Book Review

The Infamous Ratsos by Kara Lareau

Infamous Ratsos book cover: illustration of a brickwall and sidewalk cement. In from of the wall two clothed rats stand on tehir hinde legs back to back. Garbage litters the sidewalk around them"There are two kinds of people in this world... Those who are tough, and those who are soft."

The Ratso brothers decide to to do something to make them "look tough." They want their father to be proud of their tough despicable ways. The trouble is prank after prank, something always seem to go array making them look soft instead. Will they ever gain a reputation that will earn their father's respect?

At only 58 pages, this humorous book is perfect for first and second grade readers looking to tackle a chapter book. With simple a vocabulary,  large font and entertaining plot, this transitional read will make taking the plunge into chapter books a delight.

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Celeste, Kids World

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

ghost book cover: a yellow cover with a boy running off the side’Who you run for?’ he asked. What? Who did I run for? What kind of question was that?
‘I run for me. Who else?’ I replied.”

Castle Crenshaw has been running his whole life. First, he ran from his dad during a violent outburst. Then, he ran from school bullies who torment him because he’s poor, and the principal who is tired of his inability to stay out of trouble. Now, he’s running for pride when he joins the after-school track team and dubs himself Ghost. Will Castle ever find a way to shake off his past, or will he eventually learn that the only way to move forward is to stop running away and start running toward who you want to be?

Ghost, the first in a three book series, is highly recommended for readers, especially reluctant ones, in grades 4 and up who enjoy sports or stories about school and personal problems.

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Brittany, Kids World

Sing by Joe Raposo (composer) and Tom Lichtenheld (illustrator)

Sing book cover: a blue bird singing as perches on a twig with a yellow sky behind itI found this board book appealing before realizing that the familiar, sweet song dates from Sesame Street back when I watched and sang along. The simple story (wordless until the inspiring lyrics play a part) shows a runt baby bird struggling to leave the nest after her siblings. A boy with a guitar is just the accompaniment the bird needs to launch herself into the big open sky. I am fond of Lichtenheld’s style and it is well suited to this ditty about joy and self-expression.

I recommend this precious board book for little lap-sitters, especially if their caregivers are willing to sing it as well as read it. We also have it available as a kit (book with a 3-song CD), in case you are not as old as I am.

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Mary Jo, Kids World

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

Save me a seat book cover: displaying 2 lunch trays one with hanburger and fries another with what appears to be Indian food"When I was a little kid, if I fell down and skinned my knee, my mom would kiss it to make it better. I thought it was magic. But I'm not a little kid and I don't believe in magic anymore."

Joe's best friends moved away from the New Jersey town he's live his whole life, leaving him with no support system to brave the perils of fifth grade alone. Ravi has just moved to that same New Jersey town from Bangalore, India where he was the top of his class. Joe and Ravi may come from different worlds, but they have more in common than they suspect when they are both targeted by the school bully. What are two boys to do when all they want to do is fit in in a world where they are singled out? The answer may be sitting right across the lunch table.

Told in the alternating perspectives of Joe and Ravi over the course of one week, this book is best suited for readers grades 3 and up who enjoyed Wonder, Because of Mr. Terupt, and other school stories.

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Brittany, Kids World

Pumpkin Day! by Candice Ransom

Pumpkin Day! book cover: African American boy is sitting on a stack of pumpkins on a farm"Through the gate to the pumpkin patch!"

Read along as a family each choose their pumpkins, carve them with silly faces, and use the remains for the traditional pumpkin pie.

This easy reader breaks no new ground, but its large print and simple phrases allows kids who have just begun reading the excitement of a Halloween story right up their alley. Only minimal adult assistance will be needed to enjoy this level 1 reader.

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Celeste, Kids World

Shadow House: The Gathering by Dan Poblocki

Shadow House book cover: a girl appears to hold a frame either picture or mirror over face and within the frame a ghostly face peers back"Could you tell me more about your invitation to Larkspur?" "I'm pretty sure it's the same one you got." "I'm pretty sure it's not."

Five kids, each promised their dream- their very different dreams- if only they come to Larkspur. What is Larkspur? The home of a long lost aunt? A movie production company?  A school? The Larkspur House proves to be none of those things. Dreams may come true there, but it is not the happily ever after kind. No, the house might come straight from a nightmare. "little balls continued to roll out, each one stopping with the letter toward him... LETSPLAY...LETS PLAY."

