ARC Review: Time Traveling with a Hamster by Ross Welford

time traveling with a hamster by ross welford

Back to the Future meets The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in this original, poignant, race-against-time story about a boy who travels back to 1984 to save his father’s life.

My dad died twice. Once when he was thirty-nine and again four years later, when he was twelve. On his twelfth birthday, Al Chaudhury receives a letter from his dead father. It directs him to the bunker of their old house, where Al finds a time machine (an ancient computer and a tin bucket). The letter also outlines a mission: travel back to 1984 and prevent the go-kart accident that will eventually take his father’s life. But as Al soon discovers, whizzing back thirty years requires not only imagination and courage, but also lying to your mom, stealing a moped, and setting your school on fire—oh, and keeping your pet hamster safe. With a literary edge and tons of commerical appeal, this incredible debut has it all: heart, humor, vividly imagined characters, and a pitch-perfect voice.

Description taken from Goodreads.


I was prepared for the worst with this book. Between the blurb, the cover, and the title, I was fully prepared to put it down 20% of the way through as an unfortunate disappointment. But no, Time Traveling with a Hamster demanded to be loved and read, and it reminded me why I continue to read middle-grade lit.

I think what I love about this story is that it’s so no-nonsense. It gets right to the heart of the story, never stopping to dwell on the ridiculousness of the situation. Between Al’s authentic voice and the great pacing, it’s easy to get lost in the magic of the story. I’ll admit that I was skeptical in the beginning, but shortly after I got into the story, I realized it’s perfectly reasonable to write a story about time traveling with a hamster.

The plot and writing were spot-on. I especially loved the way that Al got to explore his relationships with his dad and grandpa because of the time travel, though I wasn’t impressed by his bad relationship with his step-sister. There were points in the story that were cliché or felt like they were formatting ideas derived from other writers (ten facts about one of the characters, a chapter move that I dislike immensely because it breaks the story apart). I was disappointed by this, especially in the beginning, because of how impressed I was by Welford’s writing.

All in all, I would recommend Time Traveling with a Hamster to boys and girls through middle school and maybe a little younger. Honestly, it’s great for anyone willing to give it a chance. The humor is spot on, the story is exciting enough to keep impatient readers going, it has heartfelt characters, and the ending is satisfactory. A great read. 4 stars.

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Review: Beetle Boy by M.G. Leonard

beetle boy by m.g. leonard

The glorious start to a middle-grade trilogy about a brilliant boy, his loyal friends, and some amazingly intelligent beetles that brings together adventure, humor, and real science!

Darkus Cuttle’s dad mysteriously goes missing from his job as Director of Science at the Natural History Museum. Vanished without a trace! From a locked room! So Darkus moves in with his eccentric Uncle Max and next door to Humphrey and Pickering, two lunatic cousins with an enormous beetle infestation. Darkus soon discovers that the beetles are anything but ordinary. They’re an amazing, intelligent super species and they’re in danger of being exterminated. It’s up to Darkus and his friends to save the beetles. But they’re up against an even more terrifying villain–the mad scientist of fashion, haute couture villainess Lucretia Cutter. Lucretia has an alarming interest in insects and dastardly plans for the bugs. She won’t let anyone or anything stop her, including Darkus’s dad, who she has locked up in her dungeons! The beetles and kids join forces to rescue Mr. Cuttle and thwart Lucretia.

Description taken from Goodreads.


This book was a Tweens Read August pick. Check out M.G.’s post on the blog here

I’m no huge lover of beetles or insects, but I was initially interested in M.G. Leonard’s debut because I heard it was reminiscent of the kind of writing in another book I loved as a kid but can’t remember now (has snow and a red machine on the front? anyone?) Anyway, I went into Beetle Boy with high expectations, and almost all of them were met.

Starting with what I liked, I loved the factoids on beetles! M.G. clearly loves beetles, and she worked them into the novel without making it seem unnatural. There weren’t any info-dumps, and I came to appreciate beetles over the course of the story. I went it a bit skeptical of how well that element would be handled, but I was pleasantly surprised. I grew up on movies like Antz, The Ant Bully, and A Bug’s Life, and this book brought many great memories back for me.

