin’s surprisingly cutthroat (and possibly mafia-affiliated) grandmother.

Despite a number of problems on set, the crew pushes forward with making the movie. With the help of a colorful cast of characters—including Bobby, Gabe, Alicia, Bobby’s Uncle Clyde, some extras in zombie makeup, and a twelve-year-old documentarian named Spork—Justin gives the film everything he has. It’s a noble effort, but in the end, Justin doesn’t complete this task the way he originally intended. When he is caught trespassing on school property, his principal threatens to suspend him unless he can get A’s on all his final exams. This puts his film on hold as Justin desperately scrambles to avoid repeating a grade. Five months later, when he does eventually complete the movie, it’s seventeen minutes long and mostly voiceover.

The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever is told from Justin’s perspective and, as a result, it’s a film nerd novel through and through. The text is punctuated by references to famous zombie movies and tropes, that Justin takes inspiration from. George A. Romero, director of Night of the Living Dead, comes to Justin in a vision to assure him that his scheme to film the final half hour of his movie in one shot will work. Additionally, Justin and his friends argue about whether they should include “fast zombies” or “slow zombies” in the movie; then they list good and bad zombie movies that have included each type. While non-zombie-appreciators might not understand these references, their placement does not detract from the story.

The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever deals primarily with the themes of sticking to your goals and persevering in the face of adversity, but this novel also explores when it’s time to call it quits. Throughout the book, Justin emphasizes the importance of finishing his zombie movie, but he also makes it clear that he has other priorities. After a problem with production, Justin worries that the only way to complete the movie is if “everybody was willing to skip school for two weeks. . .They weren’t . . .Nor was he.” Justin ends up sidelining the movie when he’s forced to choose between it and his education. However, he does eventually finish his film, even if the final product is much different from what he originally planned.

While the plot of The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever is not especially heavy on depth, this teen horror-comedy is a wildly entertaining exploration of zombie filmmaking, with a unique cast of characters and a heavy helping of relatively harmless comical mayhem. It’s the perfect book for teens who want a light read, especially if they are interested in zombie movies.

Sexual Content

  • During auditions, a student asks if her shirt will stay on in the movie.
  • The script includes a romantic relationship between Alicia’s character and a male lead. Justin is somewhat jealous of the two actors’ chemistry due to his own crush on Alicia, but a friend reminds Justin “it’s not like they’re slobbering all over each other through the whole movie. There’s one kiss at the very end, and they’re both covered in guts, so Alicia probably won’t be that into it.”
  • While on set, Gabe asks out Alicia’s friend, Daisy, but she turns him down because she “only dates directors.” Gabe dejectedly alerts Justin of Daisy’s availability, but Justin scoffs at this idea and reaffirms his crush on Alicia. When Gabe still insists, Justin says, “It doesn’t matter right now because unlike one of us, I’m here to make a movie, not a baby.”
  • Two actors share “a gentle kiss” at the end of the movie. Due to technical difficulties and much to Justin’s chagrin, this scene has to be refilmed several times, and the crew notes that Alicia and the male lead’s shots are especially “passionate.”
  • After he promises to complete the movie, Alicia gives Justin a kiss on the cheek.

Violence

  • Justin threatens to grab a friend “by the ears” and “bash [his] head into the floor” if he doesn’t take Alicia off speakerphone.
  • In the opening scene of his prospective script, Justin describes a helicopter crash “crushing dozens of zombies” and “leaving a thick smear of squished zombies in its path.”
  • In another scene, Justin writes that the protagonist punches a zombie in the face and then headbutts another zombie whose head “shatters like glass.”
  • During a sleepless night, Justin hallucinates his bed threatening to “bite” him “right in half” with “sharp, glistening fangs.”
  • During auditions for the movie, a student mimes swinging a shovel into a zombie’s face while repeatedly shouting “Die!”
  • While filming a scene in a park, Bobby accidentally drops the boom mic on Alicia, hitting her infected eyebrow piercing. In response, she “charge[s]” at him “knocking him to the ground.” Then, Alicia “pick[s] up the boom mic” before repeatedly smacking him in the face with it.
  • When he accidentally runs in front of a driveway, Justin is hit by a car. He wakes up in a hospital bed with both a concussion and a “mangled” arm.
  • During a heated exchange, Bobby throws a carton of chocolate milk at a school bully named Zack. It “douse[s] him like a water balloon.” In response, Zack “raise[s] his fist and step[s] forward.” The situation is diffused before anything more can happen.
  • Due to a misunderstanding, one of the cast members is tased by an elderly woman.
  • Justin’s principal, Ms. Weager, stumbles upon the crew trespassing in the school at night and is so startled by the zombified cast that she falls to the ground screaming. But she quickly stands up again and begins “knocking zombie heads together.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Uncle Clyde uses an e-cigarette.
  • At one point, the crew visits Uncle Clyde’s house to pick up the zombie effects. When he doesn’t immediately answer the door, Justin speculates that he is “probably drunk and unconscious.”

Language

  • Bobby says that he won’t let Justin “wuss out” on offering Alicia a part in their movie.
  • Justin’s boss frequently yells at his employees, and his tirades are often punctuated by the word “dang.”
  • At one point, Justin calls Gabe a “jerk.”

Supernatural

  • Many of Justin’s films center around supernatural creatures such as zombies, vampires, and werewolves.

Spiritual Content

  • A woman in the park tells Justin he should “spend a little less time thinking about zombies” and “a little more time thinking about the Lord.” She later refers to his cast and crew as “cultists.”

by Naomi Brenden

The Trials of Hairy-Clees

Zeus and the other gods at the Mount Olympus Pet Center are finally working together like a well-oiled machine. . . until they discover a multi-headed monster looming over Greece. And on top of that, a pesky new arrival is trying to join the Olympians.

It turns out defeating the monster is only one challenge on a long list of trials. Zeus and his team of gods—Athena, Demeter, Poseidon, and Ares—are facing their toughest quest yet. Even with some unexpected help from a feathered friend, can they succeed? Or have Zeus the Mighty and his Olympians met their match?

The Trials of Hairy-Clees mixes Greek Mythology, animals, and plenty of mayhem into an entertaining story that will have readers laughing out loud. In the third installment of the Zeus the Mighty Series, Hermes (a hen) makes a spectacular entrance. From the start, Ares (a pug) wants to help Hermes, because of her bravery. In a desperate attempt to get Hermes to leave, Zeus tells the hen that she can’t be an Olympian because she’s not immortal. Unfazed, Hermes is determined to complete the labors of Heracles, become immortal, and join the Olympian flock.

Readers who aren’t familiar with Greek Mythology will easily understand the book because the pet store owner listens to a podcast, “Greeking Out,” about the Greek myths; this allows the reader to get a quick lesson on the mythology that is necessary to fully appreciate the book. The book’s plot parallels the information given in the podcast, which helps readers understand key events.

