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Staff Reviews: Children's fiction

Check out these reviews written by the staff of the Marathon County Public Library, featuring books and DVDs for children! (For reviews of books for all ages, visit our main Staff Reviews webpage.) Staff book reviews are also published at Goodreads.com; follow us for the latest updates. The book reviews on this website represent the personal opinions of the individuals who created them and do not represent any official views of the Marathon County Public Library.


Cover: 'A Tale of Witchcraft'

"A Tale of Witchcraft" by Chris Colfer

★★★★★ The magical community has been accepted in the kingdoms. The faeries have been helping around the kingdoms and the people celebrate when they arrive! Now, a secret clan has resurfaced after centuries of silence called the Righteous Brotherhood. The Righteous Brotherhood has vowed to exterminate all magical life and Brystal is their first target. Meanwhile,...

Audience: tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Ickabog'

"The Ickabog" by J.K. Rowling

★★★★ Fairy tales are often great because of the fantastical places they transport the reader to. Everyday people live among kings and queens, horse-drawn carriages and castles, and otherworldly creatures that make up a world unlike our own. "The Ickabog" is no exception, and also features a plot and life lessons that are very much relevant to our own lives....

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Willoughbys'

"The Willoughbys" by Lois Lowry

★★★★★ The four children in the Willoughby family are indeed to be pitied. Their parents "frequently forgot that they had children and became quite irritable when they were reminded of it." This left Tim, Barnaby A, Barnaby B (they're twins), and Jane feeling they'd be better off as orphans, of the old-fashioned kind. So they hatch a "perfectly despicable plot" to...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Bones of Faerie'

"Bones of Faerie" by Janni Lee Simner

★★★ Folklore and post-apocalyptic fiction collide in "Bones of Faerie," a young adult novel by Janni Lee Simner. Liza is a teenage girl who lives in a world greatly affected by a war that took place several years before she was born. This war was between the world as we know it and Faerie, a realm where magic is commonplace and nature supersedes technology...

Audience: children, teens, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'I Don't Like Rain!'

"I Don't Like Rain!" by Sarah Dillard

★★★★★ Have you ever gotten caught outside in a rainstorm? Was it when you were walking home or when you were about to play with your friends? The Bunny in I Don’t Like the Rain! gets caught in a wet cold downpour just as he and his woodland friends were going to play with a found pine cone! At first he thinks the drip, drip, drops of water are fun; but being...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Happy Right Now'

"Happy Right Now" by Julie Berry

★★★★★ Everyone has a range of emotions that they go through on a daily basis. Sometimes, an event or an object triggers that emotion, and other times that person feels that emotion for no reason at all. Happy Right Now looks at what makes an individual happy and choosing to be happy. Chores and the "worry monkey" are things that don't typically make people...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'The Buddy Bench'

"The Buddy Bench" by Patty Brozo

★★★★★ Has there ever been a time where you have felt left out or forgotten in group activities, such as recess? This book focuses on that issue. For a variety of reasons, some of the kids at this school feel left out when it comes to recess. They watch as their classmates play with kites or throw a ball, having fun without them. The students who are watching just...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'Home in the Woods'

"Home in the Woods" by Eliza Wheeler

★★★★★ Do you have a big family with lots of siblings? Growing up, Marvel did! She had seven siblings and her Mum. Who is Marvel? She’s the main character and also the grandmother of Eliza Wheeler, the author and illustrator of this book. This story was inspired by Marvel’s childhood experience of finding a new home with her family and learning together, how to...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Hey Grandude!'

"Hey Grandude!" by Paul McCartney

★★★★★ On gray rainy days, don’t you wish you were exploring warm tropical beaches under the hot sun? Out on a trail ride with a real cowboy? Or instantly surrounded by snowcapped mountains, taking in the sights and sounds from on top of a hill of lush wildflowers? Well, good news! You can! That is, if you happen to have a Grandfather named “Grandude” and he...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Fraidyzoo'

"Fraidyzoo" by Thyra Heder

★★★★★ Be prepared to giggle and laugh your way through Fraidyzoo by Thrya Heder. The lessons throughout the book are twofold, but the creative and playful illustrations are worth the read alone! Do you look forward to visiting the zoo and seeing all of the unique animals there? Some zoos have so many animals to see, it’s hard to take them all in. From...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Forever Garden'

"The Forever Garden" by Laurel Snyder

★★★★★ Have you ever kneeled down in the soil and planted a seed in a garden? When you stood up, were your knees covered in dirt? If so, you’ll fit right in reading about the friendship between a young curious girl named Laurel and her delightful neighbor Honey, who owns the house next door. In some ways Honey is continuously planting seeds throughout her garden,...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Boxitects'

"Boxitects" by Kim Smith

★★★★ Meg loves to create and build, and boxes are her favorite medium. From tiny house to marvelous castles, she loves her self-appointed role as "Boxitect." Her mom is very proud of her skills and decides Meg should expand them by attending Maker School. There, she meets other kids who also love to create things out of various items such as blankets, tin-...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Girl and the Dinosaur'

