Alan Gratz – Ban This Book

It all started the day Amy Anne Ollinger tried to check out her favorite book in the whole world, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, from the school library. That’s when Mrs. Jones, the librarian, told her the bad news: her favorite book was banned! All because a classmate’s mom thought the book wasn’t appropriate for kids to read. 

Amy Anne decides to fight back by starting a secret banned-books library out of her locker. As word spreads, Amy Anne’s locker stash quickly grows into a school-wide sensation. Soon, she and her friends find themselves on the front line of an unexpected battle over book banning, censorship, and who has the right to decide what kids can read. 

This past week has been Banned Books Week in US, so it seemed an appropriate time to review Alan Gratz’s latest middle grade novel, Ban This Book. When offered the book for review, I jumped at the chance as the whole banning books phenomenon has always been slightly baffling to me, as it doesn’t really happen in the same way here in the Netherlands. The idea of keeping kids from reading anything that isn’t catastrophically inappropriate is strange to me. In my opinion, no one tells my girls what they can and can’t read, but me and their dad. And of course as a librarian, the issue is near and dear to my heart, so I was curious to see how Gratz would approach the concept.  Read More …

Tania Del Rio & Will Staehle – Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods

Twelve-year-old Warren has learned that his beloved hotel can walk, and now it’s ferrying guests around the countryside, transporting tourists to strange and foreign destinations. But when an unexpected detour brings everyone into the dark and sinister Malwoods, Warren finds himself separated from his hotel and his friends—and racing after them on foot through a forest teeming with witches, snakes, talking trees, and mind-boggling riddles.

Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods, written by Tania Del Rio and illustrated by Will Staehle was a wonderful surprise. It is the second book in the Warren the 13th series, after Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye, which came out last November. The Warren books are illustrated middle grade novels and I’d situate them at the younger end of the age bracket, more 9-10 than 11-12. I haven’t read the first book, but I found that the second book works quite well as a standalone story. I must admit though that I’m curious to read the first book and find out what happened, because it’s bound to be a fantastic story.  Read More …

Henry L. Herz – Little Red Cuttlefish

henrylherz-littleredcuttlefishLittle Red is off to deliver a fresh basket of crab cakes to Grandma Cuttlefish. Everything goes swimmingly . . .at first. While Little Red might be safe from any big, bad wolves, she has to look out for something even more dangerous: the hungry tiger shark!

Luckily, this cuttlefish is anything but cuddly, and Little Red has a few tricks hidden up her tentacles. She’ll camouflage, squirt ink clouds, and use her quick reflexes to outwit that pesky shark and deliver her crab cakes unharmed. After all—she doesn’t want to miss dessert!

Little Red Cuttlefish is the second book out from Henry L. Herz this month. This time it’s a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, but one with a twist. I really enjoyed the fact that Little Red didn’t need rescuing, but did the rescuing herself. The colourful, bright illustrations by Kate Gotfredson capture the story beautifully and also give little readers plenty of interesting elements to search out. My favourite thing was the little clownfish that was hiding in each page and having my girls try and spot him.  Read More …

Brandon Sanderson – The Dark Talent

The Dark Talent coverAlcatraz Smedry has successfully defeated the army of Evil Librarians and saved the kingdom of Mokia. Too bad he managed to break the Smedry Talents in the process. Even worse, his father is trying to enact a scheme that could ruin the world, and his friend, Bastille, is in a coma. To revive her, Alcatraz must infiltrate the Highbrary–known as The Library of Congress to Hushlanders–the seat of Evil Librarian power. Without his Talent to draw upon, can Alcatraz figure out a way to save Bastille and defeat the Evil Librarians once and for all?

The Dark Talent is the fifth and latest book in Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians series. It comes after a gap of six years between book four and book five, but combined with the new editions of the first four books, it’s a perfect time to allow new readers to discover the series. The book delivers on the opening scene of the first book and, as such, closes off the arc in this quintet, but hopefully doesn’t signal the ending of Alcatraz’s story.  Read More …

Brandon Sanderson – The Shattered Lens

Untitled-3.inddAlcatraz Smedry is up against a whole army of Evil Librarians with only his friend Bastille, a few pairs of glasses, and an unlimited supply of exploding teddy bears to help him. This time, even Alcatraz’s extraordinary talent for breaking things may not be enough to defeat the army of Evil Librarians and their giant librarian robots.

