Wildoak by C.C. Harrington

5 stars YA/ Middle School

Twelve-year old Maggie has been to over three different schools and she has come to the conclusion that one wants her.  Her parents argue over her and she has no friends.   She finds comfort in the tiny world that she has created at home, surrounded by the little critters that welcome her just as she is.   School Nurse Nora knows Maggie all too well, for Maggie finds refuge in her office when the time is right.  See, Maggie stutters and her disability is not accepted.

I cringed, oh……. did I cringe!!  Maggie would do anything and I mean anything to get out of reading.   The author got my attention as these words fell across the page:

“ she drove the keenly sharpened

point deep










“Shock. Pain. Tears. The pencil protruded from her hand. The blood dripped.  Those sweet words.  Relief. Her Escape.  It had worked. Again.” 

As Maggie was dismissed from class, excitement and relief filled her head as again, she had dodged the bullet.  She had found her way out of the classroom when it was close to her turn to read out-loud in the classroom.  Maggie didn’t register the pain or discomfort that ran through her body for she was used to it, anything was easier than reading out loud. 

Her parents feel there are two options for Maggie now:  an institute for treatment or her grandfather who she hasn’t seen for years.  All I knew was that Maggie would be leaving her tiny world at home.  The only place where she felt comfortable, with her little critters, were staying home with her mom.   Her grandfather was a doctor who lived in the country so I hoped that Maggie would find some new animal friends in her new surroundings.    

We also meet Rumpus in this book.  Rumpus was a birthday gift and what a surprise this was to both Rumpus and Anabella.  Unprepared for her new snow leopard, Anabella orders Rumpus removed from her home when she returns home to find her home in disarray.  Finding himself in another new surroundings, Rumpus is now in Wildoak Forest and he must learn how to survive on his own.

Even though she didn’t know her grandfather very well, I felt that Maggie was relieved and comfortable around him.  She seemed to fit right into his world and he accepted her without trying to “fix her.”   Maggie and her grandfather create a special bond based on acceptance and love.

Maggie discovers Rumpus inside Wildoak Forest and I loved their relationship.  “Something was wrong.  He stared at her and they were quiet, saying lots of things without saying anything at all.”  It was supposed to be two weeks spent with her grandfather learning to overcome her stuttering yet during these two weeks, I felt Maggie was empowered and she totally forgot about her disability.

This was a fabulous story filled with struggles, emotions, and journeys.  I highly recommend this book.

Odder by Katherine Applegate

4 stars Middle School/Children’s Chapter

He was warned yet the temptation was too great.  He heard his mother’s words, for she had said it to him many times yet he thought he’d be safe. He wanted to go to the open sea and now, Odder finds himself at a rescue, facing the consequences for not listening to his mother’s warning.  This new world that Odder finds himself in, is so different from the bay, will he ever make it back home? 

Written in prose, I think this writing style helps convey the author’s message while making the book more approachable to more readers.  Readers don’t give so overwhelmed with words and they can read the prose in sections.   I feel that prose can create more emotion and response from its readers and I was glad to see that the author chooses this method to write this book.   

This was an entertaining story about one otter yet I learned a great deal about his species in the process.  Learning about rescue operations with these marine mammals was educational and enlightening also. I liked how this book was based on true events and how the events in the book came full circle. The last chapter of this book was my favorite.  This would make a great read aloud, bedtime story or just a book to read on your own.  

Snack, Snooze, Skedaddle: How Animals Get Ready For Winter by Paula Salas

5 stars Nonfiction Children’s

This is a very informative book and I liked that it covered more than just hibernate.    Normally when we think of animals in winter, we think of hibernate but this book talks about what other animals do beside hibernate and this is greatly appreciated.  I also liked that it covered some nontraditional animals which is always good to learn about.   The illustrations are bright and colorful and the pages weren’t too busy and disturbing.   Told in verse, this is a fun informative book.  5 stars

Dangerous Dolls of Delaware #12 (American Chillers) by Johnathan Rand

5 stars Children’s Chapter

I bought a few of these American Chiller books when I saw a display of them a couple years ago and I’m finally reading one of them.  The cover of the books is what drew me in and I liked that the titles had different states in the U.S.A. in them.  I have a thing for creepy dolls so naturally I started with this book. On a sidenote, I bought a handful of creepy dolls once at an estate sale and I bought them home.  I was real excited about my purchase, thinking I’d stage them around the house or outside and post pictures of them on social media, well…….that plan didn’t work.  My husband saw them and he told me to get them out of the house.  I didn’t think he was serious at first but he was – absolutely, dead serious!  Dang!  I found some people who loved creepy dolls and handed them off and now, I know my husband can’t handle creepy dolls.

