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The Haunted Library: The Secret Room by Dori Hillestad Butler, Illustrated by Aurore Damant

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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The Haunted Library: The Secret Room by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant, is another adventure in which Kaz must use his newly learned ghost skills to help Claire and his friends. Kaz finally learned how to pass through walls without feeling “skizzy” in the last book, but he’s still reluctant to use his skill, until his little brother “Little John” goads him into it. But now he has a new mystery on his hands in Beckett’s secret room inside the library.

There are a bunch of ghostly objects that don’t shrink when Kaz and his friends hold them while shrinking, and they are dying to know why. They also discover a secret envelop that they want to show Claire, but can’t because it won’t pass through the wall. Meanwhile, Claire goes on a class trip and learns a bit of history about the library before it was a library, as well as some family secrets.

My daughter loves this series of books from the mysteries to the funny antics of Kaz, Claire, and now his little brother and his dog. I’m not going to spoil any of the secrets in this one. The Haunted Library: The Secret Room by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant, is a fun ride and will keep you guessing.

RATING: Cinquain

Owl Diaries: Eva in the Spotlight by Rebecca Elliott

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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Owl Diaries: Eva in the Spotlight by Rebecca Elliott, which is the 13th book in the series, and thrusts Eva into a new friendship role once again. Eva and Sue tend to clash on things, and when Sue is cast as the lead in Treetop Owlementary’s new play, Snowy White, Eva is disappointed. But she is cast as the mirror and as Sue’s understudy (which was a new word for my daughter to learn) and she gets to help with making costumes.

Eva’s a creative little owl, but she gets disappointed and jealous like other kids. She even finds that telling a white lie to her grandmother weighs heavily on her, but she learns that telling the truth doesn’t mean that her grandmother will love her less. Her grandmother assures her that she’ll love her even if she’s the mirror and not the lead role.

My daughter really loves this series and while most of it is graphics/illustrations and diary entries, she really feels like Eva is a close friend and she gets to see what Eva is thinking and feeling. This is the kind of book that can help kids learn how to process their emotions. There are some words she has a tough time sounding out, but she eventually gets them down pat, as some of those harder words are repeated throughout the book. Teachers could use this series to teach kids larger compound words in a context.

Owl Diaries: Eva in the Spotlight by Rebecca Elliott is another stellar edition to the series, and my daughter will likely continue reading this one. It’s easier for her to read and it’s a good in-between book when I have her read more on-grade-level books in the evenings. This series has been a real winner.

RATING: Quatrain

Other reviews of this series.

How to Spot an Artist by Danielle Krysa

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 40 pgs.
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How to Spot an Artist by Danielle Krysa hadn’t even been out of the package more than 10 minutes when my daughter snapped it up to read on her own after her first day of class. She is an artist, but sometimes she is not confident in what she chooses to create. In some cases, she creates something that is temporary and can be discard or transformed into something else. This is part of her process, I think, and I try not to interfere even if I want to keep her art permanently — this is where my phone camera comes in handy.

Krysa has created a book that artists and those who are just starting to get interested in art will love. It tells children that there are artists everywhere and that there a number of art jobs available for those who decide to make art their career. My daughter’s favorite part of the book is when it is interrupted for an important message about art bullies or as my daughter called the image on the page “the art blob.”

How to Spot an Artist by Danielle Krysa is a delightful read about being yourself and how art can turn into not only a career but also a lifelong passion. The goal of this book is to inspire kids to just create no matter what it looks like. The pictures are colorful and engaging, and the page on glitter is fantastic and so true. We really enjoyed this one.

RATING: Cinquain

Diary of a Pug: Paws for a Cause by Kyla May

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 72 pgs.
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Diary of a Pug: Paws for a Cause by Kyla May is the third book in this delightful diary series for first and second graders. My daughter loves this series, which is why we keep reading them, and any practice she can get is fine by me. In this installment, Baron von Bubbles and Bella discover a lost kitten and they are only able to take care of him for the evening before Bella’s mom tells her she has to bring him to the animal shelter. When they drop off the kitty reality hits hard for both Bella and Bub. They soon realize that animal shelters have money for food and little else to keep these soon-to-be-adopted pets happy. Bella and Bub decide it’s time to help.