In The Trials of Hairy-Clees, everyday objects become the relics and monsters of ancient Greece. For example, the animals believe a misting fan is the Hydra, a snake with many heads. The high-action plot, humorous situations, and black and white illustrations blend to make a fun series that will keep readers turning the pages. Each illustration shows the Greek gods, which gives the reader a visual and helps them understand the plot and the gods’ emotions. Plus, large illustrations appear every one to five pages.

In the end, Hermes plays a vital role in defeating the Hydra and even Zeus admires Hermes’ bravery and determination. After Hermes’ brave deeds, the Olympians decide to help Hermes complete all Heracles’ labors, which will have readers eager to read the fourth book in the series, The Epic Escape From the Underworld. Readers who love humorous stories about brave characters should put the Zeus the Mighty Series at the top of their must-read list. For more humorous books that put a spotlight on mythology, check out the Odd Gods Series by David Slavin and The Unicorn Rescue Society Series by Adam Gidwitz.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • While getting ready to attack the sea monster, “Zeus the Mighty’s world turned black and white. He had been swallowed by what seemed like an endless cloud of dirty white fluff . . . The stuff tickled his nose and poked into his mouth. It was like he was being crushed by a feather duster.” When the hen notices Zeus, she introduces herself.
  • The pet owner saves Hermes the hen from certain death. Hermes “was in line to receive the Kentucky-fried treatment.”
  • Much of the book’s humor and violence comes in the form of the cat, Athena, chasing Hermes. For example, when Athena sees Hermes for the first time, Athena leaps out. “The hen leapt backward with a flurry of wings, just a feather’s breadth from Athena’s claws. . . The cat sunk low, preparing for a second pounce, her tail twitching.” When Demeter yells at Athena, the cat stops the attack and “peered around sheepishly, her eyes no longer wild.”
  • As Zeus and Demeter are talking, they hear “a bloodcurdling hiss . . . Hermes was scrabbling below, her wings held wide, as if she were trying to take flight. Hot on her tail was Athena, claws out.” Hermes is able to escape.
  • In order to complete one of the labors of Heracles, Hermes must take on the Hesperis. Hermes “pulled the small wooden Zeus figure from beneath her wing. She threw it at the lead Hesperis. The flaming creature squealed when it struck her in the chest.” Hermes realizes the Hesperis aren’t as dangerous as they appear, and she is able to complete the task
  • Athena tries to attack Hermes. “Just as Athena was about to crash into her would-be prey, Hermes raised a wing and batted the cat aside. Athena tumbled gracefully, and then rolled to her feet. Her eyes remained focused on Hermes, but they no longer had that crazed look.” When Hermes stops running from Athena, Athena no longer wants to pounce on her.
  • Hermes, the Olympians, and the Amazons work together to kill the Hydra (a fan). “The monster’s five heads raged above [Zeus]. They swiveled to aim their foul fog at the Amazon flock, which was closing in fast. . . One after another, the birds release their payloads. The boulders [tennis balls] sailed through the air toward the Hydra’s chest. . . the five spinning heads slowed. The gale winds decreased.”
  • The fight against the Hydra continues as Zeus “yanked off his cloak and tossed it at the monster’s heads. . . In the next instant, the cloak slipped through the helmet’s bars and dropped directly onto the Hydra’s spinning heads. . .” The Hydra is defeated when it “detached from the wall and crashed to earth.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Athena is put in Ares’s dog crate. When Zeus talks to her, he says that “Ares’s place smells like pug butt.”
  • Poseidon calls someone an oaf.

Supernatural

  • Zeus finds a lion squeaky toy, that Athena thinks is “an incredibly potent relic. . . Whoever wears the hide of the Nemean lion is imbued with its powers. In other words, you’d be indestructible!” Zeus puts the squeaky toy over his head and the toy saves him from harm several times.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Of Mice and Magic

Princess Harriet is uninterested in brushing her hair, singing duets with forest animals, or any other princess activities. So when a fairy tells a bored Harriet about the curse of the twelve dancing mice princesses, she is more than willing to accept the quest. Armed with the poncho of invisibility and her trusty battle quail, Harriet goes to the Mouse Kingdom and quickly realizes there is more to the curse than meets the eye.

Of Mice and Magic uses the story elements of The Twelve Dancing Princesses to create a wacky, action-packed adventure that will have readers eagerly turning the pages. Harriet takes the quest, knowing full well that her line will fall if she does not help the princesses break their curse. As she travels with the princesses to their ball, she finds help in one of the attendees and one of the princesses. However, the witch who cursed the princesses wants the princesses to dance so they can power her magic. The witch is more funny than scary, and readers will enjoy seeing how Harriet convinces the witch to dispel the curse.

While Harriet is trying to break the curse, she realizes that the Mouse King is a meticulous and irrational person. For instance, he named his daughters by the months of the year, and his entire castle is themed by color. His conflict with Harriet about the princesses, and later the witch, gives hilarity to the adventure. Readers will enjoy reading the conversations between these three characters.

Purple and white illustrations add to the wackiness of the book. Drawings with dialogue help break up the text and keep the action moving. Of Mice and Magic shows the value of teamwork and will engage even the most reluctant of readers. Of Mice and Magic is the second book in the Hamster Princess Series but can be enjoyed as a standalone book. Younger readers who enjoy humorous books should also read the Two Dogs in a Trench Coat Series by Julie Falatko

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

Drugs and Alcohol

  • One of the twelve mice princesses, under the influence of the curse, must give Harriet a hot chocolate laced with a “sleeping potion” every night that she stays in the princess’ room.

Language

  • One of the mice princesses’ dance instructors calls the mice princesses “crazy” because they had learned every single dance. The dance instructors also call their shoes “freaky.”
  • Harriet tells everyone to “shut up” while thinking of a way to escape the Mouse King’s castle with his daughters.
  • The Mouse King calls his knights “idiots” when they can’t decide to cut the rope or climb down the rope to get to the princesses.

Supernatural

  • Harriet noticed that the old shrew, who was a fairy in disguise, did not have a shadow. The shrew fairy’s shadow had been “cavorting with the flickering shadows of some willow leaves, jumped up and came sliding hurriedly across the grass.” When the shrew fairy’s disguise is discovered, she calls her shadow back, and “It fastened itself to her heels and hunched down, looking sheepish.”
  • The twelve mice princesses are under a curse. “Every night, no matter where the princesses are, a door opens in the floor of their room. Whether they want to or not, the mice must climb down, down, into the underworld beneath the castle.” Later, one of the younger mice princesses says they must dance every night, all night. “We can’t not I mean, we stop for a few minutes . . . but it’s like an itch, and you have to scratch eventually.”
  • The shrew fairy gave Harriet a Poncho of Invisibility. “A Poncho of Invisibility is not quite as good as a Cloak of Invisibility…Harriet had to readjust the folds several times to make sure her feet didn’t become visible.” The only effect of the Poncho was that “there was a nasty bit when the poncho was partway on and partway off where he could see Harriet’s innards.” There are no ill effects with this magical item.
  • Harriet figures out the reason behind the curse. “The princesses are compelled to dance. They have to dance, and when they dance over the symbol, it generates magic. . . and I bet there’s some left over for the witch.”
  • An earthquake, one of the measures to prevent the mice princesses from leaving the mouse kingdom, started when “Hyacinth the quail, carrying Wilbur the prince and August the princess, crossed some invisible line. The earth began to dance.”
  • The shrew fairy gives Harriet a charm, as a thanks for freeing the princesses from their curse. “I grant you [Harriet] a very limited charm. You can cliff-dive again safely.” The charm allows Harriet to fall from large heights without hurting herself. There are no ill effects with this charm.

