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Staff Reviews: For Children

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: 'The Thing About Jellyfish'

"The Thing About Jellyfish" by Ali Benjamin

★★★★★ It doesn’t make sense. How could it happen? She’s sick of hearing people say “some things just happen.” It isn’t really a reason. For a scientific thinker like seventh-grader Suzy Swanson, there has to be an explanation. Franny Jackson, her twelve year-old best friend, was an excellent swimmer, so how could she have just drowned? Bit by bit, through many...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat'

"A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat" by Emily Jenkins, Sophie Blackall

★★★★★ This is one of the best picture books that I have read in a long time! Just as the title suggests, the book follows one recipe for Blackberry Fool through different centuries and families. The recipe is generally made the same in each family, however, the technology used and family preparing the recipe are vastly different. Historically this book shows...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book, historical fiction

Cover: 'A Curious Tale of the In-Between'

"A Curious Tale of the In-Between" by Lauren DeStefano

★★★★ Pram Bellamy lives with her two aunts in a home for the elderly which they manage. Her mother died under strange circumstances in childbirth, and all she was told about her father is that he was a sailor. She’s been homeschooled and has no friends except for a ghost named Felix near the pond. As far as she knows she has always been able to see and talk to...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Ice Dogs'

"Ice Dogs" by Terry Lynn Johnson

★★★★★ "Ice Dogs" is a very well written adventure book for tweens. The story is told from 14 year-old Victoria Secord's point of view, and follows her adventure of being lost in the Alaskan Wilderness. Victoria has grown up in Alaska and has been around dogsled racers most of her life. Following the death of her dad she takes to the races. While out on a run she...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, action adventure

Cover: 'The Nonsense Show'

"The Nonsense Show" by Eric Carle

★★★★ It’s a fun, upside-down world in this new picture book that's full of nonsense by Eric Carle. A boy is pulled from a hat by a rabbit magician, a bird is living in an aquarium and a fish in a cage, a human baby is in a kangaroo's pouch, mice are catching cats, a man is living in a dog house and more. It’s all of course in good fun. With classic, colorful,...

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

Cover: 'Seven Dead Pirates'

"Seven Dead Pirates" by Linda Bailey

★★★★ “Libertalia. You!” Lewis can’t stop thinking about the two words that his dying Great-Granddad, whispered urgently into his ear. What do they mean? What’s even stranger is that his parents don’t even know. He guesses it may be connected somehow to Shornoway, his Great-Grandad’s sea-side, historic home. To honor the requirements of his Great-Grandad’s will,...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Fog Diver'

"The Fog Diver" by Joel N. Ross

★★★★ Thirteen-year-old Chess lives with his fellow crewmates and friends in the lower mountain slums above the deadly gray fog that has surrounded earth for hundreds of years. He is a tether boy on a raft used for diving into the fog and scavenging in the ruins below for items they can sell or eat. Chess is one of the few people who appears to suffer no ill...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'I'm Trying to Love Spiders'

"I'm Trying to Love Spiders" by Bethany Barton

★★★★★ For the record, I do not like spiders. However, I am trying to pass on a better view of them to my daughter. This book is very helpful for any young reader who would like to unmask the mystery of these sometimes creepy insects. The writing is simple so that anyone can learn about spiders in a fun way. Not only that, but the illustrations do a great job to...

Audience: children | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Thank You and Good Night'

"Thank You and Good Night" by Patrick McDonnell

★★★★ In this sleepy-time picture book, Maggie and her rabbit, Clement are getting ready for bed when Jean and his friend Alan arrive in pajamas. And of course it’s time for a wonderful, surprise pajama party complete with bed jumping, chicken dancing, funny-face contest, hide-and-seek, yoga, food and finally sleep. Maggie reads everyone bed-time stories for...

Audience: children | Genre: fiction, picture book

Cover: 'Crenshaw'

"Crenshaw" by Katherine Applegate

★★★★★ Crenshaw is a humongous, black and white cat who surfs, does tricks, takes bubble baths, speaks words of wisdom and appears when Jackson needs him most. Crenshaw is also imaginary. Jackson, who is almost in fifth grade, is beginning to see all the signs, even though his parents don’t really talk about it. Often there is no food, his parents aren’t able to...

Audience: children, teens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'How to Speak Dolphin'

"How to Speak Dolphin" by Ginny Rorby

★★★★ Lily and her busy stepfather are mourning the recent death of Lily’s mother, leaving Lily with most of the responsibility for caring for her severely autistic 4-year-old stepbrother Adam. Through a visit to Dolphin Inlet, they discover Adam’s affinity and seeming ability to communicate with dolphins and hear about a dolphin therapy program for disabled...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, differing abilities

Cover: 'Fuzzy Mud'

"Fuzzy Mud" by Louis Sachar

★★★★ Walking to and from school together for fifth-grader Tamaya and seventh-grader Marshall is a normal occurrence; walking through the woods is not. No one is supposed to walk through the woods, so when Marshall claims it’s a shortcut and the school bully, Chad shows up, hits Marshall and threatens Tamaya, she throws some of the unnatural, weird-looking fuzzy...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Little Author in the BIg Woods: A BIography of Laura Ingalls Wilder'

"Little Author in the BIg Woods: A BIography of Laura Ingalls Wilder" by Yona Zeldis McDonough, Jennifer Thermes

★★★★★ This new children's biography of perhaps Wisconsin’s most well known and loved author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, is a great addition for all her fans. Written in a plain, simple style it includes most of the facts we know about her and her family. The illustrations by Yona Zeldis McDonough are simple, warm and homey, reminiscent of the illustrations by Garth...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: nonfiction, biography and memoir

Cover: 'The Disappearance of Emily H.'