What we love about this series is that these characters have big hearts and big ideas. Maybe the first try doesn’t always work successfully, but they continue to try harder and make some headway. They take a step back, reassess, and begin again. Some times they have a little help and a little inspiration from others. But through perseverance, they’re able to find a solution and reach the goal they set out for themselves.

Diary of a Pug: Paws for a Cause by Kyla May has some great illustrations, characters, and thought bubbles. Don’t forget the thought bubbles that show how Bub is truly feeling about a situation. The final page always has some great questions to get the kids thinking about what they just read as well as how they would react in certain situations. It’s a great way for parents and kids to engage with the text and have a conversation.

RATING Quatrain

Other Reviews:

The Haunted Library: The Five O’Clock Ghost by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 114 pgs.
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The Haunted Library: The Five O’Clock Ghost by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant, is the fourth book in the series in which Claire and Kaz embark on mysteries involving ghosts. This young girl has befriended a ghost, Kaz, who found himself blown away from his family and alone in her grandmother’s library. Following the last book, another student has decided to hire Claire and her detective agency of two, though solids think Claire is the only detective. She heads over to David Jeffrey’s house to investigate with Kaz and Cosmo, Kaz’s dog, safely tucked into her water bottle. We really get a kick out of the ghosts searching the house while Claire is talking to her fellow solids.

Will this ghost who only appears at 5 p.m. come out and reveal himself? Kaz tries his best to uncover the ghost but to no avail, but he is beginning to suspect that an older sister is behind the happenings in the Jeffrey’s house. My daughter loves these because she get to keep on guessing as clues are revealed, and sometimes she gets it right. That wasn’t the case with this mystery, however. But it’s fun to try, right?

We suspect that throughout this series we’ll meet up with more of Kaz’s family, and we have fun guessing which ghost relative we’ll run into next. Beckett, the other ghost who haunts the library, has also become a favorite, as he tries to teach Kaz some new ghost tricks. Kaz is a very reluctant student, and sometimes their interactions are reminiscent of a parent-child relationship. The Haunted Library: The Five O’Clock Ghost by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant, was a good mystery with an unusual ending that taught my daughter about electromagnetic interference in a simple way. But we’re ready for the next book, we’ve been dying to know what’s in that secret room at the library since the first book.

RATING: Cinquain

Katt vs. Dogg by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, illustrated by Anuki Lpez

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 320 pgs.
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Katt vs. Dogg by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, illustrated by Anuki Lpez, is set in the world of animals who are civilized, except when it comes to dogs and cats. Dogs and cats are still sworn enemies and whenever they’re near each other, look out. Oscar’s dog family runs into Molly’s cat family on the way to the Western Frontier Park. The size of this book was a bit daunting for my daughter, so she had me read this to her, but I assured her that the text was definitely on her level and she could read it herself. But this book worked as a great motivator in that I would only read to her if she read from her book for a certain amount of time. So as a reward, this book fit the bill because the story was engaging from the beginning with the dogs and cats already fighting before they even got to the park. You can only imagine how much worse it got when Oscar and Molly end up missing in the wilds of the park where the magical creatures — weaselboars, mountain lions, and bears. Luckily, Oscar is a Dogg Scout, which can help them both out of scrapes in the wilderness but only after they decide to call a truce and work together.

My daughter loved the conflict, the silly names, and the fun information about cats and dogs. We loved how these young “kids” navigated the dangers of the woods, and it was nice to see that the wild was a little more nice than expected. Molly and Oscar also learn some valuable lessons about how differences can be an asset, as well as how they can learn to get over past expectations to see their “enemy” in a different light. This is a great story about coming together to solve problems and leveraging the positive qualities of each animal to do that. In the end, this is a fun story about a new friendship against the odds.

In true James Patterson fashion, Katt vs. Dogg by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, illustrated by Anuki Lpez, is a page turner. My daughter often asked me to read another chapter, even if we had already read several. She wanted to know what happened next. She is, however, disappointed that this is not a series of books. She really wanted to read another book about Oscar and Molly or even some of the other animals in this newly created world.

