Sunday, August 17, 2014

ARC Review: Julia's House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke



Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Julia's House for Lost Creatures
Author: Ben Hatke
Publisher: First Second
Pages: Hardcover; 40 pages
Recommended Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3rd
Release Date: September 2, 2014
When Julia and her walking house come to town, she likes everything about her new neighborhood except how quiet it is! So Julia puts a sign up: “Julia’s House for Lost Creatures.” Soon she’s hosting goblins, mermaids, fairies, and even a dragon. Quiet isn’t a problem anymore for Julia…but getting her housemates to behave themselves is!

The first ever picture book by Zita the Spacegirl author/illustrator Ben Hatke is painted in his charming, detailed, immersive watercolors.

Delightful. That's exactly the word for Julia's House for Lost Creatures. Completely, and utterly, delightful. From the first time the reader lays on eyes on Julia's special home, it's all over. Perched on the back of a turtle, her home is the epitome of cozy and warm. The only thing missing? Friends. A house can feel much too large when you don't have friends to share it with.

What follows is an adorable story about working together, and solving problems. It's filled with trolls, patched-up kittens, and all manner of charming little creatures. With funny situations, and ample amounts of fun sounds to read out loud with little ones. This is the type of story that can be read over and over, without losing its magic. 

There's something about a well done picture book that transcends all ages. Whether you're 6, or 60, Julia's House for Lost Creatures is guaranteed to make you smile. If the cover itself doesn't already enchant you, it's certain that the pages inside this gorgeously illustrated children's book will. Julia's home, the unlikely inhabitants, and everything they get up to makes for a story that is too fun to ignore. Have a budding reader in your life? They need this book. Plain and simple.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

ARC Review: The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm


Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: The Fourteenth Goldfish
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Publisher: Random House BYR
Pages: Hardcover; 208
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Source: NetGalley / Publisher
---------------------------------------------
Content Screening: Nothing of note

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Young readers who love quirky characters and aren't afraid to dream big!

Add it on: Goodreads / Amazon / BookLikes
Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer.
Science can change the world . . . but can it go too far?

Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?

With a lighthearted touch and plenty of humor, Jennifer Holm celebrates the wonder of science and explores fascinating questions about life and death, family and friendship, immortality . . . and possibility.

I absolutely love when Middle Grade stories aren't afraid to take on the big subjects. When they don't conform to gender norms and popular ideas. I love books that are willing to carve their own little niche into the reading world, and The Fourteenth Goldfish is definitely one of those. I wish this book would have been around when I was a young reader. Thank you, Jennifer L. Holm, for recognizing that not every little girl wants to be a princess. That sometimes, just maybe, they just need someone to show them that it's okay to dream big.

Can I please gush about the fact that Ellie, our protagonist, has parents who are divorced and are still friends? That her parents can be apart, and still love her. That her mom's new boyfriend can be in the picture, but her father can be too. I so loved this. Add in the fact that Ellie's mom was such a big part of her life, and so vibrant, and I'm sold. Wearing what she wanted, urging her daughter to be a free spirit, Ellie's mother was all about breaking the mold and I ate it up. Maybe it's not true for everyone's family but, as a girl who grew up in a home like this one, I loved it. Did I mention that I really wish this book was around when I was younger?

I also fully enjoyed the simple fact that Ellie's story had nothing to do with crushes or petty fights. It does deal with friendship. With growing apart, and learning to make new friends. Never does it even hint at worrying about boys though. No, Ellie is much bigger than that. The Fourteenth Goldfish urges its readers to think about endings, and beginnings. To look at possibilities. It's a beautiful thing.

So why the three star rating, you ask? I know, I'm gushing like crazy. To be honest, the premise of this book was utterly fabulous but it just didn't have that spark for me. While I loved Ellie and her family, the story focuses a lot on her Grandfather who, while he's a fun character, didn't feel whole. I imagine that if an elderly man suddenly became a teenager? There'd be a few more questions asked. If nothing else, I definitely wanted to see more from his point of view. I loved Ellie, I did. However this story would benefit a lot from her newly young Grandfather's point of view. After all, who better to share a new beginning than a man who has suddenly reset the clock?

The writing never pulled me in either. It's very simplistic, which is fine for the reading group it's aimed at, but I was hoping for more since it deals with so many out of the box ideas. I was smitten with Ellie's deep thinking. With her musings on morality and legacies. It was great! I would have just been so much more involved if the chapters sucked me further into their depths. So, while this wasn't my favorite read of the year, I definitely see a lot to love in The Fourteenth Goldfish. I truly believe this is a book that needs to make its way onto many a bookshelf out there. Especially those of the young girls out there who are waiting, and dreaming big.




FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

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