Escape From the Isle of the Lost

Recently, I was blessed to receive a copy of the newest Melissa de la Cruz Descendants novel through a giveaway generously hosted by Leslie Kay from The Disneybound. Today we’re going to be reviewing the fourth and possibly last novel in the Descendants series.

The Story: Mal and her friends have fought hard for the peace they’re enjoying now. She loves her amazing boyfriend, King Ben, the wonderful friends who make up her family, and Auradon Prep. Unfortunately, not everyone is content to let Mal live her life in peace. Uma, daughter of Ursula, is still lurking around in the waters between Auradon and the Isle of the Lost, searching for a way to escape. It seems she’s not alone however. Hades, former god of the underworld, has been trapped in the bowels of the Isle for as long as both girls can remember and he’s even more desperate to get away from this prison to get back to the paradise he once knew as an all powerful being. With Uma’s help, Hades might be able to get off the island and wreak havoc for the innocent citizens in Auradon. He and Uma might even (dare they think it?) be able to kick back and enjoy life – if they can just escape.

My Thoughts: I’ve enjoyed this series since I picked up the first book in 2015. Melissa de la Cruz is an excellent authoress who is a credit to the Descendants brand by writing novels that flesh out the world of the films and manages to write what feels like a tangible world. These books are fun ways to escape into another dimension and the perfect treat on a hot summer’s day.

Parental Advisories: None! Melissa de la Cruz does an excellent job of keeping these books appropriate for any age group.

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Cats vs Robots

In this week’s delightful tale, whimsy and reality collide with all the villainy that felines and artificial intelligence have to offer in Cats vs Robots!

The Story: For cats, there’s only one thing that can rouse them from their plushy lives up in space away from all troubles and interference: gaining the technology needed to give them more than nine lives. Though it may seem impossible, Earth, as insignificant as it is to Chairman Meow, may actually have something special to offer. Unfortunately, the Feline Confederation isn’t the only one interested in this treasure. They’ll have to get to the blue planet before the robots if they want the tech. Of course, that’s provided they can get through Min and Max, two siblings who are determined to keep their life going just as it should be. Clever Min is determined to make her newest invention a winner while soft-hearted Max just wants to take care of the new kittens he’s rescued. But what happens when the siblings realize they may have to choose not only between helping the two intergalactic groups invading Earth – and each other?

My Thoughts: I know they say don’t judge a book by its cover, but ya’ll, it was hard not to with this read. I mean, how adorable does this read look? The story inside did not disappoint either. For fans of the Cats vs Dogs films or just the wacky mashup genre as a whole, Margaret Stohl and Lewis Peterson have written a book that you’ll be remembering for years to come.

Parental Advisories: There is some crude humor because this book does involve animals, so bathroom humor is thrown in here and there unfortunately. For the most part though, this book is pretty clean of anything parents need worry about. I recommend this weird and wonderful read!

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Timelines of Everything

We’re reading another nonfiction read as the beginning of school comes closer. For history buffs, parents, or just educators looking to review some fun material before the school year starts, Smithsonian and DK’s new book Timelines of Everything is an excellent read.

The Summary: History is ever changing and there is never a loss of things to talk about. From the beginning of ancient history to the reformations and revolutions that changed the modern world as we know it, this comprehensive read does its best to cover a lot in a little bit of space. With its unique layout, this book is a feast for the eyes. The read is crafted with different time periods in mind as it uses “newspaper clippings”, infograph-like spreads, and notable art/photography pieces to set the proper mood for each time period. Whether this book ends up being a centerpiece for your educational purposes, this is still a read worth handing to your child just for a read through.

My Thoughts: As I’ve mentioned numerous times, I’m a history buff and am always interested to see what kind of reads being provided for children these days. Smithsonian and DK do an admirable job with this excellently designed book which manages to cover some of the most impactful events in all of history. This is not the most detailed read; you won’t find any astounding historical facts that you haven’t heard of here, but it’s a great introduction for readers just getting to higher levels of reading.

Parental Advisories: The book does cover the theory of Big Bang and present it as fact so for parents who believe in a Creationist worldview, this book may be a great starting point for some meaningful conversations with children. There is also made mention of different kinds of social change, some of which may not always be considered good by parents of all different kinds. I think this is a book that could spark some great conversation with your kids. Otherwise, I highly recommend this read!