Spiritual Content

  • None

by Jemima Cooke

 

Mac Saves the World

The Queen of England calls on her trusty spy, Mac B., once again. This time, Mac must navigate secret tunnels beneath the Berlin Wall to retrieve cheat codes from a Soviet scientist. Floppy disk in hand, our hero finds himself trapped in East Germany, stuck between the wall and the Stasi. How will he escape? Well, it is 1989, and walls do fall down.

Before he leaves for his mission, the Queen of England gives Mac a short lesson on the Cold War and the Iron Curtain. However, the information is surface level and doesn’t show how the Berlin Wall affected the people of Germany. Even though Mac sneaks into East Germany, the story has little suspense, and the plot is not well developed.

The sixth installment of the Mac B. Series lacks the puns and wordplay that make the other books so much fun. Some of the story’s humor comes from jokes about floppy disks; unfortunately, younger readers who have never seen a floppy disk may not find the floppy disk scenes funny.

Despite the lack of humor, readers will enjoy the large pink, gold, and black illustration that appear on every page. The short chapters—many are just one page—use simple vocabulary and lots of dialogue. Any words that may be confusing are defined within the text, making the story easy to read. Mac Saves the World will appeal to reluctant readers as it helps readers build confidence. Although Mac Saves the World can be read as a stand-alone book, for maximum enjoyment the books should be read in order.

The Queen of England, her corgi, and the KGB man all make an appearance in all the Mac B. books; these characters add plenty of silly moments that will leave readers giggling. While Mac B isn’t successful in his mission, he doesn’t lack courage. Throughout the story, Mac gives historical facts that sound outlandish, but he reminds readers, “But it’s true. You can look it up.” And if you look it up, you will find it is true. Readers who love humorous mysteries should also read the Investigators Series by John Patrick Green.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • East Germany and the Soviets wanted to keep people from leaving the country. “They rolled out barbed wire, right in the middle of the streets. People panicked! They crawled under the wire and tore their clothes and cut their skin! West Berliners held out blankets for East Berliners who jumped out of windows into West Berlin.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Ants in Our P.A.N.T.S.

The Special Undercover Investigator Team has a new plan. “Once we get wind of an evildoer’s schemes to form a team, the Anti-Crime Unit will go undercover as fellow evildoers and follow this simple procedure: pinpoint the possible perpetrator’s position; avoid blowing your cover; neutralize any superweapons; thwart their villainous plan, and stop them from getting away.”

However, the procedure does not go according to plan. When Cilantro (a chameleon) isn’t promoted to an agent, he considers teaming up with other evildoers. When he goes to the New old opera house looking for other evildoers, he feels guilty, but he also discovers important information that will help solve a crime. In the end, Cilantro must decide if he will fight for good or evil.

The mission is made more difficult because Brash is in the hospital, unconscious, and MegaRoboBrash cannot access all Brash’s memories. With the help of a medium, Mango can enter Brash’s mind. While there, Mango discovers that Brash has “regressed into a child as some sort of coping mechanism!” Can Mango discover what is keeping Brash from waking up? Will Mango, Cilantro, and RoboBrash thwart the evil villain?

Ants in Our P.A.N.T.S brings back a host of old characters as well as a sprinkle of new characters. While much of the conflict was established in previous books, the addition of giant ants adds humor and interest. Even though Brash is unconscious, he still appears frequently. Brash appears as a small child (which is adorably cute) and later as an adult. The large cast of characters may be confusing, but they help keep the story fresh and interesting.

Even though Ants in Our P.A.N.T.S is laugh-out-loud funny, it still has a positive message. Brash refuses to wake up because he is battling fear. With Mango’s help, Brash decides, “This is my mind. I decide how much space I’ll let my fears take up.” He learns that he must forgive himself and let go of the fear and guilt. The story also highlights the importance of believing in yourself.

Ants in Our P.A.N.T.S has many positive aspects. The combination of human and animal characters blend to create a ridiculous story that uses wordplay to add humor. The imaginative story comes alive in brightly colored artwork that shows the characters’ wide range of emotions. The text is large and uses different font sizes, which helps emphasize the characters’ emotions and important aspects of the story.

The illustrations and the unique storyline of Brash and Mango will appeal to even the most reluctant readers. Each page has 3 to 11 sentences. The sentences range from one word to more complex sentences. The story does an excellent job of giving enough background information so readers who are new to the series will understand the plot. However, for maximum enjoyment, the series should be read in order.

The Investigators Series is immensely enjoyable to read because of the ridiculously silly scenes, the unique characters, and the fun puns. Each story contains plenty of surprises that will keep readers flipping the pages. No matter your age, you will find something in the series to love.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • An evil villain uses the Embiggerner to supersize ants. The ants then attack the city. People run from the ants, but no one is injured. The “savage beasts” are put to sleep with music. The scene is illustrated over six pages.
  • Two villains team up and use the ants to attack the city, destroying many buildings. They also use the Embiggerner to make “ginormous gemstones,” “jumbo shrimp,” and “big money.” The attack is humorous instead of scary.
  • Brash and Mango trick the evil triceratops into charging a red cape. Chameleon trips him and the triceratops ends up with his horns stuck in a sidewalk.
  • Ants attack MegaRoboBrash, who hits them. Then he ties their antennas together and throws them into space. The scene is described over seven pages.
  • A chameleon and a group of ants attack the triceratops so he can be sent back to jail. They use trickery, knitting, and balls of yarn to retain the villainous triceratops. The scene is described over four pages.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • People who follow the law are referred to as “Idiot Law-doers.”
  • Darn and dang are both used once.
  • A construction worker is called a dummy.

Supernatural

  • Most of the characters are animals such as an octopus, a chameleon, a skunk, etc. There is also a character that is a squash.
  • Mango needs help to find out why RoboBrash cannot access all of Brash’s memories. Dr. Hardbones tells Mango to go to the Séance Factory. Dr. Hardbones says, “the medium there may have some ideas about how to see into Brash’s unconscious mind.”
  • The medium at the Séance Factory is a tick.
  • In a previous book, an agent was “turned into a radioactive saltine cracker.”
  • Hardbones is a skilled brain surgeon who turns into the Action News helicopter.

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

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

 

 

Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Mr. Popper dreams of being an Antarctic explorer and living among the penguins alongside his hero, Admiral Drake. But as a house painter with a family to care for, Mr. Popper knows his dream is just a dream. Until the day when Admiral Drake responds to a letter by sending a real, live penguin straight to Mr. Popper’s house!