What a great read!  I have to say that for a children’s book, it really was a terrific read.  I found that it was a fast-paced book with a handful of characters and a solid story.  I liked that most of the chapters ended in a cliffhanger so that it pushed me to read the next chapter and it was hard to put the book down and do something else.  Each chapter was only about 2 to 5 pages in length so I could commit to a short reading time slot, if I had to but with this story, I wanted to continue.  The book wasn’t gory or difficult-to-read with complicated words or scenes that I had to configure inside my head.  This book had an entertaining storyline that felt realistic and I could see myself in the shoes of one of the main characters, if I was only younger.  Depending on the reader and their maturity level, I think a third grader could handle reading this book.

Spencer (11) and his sister Serena (12), were out digging for fishing worms for Spencer. Digging deeper, Serena’s shovel made a dull thud.  Whatever was down there, it had been down there a long time.  Hoisting the box out, they pried the lid off, and the siblings discover two ordinary-looking dolls.  What a disappointment! This was no buried treasure but perhaps they might be able to sell the old dolls and make some money.  That was the logic they used to take those old dolls home and this was their first big mistake. 

You can imagine where this story is going as the siblings take the dolls home.  Soon, the siblings begin to feel that the dolls are taking on a life of their own. They’re no longer the ordinary plain dolls that they pulled out of the muddy hole.  No, these dolls are something else.  Needing to get some information on these dolls, they locate a woman who knows a great deal about dolls including the two dolls that they should have left in the box, buried down in the dirt.

As this lady tells the story of the two dolls that the siblings have in their possession, I’m planning my own course of action as I felt the kids were too. Putting this plan into play became more difficult than anticipated though and the story becomes more exciting as the pages flew by.  These were only dolls, right?  Two dolls and two siblings, they should be able to get this under control quite quickly, right?  The answer would be yes, if the dolls were just plain ordinary dolls but they’re not.  They’ll need a calm day of fishing if they can ever get rid of these dolls. 5 stars  

Clarice the Brave by Lisa McMann

5 stars Middle School

“It only takes 1 mouse to believe in you. And that mouse is me.”

This is a quote that Clarice’s mom heard from her father which is then passed down to Clarice.  Clarice holds onto these words as she tries to care for her brother Charlies, aboard a pirate ship.  Clarice and Charles are the only two remaining members of their family.  As mice living aboard a ship, daily life at sea, has claimed the lives of the rest of their family members. Living in fear, the brothers live in a wooden crate by the pantry, this is their home.  Clarice travels out for supplies but Charles prefers to stay securely inside the box, waiting on Clarice, the provider. 

I found myself immediately absorbed into this story as Clarice describes the world around her.  The ship was full, as the humans were filling up all the available space.  They consisted of two groups of people: the crew/captain and the prisoners.  Fighting erupts on the ship and the brothers hear the word, mutiny.  What does this word even mean?   

The brothers soon find out as Clarice finds himself in a smaller boat with some of the individuals from the ship and Special Lady. Packed with sailors, a mouse, and a cat, this boat which has been cast out into the sea, does have the captain aboard, which gave me some hope.  Meanwhile, Charles is still aboard the ship.  Charles the mouse who doesn’t like to move out his box needs to do something to stay alive without his brother.

Will the brothers ever be reunited again?  What happens to the brothers as they float out in the sea in two different vessels?  What a good adventure story, a story of friendship and family, a story that will stay with you. 