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Seeing Stars

This week we’re going over a nonfiction read perfect for the summertime. Before star-gazing on the roof, why not pick up this book on constellations for your kids?

Summary: For the budding astronomists and mythology nerds among your children, Sara Gillingham has written a book that is sure to make any curious student delighted. Chock-full of graphic designs and entertaining stories, this book is sure to answer all the questions your kids have (and haven’t) asked. Ever wondered who gave the Southern Cross its name? Curious as to why Canis Major and Minor were named after dogs? Seeing Stars: A Seeing Guide to the 88 Constellation is the perfect book to quench a learner’s thirst and spark a deeper love for astronomy.

My Thoughts: As a fan of mythology and also just a student who loves learning, this is a read that I definitely would consider owning. Sara Gillingham manages to convey the information in a concise form, compiling interesting facts that kids will eat up. Her simple designs will also be loved by younger readers.

Parental Advisories: None!

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The Extraordinary Colors of Auden Dare

I’ve become a pretty big fan of sci-fi over the past few years. While the genre selections for children can be hit or miss, The Extraordinary Colors of Auden Dare is a read worth checking out.

The Story: In a futuristic world filled with all sorts of neat gadgets, drones, and a war between groups who seek control over the natural resources. Yet even in this universe with its advanced technology, eleven year old Auden Dare can not see color. Not even a little. When Auden’s uncle dies and leaves him and his mom a place to stay, Auden hopes that Uncle Jonah’s genius might help him see as everyone else does, especially when he finds something mysterious entitled Project Rainbow on the property. When one of his new classmates, Vivi, gets involved in a hunt for the truth about Uncle Jonah’s robot Paragon and his secret project. Together, the two kids must discover the truth before anyone else does if Auden is to ever, just once, see extraordinary colors.

My Thoughts: Zillah Bethell weaves a tale that is at times familiar and at others completely fresh. Auden, Vivi, and Paragon are endearing characters and Auden’s struggle will be relatable for any kid who was born a little differently from the rest. I really enjoyed paging through this novel. With its entertaining mystery and attention focused on characters, this is a book that kids will find worth reading.

Parental Advisories: None! This is a clean read that is highly enjoyable.

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The Tea Book

This week we’re reading a delightful adult nonfiction that covers the history of one of the world’s most popular beverages: tea! With wit, world experience, and a love for one of the most history-changing beverages ever, Louise Cheadle and Nick Kilby (owners of the company teapigs) bring us their wonderful manifesto and historical compendium all in one simply titled The Tea Book: All Things Tea.

Summary: Looked at as one of the most versatile beverages in the world, tea is not only a refreshing drink but is also an inherent part of cultures from all around the world. From the UK’s traditional teas that make one think of high royalty or the social custom of drinking in the Middle East to the unique yak butter/salt tea drink of the Himalayas, there is no shortage of history to tea. The Tea Book is packed with more than just worldwide knowledge about tea however – it also serves as a recipe book and an instructional manual. Enjoy your own tea-smoked duck breasts or indulge in a slice of Jewish Honey Cake as you learn about the growth and careful packaging of tea leaves. No matter where you come from or how new you are to tea, by the time you’re done, you’ll be wondering why you haven’t been drinking tea sooner.

My Thoughts: I’ve been drinking tea from a young age, but I never knew quite as much about it as I do now that I’ve read this wonderful book. Packed with colorful illustrations, whimsical graphics, and gorgeous photographs of tea shops from around the world, this is a book that every tea-drinker should read at least once. If you’ve ever had a curiosity about the beverage or dabbled in tea-tasting yourself, this is the book for you.

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Annie’s Life in Lists

Once in a while there are interestingly formatted books that come into the children’s genre. Kristin Mahoney recently released a quaint book called Annie’s Life in Lists.

The Story: Annie loves making lists, but she doesn’t quite like her freakishly amazing memory. In fact, it is this particularly amazing memory that makes her blurt in front of the school principal and get herself kicked out of school. Annie can’t get rid of the feeling that it’s her fault they are moving too and she’s not the only one. Her older brother Ted is just as unhappy, leaving Annie with only her lists to cling to. As she enters a new school year and tries to navigate her way around without ruining it by her freakish memory, Annie may learn that life doesn’t quite fit into all of her lists and that sometimes that’s okay.

My Thoughts: This was a pretty entertaining read. Annie is a sweet main character and her struggle to find herself and break out of her introverted shell is one I can relate to. I recommend this middle-grade book for young readers.

