Sunday, 29 March 2015

Review: Potterwookiee by Obert Skye

Two multi-million dollar fandoms merge together in this hilarious, middle grade illustrated novel. The second in the Creature From My Closet chapter book series, Potterwookiee is great for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and other similar illustrated novels. 

Summary: The latest creature to emerge from Rob’s closet is a cross between Chewbacca from Star Wars and Harry Potter. Rob names him “Potterwookiee” (“Hairy” for short) and soon Rob finds himself treading water as he tries to figure out how to care for his mixed-up friend. Great laughs and great books help Rob along the way.

After the Potterwookiee emerges from Rob's closet, the little guy ends up in a weird trance. To help him, Rob turns to the first Harry Potter book for the answer, illustrating that wisdom can be found in the pages of great books. Aside from helping his hybrid friend, Rob must also keep him safe from others and overcome the neighbourhood bully.

As a Potterhead and a fan of Star Wars, I really enjoyed this book. It's an easy, entertaining read for reluctant readers and is filled with hilarious illustrations to break up the text. Parents and educators can feel good about this clean, well-received, and most definitely fun read for middle grade readers. 

Keep kids reading this summer with Potterwookiee!

3.5 Stars 

Reviews for Potterwookie: 

“The second doll-sized literary mashup to come out of a wimpy kid’s magic closet adds wizardly spells [and] noxious smells…” - Kirkus 

"The text is hysterical by itself, but acts as the straight man in relation to the one-two punch of the childlike drawings and captions that appear on almost every page. Get multiple copies of this book: it will fly off the shelves.”- School Library Journal 

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Review: Ghosts of War: The Secret of Midway by Steve Watkins

Ghosts of War is a new middle grade series from Scholastic, Inc. A twist of mystery, historical fiction, and middle school drama, these books are aimed at middle grade boys with an interest in war fiction. The series stars a trio of friends who meet a ghost and help him remember his mortal life and solve the mystery of his death.

Summary: In the basement of his family’s junkshop, Anderson and his friends Greg and Julie discover a trunk full of old military stuff. Including a battered navy peacoat from World War II, and when Anderson puts it on he finds a mysterious letter in the pocket. Curious, he takes the coat and letter home. But that’s not all he brings home...

Later that evening the ghost of a World War II sailor appears in Anderson’s room. Anderson is completely freaked out. Who is the ghost and why hasn’t he crossed over? But most importantly, what does he want with Anderson?

This is a content-free, fast-paced read about an important moment in history. Readers learn about a famous US naval battle without feeling like history is being shoved down their throats. While there is talk of gunfire, death, and violence between the Japanese and American forces, it's not at all graphic or frightening.

Overall, it's a solid middle grade read that offers an educational bonus that parents and educators can feel good about. A second book in the series is forthcoming in April!

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Review: Klutz String Art

I wouldn't consider myself a crafter and by no means am I artistically talented. But I've had my eye on Klutz products for a while now. There are so many really cool Klutz products and activities out there, all of which come with all the supplies you need in a box!

I finally got my hands on a copy of Klutz String Art after seeing this cool retro craft splashed over Pinterest? Me and my sister sat down to have a Klutzy crafternoon together with String Art! And it was great! For two inexperienced crafters, we're both extremely proud of our string art and making them was easy, quick, and fun!

Overall, Klutz String Art comes with simple instructions, tons of pins, colourful string, pretty mounting paper, and lots of traceable patterns to create different designs in various sizes. You can make flowers, an owl, words, a whale, and more!

My only complaint is that the number of designs outnumbers the number of mounting boards you get. On the plus side, the mounting boards are just thick pieces of cardboard so you can definitely get more of your own.

For a couple of amateur crafters, I have to say they turned out pretty good! We taped some ribbon to the backs and hung them on the wall!

A simple and fun activity for kids ages 10 & up. You can find tons of other great craft ideas from Klutz on their website! 

4 Stars

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Review: Gatekeepers #5: Oblivion by Anthony Horowitz

Anthony Horowitz's Gatekeepers series is an excellent choice for readers who enjoy thrilling, action-packed dystopian stories with all sorts of twist and turns. The series has positive reviews overall from several credible sources and Anthony Horowitz is beloved by his fans. Oblivion is the fifth and final book in the saga.

Summary: Matt. Pedro. Scott. Jamie. Scar. Five Gatekeepers have finally found one another. And only the five of them can fight the evil force that is on the rise, threatening the destruction of the world In the penultimate volume of The Gatekeepers series, a massive storm arose that signalled the beginning of the end. Now the five Gatekeepers must battle the evil power the storm has unleashed — and strive to stop the world from ending.

The book is not short on shock-factors, gun violence, or terrible people (demonic forces or human). I get why the series is thrilling; I can see why the plot is exciting, but honestly, I was just glad when it was over. As I work in the editorial world, I get itchy when a book needs to trim down the excess thinking, complaining, fretting, and bullets whizzing (book five comes in at a whopping 580 pages--there's A LOT of this).

There are also many scenes included not only to shock the readers, but to illustrate just how much the world has gone to hell. My argument: we're five books in so we get it. These shock factors include suicide, graphic violence, gore, human trafficking, torture, murder, and cannibalism. Plus all the time the characters spend dwelling on them. The publisher deems the series is for ages 9-12, but I would push 12+ due to all the reasons listed above, plus a little objectionable language. Moreover, some of the themes and concepts will make more sense to older reasons.

If you're just getting started, I can say that the series goes out with a bang. Actually, with all the gunfire and murder occurring in book five, the end battle is a touch anti-climatic. Although we do get two main character deaths (I do love an author who is brave enough to do this in a series that's lasted this long!).

I'm not a fan of books that need so much room to pack a punch, but if you love the build-up and the action, then you'll be fine. It's worth a read if you're a die-hard dystopian fan, but pass if you love dystopian and are anxiously looking to fill the void Divergent or Hunger Games left in your soul. Horowitz is a bestselling author and deserves all the acclaim he's received, but Oblivion doesn't come close to touching the crown jewels of YA.

3 Stars 

Praise for The Gatekeepers:
"Younger teens who like an exciting adventure mixed with supernatural horror will thrill to Matt's story." —VOYA
"Horowitz truly knows his way around a plot; he keeps the tension at a nail-biting level throughout." —Kirkus
"There's no denying Horowitz's talent for creating monstrous evil and pumping up the tension with bloody details, exciting escapes, and cliff-hanging sequences." —Booklist