Being Friends and Helping Others

I keep trying to come up with a fool-proof way of making sure I don’t bore you by repeating reviewed books, but I’m not sure I’m there yet. So, forgive me if I repeat. This collection of books all had good messages about love and compassion in them.

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People have a way of deciding that certain things go together and other things don’t. As a child I remember being told that blue and green shouldn’t go together. And I believed those who told me that. After all they were my teachers. Then I realized the sky is blue and trees and plants are green. Look how well they go together!  Anyway, I remember also hearing that dogs and cats don’t get along well. Only if you don’t let them. The first story is about a dog and cat.

Felipe and Claudette

Mark Teague

Illustrated by Mark Teague

Each time a group of animals is lined up for adoption at the adoption center, Felipe and Claudette hope they get adopted, and sadly they are left behind. Felipe is sure it’s Claudette’s fault because she’s always barking. Which, of course, is not true. Sometimes she runs in circles or bounces balls or tears the stuffing from her toys. Enough to make any cat or human cringe, thinks Felipe, especially if the person were to see the dog dig holes or roll in the garbage. Claudette doesn’t see any harm in what she’d doing. After all, she is a dog. And, finally, she is adopted, even with all her faults. Guess what? Felipe misses her and Claudette misses him. She won’t play with her new owner, so he brings her back to the shelter, where the owner adopts the two of them. A sweet tale about love and acceptance. And the illustrations are downright adorable.

BIBLIO: 2019, Orchard Books/Scholastic, Inc., Ages 3 to 8, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-545-91432-1

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We all need a little help in remembering the best way to behave and thrive and here’s the book to help you understand the rules of the road.

Super-Hero Playbook: Lessons in Life from Your Favorite Superheroes

Randall Lotowycz

Illustrated by Tim Palin

A bit on the long winded side, this book does give good examples on how to be a better human being. The illustrations are cute, though on the cartoony side. Children will relate to them. Superman shows how to be a role model by being truthful and helpful. The definitions that are put forth in this book are well done and the examples understandable. In addition to Superman, the author uses Black Panther, Batman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, the Teen Titans, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Swamp Thing and many more. All give examples of good behavior either individually or as a team. Did you know that in addition to Captain Marvel, there is a Ms. Marvel who is not related and highlights flexibility? Some superheroes didn’t start that way, but learned what was good and what was not. The last hero is called Squirrel Girl. She eats nuts and kicks butts! Teachers could use the stories in their classrooms to emphasize behaviors they want to encourage.

BIBLIO: 2019, Duo Press, Ages 6 to 9, $11.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 9781947458765

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Well, there’s nothing wrong with retelling a classic fairy tale and giving it a modern twist. Enjoy this version.

The Three Little Superpigs: Once upon a Time

Claire Evans

Illustrated by Claire Evans

We all know the basic story of the Three Little Pigs, right? How they had to deal with the mean old wolf who wanted them for a snack. This version adds the idea of the pigs wanting to be superheroes. When Mother Pig has had enough of their mess and sends them out on their own, they end up in Fairyland where they meet none other than Little Red Riding Hood. She warns them of the mean old wolf who steals Mary’s lamb, and sheep’s and various grandmothers’ clothing. Each of the pigs builds his own little house and, as we all know, two of the pigs don’t think it out well, plus they just want to play. So, they make easily destroyed houses of straw and wood. Of course, the prudent pig builds his house out of bricks and ends up saving everyone’s bacon. We all know how the story ends, in this case with the Fairyland people all proclaiming the pigs to be Superpigs. The drawings are cute and the story is as endearing as ever.

BIBLIO: 2017, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc., Ages 4 to 8, $14.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-338-24548-6

Hope you all have been enjoying your summer, but are looking forward to a brand-new season. For those heading back into the learning realm, what fun to be ready to learn or teach new things. Enjoy. Sarah

Keeping My Aging Brain Busy

The Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database (http://www.clcd.com) has a new way of getting books to reviewers. They send out a list of books from which to choose and the reviewer gets to pick books of interest. As you can see from my selection, I like to see what’s going in all KidLit categories. Makes it more interesting, I think, especially since I write for all ages.

