An amusing story stretched too thin.



A microbiological adventure centered on a little boy bacterium and a girl virus living in a young human boy’s fluffy, four-legged best friend.

With his first book for children, Lyen (Alma’s Journey, 2012) takes young readers inside the digestive system of a dog named Pembroke, where the microbes lead very humanlike lives. Arthur Bacterium meets Patty Virus when she walks into his class at school. Despite her being different from Arthur’s bacteria classmates, Arthur is kind and welcoming, and the two become fast friends. In Pembroke’s colon, where Arthur and his parents live, most of the microbes are “good bacteria” living in symbiosis with the canine. The bacteria fear viruses since they can make Pembroke sick by infecting and destroying other cells (like them), but Patty is a Nelson virus, a good strain that Arthur’s father Louie, a professor of virology, says descends from the viruses that lived in Lord Admiral Nelson, who died during the Battle of Trafalgar. Excessive or bizarre factual additions like this frequently reveal the overly elaborate nature of the authorial conceit and can occasionally be a source of conflict or error in the novel. The professor suggests that Patty and Arthur leave the colon and cautiously investigate different areas of Pembroke’s anatomy, so the pair set out in a kayak filled with supplies along the “Great Brown River.” After a thorough tour of the intestine, they muster the courage to visit, through various veins, arteries and channels, the stomach, the liver—or “Hepatic Mountain,” which is particularly well-described—the pancreas, circulatory and cardiovascular systems, the brain and even “The Great Expanse” outside the pup. Although exhilarating, the idea of Patty knowing how to return the two microscopic organisms back to Pembroke’s digestive track is a bit too implausible, as is her knowledge of human affairs and the generally convoluted depiction of the relationships among bacteria, viruses and organ systems. The book is most illuminating and charming when it stays within the metaphor, describing the personal roles and experiences of Arthur, his friends and family. The glossary helps with understanding the microbiology terms, but the story is unnecessarily complicated and long, and there are frequent unsavory descriptions of fecal gases, smells and fluids.

An amusing story stretched too thin.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475958553

Page Count: 180

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2012

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.



In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Mary's Song

From the Dream Horse Adventure Series series , Vol. 1

A novel tells the story of two spirited girls who set out to save a lame foal in 1952.

Mary, age 12, lacks muscle control of her legs and must use a wheelchair. Her life is constantly interrupted by trips with her widower father to assorted doctors, all of whom have failed to help her. Mary tolerates the treatments, hoping to one day walk unassisted, but her true passion involves horses. Possessing a library filled with horse books, she loves watching and drawing the animals at a neighboring farm. She longs to own one herself. But her father, overprotective due to her disability and his own lingering grief over Mary’s dead mother, makes her keep her distance. Mary befriends Laura, the emotionally neglected daughter of the wealthy neighboring farm owners, and the two share secret buggy rides. Both girls are attracted to Illusion, a beautiful red bay filly on the farm. Mary learns that Illusion is to be put down by a veterinarian because of a lame leg. Horrified, she decides to talk to the barn manager about the horse (“Isn’t it okay for her to live even if she’s not perfect? I think she deserves a chance”). Soon, Mary and Laura attempt to raise money to save Illusion. At the same time, Mary begins to gain control of her legs thanks to water therapy and secret therapeutic riding with Laura. There is indeed a great deal of poignancy in a story of a girl with a disability fighting to defend the intrinsic value of a lame animal. But this book, the first installment of the Dream Horse Adventure Series, would be twice as touching if Mary interacted with Illusion more. In the tale’s opening, she watches the foal from afar, but she actually spends very little time with the filly she tries so hard to protect. This turns out to be a strange development given the degree to which the narrative relies on her devotion. Count (Selah’s Sweet Dream, 2015) draws Mary and Laura in broad but believable strokes, defined mainly by their unrelenting pluckiness in the face of adversity. While the work tackles disability, death, and grief, Mary’s and Laura’s environments are so idyllic and their optimism and perseverance so remarkable that the story retains an aura of uncomplicated gentleness throughout.

A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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