Parental Advisories: There is a little bit of mention of racism in this book with Annie’s new best friend Zora who is black and has a crush on a white boy whose grandmother disapproves of their friendship. I’ve expressed my ire with the way contemporary politics has crept into children’s books recently, but at least the main focus of the book tends to be on the plot and this is only made small mention of.

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The Button War

There are a few authors who manage to write books that are intriguing and of a consistent quality again and again. Author AVI manages to do both with his  children’s book The Button War.

The Story: This is a time before any world wars. While political tension rises in Russia-occupied Poland, the truth of human nature is revealed in village boys Patryk and Jurek. While the roots of World War I are built upon and the flames of war lick at the borders of the country, the village children are caught in their own war – for the buttons off of uniforms. At first, it is a mere game, Patryk humoring the vain and puffed up Jurek. But soon it has turned into a vicious race to become known as the king, a race that could endanger not only the boys’ collections but their entire future.

My Thoughts: This book reminded me of Lord of the Flies. With its eerie psychological underpinnings and characters that are very adult, AVI weaves a tale that is worth reading and having discussions about. I highly recommend this for readers who are of a more mature intellectual level and who can really think about what this book is telling us.

Parental Advisories: This book is fairly clean, though it does hold hefty depictions of violence and showcase the brutal nature of mankind. This book has kids killing adults, stripping buttons off of the jackets of dead men, and even kids threatening death on each other. That having been said, this is still a very good read. The brutality is part of the point of this book. It is worth reading and discussing.

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And the Ocean Was Our Sky

In this twisted parody of Herman Melville’s epic Moby Dick, esteemed author Patrick Ness of A Monster Calls fame weaves a fascinating new tale. And the Ocean Was Our Sky is the perfect read to curl up with on these nippy evenings if you’re in the mood for a dark adventure.

The Story: Bathsheba may have once enjoyed the hunt of her whale pod into the Abyss Above, but life has tired her and reduced her to merely relating the sorrows of her youth. For the truth is, it was her fault that her pod died. When the whales heard tell of the devil himself, Toby Wick, their Captain led them on a hunt to find the enemy. Bathsheba and her pod find a young man with no desire to hunt and even less desire to be killed in the pursuit of Toby Wick. The prophecy that surrounds their trail may be clear to their Captain, but she is hardly certain about the path that they are taking. Death is in their future and Bathsheba is uncertain of whether she wants to join her pod in their fate or turn tail – before she’s too far gone.

My Thoughts: Patrick Ness wrote a thought-provoking beauty with A Monster Calls, and he continues writing in the same vein with And the Ocean Was Our Sky. Bathsheba is a main character whose world weariness is haunting. I really found this weird parody of Moby Dick to be an interesting novel that made me look at the original in a completely different way. The illustrations, with their smoky not quite concrete quality, lent themselves perfectly to the text. I highly recommend this picking up, regardless of whether you’ve read Herman Melville’s classic.

Parental Advisories: Though this may be a YA read, it’s surprisingly clean!

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The World War II Invasion That Changed History

It’s a sad thing, but I find more and more kids don’t know much about America’s history. This week we’re reading another nonfiction book which tells the story of one of the most iconic military invasions in recent history with D-Day: The World War II Invasion That Changed History.

Summary: June 6, 1944 is a date that should and indeed did, go down in history as one of the most important moments in not just US, but also world history. But what the history books merely take a glance at, Deborah Hopkinson explores with breathtaking candor and research. This book discusses how crucial all of the players are, from the highest military officials to the men who made it happen, to those who spread the word about it. World War II’s shining example of American patriotism, ingenuity, and perseverance is encapsulated in this read which discusses the events and people that led to the landing on the beaches of Normandy.

My Thoughts: I am a huge fan of US history. Having had a lot of family members in the military, books regarding military history and/or service have a lot of importance and significance to me. Deborah Hopkinson does an incredible job of telling the story of D-Day, pulling from witness accounts to newspaper reports and more. Her work is a stunning tribute to the lives of the men and women involved in making sure that liberty triumphed.

Parental Advisories: There are few uses of mild swearing by military officials and violence is discussed (though not at length or in gory detail). If you have any serious concerns, read through the book first. I definitely think this is a comprehensive read that deserves attention from adults as well as children. It definitely crosses demographics successfully.

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