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The first book for today is very intriguing and comes with its own set of special viewing films. But have a youngster with when you read it, because your adult eyes may not see as sharply as young eyes.

Illuminightmare

Lucy Brownridge

Illustrated/Designed by Carnovsky

Part of a 3-D series complete with special lenses; this book focuses on seeing different aspects of images. Since this book deals with spooky images, the reader must look through the various lenses to see the figures clearly. Red is to see the historical aspect of the picture. Green is to see the surroundings of the area depicted. And Blue is to see the spooky, ghostly areas. Children reading this with an elderly person might have to explain what is shown under the blue lens. Grandparent age people might not see what’s seen through that lens. Either that or the ghostly world is hiding. However, the book is fun to look at and the red and green lenses do make the images much sharper. The first and second two-page spreads are about the Thrse shipwreck, which was wrecked in 1669. Following those spreads are black and white drawings of what the “Earthly,” or red lens, depicts and what the “Supernatural,” or blue lens depicts. The second set of spreads are about the Black Forest in Germany. Even people who can’t see all that’s there will enjoy looking at the pictures and finding what they can.

BILIO: 2019, Wide-Eyed/Quarto, Ages 7+, $?.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-78603-547-9

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This is a fascinating tale of what humans can do if they don’t think through their plans.

The Casket of Time

Andri Snaer Magnason

Translated by Bjorg Arnadotter and Andrew Cauthery

Sigrun’s parents buy into the line that they should wait for better times in their time-stopping caskets and re-emerge when life is better and the world is a safe place. Well…that doesn’t always work out the way it’s supposed to. Sigrun’s casket opens ahead of time and she discovers that, though the world may be better for plants and animals, it’s most decidedly not better for humans. As she wandering around trying to figure out what to do, she meets a boy, Marcus, who takes her to an old woman who tells them and other children a long-winded fairy tale. The main character in the tale is named Obsidiana, the daughter of a king who wants his daughter to have a charmed life where she knows only good times. Problem is, the world changes without the “Eternal Princess” realizing it. Her father, King Dimon, is always off trying to conquer the world, but she doesn’t know this in her casket. Though a bit long winded, the story is a parable on why we should take better care of our planet and be more compassionate toward each other, including the plants and other creatures that share our space. The reader jumps back and forth from present time to olden times, which can be disconcerting, but who doesn’t like a good tale. Told mostly in true folk/fairy tale fashion, the book could be used as a starting point toward a discussion of being good minders of our world.

BIBLIO: 2019 (orig. 2013), Yonder/Restless Books, Ages 10 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Reader

ISBN: 9781632062055

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Sometimes it seems as if new spins on old tales work too hard to be different, but this version of the 3 little pigs is cute.

The Three Little Superpigs: Once upon a Time

Claire Evans

Illustrated by Claire Evans

We all know the basic story of the Three Little Pigs, right? How they had to deal with the mean old wolf who wanted them for a snack. This version adds the idea of the pigs wanting to be superheroes. When Mother Pig has had enough of their mess and sends them out on their own, they end up in Fairyland where they meet none other than Little Red Riding Hood. She warns them of the mean old wolf who steals Mary’s lamb, and sheep’s and various grandmothers’ clothing. Each of the pigs builds his own little house and, as we all know, two of the pigs don’t think it out well, plus they just want to play. So, they make easily destroyed houses of straw and wood. Of course, the prudent pig builds his house out of bricks and ends up saving everyone’s bacon. We all know how the story ends, in this case with the Fairyland people all proclaiming the pigs to be Superpigs. The drawings are cute and the story is as endearing as ever.