RATING: Cinquain

Spirit Riding Free: The Adventure Begins by Suzanne Selfors

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 272 pgs.
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Spirit Riding Free: The Adventure Begins by Suzanne Selfors is the tale of Lucky Prescott and her family’s move out west while her father works on the railroad expansion through the west. On her ride from the city to Miradero, Lucky sees a mustang riding fast and is amazed. But when the mustang is captured, Lucky is devastated, especially when she learns from her father that he’ll likely be broken and sold to someone, essentially losing his freedom.

Lucky has some trouble fitting in, especially when her aunt Cora insists that she wear a dress in the heat. She’s no longer learning to be a proper lady in the city and when she gets to school, most of the girls are wearing pants. She has a misunderstanding with Pru and Abigail, but Maricela seems to want to be her friend — too bad she’s a bit stuck up and hates horses.

My daughter loves this television show on Netflix and watches every season. This book follows much of what happens in the first season of the show, so we were not surprised by what happens. She still enjoyed reading this together at night before bed. She still wanted more pictures. This was definitely a book you’ll want to read with younger kids, not let them try to read it on their own. The language should be easy to follow, but the lack of pictures makes younger kids get bored easily, even when they are 9.

Spirit Riding Free: The Adventure Begins by Suzanne Selfors was a good book for gals who like horses and adventure, but this was definitely a book that adults will want to read with younger readers who still need pictures to pay attention. We really loved riding along with Lucky and watching her navigate a new place and find new friends.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Suzanne Selfors lives on an island near Seattle where it rains all the time, which is why she tends to write about cloudy, moss-covered, green places. She’s married, has two kids, and writes full time. Her favorite writers are Kurt Vonnegut, Charles Dickens, and most especially, Roald Dahl.

Frankie Sparks and the Class Pet by Megan Frazer Blakemore

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 144 pgs.
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Frankie Sparks and the Class Pet by Megan Frazer Blakemore, illustrated by Nadja Sarell, is a third grader who loves her best friend, Maya, and loves science. When her teacher informs the class that they are going to get a class pet, she has her heart set on getting a rat. Her teacher lays out the criteria:

1. Fit in aquarium.
2. Cost less than $50.
3. Be easily portable.
4. Be able to be left alone for the weekend.

While she completes all of her research on rats at home through the internet, books, and information from her aunt Gina, her other classmates have barely begun. Her aunt works with rodents at her job, and Frankie must solve the one problem with her rat idea — how to feed them every day even when the kids are not at school to do it. My daughter struggled to read some of the larger scientific words in this book, but I loved that they included explanations for the kinds about what those words mean. I also liked that Frankie loved science and that it was incorporated into the book without being overly boring.

My daughter’s favorite part is the end of the book, even after the class pet is selected, and when Frankie realizes that she shouldn’t force Maya to vote for the rat when she wants a betta fish and when she apologizes to her friend for being not so nice. Frankie Sparks and the Class Pet by Megan Frazer Blakemore, illustrated by Nadja Sarell, is a great introductory book for early readers to learn about science, experimenting, solving problems, and being good friends.

RATING: Quatrain

The Haunted Library: The Ghost Backstage by Dori Hillestad Butler

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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The Haunted Library: The Ghost Backstage by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant, is a solid third book in this series in which Kaz is beginning to take lessons from Beckett about different ghost skills, including how to pick up solid objects. He’s not doing very well with his lessons, but Beckett insists that he learn. When Claire provides Kaz with an opportunity to escape his grueling lessons, he jumps at the chance.

One of Claire’s classmates saw a ghost during play rehearsals for Jack and the Beanstalk. Kaz isn’t thrilled with all of the noise at Claire’s elementary school or the rush of kids everywhere, but he soon finds a way to navigate without having solids pass through him and making him feel all weird. Kaz easily eavesdrops on conversations and reports back to Claire, but he seems to forget that her classmates will find it odd that she’s talking to herself all the time.

My daughter loves guessing who the ghost might be in each of these books, whether it’s someone in Kaz’s lost family or a classmate. But one thing is for sure, Kaz is growing stronger as a ghost every book, and we can’t wait to see what new ghostly skills he picks up along the way.