Along that same vein, the writing and plot were spot-on. The writing captured the feel that I was looking for. Like some of the other books I’ve reviewed lately, it had this feel of older middle-grade fiction, books that aren’t narrated in such a whimsical way. I appreciated that, and I loved getting to know the characters. Each person was nuanced, and characters were distinctive.

What I disliked had to do with writing though, as much as I loved both of the execution of this story. I can’t truly see myself recommending this story to many kids in its target audience. It’s just too out-there, I guess. It’s a fun story, but enthusiasm for reading about bugs (no matter how cool they are) doesn’t transfer easily. I’d still recommend this to lower middle-grade readers.

Overall, not a bad read by any means. I was entertained, and I enjoyed learning about beetles. However, for the most part, I probably won’t be recommending this one. 3 stars.

Review: Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger

fuzzy by tom angleberger and paul dellinger

When Max—Maxine Zealster—befriends her new robot classmate Fuzzy, part of Vanguard One Middle School’s new Robot Integration Program, she helps him learn everything he needs to know about surviving middle school—the good, the bad, and the really, really, ugly. Little do they know that surviving sixth grade is going to become a true matter of life and death, because Vanguard has an evil presence at its heart: a digital student evaluation system named BARBARA that might be taking its mission to shape the perfect student to extremes!

Description taken from Goodreads.


I’m not a Tom Angleberger fan, but that might just have to change if he continues to come out with books like Fuzzy!

The only thing I didn’t like about the story (and didn’t like is a strong phrase) is that it had a slow beginning. I wasn’t drawn in from the very first page, but maybe that’s too much to ask. It’s enough that the rest of book is superb.

Despite my pacing problems in the beginning, I quickly fell in love with Fuzzy. There were a few different reasons for that, most notably because of the world-building and plot.

Fuzzy takes place in the near-future, and it almost has a dystopia-type feel. Dystopia is much harder to come by in middle-grade lit than young-adult lit, to the point where I wasn’t sure what it would even look like. Tom Angleberger did an amazing job of answering that question for me. No, not everything felt natural. There were a few weak spots where I felt like he was over-describing, but I think that’ll do a good job of introducing the subject material to younger students and people unaffiliated with code and technology.

When it really comes down to it, I was completely in love with the world-building of Fuzzy. The entire book did feel a little immature, so it was a bit awkward. I didn’t love the world for its writing or the way it was described, but because of its ideas. For the most part, Angleberger brought together his world spectacularly. I loved the way he (subtly) pointed out the flaws in where we’re heading with education, and his vision of technology-driven schools was fascinating.

As for the plot, it brought the story together. This may seem like a no-brainer, but beyond the obvious, the plot made the book. What I mean by that is it gave life the characters. It provided the world of Fuzzy a home. Not every book does that, and I was impressed by the chain of events in the book.

All in all, I loved Fuzzy. It had a relatively weak beginning, but it gained speed (and a place in my heart). The world was one I could dive into, and the storytelling was refreshing. I’ll be recommending this one! Hopefully, I can make some young STEM-lit fans :D 4 stars.

Tweens Read August Day 10: Monica Tesler & Bounders

Tweens Read August is a 14 day event taking place for the first two weeks of August. I’ll be hosting authors, regardless of debut year, whose books I’m the most excited for. Each day, I’ll announce who the next author is at the end of the post. There’s also a giveaway going on, so be sure to check that out!

It’s the tenth day of Tweens Read August, and today I’m interviewing Monica Tesler about her space adventure series Bounders!

Here’s a little bit about it:

bounders

Series: Bounders #1

Release Date: January 5th, 2016

Add to Goodreads

In the tradition of Michael Vey and The Unwanteds, twelve-year-old Jasper and his friends are forced to go up against an alien society in this first book in a brand-new adventure series!

Thirteen years ago, Earth Force—a space-military agency—discovered a connection between brain structure and space travel. Now they’ve brought together the first team of cadets, called Bounders, to be trained as high-level astronauts.

