Book Review: The Mozart Season

The Mozart Season by Virginia Euwer Wolff
The Mozart Season 
by Virginia Euwer Wolff

4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


Allegra is a violinist entering a prestigious Mozart music competition. At 12 years of age, she is the youngest finalist in the competition, and works closely with her violin teacher to be prepared. But as she memorizes the Mozart concerto, other things in her life begin to affect her music.
Her mother’s emotionally wounded friend, Deirdre, who is a genius vocalist, makes Allegra wonder about how pain can find a voice through music. Allegra’s grandmother, who escaped the Nazi death camps, urges Allegra to embrace her Jewish heritage, and Allegra reflects on her identity as a musician. And there is a mysterious homeless man who haunts all the local concerts in the park, dancing by himself in the back and searching for a song he can’t remember.

As a musician, I enjoyed this story so much. The writing is quite accurate about how one feels about learning music, and embracing it, and connecting with the composers; how you can make yourself crazy practicing too much, how your nerves will go haywire before or after a performance, how music shapes everything you do and everything you are.
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Book Review: Jennifer Murdley’s Toad

Jennifer Murdley's Toad by Bruce Coville
Jennifer Murdley’s Toad 
by Bruce CovilleGary A. Lippincott (Illustrations)

4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


Jennifer wishes she could be beautiful, but feels ugly and dumpy. When she buys a talking toad at the Magic Shop, her entire life changes, and she is whisked on an adventure where she will have to choose between pursuing beauty or saving her friends.

I loved this hilarious story, and read it all in one sitting! The madcap plot is full of surprises, and the snappy dialogue makes every page interesting. I enjoyed the magic system and how it interacts in strange ways with the modern world.

I thought Jennifer was sweet and REAL and beautifully awkward. Her family is quirky and weird, and her friends are peppery and unreliable. The best part of the book was Jennifer’s various relationships with her parents, siblings, and school friends, and of course, her magical talking toad.

I adored every chapter! Can’t wait to read more from this series.

Picture Book Review: Amelia Harehart

Wild Bios by Courtney Acampora
Wild Bios: Amelia Harehart 
by Courtney Acampora,Maggie FischerBonnie Pang (Illustrations)
 4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


This board book introduces young readers to the famous Amelia Earhart, reimagined as a bunny.
The story describes her childhood in a “burrow” playing games with her sister and their dog “Furocious”. I especially enjoyed reading about how she built her own rollercoaster in her backyard, collected newspaper clippings of “furnominal” women to inspire “hareself”, and bought her first “hareplane” The Canary.

It’s so hilarious to read all the funny animal words included in the story, like “anybunny” and “hopstacle.” Those details in the writing are what make the book so special.

The illustrations are so adorable and bright! I really love the colorful lines and pleasant expressions of the characters. I also loved the charming details in the background of each page, like a little yellow canary bird that flies with Amelia as her copilot. Amelia looks brave and cheerful on every page, and her determination and spirit are celebrated throughout the book.
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Picture Book Review: Gorgeous Ruth

Gorgeous Ruth by Albert Chang
Gorgeous Ruth 
by Albert ChangCaroline Attia (Illustrations)

2 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


Ruth has a chipped tooth, and a chipped tea cup, but she doesn’t let it bother her, preferring instead to play and run on the beach.
This picture book has beautiful illustrations with billowing lines and colorful figures. I really loved the movement in the pictures, and how cute Ruth looks! She looks sweet and cheerful on every page. The sweeping wind and rushing waves are the perfect backdrop for the energetic Ruth, but I also enjoyed how peaceful the artwork is as Ruth lays down to sleep.

The one thing I did NOT enjoy was the actual story. It was not exactly clear what the relationship was between Ruth’s chipped tooth and the broken cup. Did she chip her tooth on the cup? Or is she just comparing her tooth to the cup?

The story is told in really terrible poetry. The meter is off. Some of the words don’t rhyme. I don’t know why people think children’s picture books should be in rhyme. It would be a much better story if they just told the story, instead of painfully attempting to rhyme “beach” with “feet”, and “sea” and “dream”. *cringe*
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Picture Book Review: William Sheepspeare

William Sheepspeare by Courtney Acampora
William Sheepspeare 
by Courtney AcamporaMaggie FischerZoe Perisco (Illustrations)

4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads

“To baa or not to baa… That is the question.”