It isn’t long before the first penguin, Captain Cook, is joined by a second penguin named Greta. Soon, the Poppers have a houseful of new penguin friends. But with a dozen penguins to feed, plus Mrs. Popper and their children, how will Mr. Popper ever make enough money to keep the whole family going, penguins and all?

Despite the expense of having the penguins, Mr. Popper is determined to keep them. Even though the penguins do not mean to cause trouble, the curious creatures cause quite a stir in his house. Mr. Popper and his family try to make the penguins happy, and this leads to some silly situations that will make readers smile.

Mr. Popper’s family and penguins finally take their show on the road, which delights audiences. In the end, Mr. Popper knows he must do what is best for the penguins, and he allows Admiral Drake, an explorer, to take the penguins to the North Pole. Because of the penguins, Mr. Popper’s dream of traveling to the snowy land becomes a reality.

Anyone who has ever wanted a unique pet will fall in love with Mr. Popper’s penguins. The Newbery Honor-winning novel, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, was first published in 1938, but the story will still entertain today’s young readers. The adorably cute birds are illustrated in black and white drawings that appear every 3 to 5 pages. With short chapters, silly situations, and cute penguins, Mr. Popper Penguins will appeal to readers of all ages.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • During a performance, two penguins put on a stage fight. “’Gork,’ said Nelson, punching Columbus in the stomach with his right flipper, and then trying to push him over with his left flipper. . . Columbus now sparred politely with Nelson until Nelson hit him on the eye, whereupon Columbus retreated with a loud ‘Ork.’” The other penguins distract Nelson and “Columbus immediately punched him in the stomach with one flipper and knocked him down with the other. Nelson lay there, with his eyes closed.” After Columbus wins the fight, Nelson gets up and all of the penguins bow. The fight is described over three pages.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon

Francine Poulet is the greatest animal control officer in Gizzfor County. She has battled snakes, outwitted squirrels, and stared down a bear. Francine is never scared—until she’s faced with a screaming raccoon who may or may not be a ghost. Maybe Francine isn’t cut out to be an animal control officer after all!

But the raccoon is still on the loose, and the folks on Deckawoo Drive need Francine. Can she face her fears, round up the raccoon, and return to the ranks of animal control?

While not everyone has faced a ghost raccoon, everyone will be able to relate to Francine’s fear. While chasing the raccoon, Francine is injured. After failing to catch the raccoon, Francine “didn’t know who she was. She was not an animal control officer. And she was not a Poulet, because Poulets never panic.” It isn’t until Francine meets Frank, a talkative child, that she faces her fears.

Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon tells a humorous tale that highlights the importance of overcoming one’s fears. At one point, Francine quits her job because of her fear. Like Francine, readers may need help and encouragement to face their fear. When Francine tracks down the ghost raccoon, she gains confidence in her abilities, which allows her to overcome her fear.

 The Tales from Deckawoo Drive Series uses the same humor and characters as Dicamillo’s Mercy Watson Series. While this story focuses on Francine Poulet, each character is unique and interesting. Unlike many books, Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon shows a wide range of people—some are old and wrinkled, some are heavy set, and one is a pig. The people in the story are similar to the people you would find in your neighborhood. Despite their differences, they have a sense of community and sit around the kitchen table to share a snack of toast.

Large black and white illustrations appear every 1 to 3 pages and will help readers understand the story’s plot. The illustrations highlight Francine’s facial expressions, which will help readers understand her emotions. Many of the illustrations are full-page, and they have humorous elements to them. Even though Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon is intended for younger readers, they may need help with the difficult vocabulary such as reclamation, recede, metaphorically, and hailed.

Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon is a wholesome and entertaining story that shows the importance of facing your fears. The interesting characters, a ghostly animal, and sweet conclusion will appeal to many readers both young and old.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Francine tries to capture the raccoon. “She opened her eyes just in time to see a shimmery, raccoon-shaped object flying through the air. . . She started to run. She could feel the raccoon at her heels. . . The raccoon hit Francine with such tremendous, raccoon-y force that she lost her balance and fell forward.” Francine falls off the roof and breaks an arm and a leg.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • When Francine climbs a roof in order to catch a raccoon, the owner of the house asks her, “Are you truly an animal control officer? Or are you just some nut job gallivanting on my roof?”
  • While trying to catch the raccoon, the neighbors talk about Francine. One lady says she is worthless and another says “she looks like a fraud to me.”

Supernatural

  • Francine gets a call from Mrs. Bissinger, who thinks the raccoon on her roof is a ghost because it says her name. Mrs. Bissinger says, “He is an extraordinary raccoon! He shimmers! He screams like a banshee!”
  • While in the hospital, Francine’s dead father appears and tells her, “There aren’t ghost raccoons, Franny. You know that.”

Spiritual Content

  • None

Stinky Spike the Pirate Dog

Ahoy! When this shipyard pup gets lost at sea, he’s rescued by a crew of stinky pirates led by Captain Fishbeard. Spike must prove to the captain he can be a real pirate. Luckily, Stinky Spike has the best nose on the seven seas, and he uses it to sniff out all kinds of treasure. But what happens when Spike’s sense of smell leads him to some very strange loot?

Stinky Spike the Pirate Dog is a silly story with alliteration, onomonopia, and dialogue that makes the story fun to read out loud. The story focuses on how Spike became the Pirate Dog and the humorous, unexpected characters he meets along the way. For example, when Spike was lost at sea, he meets two sharks that don’t want to eat him. The sharks just want Spike to go away because “you stink so bad that you’ll scare away our dinner.” Even though much of the humor comes from all the terrible things Spike smells, readers will also enjoy all of the animals and people Spike meets.

The entertaining story has wonderful, brightly colored illustrations that will tickle readers’ silly bones. Even though the story focuses on animals, Spike also meets a small but diverse group of pirates. The large illustrations add comedy to the story by adding little surprises, like the pirate captain with a peg leg, a parrot on his hat, and fish sticking out of his beard. Stinky Spike the Pirate Dog is told in three chapters; each two-page spread has 4 to 7 sentences.

Fans of the Pirate Puppies Series by Erin Soderberg will quickly fall in love with Stinky Spike the Pirate Dog. While the story lacks pirate language, its humor and unexpected surprises will entertain readers. Plus, the story could lead to a fun discussion on what people and pirates consider to be treasure. If you’re looking for a fun story that your little reader will love, Stinky Spike the Pirate Dog has plenty of treasure inside its pages including interesting characters, humor, and detailed illustrations. Readers who want to read more imaginative pirate stories should also read All Paws on Deck by Jessica Young.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • While protecting a ship’s cargo, “a group of angry gulls began squawking and swooping and pecking at Spike.”
  • As the seagulls chased Spike, he fell into the ocean. “Spike doggy-paddled toward shore, but the strong current pulled him out to sea.”
  • While lost at sea, “hungry sharks swam slow circles around him.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

 

 

Knight-Napped

A pigeon lands on Danny Dragonbreath’s head and refuses to fly away. Attached to the pigeon’s leg is a note from Danny’s cousin, Spencer. Knights have kidnapped Spencer and they plan to slay him soon. Danny’s friends Christina and Wendell reluctantly agree to help Danny free his cousin Spencer.

