Review of “Pokémon Adventures: Diamond and Pearl – Platinum, Book 1”

Pokémon Adventures: Diamond and Pearl – Platinum, Book 1
Story by Hidenori Kusaka
Art by Satoshi Yamamoto
Published by Perfect Square
202 pages

This book is a Pokémon comic book. Pokémon are like animals from a different world that come in all shapes and sizes. Pokémon have special abilities that they can use to fight. Some Pokémon engage in Pokémon battles, where two or more Pokémon fight using their special abilities (such as breathing fire, invisibility, or super speed). In the Pokémon world, they live in all different habitats, from the seas to the sky and anywhere on land. Some Pokémon live on their own in the wild, and some live with people like pets.

The illustrations in this book are done in manga style, which means they have large eyes and small mouths and noses. Manga is a Japanese cartoon art form that is commonly confused with anime, but anime is usually animated and manga is just pictures. Also, anime is usually in color and manga is usually black and white.

In this book, Pearl and Diamond (nicknamed Dia) are a comedy duo who use Pokémon in their skits. One day, they win a special prize at a comedy competition: a trip to the Peak of Mt. Coronet! Soon, Pearl and Dia find themselves as companions to a rich girl on an exciting quest to the top of Mt. Coronet. They have all sorts of adventures, mostly helping or using their Pokémon to fight other Pokémon.

The other main character is a rich girl called Lady. It’s not really her name, but Pearl and Dia call her that because that’s what everyone else seems to do. Lady is definitely spoiled. She doesn’t have any chores and her butler does everything for her. He even gets her outfits ready in the mornings. She’s hard to like because she seems a little stuck up.

I like comics because you can see the scenes play out. This is the first manga style comic book I’ve read and I really liked it. The pictures and story line were fun. But I did have one problem with the book. The first time I read the book, I got almost half way before I realized that I was reading it backwards! It didn’t make much sense. But I soon understood that this book had to be read from right to left. Also, you have to read the panels from right to left. This is because like almost all Pokémon books, shows, or movie, this book was originally written in Japanese. I am now ready to read my next manga book, the right way!

This book doesn’t introduce you to Pokémon very well, so kids who don’t already know what Pokémon are might not understand it. But, it is a great book for kids ages 8-12 who already like Pokémon!


Review of “Where the Red Fern Grows”

Where the Red Fern Grows
By Wilson Rawls51QWK0WB8KL
Published by Doubleday (original publisher)
208 pages

This is a wonderful piece of fiction that takes place in the 1920s. The story, which was published in the early 1960’s, is about a special friendship between a boy and his two dogs and the adventures they share.

Billy is a determined young boy living near the Ozarks mountain range in Minnesota. His family lives in a small but comfortable wooden cabin in the woods just outside of town. What Billy wants most of all are two dogs, but not just any dogs. He wants two coonhounds. Whenever he goes to his grandfather’s store, he hears the men talking about dogs and hunting. They share hunting stories, some true and some far-fetched, and hearing the men talk and trade stories only makes him want hounds even more. So, when he finds an advertisement for Redbone Hound puppies, he is determined to save up enough money – even if it takes two years!

Once Billy gets his dogs, he starts training them to hunt and they go on many exciting adventures, such as chasing raccoons through the woods. Billy’s grandfather even enters them into a coon hunting championship. But their biggest adventure takes place when they meet a mountain lion.

This book is about perseverance and friendship. Billy spent more than two years doing odd jobs like selling fruit to earn enough money to buy the dogs. And he spent many months teaching them to become the best hunting dogs in the Ozarks. Also, it was obvious that Billy and the dogs loved each other. The dogs always shared their treats between them and waited for each other before eating them, and they always followed Billy everywhere.

This book actually has a sad ending. The author connects you to some of the characters, but then sad things happen to them. You don’t realize how much you care for the characters until the ending. Most kid’s books today have happy endings, so this one is unique in that way. I think the ending makes you feel like you know Billy and the dogs even more.