BIBLIO: 2017, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc., Ages 4 to 8, $14.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-338-24548-6

Hope all is well with you. Let me know what you think about my selections. Thanks, Sarah

Consequences of War

As some of you may know from my posts on Facebook and elsewhere, my father survived the 1942 Bataan Death March in the Philippines during WWII. The Japanese then interred him in a POW camp until 1944, so two years, more or less. Ironically his father had sent him to a Japanese school in Hawaii when he was five years old (1915,) in the hopes that having Americans better understand Japanese culture, we would not end up in a war with Japan. Came in handy when Daddy was a prisoner. His camp was the best run one in the Philippines. But that didn’t stop the Japanese from putting Daddy on an unmarked POW ship going to Japan. The ship did not make it out of Subic Bay, so my father ended up drowning as he tried to save another person on the ship. Anyway, back then nobody had the equipment to dive deep enough to recover the bodies. I was three when he died and have spent my whole life wondering if he did indeed die, or miraculously survived and end up spending his life in the South Pacific, not remembering who he really was. That’s the hope all children who have lost family members and had no closure, I’m sure. The bottom line is now researchers hired by the DOD are “repatriating” the bones from service members lost during the WWII, Korea and Vietnam wars. I was contacted because I was the sole descendant the genealogist could find. The problem is, being female, I don’t have the particular DNA strand to make a match. I put the researcher in touch with my two brothers’ sons and with my 83-year-old brother who lives in Florence, Italy. Now maybe we can get some answers. The contact person from the Army says Daddy would be eligible for burial at Arlington National Cemetery, but I’m not fond of military funerals, having been to too many of them. I hate Taps.  

The reason I’m telling you all this is because I just reviewed a book written about Cmdr. Jeremiah Denton, who was in the Hanoi Hilton for eight years with little way to contact his family. (If you don’t know what the Hanoi Hilton was, be sure to research it. Senator John McCain was also there.)

And here is a hug to all who are suffering from what I’ve gone through all my life.

If you don’t read this book, look for Alan Gratz’ books on prisoners of war.

Captured

Alvin Townley

This biography of US Navy Aviator Commander Jeremiah Denton’s internment by the North Vietnamese from July 1965 to 1973 is horrifying. How one human being can perpetrate such savagery on another is beyond comprehension. But it has happened for as long as humans have interacted with each other. Mr. Townley tells this tale with gripping attention to detail and makes the reader admire with great fervor what Commander Denton and his fellow inmates endured. Senator John McCain was also in his group. The reader learns of the torture both physical and mental these men suffered, but through it all the prisoners’ tenacity as encouraged by Jerry Denton to adhere to the Naval Code of Conduct is admirable. He promoted communication amongst the prisoners by encouraging use of a Morse Code series of taps. He withstood more torture than one would think possible. And though he occasionally broke because of treatment, he never gave out important information and sent out coded messages with twitches or blinks of his eyes. Though the language is bit stilted, it’s hard to think how to write the story without using a “just the facts” style of writing. The reader will leave this tale of courage with a further understanding of how evil war is. Any child reading this should have someone to talk to about it.

BIBLIO: 2019, Focus/ Scholastic Inc., Ages 16 +, $18.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Non-Fiction

ISBN: 9781338255669

Next week, I’ll about something funny, I promise.