Twelve-year-old Jasper is part of this team being sent out into space. After being bullied back on Earth, Jasper is thrilled to have something new and different to do with other kids who are more like him. While learning all about the new technologies and taking classes in mobility—otherwise known as flying with jetpacks—Jasper befriends the four other students in his pod and finally feels like he has found his place in the world.

But then Jasper and his new friends learn that they haven’t been told everything about Earth Force. They weren’t brought to space for astronaut training, but to learn a new, highly classified brain-sync technology that allows them to manipulate matter and quantum bound, or teleport. And it isn’t long before they find out this new technology was actually stolen from an alien society.

When Jasper and his friends discover the truth about why Earth Force needs them, they are faced with a choice: rebel against the academy that brought them together, or fulfill their duty and protect the planet at all costs.

Description taken from Goodreads.

Interview with Monica Tesler, Author of the Bounders Series

Tell us a little bit about BOUNDERS! How does it stand out in MG science fiction?

BOUNDERS is the story of the first class of cadets at EarthBound Academy for quantum space travel. When the cadets arrive at the space station for training, they soon realize that Earth Force’s plans for them are far different from what they’ve been told. These kids have always felt different, but they never suspected they held the key to saving Earth from an alien threat.

One of the unique things about BOUNDERS, is it fits in many different storytelling boxes. It’s a science fiction adventure story, but it’s also a story about school and friendship. The core of the story is a mystery, as the kids search for answers about a huge secret they discover when they arrive at the space station and what that means for them as Bounders.

What’s your favorite thing about BOUNDERS?

My favorite part of BOUNDERS is the unlikely friendship that develops between the five main characters—Jasper, Cole, Lucy, Marco, and Mira. As the story progresses, the kids learn to work together through their own unique strengths and challenges. Their bond is what ultimately saves the day.

What can we look forward to in the second book of the series, THE TUNDRA TRIALS?

Excitement, danger, and adventure await the cadets in THE TUNDRA TRIALS which is scheduled to release on December 13, 2016. Most of the book takes place on Gulaga, the Tunneler planet. There are more aliens, more Earth Force secrets, and a space elevator!

What kind of research did you have to do to write this series?

I love to read about current developments in science and technology. The space travel used in the series—bounding—is loosely based on quantum entanglement principles. I read several articles on quantum entanglement so that I had a basic understanding of the science.

I once read a post about a theoretical space elevator that could transport goods and even people from the surface of a planet or celestial body to outside the atmosphere. That’s how I got the idea for the space elevator in THE TUNDRA TRIALS. Of course, in real life, space elevators are just in the concept/design stage, but maybe one day scientists will build one!

What advice would you give to aspiring science fiction authors?

The best advice I can give aspiring authors is to write something they enjoy and let go of outcomes. It’s important to learn how to finish projects, set them aside, and start something new. Get connected with other writers and gain an understanding of the business of publishing while writing, but don’t let that become too much of a time drain. Twitter will take your day away if you let it.

Reading is a necessity for all writers. For aspiring science fiction writers, I recommend reading widely within the genre and also keeping informed about current developments in science and technology. There is a long history of science inspiring science fiction and vice versa.

And most importantly—have fun!

 

Thanks so much for having me on the blog, Eli! I hope you and your readers enjoy BOUNDERS! Watch my website, www.monicatesler.com, for information about a preorder giveaway for THE TUNDRA TRIALS as we get closer to the December 13 release date! You can also find me on twitter and instagram as @MonicaTesler.

 

About the Author

monica tesler

Monica Tesler lives south of Boston with her family. She can often be found hiking or biking with her boys, writing on the commuter boat, or trying to catch a quiet moment for meditation. The first book in her debut middle grade science fiction series, BOUNDERS, released in early 2016 from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin. The second title, THE TUNDRA TRIALS, will release December 13, 2016.


Giveaway

Thanks to Monica for taking part in Tweens Read August! This book sounds great, and I’m interested to see the different aspects to it. If you’re looking forward to reading it as much as I am, add Bounders to Goodreads! The cover for The Tundra Trials, the second book in the series, is coming out soon too, so be sure to follow Monica on Twitter for all the latest news about that. The author being featured tomorrow is M.G. Leonard.