Overall, I think this is a wonderful story for kids ages 9-13.


Review of “The Jaguar and the Cacao Tree”

The Jaguar and the Cacao Treejagurar and cacoa
By Birgitte Rasine
Published by LUCITA Publishing
332 pages

I was asked to review this upcoming book, which will be published in March 2016. This was a thrilling and marvelous book in almost every way. It’s full of adventure, mythology, magic and a wondrous plot. The book is about two kids, Max and Itzel, and their adventures in the jungles of Guatemala. It is also about Mayan life and mythology where the legends actually come to life!

Max is eleven year old boy who gets to travel the world. His father is a bee researcher whose job takes him to exotic places and his mother is a science writer who helps Max’s father. The book begins when Max’s family goes to Guatemala to research a unique type of bee. There, they stay with a small Mayan village, near the jungle, where Max meets a young Mayan girl names Itzel. Itzel teaches Max about the ancient Mayan culture and traditions and together, they have numerous adventures in the jungle. For example, they encounter serpents and jaguars, and re-home honeybees.

The biggest adventure they have is when, one night, Itzel takes Max to a sacred cacao tree where, during the full moon, the Mayan elders perform a ritual with the cacao pods. But when Max and Itzel realize it’s not the night of the full moon, they have to hurry back to the village before they are discovered missing and near the sacred tree, where they are not allowed. As they are leaving, they discover several of the sacred cacao pods had fallen off the tree. When they open the pods, they accidentally release the sacred pollen inside and find themselves in deep trouble with one of the Mayan mythological deities.

This book taught me a lot about the Mayan ways. For example, Itzel explains that naguals are “spirit guides.” In the book, Max actually meets his nagual, a hummingbird called Luna, who becomes an important character in the story. But I especially loved learning that chocolate is a part of Mayan history, including a special hot chocolate recipe that was passed down from an ancient Mayan lord.

One of the things I really liked about this book is that the author provided many small adventures and then one big one at the end. Most other books I’ve read only have one main adventure. I also liked the way the little adventures built up to the key adventure. This made the book more interesting and exciting.

Also, there are parts in the book where the characters speak Spanish, and the author provides the translation underneath. I think the way Spanish is used in the book makes the characters more realistic, since that is the language that is spoken in Guatemala. I also think it’s fun to learn a little Spanish.

This is a great adventure book for kids ages 9-13.


Review of “The One and Only Ivan”

The One and Only Ivan
By Katherine Applegate
Published by HarperCollins
300 pages

This story is about promises kept, selflessness, and friendship. It’s about Ivan keeping his promise to his friend, Stella, and trying to get Ruby to a better place.

Ivan is a silverback gorilla. For twenty-seven years, Ivan has lived in the mall. Every day, Ivan is in his domain watching the people outside as they go about their lives. Ivan hardly ever thinks about his old life when he was living in the jungle. Instead, he watches television, draws, and paints. Ivan’s life is not sad. Sometimes he’s happy, especially when he’s painting. But Ivan doesn’t seem to realize what he doesn’t have. He doesn’t realize that his cage is small and he insists on calling it a domain and not a cage.

There’s a part where Ivan says “I know what most humans think. They think gorillas don’t have imaginations. They think we don’t remember our pasts or ponder our futures. Come to think of it, I suppose they have a point. Mostly I think about what is, not what could be.” This suggests that Ivan might not have any hope. I think it’s more that Ivan doesn’t hope for anything because he doesn’t know what to hope for. So when Stella tells him about a zoo, a place where she says humans try to make amends to the animals, he begins to have something to hope for.

Ivan isn’t the only animal at the mall. There are elephants, dogs, and birds. But, Ivan is the only gorilla. All of the animals, except Ivan, are part of a small circus. But as Mack, the human boss at the mall, says, it’s enough for Ivan to be Ivan.