The Consequences of War

As some of you may know from my posts on Facebook and elsewhere, my father survived the 1942 Bataan Death March in the Philippines during WWII. The Japanese then interred him in a POW camp until 1944, so two years, more or less. Ironically his father had sent him to a Japanese school in Hawaii when he was five years old (1915,) in the hopes that having Americans better understand Japanese culture, we would not end up in a war with Japan. Came in handy when Daddy was a prisoner. His camp was the best run one in the Philippines. But that didn’t stop the Japanese from putting Daddy on an unmarked POW ship going to Japan. The ship did not make it out of Subic Bay, where it was sunk by Allied Forces. So my father ended up drowning as he tried to save another person on the ship. Anyway, back then nobody had the equipment to dive deep enough to recover the bodies. I was three when he died and have spent my whole life wondering if he did indeed die, or miraculously survived and ended up spending his life in the South Pacific, not remembering who he really was. That’s the hope all children who have lost family members and had no closure, I’m sure. The bottom line is now researchers hired by the Department of Defense are “repatriating” the bones from service members lost during the WWII, Korea and Vietnam wars. I was contacted because I was the sole descendant the genealogist could find. The problem is, being female, I don’t have the particular DNA strand to make a match. I put the researcher in touch with my two brothers’ sons and with my 83-year-old brother who lives in Florence, Italy. Now maybe we can get some answers. The contact person from the Army says Daddy would be eligible for burial at Arlington National Cemetery, but I’m not fond of military funerals, having been to too many of them. I hate Taps.  

The reason I’m telling you all this is because I just reviewed a book written about Cmdr. Jeremiah Denton, who was in the Hanoi Hilton for eight years with little way to contact his family. (If you don’t know what the Hanoi Hilton was, be sure to research it. Senator John McCain was also there.)

And here is a hug to all who are suffering from what I’ve gone through all my life.

If you don’t read this book, look for Alan Gratz’ books on prisoners of war.

Captured

Alvin Townley

This biography of US Navy Aviator Commander Jeremiah Denton’s internment by the North Vietnamese from July 1965 to 1973 is horrifying. How one human being can perpetrate such savagery on another is beyond my comprehension. But it has happened for as long as humans have interacted with each other. Mr. Townley tells this tale with gripping attention to detail and makes the reader admire with great fervor what Commander Denton and his fellow inmates endured. Senator John McCain was also in his group. The reader learns of the torture both physical and mental these men suffered, but through it all the prisoners’ tenacity as encouraged by Jerry Denton to adhere to the Naval Code of Conduct is admirable. He promoted communication amongst the prisoners by encouraging use of a Morse Code series of taps. He withstood more torture than one would think possible. And though he occasionally broke because of treatment, he never gave out usable information and sent out coded messages with twitches or blinks of his eyes. Though the language is bit stilted, it’s hard to think how to write this story without using a “just the facts” style of writing. The reader will leave this tale of courage with a further understanding of how evil war is. Any child reading this should have someone to talk to about it.

BIBLIO: 2019, Focus/ Scholastic Inc., Ages 16 +, $18.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Non-Fiction

ISBN: 9781338255669

Next week, I’ll about something funny, I promise.

What’s in a Word?

What a great group of books I’ve reviewed in the past few days. I asked for an eclectic mix, with some picture books, some novels, MG and YA, and some non-fiction. 

Here are three that especially grabbed my heart. Two may end up staying in my library, but at the very least will be given to children I’m extra fond of.

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The first is not just well written and engaging, but it also has lots of Bengali mythology in it. I’m always a sucker for myths.  And, on the top of that, I found very few grammatical errors! Be still my heart. I plan to read the first book in the series, and look forward to reading the third book when it comes out.

Game of Stars

Sayantani DasGupta

This delightful story is the second in a series entitled “Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond.” Full of Bengali, India, mythology, blended with fantasy about a different universe, the half snake and half human main character, Kiranmala, must prevent her bio dad from killing her friend and taking over the multiverse. Her bio dad, she discovers in the first book, is the monster snake king in the Kingdom Beyond and he plans to kill Kiran along with lots of other people. The descriptions of the various characters are wonderfully evocative, and the characters themselves are complex. For instance, one grandmotherly figure is a monster with a soft side. Kiran has to do all kinds of superhero actions to save the day and gets help from friends in the most unlikely places. The story is good saga tale with true depictions of diversity being good and the message that being different isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Add in flying horses, and this book gets even better. Teacher will find a lot to use in this series to open lines of discussion on diversity, the messages in mythology, understanding different cultures, even exploring different foods. Enjoy the read and go back to read the first of the series, The Serpent’s Secret, and be sure to read the third book in the series when it’s available.

