Aunt Gertrude’s library promises a great series to come.

READ REVIEW

ODUS AND THE LONG WAY HOME

Two children find themselves in the world of The Odyssey, charged with helping Odysseus get home in order to do the same for themselves.

DeLano’s debut is the first in the Book Keeper series, middle-grade readers centered on the magical book collection of Liz and Charlie’s eccentric aunt Gertrude. Aunt Gertrude’s visits are always an exciting event for the two children, but this time she has brought with her a large library of books, with strict instructions for the children not to open them. Charlie, the younger of the two, of course immediately opens The Odyssey, and the two children suddenly find themselves in a doorway covered in ivy. Homer appears and informs them that they’re now part of the escapade and can only go home when they reach the end, meaning they have to help make sure Odysseus arrives home safely. Once they meet Odysseus and his men, who perceive them as helpers sent from the gods, the story begins in earnest. The children and Odysseus (whom Charlie calls “Odus” because he can’t pronounce Odysseus) face the Cyclops, the Lotus Eaters, the Sirens and finally the suitors who have been pursuing Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, since he has been gone. The book is well-written and laced with memorable lines; e.g., “It was a north wind that blew Aunt Gertrude into town. At least that was how it seemed, for on the night she arrived at Liz’s house, there was blue lightning in the sky and the wind howled fiercely against the shutters.” It’s also well-paced, and the children blend seamlessly into the classic tale while still retaining their own concerns and initiatives. They help where they are needed without overwhelming the original plot or engaging in unrealistic heroics. Liz and Charlie are fun, relatable main characters with a goal many children will understand: Get home and enjoy the adventure along the way. The novel also serves as an appealing, kid-friendly introduction to The Odyssey or a fun way to dive deeper into familiar stories. Gertrude’s book collection promises more adventures to come and more classics for the two children to explore, with child readers right beside them.

Aunt Gertrude’s library promises a great series to come.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 87

Publisher: Pink Chicken Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2014

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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With young readers diagnosed with anxiety in ever increasing numbers, this book offers a necessary mirror to many.

GUTS

Young Raina is 9 when she throws up for the first time that she remembers, due to a stomach bug. Even a year later, when she is in fifth grade, she fears getting sick.

Raina begins having regular stomachaches that keep her home from school. She worries about sharing food with her friends and eating certain kinds of foods, afraid of getting sick or food poisoning. Raina’s mother enrolls her in therapy. At first Raina isn’t sure about seeing a therapist, but over time she develops healthy coping mechanisms to deal with her stress and anxiety. Her therapist helps her learn to ground herself and relax, and in turn she teaches her classmates for a school project. Amping up the green, wavy lines to evoke Raina’s nausea, Telgemeier brilliantly produces extremely accurate visual representations of stress and anxiety. Thought bubbles surround Raina in some panels, crowding her with anxious “what if”s, while in others her negative self-talk appears to be literally crushing her. Even as she copes with anxiety disorder and what is eventually diagnosed as mild irritable bowel syndrome, she experiences the typical stresses of school life, going from cheer to panic in the blink of an eye. Raina is white, and her classmates are diverse; one best friend is Korean American.

With young readers diagnosed with anxiety in ever increasing numbers, this book offers a necessary mirror to many. (Graphic memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-545-85251-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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