Ivan’s best friends are Stella and Bob. Stella is an older, wise elephant who remembers much of her old life in the jungle, and knows many stories. Stella and Ivan have a very strong friendship that compels Ivan to make a special promise to her. His other friend, Bob, is a crafty stray dog who stays at the mall, but doesn’t want an actual home. Bob’s would rather find his own food than be fed by someone else. At one point in the story, when he is asked why he doesn’t want a home, he answers, “Everywhere is my home, I am a wild beast, my friend: untamed and undaunted.

The other main character is Ruby. Ruby comes into the story when business at the mall slows down, and fewer people come to see the animals. Mack decides to get a small baby elephant (Ruby) for the circus. Ruby is young and naïve and asks lots of questions. When Ivan sees her in her small cage, and when he sees how Mack makes her practice her circus routine even when she’s very tired, Ivan decides he must make some changes.

The story is narrated by Ivan. But as Ivan says, gorillas don’t waste words. I think the author did a great job incorporating that concept – short sentences and descriptions without wasting words – into the way the book was written, but without making the story too simple.

Although this story is a work of fiction, it was inspired by the true story of a gorilla that also lived in a store for many years before going to Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, and later to Zoo Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia. You can learn about this story here.

This book has won many awards including the 2013 John Newbery Medal. It’s a wonderful story for anyone ages 8-14.


Review of “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer”

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summermag chase
By Rick Riordan
Published by Disney-Hyperion
Pages 512

This is another amazing book by the New York Times bestselling author Rick Riordan. He wrote the Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus, and The Kane Chronicles series, as well as Percy Jackson’s Guide to Greek Gods and Percy Jackson’s Guide to Greek Heroes. The Percy Jackson and the Olympians books have even been made into movies. I previously reviewed The Kane Chronicles and Percy Jackson’s Guide to Greek Gods.

The story begins with Magnus, a 16-year-old homeless boy living on the streets after giant wolves kill his mother. He has uncles, but his mom told him not to associate with them, especially his uncle Randolph. One day he learned that Rudolph and his cousin Annabeth are looking for him. He soon finds himself in Randolph’s mansion where his uncle rambles on about Norse gods and mythology. He tells Magnus about how monsters are stirring for Ragnarok, the Norse version of doomsday, and that to stop Ragnarok from occurring, Magnus must find a special weapon that has been lost for years. Why Magnus? Well, its because the weapon is the sword of Frey, God of summer and rain, and Magnus is Frey’s son!

I really like the characters in this book. Sam, one of the main characters, is the intelligent one who provides information on myths to help Magnus and his friends on their quest. She’s also somewhat of a tomboy and is really good at combat. At one point in the story, they go to the mythological world where their dwarf-friend, Blitzen, lives. Dwarves live in dark places because light turns them to stone. They are also natural blacksmiths and everything they make is one of a kind. I think its especially neat that dwarves believe that if something is good enough to be made it is good enough to have a name.

As for Magnus Chase, he is a lot like the famous Percy Jackson most kids know. They are both sarcastic and brave, both teenaged demigods, and most of all, they both have to save the world. But, they are also quite different. Percy’s story begins when he is 12, but Magnus’s story begins when Magnus is 16. Percy has inborn water-related powers, while Magnus doesn’t have any powers at birth. But Magnus develops special fighting powers after he dies. Yes, he dies early in the book, but that’s part of the plot.

The plot in the story is similar to the one in Percy Jackson. They both have the main characters traveling around the globe and into the mythological worlds to find magical objects that will help them save something or someone from obliteration. And they both have side adventures where they have to go on missions to find these things for those who can help them on their main quest.

I think its pretty cool that all of the Rick Riordan mythology books take place in the same mortal world. In fact, although the characters in the books don’t always know that there are other groups of gods and different mythologies, they co-exist in Riordan’s books. Riordan even wrote short side stories about Percy and Annabeth meeting with Carter and Sadie, from the Kane Chronicles; the ancient Greeks and Romans actually know about each other in Riordan’s main books; and Annabeth Chase, from the Percy Jackson’s stories, is actually Magnus’s cousin and a rather important character in this story.