"The Girl and the Dinosaur" by Hollie Hughes, Sarah Massini

★★★★★ Marianne is a focused little girl who follows her own interests and dreams, even though others can’t understand her passions. She spends her days painstakingly and patiently digging for dinosaur bones on a sandy beach. Her persistence finally pays off when she discovers a whole dinosaur skeleton! But the story does not end there. It takes a fantastic...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Nest That Wren Built'

"The Nest That Wren Built" by Randi Sonenshine, Anne Hunter

★★★★★ In imitation of the classic poem “The House That Jack Built” this book’s text begins: “These are the twigs, dried in the sun,/that papa collected one by one/to cradle the nest that Wren built.” The rhythmic tone continues in the text while on each page a different natural scene unfolds. More and more elements are added to the nest—even a snakeskin and...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Small Spaces'

"Small Spaces" by Katherine Arden

★★★★ After the recent loss of her mom, Ollie is just trying escape into a world of books. When she stumbles upon a woman trying to throw a book into the river, she rescues it and becomes entranced by what she soon discovers is a journal that spins quite the creepy tale. On a school field trip, the haunting pages of the journal suddenly seem only too real, and...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Dark Lord Clementine'

"The Dark Lord Clementine" by Sarah Jean Horwitz

★★★★ Being evil has never come naturally to Clementine, the daughter of the Dark Lord Elithor. Clementine, who prefers flowers and sunshine to darkness, wakes up one morning to find her father literally whittling away. Clementine needs to keep the family farm running, while her father locks himself away in his laboratory to find a cure for the curse put...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Girl and the Wolf'

"The Girl and the Wolf" by Katherena Vermette

★★★★★ The Girl and the Wolf by Katherena Vermette is a wonderful retelling of the classic Red Riding Hood tale. With gorgeous illustrations and lyrical dialogue, Vermette walks you through the woods as a little girl who has wandered too far and finds herself alone and lost. A wolf comes upon her, and what follows is a twist on the original...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Puss Jekyll Cat Hyde'

"Puss Jekyll Cat Hyde" by Joyce Dunbar

★★★★★ Puss Jekyll is the perfect pet, cuddly and sweet, but she has a secret. At night she becomes Cat Hyde, mischievous hunter of small critters, not an ideal house pet. How can these two distinct personalities coexist in one furry cat body? Puss Jekyll lounges in the sun, warming her paws, while Cat Hyde prowls the streets wreaking havoc. What trouble will...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, read-alouds, picture book, animals

Cover: 'Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts'

"Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts" by Esta Spalding

★★★★★ Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts is a book you feel like you’ve dreamed up. Its realistic elements are: the four Fitzgerald-Trout children need to go to school, they need to eat, they need to do laundry and - most importantly - they need a better place to live. Its fantastical twist is: they have two terrible mothers and two (or three) awful fathers...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'A Boy Called Bat'

"A Boy Called Bat" by Elana K. Arnold

★★★★★ Nine year-old Bixby Alexander Tam - also known as Bat - loves animals, struggles to get along with his big sister, and also happens to be on the autism spectrum.  Author Elana K. Arnold allows us to experience Bat’s world first hand, and we find ourselves rooting for Bat as he cares for an orphaned baby skunk and learns to navigate his first friendship...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Guinea Dog'

"Guinea Dog" by Patrick Jennings

★★★★ Rufus really wants to get a dog but his father won't even consider it. Then his mom brings home a guinea pig. She runs, fetches, sits and even plays Frisbee! Rufus and Fido have a number of funny adventures. We have guinea pigs and I wish they were trained like Fido! This book is a great read-together bedtime story for kids and their...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Sad Little Fact'

"The Sad Little Fact" by Jonah Winter

★★★★★ This book allows its readers to meet the Sad Little Fact and many other little facts along the way. The Sad Little Fact lives in a world in which facts are dismissed and ultimately deemed "fake," then thrown away. The authorities of the world declare that lies are facts, and the world grows dark and dreary. However, hope is on the horizon as...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Cook and the King'

"The Cook and the King" by Julia Donaldson, David Roberts

★★★★ In this new fairy tale, a hungry king needs to find a cook. After trying many cooks and rejecting them all, he ends up with Wobbly Bob. The king then asks for his favorite dish—fish and chips—but Wobbly Bob is “terribly scared” about every aspect of food preparation. The king looks sympathetically on the shaking cook and helps him to prepare the meal....

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Dress and the Girl'

"The Dress and the Girl" by Camille Andros

★★★★★ There is a little girl who wears a dress. The dress and the girl experience a lot together, like playing and exploring, until one day they travel to a new country together to find a better life. The dress and the girl get unexpectedly separated when getting off of the boat in their new county; the dress in a trunk and the girl moving on in her...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Remember Balloons'

"The Remember Balloons" by Jessie Oliveros

★★★★★ James is a little boy whose memories are represented by balloons, as are Grandpa's memories.  James loves talking to Grandpa and sharing balloons.  But one day, Grandpa doesn't have as many balloons, and his favorite balloon, the silver balloon is floating above his head.  James questions why the balloons are floating away.  This is such...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction

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