The Haunted Library: The Ghost Backstage by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant, is a solid mystery with a fun cast of characters. As this is set in the school for the most part, we rarely seek Beckett and Kosmo, the ghost dog. We missed them, but it was good to see Kaz get inspired to take action to help a kid being made fun of by others. We’ll definitely be reading more of these.

RATING: Quatrain

Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

Source: Gift
Paperback, 144 pgs.
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Nancy Clancy: Super Sleuth by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser, is the first in this chapter book series about a girl who loves Nancy Drew and wants to be a detective just like her. While Drew’s cases take her on scary adventures and the criminals are creepy, Nancy Clancy’s adventures are tamer, often involving classmates and her sister, among others.

Nancy and her best friend, Bree, are amateur detectives and when they overhear Rhonda and Wanda talking about a secret in their year and how one doesn’t want to tell Nancy and the other one does, Nancy and Bree get to sleuthing. They even go through the girls’ backyard looking for clues while Rhonda and Wand are at soccer practice. What my daughter loves about these books is kids working together to solve mysteries (I used to love mysteries, too, as a kid). What I love about this series is the harder words that she has to sound out, like “concentration,” and the sprinkling in of French words that we had a great time using repeatedly after I explained what they meant.

Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser, contains more than one mystery to be solved, which keeps the excitement going. I would recommend these early chapter books for other kids who like mysteries.

RATING: Cinquain

The Haunted Library: The Ghost in the Attic by Dori Hillestad Butler

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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The Haunted Library: The Ghost in the Attic by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant, starts where the last book left off in which Kaz is still mourning the loss of his ghost family, but is eager to help his new friend Claire with her ghost detective agency and hopefully help himself find his own family.  In their first case, Kaz and Claire have to navigate how they will get Kaz to new places to find ghosts. At Mrs. Beezley’s house, Kaz takes a trip in a water bottle so he doesn’t float away on the way to the “scene” of the haunting. The attic they check out is dusty and the woman’s home always has all of the windows open, which poses a significant danger to Kaz.

My daughter was always eager to read this book each night, sometimes reading two chapters per night. We finished it really much faster than I expected. Kaz and Claire are fun young characters that she identified with in terms of emotion and curiosity. We were a little astounded that Claire would go out on Mrs. Beezley’s roof and climb down a tree, but I suspect most kids her age would do dangerous things if their parents are not watching.

The Haunted Library: The Ghost in the Attic by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant, is a fun read, with delightful illustrations. We love the idea of ghost detectives and hope that Kaz finds more of his family as the series goes along.

RATING: Cinquain

Nancy Drew Clue Book: Pool Party Puzzler by Carolyn Keene, illustrated by Peter Francis

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 97 pgs.
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Nancy Drew Clue Book: Pool Party Puzzler by Carolyn Keene, illustrated by Peter Francis, is a fun mystery that younger kids can read without parents worrying about too much danger. These are mysteries that kids could do on their own with little adult help. I loved Nancy Drew as a kid, but I knew that the ones I read in middle school were not right for my younger daughter. These, however, are perfect. Nancy, George, and Bess are the Clue Crew and they love solving mysteries. All are invited to Deidre Shannon’s eighth birthday party (sweet half sixteen birthday party). At this party, each guest is told to wear a sea creature or similar themed costume. Deidre, of course, is a spoiled, popular girl with a blog who wants all of the attention on her at her party. She is the queen of the sea.

Nancy, George, and Bess learn about topiaries, interact with teenagers, and meet a mystery guest who doesn’t speak but has pink toenail polish. When the party’s big surprise — Marina, Queen of the Mermaids — is ruined by a snake in the pool, the clue crew gets to work on solving who slung the fake snake into the pool to ruin the party. I love that they write down possible suspects and investigate each one by not only talking to them but also listening to their conversations and following them into joke shops. These books still have illustrations, which my daughter loved, especially since she’s never seen a topiary before.

Nancy Drew Clue Book: Pool Party Puzzler by Carolyn Keene, illustrated by Peter Francis, also offers younger readers an opportunity before the big reveal to think about all the suspects, write down their own clues, and come to their own conclusions about who the culprit is. My daughter and I discussed all the clues and suspects while reading and before the big reveal. She was happy to learn that she had guessed correctly at who the snake slinger was.

RATING: Cinquain