The Shattered Lens is the fourth instalment in the Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians series and this time Alcatraz goes to war! Or rather, he goes to stop a war and prevent the Librarians from conquering the entire country of Mokia. Our boy is growing up and coming into his own, though not without wreaking a lot of havoc.  Read More …

Brandon Sanderson – The Knights of Crystallia

brandonsanderson-theknightsofcrystalliaIn this third Alcatraz adventure, Alcatraz Smedry has made it to the Free Kingdoms at last. Unfortunately, so have the evil Librarians–including his mother! Now Alcatraz has to find a traitor among the Knights of Crystallia, make up with his estranged father, and save one of the last bastions of the Free Kingdoms from the Evil Librarians.

Alcatraz is back for another rip-roaring story in The Knights of Crystallia, where he, Bastille, Grandpa Smedry and a host of other wacky characters need to rescue the Free Kingdoms from another dastardly plot hatched by the Evil Librarians to take over the Kingdoms and align the entire world with the (somewhat boring) vision Biblioden has for the “proper” ruling of the world. While we learned about some of the different Librarian factions in the previous books, as you might have guessed from the title, this book focuses on the order of the Knights of Crystallia, who are an integral part of Nalhalla and the Free Kingdoms.  Read More …

Brandon Sanderson – The Scrivener’s Bones

brandonsanderson-thescrivenersbonesIn this second Alcatraz adventure, Alcatraz finds himself on a mission to meet Grandpa Smedry when he gets swept up by a flying glass dragon filled with his unusual and mouthy Smedry cohorts.

Their mission? A dangerous, library-filled one, of course!

They are on their way to the ancient and mysterious Library of Alexandria (which some silly people think was long ago destroyed!) where they must find Grandpa Smedry, look for clues leading to Alcatraz’s potentially undead dead father, and battle the creepy, dangerous soul-sucking curators who await them.

The Scrivener’s Bones is the second book in Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz vs. the Librarians series. For those familiar with Brandon Sanderson’s epic fantasy writing, be aware, these books are completely unlike those. This series is a zany, mad-cap adventure series aimed at a middle grade audience and the humour Sanderson includes in it will probably not work for everyone, especially if they are expecting books in the vein of the Stormlight Archive or the Mistborn books.  Read More …

Brandon Sanderson – Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians

brandonsanderson-alcatrazvsevillibrariansOn his thirteenth birthday, foster child Alcatraz Smedry gets a bag of sand in the mail-his only inheritance from his father and mother. He soon learns that this is no ordinary bag of sand. It is quickly stolen by the cult of evil Librarians who are taking over the world by spreading misinformation and suppressing truth. Alcatraz must stop them, using the only weapon he has: an incredible talent for breaking things.

To anyone familiar with the field of fantasy literature the name Brandon Sanderson will bring to mind big fat fantasy novels, intricate, logical magic systems, in-depth world-building, his finishing of The Wheel of Time and the fact that he is one of the most — if not the most — prolific authors currently writing. And while I knew that in addition to his novels for adults he’d written several YA works, I was surprised to learn that he’d also penned an entire middle grade series. However, upon learning the title of the series is Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians I had to read it—I mean, as a librarian, how could I not? What I found in the eponymous first book of the series surprised me. While Sanderson’s world-building and magic-system-creation skills are very much on display, the book was also irreverent, funny, puntastic, and very different from Sanderson’s other works I’ve read.  Read More …

Henry Herz – Mabel and the Queen of Dreams

henryherz-mabelandthequeenofdreamsLittle Mabel is an expert at not going to sleep. She knows all the best bedtime-avoiding excuses. “I’m thirsty.” “I need to use the bathroom.” “Will you tell me a story?” Luckily, Mom’s quiver of bedtime tales includes the story of the Fae Queen, who paints children’s dreams and can only visit when their eyes are closed. Inspired by Mercutio’s soliloquy in Romeo & Juliet, in which he details how the tiny fairy queen influences people’s dreams as she passes by in her flying chariot, the soothing story evokes images of an ant in a worn gray coat and a hazelnut-shell chariot with a roof of grasshopper wings. Told in lyrical language that adults will also appreciate, the story helps parents get their kids to sleep. 

Reviewing Henry Herz picture books has become a family activity here at Casa Librarian. While at first it was only my six-year-old daughter Emma helping me “eviewer” them, this time my four-year-old Cat decided she wanted in on the fun. So what follows is a collaborative review with my girls, including pictures drawn by the girls inspired by the story.  Read More …

Brandon Sanderson’s Evil Librarians return!

Dark-Talent-Banner-788x90Today sees the publication of the fifth book in Brandon Sanderson’s middle grade series Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, the all-new The Dark Talent. I’ve read the first three  — they’re on the still-need-to-review pile — and really enjoyed them. The fourth is on my TBR-short-pile and I’m hoping to pair that with this fifth one and just review the series in one go once I’ve read all five.  Read More …