Christina discovers that her relatives are the ones keeping Spencer locked in the tower. But before they can all save Spencer, Danny and Wendell are imprisoned in the dungeon. Christina is upset when she finds out that her relatives “are in the habit of kidnapping little kids and imprisoning them in towers.” In order to gain her family’s trust and free her friends, Christina pretends to hate dragons.

Danny, Wendell, and Christina all know their mothers would be upset to learn that they took a bus to Castle Wanderpool, but they need to save Spencer. Danny tries using his fire breathing skills to break out of the dungeon, but he only succeeds in catching the dungeon on fire. When Danny is thrown into the dungeon he thinks it’s “nothing compared to what his mom would do if she found out he’d been randomly breathing fire on people.”

Knight-Napped is full of surprises, fake fights, and friendship drama that will have readers laughing out loud. Danny’s story is told in a unique style that blends graphic novel and novel format. The text is broken up with illustrations and has several graphic novel scenes with speech balloons. The blend of text and pictures will help keep reluctant readers engaged in the story. The comic-style illustrations are mostly black and white, but they also have a pop of green.

Readers will laugh as Danny reluctantly tries to save Spencer. Danny “didn’t always like Spencer, but leaving him in a castle where they stuck dragon heads on walls—no. Just no. Danny Dragonbreath had his limits. He was going to get Spencer if he had to climb up the outside of the tower by himself.”

Danny, Christina, and Wendell’s adventure through the castle is hilarious. Readers will appreciate how the young knights try to satisfy their grandfather’s desire to have Freddy slay a dragon. Readers will relate to all of the characters—dragon, iguana, and knight—who are all afraid that their mothers will find out about their adventure. Knight-Napped is a wonderfully ridiculous, humorous story that will keep readers engaged until the very end. If you’re looking for a fun book series that kids will love to read, the Dragonbreath series is perfect.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Nobody actually fights, but the kids pretend to fight in order to make Freddie look brave in front of his grandfather.
  • Spencer and his friend Freddy pretend to fight. “Freddy managed to get on top and sat on the small dragon’s chest. . . [Freddy] actually had to climb off Spencer to get to the sword. Spencer waited politely on the ground.”
  • Christina charges at Danny. “He hit the sawdust floor of the arena and rolled. Christina swung her sword at him. She missed by a mile, but there was a nasty little whistle as the blade sliced through the air. . . Christina shook herself off, wiped ashes from her face—and charged him. Again. . . She slammed into him, shoulder first, and drove him back against the arena wall.”
  • During the fight, Danny “flamed. He frothed. He ran at Christina waving his arms and spouting smoke. . . He flung himself at Christina, caught her sword under one arm, and threw himself to the ground, kicking wildly.” The fighting is comedic. Danny and Spencer both pretend to be slain.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • When Danny and Wendell go into a castle’s moat, Wendell says, “I’m going to need antibiotics. This moat is nasty.”

Language

  • One of Danny’s classmates calls him dorkbreath.
  • As part of her master plan, Christina tries to help Danny while at the same time prove to her family that she was not friends with him. She yells at Danny. “Truly, dragons are vermin, lower than slugs, lower than flatworms! They are a vileness upon the earth! They stink!”
  • Christina calls dragons “scaly scum” and “foul dragon scum.”
  • There is some name calling. Idiot is used once. Dummy and jerk are both used once.
  • Oh my god is used as an exclamation once.
  • Darn and crud are both used once.

 

If You Ever Want to Bring a Circus to the Library, DON’T!

If you go to the library and see a poster that says, “You can do ANYTHING AT THE LIBRARY,” it is not giving you permission to put on a circus.

But Magnolia doesn’t see any problem with setting up her own big top. She’s got a whole lot of gusto! Sportsmanship! And a mean human-cannonball routine! So what if her greatest show on Earth won’t fit between bookshelves? It’s not like she’ll wreck the place, right?

Readers will giggle their way through If You Ever Want to Bring a Circus to the Library, DON’T! The picture book uses bright colors and cartoonish illustrations to bring Magnolia’s circus to life. The diverse cast of characters are drawn with hilarious facial expressions that show the characters’ changing emotions. While some of Magnolia’s daring deeds are met with enthusiasm, others are met with dismay.

Readers will love the mischief Magnolia gets into. Parents can use the story to discuss appropriate ways to behave at the library, at school or any other public place. The text is written with large words. “YOU CAN DO ANYTHING AT THE LIBRARY!” is written in red text and appears over and over, which highlights the fact that there are really so many things that you can’t do at the library. Each page has 1-4 sentences. However, young readers will need help with some of the vocabulary and the complicated sentence structure.

The ending is funny, but it also shows everyone working together to clean up Magnolia’s great big giant mess. Be sure to point out the poster on the last page, because it shows how you really can’t bring a circus to the library. If You Ever Want to Bring a Circus to the Library, DON’T! blends both text and illustrations into a hilarious book that is sure to tickle everyone’s funny bone.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up

Yippie-i-oh! Saddle up for the first in a spin-off series starring favorite characters from Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson Series. Leroy Ninker dreams of being a cowboy. He has a hat, a lasso, and boots. What he doesn’t have is a horse—until he meets Maybelline, that is, and then it’s love at first sight.

Leroy has big dreams, but he’s not sure how to make them come true. His coworker tells him, “What you have to do here is take fate in your hands and wrestle it to the ground.” This advice motivates Leroy to find a horse. Even though the horse, Maybelline, isn’t a perfect horse, Leroy loves her. Maybelline’s owner tells him that he needs to remember three things. One: Maybelline likes compliments. Two: She eats a lot of grub. Three: “Don’t leave Maybelline alone for long, or you will live to rue and regret the day.”

Leroy leaves Maybelline alone for just a minute, but that was enough time for the horse to get scared and wander off. Maybelline runs and runs. Leroy goes to search for his horse, but he can’t find her. Will Leroy be able to find his horse?

Leroy’s adventure has plenty of humor that will leave readers with a smile. Leroy gives the horse a lot of compliments such as, “You are the brightest star in the velvety nighttime sky!” Readers will laugh when Leroy uses pretty words, and when Leroy unsuccessfully tries to push Maybelline through the apartment’s door. Leroy’s dream comes true in a unique way, and the love between him and his horse is endearing.

Large black and white illustrations appear every 1 to 3 pages and will help readers understand the story’s plot. The illustrations highlight the difference between Leroy’s dreams and reality. Leroy’s dreams appear in bubbles and show a beautiful, perfect horse. However, Maybelline is an imperfect horse, but Leroy loves her. Many of the illustrations are full-page and have humorous elements to them. Even though Leroy Ninker Saddles Up is intended for younger readers, they may need help with difficult vocabulary such as cogitate, informational, emboldened, and savoring.

