Book Review

Top Elf by Caleb Zane Huett

Top Elf book cover: red cover with a small elf holding up the title words"Could anyone be Santa? It seemed crazy. But Santa was saying it..."

Santa Matthew Claus is retiring and, breaking with tradition, he's not going to give the job over to his eldest son, Klaus. This time, this year, a competition shall be held to determine who will be the next Santa. Elves and Claus's kids are signing up in mass. When Ollie and Celia, two hardworking enthusiastic elves, join in the series of trials, they get a little more than they bargained for as it becomes clear that not every competitor has motivations as jolly.  It's not too long before the North Pole and Christmas itself is in danger of being ruined forever.

This North Pole chapter book balances funny antics with some serious drama, and is perfect for upper elementary readers who are looking for something festive this holiday season.

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Celeste, Kids World

Far Out Fables: The Ugly Dino Hatchling by Stephanie Peters

The Ugly Dino Hatchling book cover: a illustration of a purple T-Rex hatching out of an egg as four ducks look on"But just when she thought the egg was safe...It fell into a swirling portal to another demension in time!"

When a T-Rex egg lands in a duck's nest, the animals all agree that 'Rex' isn't much like any of the animals on the farm; but, what will happen when something dangerous comes?

Told in a comic format with brightly colored panels and easy to follow dialogue; it includes a synopsis of the original story of The Ugly Duckling, some visual questions to guide discussion and a glossary.  A quick read and a good choice for kids looking for fractured fairytales, stories about dinosaurs or want to try out a new format.

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Jennifer Palermo, Kids World

I Want to Be in a Scary Story by Sean Taylor

I want to be in a Scary Story book cover: simple illustration of a purple monster“Ok. We could start the story in a dark and scary forest.”

Little Monster wants to be part of a story, but not just any story. He wants be part of a scary story! But there might be a spooky house, maybe a creepy ghost, and wait, is that a monkey? This story filled with bold illustrations for young readers who love a good fright (and a laugh.)

This book is recommended for children in preschool through early elementary levels.

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Victoria, Kids World

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Iron Trial book cover: preteens with cloaked figure in mask above them"You must bind Callum's magic before the end of the year."

Callum Hunt is determined to not get selected to attend the Magisterium. His father says the school for mages was responsible for the death of his mother and if Callum goes he will end up just like her. Against all odds, the unthinkable happens and Cal is selected to become a mage apprentice. But school isn't what his father says...and Callum discovers a terrible secret about the mages old enemy. A secret he is determined to take to his grave.

For fans of Harry Potter and Rick Riordian the Iron Trial is a fast paced journey into an alternate world where magic, secrets and friendship make book one of The Magisterium series a keeper. Recommended for middle grade readers.

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Tiffany, Kids World

How to Make Friends With a Ghost by Rebecca Green

How to Make Friends with a Ghost book cover: illustration of a girl sitting on a swing set with a ghost floating over the swing seat next to her"If you've ever been frightened by a ghost, the thought of becoming friends with one might seem awfully scary."

Don’t be scared --- this how-to guide will help you understand “the dos and don’ts” when meeting and keeping your new pale pal. Green both authored and illustrated this cute and clever picture book, her first, which offers the reader visual or verbal surprises on every spread.

Beginning with how to find a ghost (you can’t, they find you), the book offers how-to sections as follows: “Ghost Basics” (don’t run, wave), “Ghost Care” (do not let your ghost help with the laundry), “Growing Together” (your ghost will follow you into your adult endeavors and beyond). Clever details include gross-out food suggestions (the “wacky snackies”), including a recipe for “floating spaghetti and mudballs” (ick!)
 
This title would best be enjoyed as a read-aloud with one or more trick-or-treaters ages 4 through 10. Both parents and little ones will enjoy the illustrations and how-to tips; grade-schoolers will see through and enjoy more of the wordplay and jokes.