Tweens Read August Day 7: James R. Hannibal & The Lost Property Office

Tweens Read August is a 14 day event taking place for the first two weeks of August. I’ll be hosting authors, regardless of debut year, whose books I’m the most excited for. Each day, I’ll announce who the next author is at the end of the post. There’s also a giveaway going on, so be sure to check that out!

It’s the seventh day of Tweens Read August, and today, James R. Hannibal is here to talk to us about the unique superpowers in his MG mystery/adventure The Lost Property Office!

Here’s a little bit about it:

the lost property office by james r. hannibal

Release Date: November 8th, 2016

Series: Section 13 #1

Add to Goodreads

James R. Hannibal presents a thrilling adventure through history, complete with mysteries, secret items, codes, and a touch of magic in this stunning middle grade debut.

Thirteen-year-old Jack Buckles is great at finding things. Not just a missing glove or the other sock, but things normal people have long given up on ever seeing again. If only he could find his father, who has disappeared in London without a trace.

But Jack’s father was not who he claimed to be. It turns out that he was a member of a secret society of detectives that has served the crown for centuries—and membership into the Lost Property Office is Jack’s inheritance.

Now the only way Jack will ever see his father again is if he finds what the nefarious Clockmaker is after: the Ember, which holds a secret that has been kept since the Great Fire of London. Will Jack be able to find the Ember and save his father, or will his talent for finding things fall short?

Description taken from Goodreads.

Birth Defects and Superheroes

Maybe you’ve seen The Lost Property Office already, even though it doesn’t come out until November. I hope you have.

Big black cover.

Enormous clockwork beetle.

You can’t miss it.

The story opens a new series of London-based adventures filled with mystery and magic, science and history, secret societies and stern-faced old spinsters—elements of plot and milieu that were loads of fun to write. But it is the character of Jack and the way he sees the world that are most important to me. I want Jack’s experience to open up a conversation.

Thirteen-year- old Jack Buckles is a new take on the Holmesian, hyper-observant detective. Jack has a “birth defect” known as synesthesia, although you’ll never see the word in the book. He doesn’t know he has it, much like thousands of kids today who don’t know they are “synesthetes,” and are thus misdiagnosed as unfocused, or even ADD.

Synesthesia is a lack of walls between the senses. For a synesthete, sounds, smells, or pain may invoke colors and textures. Other synesthetes might hear whooshes and clacks while seeing movement or flashes of light. There are several varieties, and many synesthetes only experience one pair of crossed senses. Some of us, however, are cross wired through and through. I am a synesthete. Did I mention that? My synesthesia is debilitating at times, empowering at others. It has sent me running from my mother’s kitchen and helped me catch a terrorist. It has made me feel powerless and afraid and helped me put a bullet through a target from two miles away.

Knowledge shifts that balance.

To give you an idea why it is critical to identify child synesthetes early, let’s take a look at a well-known kid who might also have been considered “different.”

Imagine you are young Clark Kent. You have no idea why you struggle so hard to fit in. The other children at Smallville Elementary seem to have no trouble keeping their feet on the ground.

Their pencils never snap in their hands like yours do. Their deskwork never spontaneously combusts.

Maybe they’re all just smarter than you are.

When you finally get up enough courage to ask another boy how he manages to open every door without ripping the knob off, he stares back at you like you’re crazy. Word spreads. Soon the other kids are pointing and giggling when you walk by.

The teachers aren’t much better—yours especially. “Oh, I love little Clark,” Ms. Moore tells your mom in a voice that says she really doesn’t. “But he’s always bouncing off the walls. I have to pull him down off the ceiling twice a day. I have to literally pull him down. If he doesn’t quit leaping the language annex in a single bound, I might have to put him in the special class.”

The special class?

The coach likes you, though—as much good as that does.

“Who? Kent? Sure, he’s a space cadet. Head in the clouds all the time. But you should see him boot that kickball. I don’t care what they say about him. Kid’s gotta future.”