The sweet conclusion gives the sense of community as Leroy, Maybelline, and several others are invited in to share breakfast with Mercy Watson. Readers familiar with the Mercy Watson Series will enjoy the two books’ similarities. However, readers do not need to read the Mercy Watson Series to understand the events in Leroy Ninker Saddles Up. Both the text and the illustrations in Leroy Ninker Saddles Up use humor that will inspire readers to dream big.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • When someone throws a can at Leroy, he says, “Dang nib it.”
  • Occasionally, Leroy exclaims phrases such as, “Gol’ dang it, dag blibber it” and “flibber gibber it.”
  • Heck is used once.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Off the Hook

Investigators Mango and Brash are on the hunt for Crackerdile, who has been turned into a bucket of dough. With the help of the plumber who has been combined with a snake, Crackerdile plans to find the perfect secret lair and recruit more villains. But first, Crackerdile must find a way to change forms because “no one’s going to want to join a team led by a soft pile of mush.”

Before Mango and Brash start their investigation, they are given new V.E.S.T.s. However, once outside the science lab, the new V.E.S.T.s cause problems of their own. For instance, Mango and Brash are mistaken for investment bankers and must attend a board meeting, which is a complete bore.

As Brash and Mango are stuck in the meeting, Crackerdile figures out a way to make himself into Waffledile. Then, Waffledile kidnaps a scientist. With the scientist’s help, Waffledile grows to a huge size. But then Waffledile eats Brash. Is there any way to stop Waffledile? And how can Mango free Brash from Waffledile’s stomach?

Off the Hook is a graphic novel that is laugh-out-loud funny. The combination of human and animal characters blends to create a ridiculous story that uses wordplay to add humor. While readers will enjoy all the wordplay, parents might not like the references to butts.

The imaginative story comes alive in brightly colored artwork that shows the characters’ wide range of emotions. The text is large and uses different font sizes, which help emphasize the characters’ emotions and important aspects of the story. Another positive aspect is that the human scientists are a diverse group of characters with a wide range of skin tones. The end of the book shows how to draw Waffledile and includes a few riddles.

The illustrations and the unique storyline of Brash and Mango will appeal to even the most reluctant readers. Each page has 3 to 11 sentences. The sentences range from one word to more complex sentences. The story does an excellent job of giving enough background information so readers who are new to the series will understand the plot. However, for maximum enjoyment, the series should be read in order.

Off the Hook will appeal to even the most reluctant readers because the plot is more silly than serious. Readers may not understand all of the humor regarding investment bankers, but they will still enjoy the silly antics of Brash and Mango. Parents who want their children to read a graphic novel with a more positive message should add the Hilo Series by Judd Winick to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Crackerdile prods Brash with an electric shocker. Then Crackerdile ties up Brash and drops him off a train. Crackerdile blows up the bridge and the train crashes in a puff of smoke. Later, the reader finds out that this five-page scene was a simulation.
  • The plumber tries to hit Brash and Mango, but instead, he breaks a window. The plumber’s snake arm whacks Mango over the head with a stop sign, “Wham Wham Wham.”
  • Waffledile puts an electrical cord around a huge chicken’s neck. He threatens the scientist’s chicken, “You’re going to make me as big as you! Giddy up! Ha Ha! I feel like a cowboy.”
  • The plumber’s snake arm ties Brash and Mango to a pole.
  • Waffledile grows so big that he destroys a roof. The construction workers begin throwing tools and bricks at Waffledile.
  • Waffledile eats Brash. Mango dumps concrete on Waffledile. Then the plumber crashes into the statue of Waffledile and pulls Brash out of its stomach.

Drugs and Alcohol

  • None.

Language

  • There is some humor about butts. For example, as a scientist is flushing Brash and Mango down a toilet, she says, “Hold on to your butts.”
  • After Waffledile eats Brash, Waffledile says, “You can’t dump concrete on me and save your partner. But let me go, and I’ll barf Brash back up! Or you know, he could come out the other way.” A reporter on the scene says, “Inquiring minds want to know. Do waffles have butts?”
  • Darn, drat, dang, and dagnabbit are occasionally used as exclamations.
  • The characters sometimes call other people idiots. For example, Crackerdile says his team’s mission would be “the total annihilation of idiot law-doers!”

Supernatural

  • Crackerdile is “a former-agent-turned-radioactive-saltine-cracker.” In this installment of the series, Crackerdile is a bucket of dough.
  • One of the villains is a “plumber whose arm was combined with a snake, giving him grappling hook powers.”
  • Crackerdile is cooked in a waffle iron. He says, “I, Crackerdile, have been reborn as . . . Waffledile!”
  • Dr. Jack Hardbones is a “news helicopter but also a skilled surgeon.” He can change back and forth from a human to a helicopter.

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

 

If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t!

An alligator for show-and-tell sounds like tons of fun. What could possibly go wrong?

Magnolia wants to impress her classmates with the best show-and-tell item: an alligator. The other kids bring ordinary objects like a birds nest, a sparkly rock, and a hollow stick. While these things aren’t as exciting as an alligator, they also don’t try to eat anyone.

If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t! is full of funny alligator actions. The best parts of the book are the facial expressions of the teacher, the alligator, and Magnolia. Readers will be able to see Magnolia’s excitement change to frustration as the alligator causes mischief. Her frustration then turns to dismay when the alligator tries to snack on a student. The ending is appropriate and contains a fun display of alligator trouble. Be sure to look inside of the back cover for one last surprising alligator appearance.

The bright, full-page illustrations will draw readers into the story, but the text also has plenty of fun. Each sentence is written in large text and the text size varies to highlight important words. Each page consists of 1-4 sentences which are intended to be read by an adult before children read it independently. Magnolia’s classmates are diverse, but the teacher is portrayed in a stereotypical manner.

Readers will learn a little bit about alligators and a lot about appropriate behavior in this humorous picture book. The surprise ending will have readers laughing out loud. Magnolia and her alligator are full of fun surprises that readers of all ages will enjoy. If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t! is one book that every child should have on their bookshelf.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Magnolia throws a pie into someone’s face.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

 

Two Dogs in a Trench Coat Enter Stage Left

Sassy and Waldo love their boy Stewart, so every day they put on a trench coat and go to school with him. Everyone thinks they’re a student named Salty, though Stewart knows the truth.

The whole class is putting on a play based on The Wizard of Oz. Sassy and Waldo are excited about the play, but they don’t understand acting. Stewart is playing the part of the wicked dog trainer witch. Now Stewart is acting like a different person—an evil person. Sassy and Waldo want to make sure that Stewart doesn’t stay evil all of the time.

Similar to the previous books in the series, Sassy and Waldo are still obsessed with food. However, the story’s premise revolves around the far-fetched idea that the two dogs don’t understand what acting is. Sassy and Waldo pretend to be Salty every day, so it’s hard to believe that they don’t understand acting and are worried about Stewart turning evil.