I think kids, especially boys, ages 9-13 will like this book, as well as anyone who liked the other Rick Riordan books. And, if you want more information about Norse mythology, you can go to this website.


Review of “Pippi Longstocking”

Pippi Longstocking
By Astrid Lindgren
Published by Puffin Modern Classics [originally published by Rabén & Sjögren]
160 pages

Pippi Longstocking is a naïve nine year old girl who is super strong! She can lift up people and even cars! Pippi has crazy red braids that stick straight out on the sides on her head, and she has a pet monkey named Mr. Nelson and a horse.

When Pippi moves into her father’s house next to Annika and Tommy, she has to do everything by herself because her mother is dead and her father is away at sea. She has no parents to tell her what to do, no parents to make her go to school, and no parents to make her go to bed when she’d rather do lots of other fun things.

Annika and Tommy seem to be around the same age as Pippi, with Annika being the oldest and Tommy being the youngest of the trio. Annika is very careful, tidy, and independent. She also is very polite and doesn’t like to get her dress ruined or dirty. Annika’s brother, Tommy, is brave and up for excitement, and isn’t afraid to go on thrilling adventures and get a little dirty on the way.

Together Pippi, Annika, and Tommy go on funny and delightful adventures through their town. Once Annika and Tommy take Pippi to the circus and it turns into a big fiasco when Pippi jumps into the arena and rides the horses.

The adventures in this book are witty and exciting. In all of them Tommy, Annika and Pippi seem to have lots of fun. I think it would be thrilling to have crazy adventures like the ones they go on.

My favorite part is when Pippi first moves in and Annika and Tommy can’t help noticing the odd things about Pippi, like the way she doesn’t have parents. I like it because it reveals to the reader that Pippi is no ordinary girl.

Pippi Longstocking has been around for 60 years!! She was originally published in Sweden in 1945. Since then her story has been translated into 64 languages and loved by many readers all around the world. Pippi even had an old television show that aired in1969, and a few movies!

The name ‘Pippi’ is actually a nickname. When the book was originally published in Sweden, her full name was ‘Pippilotta Viktualia Rullgardina Krusmynta Efraimsdotter Långstrump’, which has some made up nonsense words that could not be translated to other languages. As a result, different versions of the story use different names. Some of the English names include ‘Pippilotta Rollgardinia Victualia Peppermint Longstocking’ and ‘Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Efraimsdotter Longstocking’. Some of the names for ‘Pippi Longstocking’ in other languages are ‘Harisnyás Pippi’ (Hungarian), ‘Pipe Phakidomyte’ (Greek), and ‘Malgwallyang’i Sonyŏ Ppippi’ (Korean).

You can find more facts about Pippi here.

I think this is a great book for all kids aged 8-11.


Review of “The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell”

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spellland of stories
By Chris Colfer
Published by Little, Brown Young Readers
448 pages

When twins Alex and Conner Bailey turn 12, they receive an heirloom gift from their grandmother – a book called ‘The Land of Stories.’ The book has fairytales, and when Alex and Conner were younger their father and grandmother would read to them from the book. But little did they know that this fairytale land that they grew up reading about is not just fantasy, but a real world in another dimension.

Soon, they find themselves falling into the Land of Stories. Literally! Yes, right into the book. Once they get there, Froggy (he’s sort of a giant frog that walks like a human) tells them that their best bet home is to cast a Wishing Spell. But, to complete the spell, they must go on a journey to gather eight magical items. Apparently, it’s only been done once before. On the adventure they narrowly escape a witch, giant wolves, being enslaved by trolls and goblins, and much more.

But the evil queen, who once tried to kill Snow White, has escaped from her prison and is also trying to complete a Wishing Spell. It seems that the spell can only be used twice in forever, which means it can only be used once more. Will Alex and Conner be able to use the Wishing Spell and go back home, or will the queen beat them to it?