Future? What future? You’re going to be the kickball star from the special class. Great.

Now see yourself as a child with synesthesia:

You do your best to concentrate on the lesson but a bird chirps outside the window. Pinkish- white spikes fly across your vision. You can’t suppress them. Nor can you suppress the feeling that Ms. Moore is watching you.

How do all the other kids ignore the spikes? You can’t take Ms. Moore’s stink-eye anymore. You look down at your hands, willing the bird to shut up, then glance up again. Ms. Moore is still locked on. She’s waiting for you to crack.

A moment later, old Mr. Guthrie fires up his vintage lawnmower outside. It growls and coughs as it gobbles up the grass, and your battle for focus is over.

Resistance is futile.

A few others are distracted by the mower, too, but your brain is completely taken over. A bumpy gray mass with rust-colored rods poking out of it closes around you. You’re not imagining things. The mass is there—unsolicited, uncontrolled—you can feel it thumping your head and shoulders.

Ms. Moore sees you hunkering down and moves in for the kill. You barely process the question. You wouldn’t know the answer anyway. Margie Wutherford does. Her hand shoots up, making you look as stupid as you feel. How does she do it? How does she ignore Mr. Guthrie’s killer blob?

Life isn’t all bad. You’re absolutely brilliant at math and memorization. Letters, numbers, and dates have colors and textures that never change. They fly around your head in purple wisps and gold ribbons. You max every test—assuming you did the reading. You don’t understand why the other kids can’t do the same thing, but you don’t ask, not after what happened in fifth grade. You told Margie about the dates spent last spring as crazy-pink- January boy.

Memorization isn’t your only skill. The school nurse says you’re some sort of audio-prodigy. Your hearing is off the charts. Really? How could anyone miss those pink, brown, and blue blobs. You don’t have to hear the tones. You can see them. It doesn’t matter. The nurse doesn’t like you despite your super hearing. You’ve been in her office three times in three days this week alone for throwing up in the lunchroom. “You’re not sick,” she tells you. “If you keep making yourself vomit, you’re going to do permanent damage.”

You’re not making yourself do anything. Peas and onions have been on the menu all week. To smell them is to wade through slimy black mush. You can’t tell that to the nurse. Or your teacher. You heard Ms. Moore. Any more screw-ups and they’ll put you in that special class.

This was very much my life as an undiagnosed child synesthete. And this was very much Jack’s life before he came to London in search of his father—before he discovered his gift had a name.

By the way, that name is not synesthesia, not in my world.

Jack isn’t deficient. He doesn’t have an underdeveloped brain. Jack Buckles is a tracker.

Child synesthetes can have a birth defect, or they can be super heroes. Let’s start the conversation. Let’s give them the choice.

Addendum: We (the publisher and I) just received an advance review from a respected journal that illustrates my point. In the review, amid some nice compliments, the librarian/reviewer diagnoses Jack as “exhibiting behaviors on the autistic spectrum” even though autism is never mentioned and synesthesia is explained right there on the back cover. This innocent and well-intentioned mistake is a prime example of why this book is necessary, and why we need to talk about children and synesthesia in this country.

 

About the Author

james r. hannibal
James R. Hannibal is the author of the 2016 BEA Buzz Book The Lost Property Office, a middle grade mystery/adventure coming from Simon and Schuster Young Readers November 8. As a former stealth bomber pilot and drone pilot James has been shot at, locked up by a surface to air missile system, and aided the capture of High Value Targets. He is also the Thriller Award nominated author of the Nick Baron series from Berkley Books.


Giveaway

Thanks to James for being a part of Tweens Read August and doing this guest post! It was definitely thought provoking, and it made me think about the way I consider disabilities and superpowers in books and other media. Enter the giveaway above to enter an ARC of The Lost Property Office, a $25 bookstore giftcard, and other awesome swag, and be sure to add The Lost Property Office to Goodreads! You can also pick it up from stores on November 8th, 2016. The author being featured tomorrow is Brooks Benjamin!