BIBLIO: 2019, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc., Ages 8 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-1-338-18573-7

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Everybody has periods of sadness, I think. It’s part of the human experience and also part of the animal experience. I’ve witnessed many an animal grieve for a lost companion—human or animal. Anyway, sometimes we need help getting over our grief. This book sweetly shows a way to help.

Maybe Tomorrow?

Charlotte Agell

Illustrated by Ana Ramirez Gonzlez

This is a sweet story about how friendship can help lighten the load that sorrow or longing can bring to a person. Elba is dragging around a big block of sorrow because she misses a departed friend. She doesn’t want to play or doing anything but mope. But her friend Norris helps her miss her friend, even though he never knew the friend. Elba asks him why and he replies because Elba is his friend. Norris encourages Elba to do things out of her comfort zone and slowly they realize that her sorrow block is shrinking. At first, the two of them could easily sit on the block but soon nobody can sit on it. And, finally, Elba says yes all on her own when Norris asks her if she wants to go on a picnic. This book will help many a person deal with whatever is causing sorrow or depression, and it’s a good lesson on learn about compassion. The illustrations are sweet and give the story even more of a caring feeling. It could also lead to good discussion on the subject of sorrow.

BIBLIO: 2019, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc., Ages 4 to 8, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-338-21488-8

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I love words and learning new ones, don’t you? It makes me sad that our language is deteriorating in to sound bites or tweets. Takes away the richness of communicating, IMHO. Anyway, here’s a new dictionary just to cheer me up. Hope it cheers you up as well.

The Dictionary of Difficult Words

Jane Solomon

Illustrated by Louise Lockhart

This is a book that any language lover should cherish. Who wouldn’t want a book that gives the definition of ultracrepidarian? This is a person who spout opinions about things without any knowledge of the subject. Know anybody like that? And, yes, there is a word for studying UFOs: ufology. The book is also filled with wonderfully whimsical illustrations. In addition to more extraordinary words, there another of words many people will know, but they are words we don’t use all the time. Since our vocabularies seem to be shrinking or being shortened to fit on tweets and other social media outlets, it’s nice to see there are still places to find more fulfilling words. The thing that would make this book even better is if the compiler/author had not so frequently used a single subject and a plural object in her sentences. For instance, saying something like Mary set her books on their desk, is incorrect grammar, unless she’s sharing the desk with someone else.  How about reword the sentence to not use pronouns? That aside, this book is definitely a keeper. Teachers should have a lot of fun using this with their students.

BIBLIO: 2019, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books/Quarto, Ages 8 +, $27.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Non-Fiction

ISBN: 978-1-786-03811-1

I’d love the hear or read about what you’ve read recently. Please keep in touch. Sarah

Sarah’s Grammar Rant

Okay, I’m still on about using “they” as the object to a singular subject.

One of the books I just read for review is a fascinating dictionary of difficult words. Each word is defined using examples in plain terms. But again, many times the author insists on using a singular subject and a plural object.

Couldn’t we try to just reword things so there is no need for this horrible grammar error that makes the poor old lady cringe?

For instance, how about writing in the definition of the word naive as: without question a naïve person believes what is said.

Or an irreverent person makes fun of things most people take seriously.

Or Someone who does many tasking things in a row would be called indefatigable.

For the most part, it really isn’t hard to reword things so the sentence is grammatically correct, or at least as correctly as a human can get.

Any language is a changing thing, but English changes more than others, and I think it behooves us to try to make some effort to not change to become too confusing.

So that’s my rant. I promise to just review books next week.

Thanks for listening.

An Eclectic Mix of Books

I couldn’t think of a theme for the books I just review, so you’re getting a hodge-podge mixture.

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Just because there are scary shark movies and stories floating around, doesn’t mean these fish are all bad. As matter of fact, they don’t really mean to harm humans, we just get in their way. And Jacques Cousteau’s member lingers on to make us all, or at least lots of us, be interested in the oceans.