Another area that the humor falls flat is the introduction of the drama teacher, Mr. Rollins. Throughout the book, Mr. Rollins acts like a piece of furniture, and then jumps out and surprises the students. The first couple of times, his actions are funny, but after a while, readers will wonder why Mr. Rollins doesn’t actually help the students perform their play.

Sassy and Waldo are admirable for their loyalty and love, and seeing the world from their point of view is entertaining. However, the fourth installment of Two Dogs in a Trench Coat is not as entertaining as the others and has no educational value. Despite this, fans of Sassy and Waldo will still enjoy the dogs’ silly antics and the sweet conclusion.

Every page has large black and white illustrations that add humor to the story. The illustrations show a cast of diverse characters, including a girl in a wheelchair. The font changes each time Sassy and Waldo talk, making it easy for readers to follow along with the conversation. Many of the words appear in large, bolded font, which adds interest to the pages and highlights the dog’s love of food. Two Dogs in a Trench Coat Enter Stage Left uses an easy-to-follow plot and a unique concept that will engage even the most reluctant readers. Readers who love the humor of the Two Dogs and a Trench Coat Series should also check out the Mac B. Kid Spy Series by Mac Barnett.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • A teacher uses “Holy chalkboard erasers” as an exclamation.
  • A teacher uses “Holy refrain and choruses” as an exclamation.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

The Sound of Danger

Mac heads to England on a special mission for the Queen of England. Someone has been stealing the famous Stradivarius violins. In order to discover the culprit, Mac will have to go into a deserted museum in the middle of the night where he meets a mummy. With the Queen’s corgi, Freddie, Mac also travels to Italy where he scales the walls of the Tower of Cremona. A guard imprisons Mac so the President of Italy can question him.

After escaping Italy, Mac travels to Russia where he faces a dangerous showdown with the Russian Red Army Choir. In the end, Mac is able to return the violins to their rightful owners. However, the KGB man tries to get even with the Queen of England by playing the Tetris song. Unbeknownst to him, Mac had changed the boom box’s tape and the KGB man blasts a New Kids on the Block song instead. (Once you read the book, you will understand the ending’s humor.)

Whether you have read all of the books in the Mac B Kid Spy Series or are a first-time reader, The Sound of Danger is sure to tickle your silly bone. When Mac goes on another mission for the Queen of England, the interplay between Mac and the Queen is laugh-out-loud funny. While the villain—the KGB man—is the same in all of the books, readers will still have fun guessing when the KGB man will show up and try to thwart Max.

The Sound of Danger is humorous, and it is also packed full of history. For example, the Queen of England says, “The Cold War is called a cold war because it was not fought with bullets. . . It is about which side has better spies. Which side has better stories. Which side has better ideas.” The story also teaches readers about the different parts of an orchestra, the Stradivarius, the Tetris game, and the ’80s. Some of the facts seem far-fetched, which Mac acknowledges when he writes, “It’s true. You can look it up.” Readers can trust Mac’s facts because they are true — but it’s still fun to look them up.

The Sound of Danger uses short chapters, easy vocabulary, and interesting characters to appeal to even the most reluctant readers. Every page has large illustrations that have pops of turquoise and yellow. Many of the illustrations are funny, especially the ones with the Queen of England and her “not amused” facial expressions. The illustrations also show different musical instruments, geographical locations, and historical people.

The Sound of Danger uses a humorous story and interesting characters to teach about history. Both the text and the illustrations work together to create humor and explain the historical facts. Even though The Sound of Danger is a really quick read, all of the mystery’s threads are explained. Readers looking for more humorous mystery books will also enjoy the Two Dogs in a Trench Coat Series by Julie Falatko.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • The Queen of England tells Mac about Marie Antoinette. “But in 1789 things in France began to go wild. There was a revolution! And in 1793 they cut off the queen’s head.”
  • A Russian soldier tries to capture Mac. “He swung a balalaika at my head—at my head!—but I ducked. The instrument made an awful song as it shattered against a stone pillar. Freddie (the Queen’s corgi) hopped out of the front of my shirt. He tugged at the man’s pant cuff with his teeth, which gave me the chance to escape.”
  • Mac gets thrown into a USSR prison.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • The Queen of England says poppycock, balderdash, and rubbish.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Investigators Take the Plunge

Investigators Brash and Mango go undercover in order to intercept a rocket that carries the stolen code for the Combinotron—a device that can stick any two things together. Instead of destroying the code, the investigators accidentally download the code into a robot that has been programmed to hug people. After a freak accident, the robot is able to travel through electricity. And every time the robot hugs someone, that person combines with whatever they are touching.

When Crackerdile learns about the Combinotron, he is determined to steal the code. In his current state—being part cracker and part alligator—Crackerdile is in danger of being dissolved or eaten. Crackerdile hopes to use the Combinotron to merge with metal. Will Crackerdile be able to steal the code, or can Brash and Mango thwart him off?

Investigators Take the Plunge is an imaginative graphic novel that is laugh-out-loud funny. The combination of human and animal characters blend to mix into a ridiculous story that uses wordplay to add humor. Even though some of the humor revolves around Brash’s need to go to the bathroom, the bathroom humor is never gross. As Brash and Mango work the case, they use fun spy gadgets, compete against a team of badger agents, flood the sewers, and are responsible for unleashing an evil villain.

The imaginative story comes alive in brightly colored artwork that shows the characters’ wide range of emotions. The text is large and uses different font sizes, which help emphasize the characters’ emotions as well as important aspects of the story. Similar to superhero comics, the story contains onomatopoeias such as crash, bwonk, and foosh. Another positive aspect is that the human scientists are a diverse group of characters who have a wide range of skin tones.

The illustrations and the unique storyline with Brash and Mango will appeal to even the most reluctant readers. Each page has 3 to 11 sentences per page. The sentences range from one word to more complex sentences. The varied sentence lengths add to the humor while keeping the story accessible to all readers.

Investigators Take the Plunge will appeal to many readers because honestly, who doesn’t want to see two alligator investigators wreak havoc? The story is unique, full of slapstick humor, and contains a non-frightening villain. Readers who enjoy humorous graphic novels that border on the ridiculous should add Mac B. Kid Spy by Mac Barnett and Two Dogs in a Trench Coat by Julie Falatko to their reading list.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • A doctor is upset when “the robot ghosts! It came out of my TB and then lunged at me! There was a flash of light and I must have passed out. When I came to, the Robot Ghost was gone, but I discovered I had. . .banana hands!”
  • A doctor is “combined with the salad I was eating for dinner” when “the Robot Ghost came out of my lamp and attacked me!”
  • When two members of the S.U.I.T—who are badgers—try to stop the Robot Ghost, the ghost zaps them and the badgers are turned into “badger badges.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • The villain’s mission is “the Total Annihilation of Idiot Law-doers!”
  • A scientist yells, “Get ya butt in here!”
  • Drat is used as an exclamation once.