Can You Track Down Bigfoot?: An Interactive Monster Hunt (You Choose: Monster Hunter) by Bradon Terrell

4 stars Children’s/ Middle School

I wanted to track down Bigfoot, like who doesn’t?1?  My son was telling me that there are some individuals at his work who actually belong to a group who does this.  They go out on the weekends or take vacations and hunt for Bigfoot, seriously.  Boy, was I intrigued! I wanted to know exactly how they did this and what they found. Were this people, ok? Sure, I’ve watched those shows on TV but I feel they hype things up but to actually talk to someone who has actually went out and hunted around looking for him, now that’s crazy!  Do you think this is crazy? I think it’s fun and exciting but I don’t know if I would spend my free time doing it.  When I saw this book at the library, I knew I had to read it.  I wanted to know if I would learn anything.

I liked that this book included some of the famous pictures we all know surrounding Bigfoot.  I think seeing these throughout the book made me feel that I was actually on a mission.  I do enjoy reading these choose-your-own-ending books as it seems that you can spend however long you’d like, reading these books before you’re done with them.  In this book, I liked that they sent you right back to the beginning every time that you finished one of the missions.  This book did a great job setting up the scene and telling me about Bigfoot.  As you read each story, the encounters that you’ll have will vary. 

The book takes you on adventures with Bigfoot, The Skunk Ape of the Everglades, The Himalayan Yeti and there is some information about whether Bigfoot is real or just a hoax.   At the back of the book, there are some interesting sections, so make sure you check them out.  One was about the different Bigfoots in the world.  From the Orang Pendak in Indonesia to the Big Greyman in Scotland (original name, huh?) to the Moehau in New Zealand and Ucu in Argentina these are creatures from around the world that individuals can’t explain.  A man with yellow hair and large tusks? A man with glowing eyes and extra-large arms?  These all sound interesting and I wonder just how similar they are to each other.  The author also gives us other questions to consider while thinking about these creatures.  There are also a couple other books listed and some internet sites an individual could use to find out more about Bigfoot.  An index is also at the end of this book.  I think this makes a great book for children who enjoy these types of stories as there is a lot of different stories within this book.  This is not a scary book but carries a mysterious element to it, as you discover and uncover information about these unexplained creatures.   4 stars

Can You Net the Loch Ness Monster by Brandon Terrell & Matt Doeden

3 stars Children’s

Do you search for Nessie in Scotland, Champ in New York or do you want to go to Africa to search for Mokele-mbembe, the choice is yours?  I myself, started with the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland and then, came back to the beginning again and started other searches for the other creatures because I needed to know how they all would end.  I also took alternative side options with each of them for that’s what’s so wonderful with these books, the possibilities are endless.   

There are actual photographs in these books and a few of them, you will find familiar as they are popular with that creature.  There is the blurry image of the Loch Ness Monster with its head poking up out of the water (or is that really a twisted tree branch in the water).  Nevertheless, the photographs help reassure the reader that these creatures are real and that you’re on a mission to prove it.  I enjoyed all the different directions this book takes you down and following these paths, they were never hard.  The font size was large and easy-to-read which was good and it varied in size according to different tasks.  I did feel that the book was lacking in drama department.  The book does a great job in providing specific details and setting up the scenes but each of the actual events, they fell short for me.  They were over before I knew it and it was time to move on.   Where was the drama?  The anticipation?  I felt cheated.  I was tracking down a famous, mysterious creature and I thought there needed to be more: more story and more excitement.

Make sure you check out the back of the book for a list of freshwater Lake Monsters Around the World.  There are 7 monsters listed from Loch Ness in Scotland to Champ in the U.S. to Ogopogo in Canada to The Lake Van Monster in Turkey.  There is also a glossary at the back, a few internet sites & books pertaining to the Loch Ness Monster, and a few questions relating to information in this book.  I liked that this book also includes an index. I think this book provides some good basic information about the monsters presented inside it.    3 stars

Sample Text

“Going inside the cave would be a terrible risk.  You could get trapped or lost. No. You’ll stay where you are and hope the shape returns.  You wait and watch as long as you can.  But nothing appears.  After a while, you have to resurface before running out of air.

In the boat, you swap out your oxygen tanks and head back down.  But it’s hopeless.  You don’t see another hint of Nessie.  As the sun drops low in the sky, you realize it’s time to head back.

This search has been a failure.  But you’re not going to give up.  Maybe tomorrow you’ll have better luck.