Great White Shark Adventure

Fabien Cousteau and James O. Fraioli

Illustrated by Joe St. Pierre

Part of the new Fabien Cousteau Expeditions series about the oceans and their creatures, this book tells of a hunt for a gigantic great white shark off the southern tip of Africa. Junior Expeditioners, Bella and Marcus, are joining Jacques Cousteau’s grandson Fabien on a hunt for an extra-large great white shark. The group decides the shark might be in waters around two islands that are breeding grounds for fur seals and penguins. These animals swim in the water between the two islands, making it an ideal hunting ground for sharks. The book is full of interesting information about all kinds of sea creatures and the drawings, though cartoonish, depict the animals well. The two junior expeditioners, considered full members of the research team, get to swim in the ocean and use the submersible observation bell made of plexiglass. Wouldn’t that be a cool thing to do? The book gives the reader quite an education about sharks and other marine life. It’s a welcome addition to any school library.

BIBLIO: 2019, Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division/Simon & Schuster Publishing, Ages 8 to12, $12.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Graphic Non-Fiction

ISBN: 1534420886

If you want to keep yourself up at night worrying about how horrible people can be to each other, just read some historical fiction. This book is about Irish immigrants coming to New York City during the U.S. Civil War, which was hardly civil, I might add.

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Last of the Name

Rosanne Parry

Twelve-year-old Daniel O’Carolan and his older sister, Kathleen, arrive in New York City on March 26th, 1863 after fleeing poverty and English brutality in Ireland. Their granny, the last remaining adult of the family, dies on board the ship they’re sailing on. She leaves them with a special bundle which she says will get them through the toughest times. Kathleen has promised that she will take care of Danny with out fail. They end being house servants for a wealthy family, which means Danny has to become Mary and wear girl’s clothing. Though Kathleen is readily accepted as a maid, the lady of the house is not sure what the younger child can do. He lands his job by singing and enchanting the lady of the house. But he sneaks off when he can, wearing his boy’s clothes. He does gain an appreciation for what girls and women have to endure from society. hen Danny is being a boy, he takes every chance he can to sing and dance, earning a penny here and a penny there. The time of their arrival is not a propitious one, since the country is smack in the middle of the Civil War. Negro people are coming north by the droves to look for work, taking jobs from men who are striking for better wages. The Irish are also despised for the taking jobs. Plus, the Protestants are trying to dissuade the Irish and others from being Catholics. Life is tough for most people in New York, except the wealthy. The story ends around time of the “Draft Riot” in the summer of 1863, which leaves most of New York City in ruins. The book is well written and compelling with lots for teachers to use in the classroom. There is a brief bibliography and several discussion questions at the end.

BIBLIO: 2019, Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., Ages 10 to 14, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Grade

ISBN: 9781541542358

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This book is a humorous take on accepting each other’s differences.

Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies!

Megan Lacera and Jorge Lacera

Illustrated by Jorge Lacera

Acceptance of diversity is an ongoing theme in modern children’s lives. This book uses the conceit of a young zombie named Mo Romero who would rather eat veggies than humans. Problem is he needs to convince his parents that it’s okay to like veggies. He sneaks out at night to tend his vegetable garden and make his delicious meals of veggies. He tries to disguise veggies as parts of the human body and bury them in his parents’ eyeball stew, but he always gets caught out. One night he decides to make gazpacho, sure that he could convince his parents it is blood soup. Nope, doesn’t work. His parents hate it and scold him for serving it. Finally, Mo fesses up. He may be a zombie but he’s different. Because his parents love him, they agree to eat veggies along with their brain stew and finger food. The illustrations are delightfully gross. The language does seem a bit old for the target age range, but the story does get its point across. And what youngster doesn’t love zombies?

BIBLIO: 2019, Children’s Book Press/Lee & Low Books, Inc., Ages 7 to 9, $18.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 9781620147948

Happy Fourth of July