Review: MARTians by Blythe Woolston

martians by blythe woolston

Last girl Zoë Zindleman, numerical ID 009-99-9999, has just been graduated. Early. Her options: wait for her home to be foreclosed and stripped of anything valuable now that AnnaMom has moved away, or move to the Warren, an abandoned strip-mall-turned-refuge for other left-behinds—a safe place, and close to AllMART, Zoë’s new employer, where “your smile is AllMART’s welcome mat.” Zoë may be the last girl, but her name means “life,” and Zoë isn’t ready to disappear into the AllMART abyss. Zoë wants to live.

MARTians is set in a world of exurban decay studded with big-box stores, where its inhabitants are numbed by shopping and the six o’clock “news.” MARTians may be the future, but it is frighteningly familiar.

Description taken from Goodreads.


In a word, interesting.

And by interesting, I mean not for any middle-grader that I know. Probably not even for most YA readers that I know. There are parts of this book that are insightful, funny, deep, all things I appreciate and love, but much of it was crude or hard to understand.

After years of reading, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t do sci-fi where I have to figure lots of things out (Blood Red Road, I’m looking at you). This just barely scrapes into that category. The wording made this exhausting to read, even for such a short book, and I never felt attached to the characters or to the story. The descriptions, while certainly valiant efforts, fell flat, and this world wasn’t too compelling for me.

The ending does leave you thinking, and I want to say that I can see a few adults enjoying this, no one particularly comes to mind. While this had some interesting concepts, it’s not one that I would recommend. If you’re looking for a reasonably middle-grade sci fi, go for M.T. Anderson’s Feed. 2 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 224

Review: What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World by Henry Clark

what we found in the sofa and how it changed the world and how it saved the world by henry clark review

When River, Freak, and Fiona discover a rare zucchini-colored crayon between the cushions of a mysterious sofa at their bus stop, they quickly find themselves in the middle of an evil plot to conquer the world! The plot’s mastermind, Edward Disin, is responsible for starting the underground coal seam fire that continually burns just beyond the kids’ backyards, a dastardly cover-up for an intergalactic portal that will soon transport an army of invaders to Earth.
Disin’s only weakness is his otherworldly obsession with the zucchini crayon–and he knows the kids have it. But with the help of an eccentric neighbor, an artificial intelligence in the form of a double-six domino, a DNA-analyzing tray, two hot air balloons, and a cat named Mucus, three kids from the middle of nowhere might be able to save the planet.
Henry Clark’s dazzling debut middle grade novel is a thoroughly original, unabashedly wacky, and surprisingly affecting story about the importance of intelligence and curiosity in a complacent world.

Description taken from Goodreads.


There was almost nothing truly endearing about this book. In recent years, it’s been popular to have the wacky children’s and middle grade books, and many are actually good reads, but at the same time, many of them are way too out-there, even for kids. I could hardly stand reading this novel because I couldn’t even take it seriously.

Admittedly, there were some good lines within this book. The humor got better steadily throughout the novel, but the plot and characters continued to lose me. The second that I started to like a certain character, a plot element would come in that was just too ridiculous for words. There was so much potential to the narration and the plot, but this story didn’t work out for me.

If you’re looking for an eccentric read, A Tangle of Knots, The Wig in the Window and The Mysterious Benedict Society are great stories with amazing writing, complex characters and good plot without being too much in the weird department. 1 star.

pg count for the hardback: 368

Tweens Read Too’s Best Books of the Year!

tweens read too best books of the year

After a long year of great and not-so-great middle-grade reads, it’s all come down to ten books that are my favorite middle-grade books of 2015! My best books of the year aren’t just books that I really enjoyed, but they’re also books that remained in my mind long after reading them. Check out my picks below, and if you have a list of your own, be sure to link below and I’ll check it out. My YA best books of the year are on The Silver Words.

tweens read too best books of the year 1

tweens read too best books of the year 2

Thanks to the publishers that made it possible for me to hold authors, events and pre-release reviews this year on Tweens Read Too (special shoutout to Sourcebooks Fire and Heather Moore!) and the authors whose books I got to read this year. I’ll have a post on Tweens Read Too’s stats this year later on!