To read another adventure, turn to page 9

To learn more about lake monsters, turn to page 103”

Black Sand Beach by Richard Fairgray

3 stars Graphic Novel Children’s

What just happened? I read everything, I was confused, I reread portions, I tried to piece it all together but after I closed the book, I felt I was missing something. I really felt that not much occurred in this book for how confused I felt and for how many pages I read. Reading this book, it felt sometimes like I was suddenly off course for some reason. The illustrations and text weren’t making sense and it felt that I had skipped some pages. I tried to reread a few pages, only this time I read out loud but that didn’t help in this situation. By the end of the book, I didn’t understand what had all occurred in the 192 pages. I guess this book could be a set-up for book 2 and I hope that is the case.

Dash begins our story in a huff. He’s upset because his friends have an exciting summer planned and he’s stuck revisiting Black Sand Beach. It’s actually been 6 years since he’s been to that beach and this year, he’s taking Lily with him so it could be a fun year but Dash isn’t considering these possibilities. When they arrive at Black Sand Beach, some of Dash’s relatives are there in the house they’re sharing and I wasn’t sure what to think about these individuals. Were they actually living people or not? The confusion started for me and the illustrations didn’t help to calm my inquiring mind. This summer would definitely be one to remember for Dash and Lily, if only for the individuals that they get to meet and be around.

Black Sand Beach is the home of the “spooky old lighthouse,” which Dash knows hasn’t been functioning for years but then, why does Dash think he saw something bright come from the lighthouse? Dash thinks he hears something next. It’s a voice calling out to him from the direction of the lighthouse, can this really be happening? They’re calling out his name……”Dash.” Why would they want him after all this time and who is it?

I think the book has potential and perhaps, I just wasn’t in the best frame of mind when I read it. I thought the storyline was intriguing and I enjoyed the illustrations. I think I’ll try reading this again when I read book 2, hoping this one makes more sense, then.

I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916 (I Survived Graphic Novels) by Lauren Tarshis

5 stars Middle School Graphic Novel

I was excited to see this series in graphic novel form. The story does move along quickly and being told through the eyes of Chet, a young boy who lives with his Uncle Jerry, I think young teens will be able to relate to Chet and his adventure.  I thought the illustrations reflected the book’s time period without being overly done and they reminded me of some old comic books that I have seen.  This story was easy to follow, contained a handful of characters, and the words on each page were kept at a minimum.  I enjoyed this story and thought the illustrations went along with the story nicely.  I’m glad that this series is being created into graphic novel format and I’m looking forward to reading more of them in the future. 

The Rewindable Clock #2 by Aaron Starmer

5 stars Children

We’re here again to sing praises to Locker #37.  If you missed the first book in this series don’t worry, as this book will give you all the details you need but you’ll want to read the first book as it’s just as great as this one.  I’ll admit that I’m not the target audience (I’m over 50 yrs. old) and I’m finding this series pretty entertaining.  Each of the books that I’ve read have been funny, fast-paced and engaging with a wide variety of realistic characters which have been pondering dilemmas that they’re faced with.   Locker #37 is supposed to help these fourth-graders but sometimes, that help isn’t well-defined for them. 

This is the second book in the series and it begins with Keisha being late for the school bus, by 1 minute.  Not only did that mean a hump seat over the back wheels but because it was a full bus, she’s going to be sharing that seat with Hunter.  Hunter, the bully!  Hunter uses words to attack his victims and Keisha is ready for him. This isn’t a good start to her day but it only gets worse when she realizes that she doesn’t have her science homework done.  Keisha knows the only answer to this, is inside Locker #37. 

Locker #37 was the 4th graders of Hopewell’s Elementary secret weapon.  Any fourth-grader had the power to use the miracles that awaited them inside this locker when they had a question and they needed a solution.  “Secret”, as in, access to this mystery locker to any other student besides a fourth grader who went to this school was denied.  It was the greatest locker ever or supposedly so.  Sometimes the answer that was provided wasn’t what the student had expected or wanted but the locker always provided an answer.

When Keisha visits the locker, I think she was expecting some finished homework to be sitting there for her but Locker #37 had another solution for her.  This solution proves to be quite entertaining!  What a fun book – I’m looking forward to more books in this series!!