Although they are twins, Alex and Conner are very different. Alex is a super-smart bookworm girl, while Conner is a sarcastic kid with not the best grades in school. They are very different; pretty much their looks are all they have in common. When they are on their adventure in the Land of Stories, for example, Conner wants to get home as soon as possible, but Alex seems to be more adventurous and wants to take time to explore the different castles, forests, and other places that she has read about in the fairy tales. But even though their personalities are so different, they still get along great.

I really like this book because it has lots of adventures and a bit of humor. I especially like Alex’s quick thinking when they encounter problems. The book could have a little more description about the castles and places that are described, but other than that I think it’s an excellent book.

This is the first book in a series of four. I’ve already read the second and third books and they are just as good, if not better!

I think kids who like adventure and fairytales, ages 9-12, will like this book.


Review of “The Secret of Sinbad’s Cave”

The Secret of Sinbad’s Cave
By Brydie Walker Bainsinbads seceret
Published through Smashwords
Pages 176

This is another book that I was invited to review by the author. It is about a group of friends that go on an exciting treasure hunt. It begins when Nat Sheppard, the main character, hears that her father has to sell the old family farm because it is losing money. But soon after, Nat discovers there may be a way to save the farm when she and her siblings, Jack and Kathleen, discover a secret room in their attic.  In the room, they find a chest with an old letter from Rewi Te Kaitiaki, their great-great grandfather, to Natalia, their great-great grandmother. The letter contains mysterious maps and a copy of the book “Sinbad the Sailor”.  Along with their friends, Riki, Abraham, Elijah, and Barnaby, they soon are on a treasure hunt in nearby caves searching for jewels. But they aren’t the only ones chasing the gems. A group of people, led by Cain Wylie, will destroy anything that gets in their way of getting the treasure.

The story is a great adventure, full of mysteries and surprises. Once, Nat barely dodges a bullet (literally) from Cain Wylie! And there is a part where Kathleen goes missing and Nat finds her in a magical, hidden grotto. Yes, there is even some magic in this story.

The story is set in New Zealand and the Māori culture is a pretty important part of the book.  The Māori are an ancient culture native to New Zealand. Two of the main characters, Riki and Abraham Te Kaitiaki, are decedents from the Māori tribe, and part of the treasure hunt includes legends from the Māori culture. It was interesting to learn a bit about the Māori through this book.

One of my favorite characters is Riki. She is always up for adventure and excitement. She is also smart and responsible. She always seems to know what to say or do. In one part of the book, she and her uncle Abraham even do some sort of Māori magic when they are being chased by Cain Wylie’s men. The magic raised Māori ghosts that made Cain Wylie’s crew run away screaming.

Although this is really a great book, there are a few small gaps in the story. Cain Wylie and his crew knew about the treasure, but it is not clear how they learned about it. They practically just show up out of the blues chasing the treasure. There is also a part in the book where Abraham explains why the treasure is called Sinbad’s Treasure, but his explanation is not clear. In particular, I’m not sure why people left the treasure chests as an offering to Sinbad. Was he considered a god? Although the gaps don’t hurt the story, I would still like to know the answers.

Overall, I think this is a great book. My 11 year-old brother wouldn’t like it because it has some “girl power”, so I think it’s more for girls ages 10-13.

By the way, a digital version of this book is free at Smashwords and other major book sellers. Also, this is the first book in “The Natnat Adventures.” The second book, “The Ship of Sight and The Hand of Shadow,” just came out.


Review of “MouseHeart”

By Lisa Fiedler
Illustrated by Vivienne To
Published by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division
313 Pages

Hopper is no ordinary pet shop mouse. He is the “Chose One” prophesized to bring peace to an underground rodent world. But before he can do that, he has to escape from the pet shop before he becomes snake food! He also has to learn that he is, in fact, the Chose One.