The cuteness factor in this board book is through the roof! Reimagining the life of William Shakespeare as a sheep, everything is transformed into animalistic phrases, words, and illustrations. William Sheepspeare writes “ram-ances” instead of “romances”, and “shearious” tragedies like “Lamblet, MacBleat, and Julius Fleecer”.

Introducing young children to the beautiful Globe Theater and Sheepspeare’s home in Stratford with his family (his “ewe, Anne Hoofaway” and three “lambs”), the simple story-telling is the perfect style for little readers to learn about this historical figure. Continue reading

Picture Book Review: Wind in the Willows Jigsaw Puzzles

Wind in the Willows Jigsaw Book by Kenneth Grahame
Wind in the Willows Jigsaw Book 
by Kenneth GrahameErnest H. Shepard (Illustrator)

5 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


A beautiful board book with jigsaw puzzles on the pages. I will NEVER take those puzzle pieces out. They are too perfect! I adore Shepard’s whimsical illustrations, and enjoyed reading the little excerpts from the Wind in the Willows book that accompany each puzzle.
So cute!

Book Review: Falcon’s Feather

The Falcon's Feather by Trudi Trueit
The Falcon’s Feather (Explorer Academy, #2) 
by Trudi Trueit 

5 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


Cruz and his friends are searching for clues left behind by Cruz’s mother, on a quest that will take them to Norway and Iceland. The team stops along the way to do some underwater diving, help some whales in trouble, and tour the beauties of Norway in between their Academy classes and explorer training. Cruz and Emmett soon discover that there are spies on board the Academy’s flagship, Orion, and they don’t know who to trust. When Cruz’s diving equipment fails and puts his life in danger, it only makes him more determined than ever to find some answers.

I didn’t think it was possible for this book to be even BETTER than the first one, but WOW! I am so crazy impressed with this series.

The plot is non-stop action with tons of wonderful adventure, mystery, puzzles, spies, betrayal, high-tech gadgets, and of course, the fascinating characters.

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Picture Book Review: Frida Catlo

Frida Catlo by Courtney Acampora
Frida Catlo 
by Courtney AcamporaMaggie Fischer,  Lindsay Dale-Scott (Illustrations)

4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads

This adorable board book tells the story of Frida Kahlo, a famous Mexican artist reimagined as a cat with nine lives. The simple story-telling is perfect for young little readers, and a wonderful way to introduce them to this well-known artist. The book includes Diego Rivera as a dog, making him “Doggo” Rivera, and animalistic versions of some of Frida’s most famous paintings.

The cartoon illustrations are full of vibrant colors and cute animals. The writing hilariously uses animal made-up words, like “purr-fect”, “furgotten”,”Meowxico”,”mewseum”, and “paw-traits” instead of portraits. Continue reading

Book Review: Fell Farm Holiday

Fell Farm Holiday by Marjorie Lloyd
Fell Farm Holiday (Fell Farm, #1) 
by Marjorie Lloyd

4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads

 

I am just delighted with this old-fashioned book about five siblings camping out and climbing the fells for their summer holidays. The simple charm of the story, the amusing dynamics between the Browne siblings, and the details of their little camping adventures, kept me absorbed and interested through every chapter.

The two eldest siblings are Pat and Kay, twins with a love for hiking and camping. Pat is the leader of the group, and prides himself on his knowledge of survival and mapping. Kay is the quartermaster of the group, taking special care of the meals and all the supplies.

The next set of twins are Jan and Hyacinth. Jan is obsessed with birds, and creates his own hiding spots where he can observe and sketch the birds of the fells. Hyacinth is more imaginative and dreamy, and loves to write stories of her own.
And the smallest sibling is Sally, who is only eight years old, and so is not allowed to stay out all night camping, but still manages to join in the fun whenever possible.

I adore this whole series!

Book Review: The Nebula Secret

The Nebula Secret by Trudi Trueit
The Nebula Secret (Explorer Academy, #1) 
by Trudi Trueit

5 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


Cruz has just been accepted into the elite Explorer Academy, which only accepts 25 students per year. In the midst of his classes on anthropology, science, geography, history, and conservation, Cruz also has training sessions in a virtual reality program designed to prepare the students for real-life exploring all over the globe. Then Cruz starts to receive threats from an unknown enemy, and discovers a mystery in the school. His mother died working in the top-secret labs at Explorer Academy, and Cruz is determined to find out what really happened to her.

I loved this book so much! The adventure, the mystery, the engaging characters, the impressive setting at the Academy… I love it all. But the best thing of all… the puzzles and codes!!! I LOVE puzzles and codes.
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