This haunted house story's creepy level will place it solidly in upper elementary school range. Ghosts wearing bizarre masks, moving objects, look-alike dolls with ashes inside them, spontaneous fires- this house has all the elements of a perfect Halloween read. And of course, doors that do not open, windows that will not break. The five kids are trapped with no escape.

For those looking for a happily wrapped up ending, you may wish to read elsewhere. This is only book one in a series.

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Celeste, Kids World

The Curse of the Were-Hyena by Bruce Hale

"In a rushThe Curse of the Were-Hyena book cover: two boys hanging from the limbs of a tree with a hyena on the ground snarling, the were-hyena launched itself at the tree trunk, scrabbling with claws like hooked daggers...'That's not fair!...In all the wolfman movies we've watched, have you ever seen a werewolf climb a tree?'"

Mr. Chu is the most popular teacher at Monterrosa Elementary. Benny and Carlos have been lucky enough to have been in his class for the Frankenstein electricity experiment and the awful movie sequel lesson on probability. Then one day, Mr. Chu has a bandage covering a "bite from a strange-looking dog," and things begin to turn a little weird. Mr. Chu starts manically giggling at a high-pitch and hair begins to grow on his bald head. After the teacher gains super speed and strength, Mr. Chu begins to get, well, cruel.

With the help of the friendly neighborhood comic bookstore owner, Benny and Carlos must find a way to save Mr. Chu. Unfortunately, a secret cult and their attempts at sacrificing people make the "average task" of trapping a were-hyena even more difficult.

In time for Halloween thrills, comes the first in the new Monstertown Mystery series. This chapter book could be right up the alley for middle elementary readers looking for a mix of humor with their spooky.

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Celeste, Kids World

My Baby Crocodile by Gaetan Doremus

My Baby Crocodile book cover: line coloring illustrations of a reddish crocodile holding a knight whose head armor makes him resemble the crocodile"He may be a bit different, but I’ll protect him. He’s my baby after all."

Stumbling across a ‘baby crocodile’ in the swamp, a farsighted but well-meaning crocodile decides to take care of it. This is no simple task since the ‘baby’ is actually a tiny knight wearing armor. Unable to understand why the baby can’t swim, hunt, and even starts to rust after a while, Crocodile tries ever harder to take care of him. But what happens when Crocodile realizes his mistake?

This picture book has a wonderful message of acceptance no matter what you are, or where you’re from. Riddled with mistaken well-meaning, amusing misunderstandings. The Baby Crocodile even addresses the conflict of those who struggle to understand and learn about others they might be confused by. We all may be different, and that’s okay. What matters is what we decide to make of it. Great read-out-loud for pre-school and early elementary families to share.

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Naomi, Kids World

School's First Day of School by Adam Rex

School's First Day of School book cover: illustrations of a school building with houses around it and children in front of it“It's the first day of school at Frederick Douglass Elementary and everyone's just a little bit nervous, especially... the school.”

Have you ever considered how the school feels about the first day of school? This school, newly built, has no idea what to think about "children" coming but it soon finds out and learns a lot in one day.

I recommend this book for kids ages 3 - 10 who are just starting school or switching to a "new" school. Readers of all ages will enjoy the humor of the familiar back-to-school tale voiced from the school building's point of view.  

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Mary Jo, Kids World

My Old Pal, Oscar by Amy Hest

My Old Pal Oscar book cover shows an illustration of a bacl and white dog at the beach and a childin a raincoat with a yellow umbrella playing in the surf"Hello, you."
"No tags."
"No name."

While building a sandcastle on the beach an unlikely visitor joins a young boy. A small puppy, with no collar, hops up on to the boy's castle and just watches, the pup appears to be a stray.  This doesn't faze the boy as he simply walks away. The young boy had already once had a dog, the best dog he could possibly have, his name was Oscar. Oscar had  already won the boy's heart and still had it even tho he had passed. The boy thought that no one else could ever take his old pal', Oscar's, place. The small puppy with "big black eyes," is relentless and keeps finding his way back to the boy.

My Old Pal Oscar is a touching story about a boy learning how to open his heart up once again, after the loss of his first dog. Through the story the reader can see how much love an owner may have for their pet; and one may never replace the original, but someone can come along and patch up their heart. This read is recommended for a family read-a-loud with younger elementary school kids who loves dogs, or for anyone that has lost a pet.

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Gilly, Kids World

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