Review: Flight Volume 1 by Kazu Kibuishi

flight volume 1 by kazu kibushi

Flight Volume One features stories by professionals and non-professionals alike, all playing on the theme of flight in its many incarnations. From the maiden voyage of a home-built plane to the adventures of a young courier and his flying whale to a handful of stories about coming of age and letting things go, this first volume of Flight is full of memorable tales that will both amaze and inspire.

Description taken from Goodreads.


First of all, the above blurb is a terrible blurb and FLIGHT deserves a better one.

Second of all, as you might have noticed, Kabu Kibuishi is not the only author of this book, but I gave him credit because he put the book together.

Third of all, these books were formative to my love of comics.

Most of them are very PG, and many of them have deep lessons and themes despite being only a few pages long. If you want to get kids into graphic novels, then I would suggest handing them one of the volumes of FLIGHT. All the authors have different styles, and some of the stories span over the course of all of the books, so you may want to start with Volume 1, but if you don’t it doesn’t really matter.

One of the things I really love about FLIGHT is the fact that so many of the heroes are not cape-wearing, spandex-sporting people. The heroes are just ordinary people, many of which are Asian-American. In these aspects, I really related to these novels and FLIGHT sparked the idea that maybe there were books about kids just like me.

Some novels made me literally laugh out loud and cry, and some are just action-packed awesomeness. All in all, I enjoy most of the drawing styles and stories that I come across, and all the stories are understandable for a middle-grade or YA reader.

I admit, I am a Marvel and DC Comics lover, but there’s a graphic novel movement spreading through middle-grade and YA literature right now, and while we’re here I wanted to talk about some of my favorite comics of all time. To see more, you can head over to my graphic novels section on The Silver Words, but FLIGHT 1 in particular remains a classic that I go back to all the time. 4.8 stars.

pg count for the paperback: 207 (don’t be deceived; these books are big and pretty heavy)

Series: Flight

Review: Astrotwins by Mark Kelly and Martha Freeman

astrotwins by mark kelly and martha freeman

A team of middle schoolers prepares for blastoff in this adventure from the author of the New York Times bestselling Mousetronaut, based on the childhoods of real-life astronauts Mark Kelly and his twin brother Scott.

It’s a long, hot summer and Scott and Mark are in big trouble for taking apart (aka destroying) their dad’s calculator. As a punishment, they’re sent to their grandfather’s house, where there’s no TV and they have to do chores. And Grandpa is less tolerant of the twins’ constant bickering. “Why don’t you two work together on something constructive. What if you built a go-kart or something?” Grandpa suggests.

But it’s not a go-kart the twins are interested in. They want to build a rocket. With the help of Jenny, nicknamed Egg, and a crew of can-do kids, they set out to build a real rocket that will blast off and orbit the Earth. The question soon becomes: which twin will get to be the astronaut?

Written by a NASA astronaut with four space flights under his belt, this exciting story includes extensive back matter on the space program with fantastic facts and details.

Description taken from Goodreads.


ASTROTWINS is one of those books where it really depends on the person who I would recommend it to. In terms of factoids, this book is awesome. It’s very informative and incredibly didactic. The only problem is that it’s a little overly so. ASTROTWINS is, in many ways, a huge info-dump. This is a common case in historical fiction and scientific lit, and this read is no exception.

However, there are many aspects to ASTROTWINS are really entertaining. I loved getting to know the twins and reading about parents who are actually alive. There were some great exciting parts, and there was a lot of elements and plot choices that were unique. All things considered, the ratio of info-dumping to great parts wasn’t bad at all.

On another note, this story isn’t the best written. I thought there were a lot of little moments that could’ve been dropped from the story. However, I loved the way that the characters were crafted and there was a solid plot.

This is a really fun little book that I would definitely recommend to kids who are interested in space and/or rockets and inventing. It’s almost along the same vein as Phineas & Ferb. It’s a fun little read, but for most people I would recommend skimming the stuff that makes them want to space out. 3 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 224