Hopper and his sister, Pinkie, plan an escape. They prepare all of the other caged mice, including Pup, Hopper’s baby brother. During the getaway, Hopper loses both of his siblings and finds himself alone in a bustling rat city, underneath Brooklynn, called Alantia. While in Alantia, he makes friends with Zucker, the rat prince, and learns about the “Mus”, a group of mice who seek to destroy Alantia. But do they really? During his adventures, Hopper finds himself wondering what side his friends are on, and what side he is on.

As I was reading the book, I was first rooting for Alantia because they seemed to be the ones defending the city and their inhabitants. However, as I moved through the book, the author revealed new plots that changed my view of who the villain really is, and who is the hero. I really liked the way the author did this. It was a complete surprise.

I think the book is well-written. The author was great at describing the world from a mouse’s point of view. She made everything seem bigger, without directly saying it. To a mouse, a small shop is a giant hollow mountain, and a coffee cup is bigger than a broom closet (but makes for a great hiding place). The writing style also kept me reading, because I always wanted to know what happens next.

One of my favorite characters is Pinkie, Hopper’s little sister. On the outside she’s harsh, tough, and competitive. She calls her brothers names, bites some of the humans, and even threatens Hopper with a mouse-sized dagger. But, it seems like on the inside, she might be a bit softer. At the end of the book, she is even willing to take care of her little brother, Pup. I think she learned to be tough because she is the only girl in the family, she has an overprotective big brother, and her mother disappeared when she was the size of a pebble. I have a big brother too, and I can sometimes be tough with him, although, not as tough as Pinkie.

The book is a bit violent, just below the level of violence in the first few Harry Potter books (the last four Harry Potter books are pretty dark). For example, the rat prince and one of the mice poke a cat’s eye out, and some of the rodents are surrendered to the cats for their dinner. If you are ok with the Harry Potter or Percy Jackson style, you will be fine with this book.

I think this is a good book for kids ages 9-11.


Review of the Emerson’s Attic series: “Blue Velvet” and “Smoke and Mirrors”

Emerson’s Attic series: Blue Velvet & Smoke and Mirrors
By Kathleen A. Davise a 2e a 1
Published by Jemerson Press
122 / 140 pages

I was asked to review these books by a promoter who was doing a ‘review tour’ for the series. I was very excited when I got the email. This is my first time accepting an invitation to review a new book. I decided to review both books together because they have things in common and they both were easy to read.

Emerson McBride is a 14-year-old girl who lives in an old Victorian house somewhere in America. Both books are about how Emerson travels back in time where she meets some of her ancestors. But she doesn’t know they are her family until she goes back to her own time. In the first book she meets family on her father’s side, and in the second it’s her mother’s side.

In both books, Emerson takes the place of somebody else in the past. She doesn’t take over that person’s body. She and the person exchange places in time. Emerson doesn’t know this in the first book, but somehow knows it in the second book. In the first book she goes back in time alone to a late 19th century English manor owned by a wealthy family. In the second she goes with her friend Sarah to a mid-20th century traveling circus.

I like Emerson because she is determined and loyal. For example, when she followed the kidnappers in the first book she was determined to catch them and get Genevieve back home. She is also daring. In the second book when she was riding a circus horse, she tried to do a trick that she had seen in a 21th century circus.

I also really like Hannah who only appears in the second book. Hannah is deaf, but her other senses are much sharper than usual. She is the only one in both of the books that realizes that Emerson has taken the place of the person in the past. I like Hannah because she has challenges, like being deaf, which she doesn’t allow to get in her way. She is also smart and friendly.

I should say that the stories do have a few gaps. For example, in the second book Emerson tells Sarah that when they go back in time, the people they take the place of, travel forward in time. However, nothing explains how Emerson knows that. The books also do not explain what happens to the people who go forward in time. I think maybe Ms. Davis should think about writing a story that fills in these gaps.

Over all, I really enjoyed both books and think girls ages 9-13 will also like them.