Supernatural

  • A scientist changes “from mild-mannered brain surgeon Dr. Jake Hardbones into the Action News Now helicopter in the sky.”
  • The Combinotron is a device that can “stick any two things together!” The Combinotron’s code accidentally gets downloaded into a robot that likes to hug. When the robot hugs someone, the person is combined with whatever they are touching. The robot can move through electrical outlets.
  • After being hugged by a robot, a plumber combines with a snake, making the anaconda his arm.
  • The Crackerdile is an alligator that has been combined with a saltine cracker.

Spiritual Content

  • None

Valentine’s Day Disaster

Geronimo Stilton was excited to have all of his friends over for a Valentine’s Day party. He sent valentines to all of his friends and family members. But when he opened his mailbox on February 14th, it was empty! Have his friends forgotten about him? Is he destined to spend the year alone in his mouse hole, sobbing into a box of chocolate cheesy chews?

Even though Geronimo didn’t receive any valentine cards, he prepares for his party. But the clumsy mouse has a string of bad luck. Thankfully, he meets Cheesy Lou Sweetsnout, a rodeo gal, who has a solution to every problem. Geronimo’s new friend reminds him that, “Life is beautiful, the world is marvelous, and I love everyone!” Can Cheesy Lou Sweetsnout help save the Valentine’s Day party?

As Geronimo prepares for his party, he has accident after accident. While Geronimo’s bad luck is funny, Valentine’s Day Disaster doesn’t have the adventure of the other books in the series. However, readers will still enjoy seeing Cheesy Lou Sweetsnout save the day over and over. In the end, Geronimo realizes that “friendship really is a treasure.”

Valentine’s Day Disaster’s layout will draw the reader in with large, full-color illustrations that appear on every page. In addition to the often humorous illustrations, the large text has a graphic element that makes the words look fun. Some of the keywords are printed in a larger, colored print. For readers who still struggle with reading, Valentine’s Day Disaster would make a great book to read aloud while letting the child read the words that are in the colored print.

Whether you are a Geronimo Stilton fan or a first-time reader, Valentine’s Day Disaster is a fun book. The beginning of the book has a two-page, illustrated list of Geronimo’s friends and the back of the book has a map of Mouse Island. There is also a short introduction of Geronimo’s enemy, Sally Ratmousen, and Cheesy Lou Sweetsnout. While some of the characters appear in different books in the series, the series does not need to be read in order.

Mixed into the story are short passages about the history behind Valentine’s Day and how pizza was invented. There is also information about cupid and instructions on how to line dance. Readers who want to host a Valentine’s Day party can use Cheesy Lou Sweetsnout’s How to Organize a Valentine’s Day Party Guide. You can make your guests laugh by telling the jokes that appear at the end of the book.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

There Was An Old Astronaut Who Swallowed the Moon!

In this space-themed Old Lady Book, an old astronaut takes off into space and “swallowed the moon. I don’t know why she swallowed the moon, it happened at noon.” In between the old lady swallowing different space objects, two characters ask and answer space questions. For example, a girl asks, “How does the moon stay in the sky?” Her friend answers, “Gravity’s force keeps it up high.”

The only positive aspect of the story is that it teaches some space facts. The end of the book has two pages of space facts and the illustrations contain hidden objects. Unlike The Old Lady Who Swallowed the Fly, There Was An Old Astronaut Who Swallowed the Moon doesn’t have the same silly rhyme scheme that gives the words a fun flow. While the space facts are interesting, they are oddly placed and they break up the rhyme and repetition.

The story is illustrated with bright colors on top of space’s blackness. The illustrations have the same grainy aspect as a chalkboard. Some of the illustrations are funny, but others leave the reader wondering how the old astronaut swallows a comet, a rocket, and still has room for a satellite. In the end, the reader finds out that the old astronaut is actually in a planetarium and was only pretending to swallow the space objects. However, instead of being humorous, the ending falls flat.

There Was An Old Astronaut Who Swallowed the Moon is a picture book with 1 to 2 sentences per page. However, the story is not intended for children to read it for the first time independently. Younger readers may enjoy the story’s silliness, but parents may want to leave this Old Woman Book on the shelf. Unfortunately, the lack of rhyming, the odd illustrations, and the space facts do not blend well together.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • None

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • None

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

Target: Earth

Klawde is not your average cat. He is an exiled emperor from across the universe with a hunger for battle and a thirst for revenge. He’s cruel. He’s cunning. He’s brilliant. He’s also Raj’s best friend.

With Klawde now stuck on a dismal planet, he sets his sights on a new target to conquer: Earth. But to succeed, he needs two simple things: an army of zombie squirrels, and money. Lots of money.

Raj is simply trying to make some cash for a cool virtual reality headset. But when a neighbor catches wind of Klawde’s nefarious plan, Raj may end up paying for his cat’s schemes.

Even though Klawde is devious and deceitful, he is also very likable. In the fourth installment of the Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat Series, both Klawde and Raj need money, but in true Klawde style, he devises a way to make virtual money. Klawde’s obsessive desire to regain control is hilarious, especially because he always underestimates the hairless ogres of Earth. The power-hungry cat doesn’t understand why humans “were so addicted to consumption. To shopping. To their possessions. Did they not realize that the most important things in life are those you cannot touch or possess, let alone buy? Like power domination. And humiliating your enemies!”

Klawde’s plotting brilliantly connects to Raj, who starts a lawn care business with his two friends. But with Klawde’s newfound millions, Raj has everything his heart desires—a virtual reality game, a skateboard, new shoes, and pizza. Raj thought his new game would make him happy, but in the end, he realizes that “The VQ had totally been messing with my mind.” At one point, Raj spends so much time playing a virtual reality game that he doesn’t sleep, do his homework, or spend time with his friends. In the end, Raj learns that “Money didn’t matter when you already had everything you need. . . family and friends.”

Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat Series is exceptionally engaging, humorous, and fun to read. Readers will appreciate the short paragraphs, the easy vocabulary, and the hilarious blue-and-black illustrations. Not only do the illustrations help the readers imagine the story’s events, they also highlight Klawde’s emotions of misery, distaste, and disgust.

Readers will laugh out loud as Klawde tries to use squirrels to take over Earth. The conclusion introduces a new enemy—Colonel Akornius Maximus, a squirrel bent on keeping his Earthy brothers and sisters safe. Readers will be eager to read the next book in the series, Emperor of the Universe. Fans looking to put more humor into their reading should also check out the Mac B. Kid Spy Series by Mac Barnett.

Sexual Content

  • None

Violence

  • Klawde is upset at his “ogre” Raj and scratches him. Klawde “swiped his shin with my claws, leaving a trail of four bloody lines.”

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • None

Language

  • Klawde is upset that some of the cats from his home planet are calling him “Dog Lover” and “Wyss-Kuzz the Butt-sniffer.”
  • Occasionally, Klawde calls his minion, Flooffee, names that include dolt, idiot, and imbecile.
  • When FBI agents appear on Raj’s doorstep, Klawde thinks FBI stands for “Furless Brainless Idiots.”
  • Someone says to Raj, “I heard the FBI raided your house. When did it become illegal to be a loser?”
  • Dang is used once.

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • None

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