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Mary Jo, Kids World

The Time Museum by Matthew Loux

Time Museum book cover: illustrated image of a girl with reddish brown hair looking at a glowing band on her wrist. In the background are figures appearing to be runningDelia Bean is just your average valedictorian- a nerd through and through and not popular in school at all. However, summer begins to look promising when her family visits her Uncle Lyndon’s home. There Delia discovers The Time Museum, a museum of Earth’s history (past and future), and wouldn’t you know it, her Uncle is the curator. Delia quickly joins the competition to win the coveted internship position. The competition pits Delia against kids from various eras in history, and the intensive study required is broken up by harrowing trials that send the competitors through time. But, soon Delia makes another important discovery, it is not just T-Rexes one was to watch out for, because not all time travelers are the good guys.

This graphic novel opens this new series with a bang, and will sure to be a hit with upper elementary school readers. Fans of the Amulet or Dreamjumpers series will find enough action and adventure to satisfy, and fans of Roller Girl and Smile will appreciate Delia’s struggle to build friendships.

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Celeste, Kids World

That's NOT How You Do It! By Ariane Hofmann-Maniyar

That's NOT How You Do It! book cover: an illustrated cat with arms crossed is frowning while wearing a berret"Everything was fine, until the day Toshi arrived."

Lucy knows how to do everything under the sun. Build a tower of blocks, eat with a fork, even how to paint an elephant. Lucy is so good in fact, that everyone else in the neighborhood comes to her for help. However all that changes when Toshi arrives. Toshi also knows how to do many things too, but he does them all wrong! Or, is that really the case?

Cultures lightly ‘clash’ in the book, ‘That’s not how you do it!’. When something is different, it’s easy to think it’s wrong. However this books shows even our youngest kids that there’s more than one correct way to do things, and in the end we can all learn from each other and make something beautiful.

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Naomi, Kids World

John Ronald’s Dragons: The Story of J.R.R. Tolkien By Caroline McAlister

John Ronald's Dragons book cover: illustrated man on a hill under a tree with a book in his lap. He is looking up at the leaves of the tree which have taken the shape of a dragon“Then one day when John Ronald was grading exams, he came to a blank page. He wrote on the page, ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.’

J.R.R. Tolkien loved dragons. He loved all types of dragons and wanted to meet one, but he couldn’t find them anywhere. Until one day he did.

This well-researched biography gives the reader a glimpse of the man who never forgot how to dream and imagine a fantastical world that millions of people would fall in love with. Recommended for elementary readers who would love to learn about the man who wrote about hobbits, wizards and yes, dragons.

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Victoria, Kids World

Real Friends by Shannon Hale

Real Friends book cover; illustrated 7 girls of varying ethnicty in the front a red headed girl with glasses"When I was little, I didn't worry about friends."

Before you start school, having friends isn't a problem. But if you're like Shannon, friends aren't always easy to come by once you start your academic career. Never quite fitting in yet never exactly standing out, Shannon's kindergarten-through-fifth-grade experience with friends and frenemies is one many school-aged children will relate to. Whether trouble comes from shyness, anxiety, bullying, or just plain being different, Real Friends proves that it's not about finding friends, but finding out who your real friends are.

This graphic novel will win the hearts of readers in upper-elementary and middle school who enjoy the works of Raina Telgemeier (Smile), Cece Bell (El Deafo), and Victoria Jamieson (Roller Girl).

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Brittany, Kids World

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

Goldfish Boy book cover: blue house silhouette of boy looking out the window"At some point after 12:55 p.m. on that bright, scorching day, Teddy Dawson went missing."

In the middle of a cul-de-sac in a small English town there lies Matthew Corbin, a boy who refuses to leave his house. He has OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) where he has to wash his hands multiple times a day and has to make sure his bedroom is clean and germ-free. In his spare time (which is a lot), Matthew looks out his window where he can take note of his neighbor's daily activities.

But when a toddler next door goes missing, it’s up to Matthew (will he leave his house?) and some unlikely friends to help him solve the mystery. Did one of the neighbors take Teddy? Did he run off on his own?

The shining light of the book is the refreshing take of a boy suffering from OCD and how it dictates his life. The readers will root for Matthew as he tries to deal with his disorder while solving the mystery. Although the mystery plot is not new, it did keep me on my toes as I tried to figure out what happened to Teddy.

All upper elementary and middle school readers who love mysteries should take a look at this book!

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Victoria, Kids World

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