"The Disappearance of Emily H." by Barrie Summy

★★★★ Attending her fifth new school in yet another new town, after yet another of her mother’s failed relationships, Raine, an eighth-grader, desperately hopes that this school will be her last. Raine possesses a unique gift--she feels and sees sparkles around people that allow her to see their memories. When she discovers that a fellow student named Emily Huvar...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'What Pet Should I Get?'

"What Pet Should I Get?" by Dr. Seuss

★★★★★ In this newly discovered book by Dr. Seuss, a brother and sister are at the pet store trying to decide what pet to get. Of course they can only have one, but all the pets look like so much fun it’s hard to choose just one. The other problem they face is they have a deadline; Mother and Dad said to be home by noon. This may be a “new” Dr. Seuss book, but...

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

Cover: 'Floors'

"Floors" by Patrick Carman

★★★★★ This book for tween boys is full of adventure and mystery. It is based in the Whippet Hotel, an exotic hotel geared for the rich. The main character, Leo, works for the hotel alongside his Dad. When Leo finds the first box, it starts him on an adventure throughout the hotel and the floors between the floors. For parents, there is none of the violence that...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, action adventure

Cover: 'The Sign of the Cat'

"The Sign of the Cat" by Lynne Jonell

★★★★★ Duncan McKay lives with his mother on the island of Arvidia and knows how to speak and understand the language of cats. His fearful mother is full of secrets, including information about his deceased father and mysteriously does not want him to excel at anything. In addition to Duncan’s questions about his identity, kittens on the island are disappearing,...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, action adventure

Cover: 'Woundabout'

"Woundabout" by Lev A. C. Rosen, Ellis Rosen

★★★★ After their parents’ deaths from an explosion at their ranch, Connor, Cordelia and Kip, their pet capybara, are sent to live with their aunt Marigold in the town of Woundabout. They discover that it is an odd city where routine and conformity rule and nothing ever changes. To maintain the status quo the mayor allows very few children to live there since...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'The Imaginary'

"The Imaginary" by A. F. Harrold, Emily Gravett

★★★★★ A.F. Harrold's book "The Imaginary" opens with Christina Rossetti's poem, "Remember," an eloquent plea for the speaker's beloved to remember her after she has died. While readers might be baffled by the author's choice of this poem, those readers who chose to return to the poem after the book ends, will understand exactly what Rosetti and Harrold meant...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Return to Augie Hobble'

"Return to Augie Hobble" by Lane Smith

★★★★★ Augie’s life is like a strange, really bad fairy tale—literally. His parents own an amusement park he works at called Fairy Tale Place which they are struggling to keep going. He is bullied at school, has failed Creative Arts and needs to redo his final project, and the girl he likes barely knows he’s alive. On top of all this, his best friend Britt dies...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'A Handful of Stars'

"A Handful of Stars" by Cynthia Lord

★★★★★ Lily’s dog, Lucky is blind, so when he slips out of his collar and runs across the blueberry barrens in Maine she’s desperately afraid he might get hurt or lost.  That’s how she meets Salma Santiago, daughter of a seasonal migrant worker helping harvest blueberries, who entices Lucky with a peanut butter sandwich and some chips.  They become real...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Lost in the Sun'

"Lost in the Sun" by Lisa Graff

★★★★★ Fifth grade was the worst. Sixth grade could be a fresh start but Trent is sure everyone hates him for what he did—accidentally hit Jared Richards in the chest with a hockey puck and killed him. Trent is having trouble forgiving himself and remains mired in guilt. Things slowly begin to change after he meets Fallon Little, an odd girl with a scar across her...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Castle Hangnail'

"Castle Hangnail" by Ursula Vernon

★★★★ The minions at Castle Hangnail are desperate. In order to keep the castle they love they need a new master for magic and evil responsibilities or the Board of Magic will force closure. But when Molly, who is short and barely 12-years-old, shows up on their doorstep and claims to be a wicked witch, they are doubtful she’s the real thing. While she’s trying...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction, fantasy

Cover: 'The Truth About Twinkie Pie'

"The Truth About Twinkie Pie" by The Truth About Twinkie Pie

★★★★★ 12-year–old Gigi lives with her sister Didi who is a hairstylist in a trailer park. When Didi wins one million dollars in a cooking contest she is able to help realize the big dreams she has for Gigi by moving to Long Island and enrolling her in an upscale high school. Gigi, who hates her name and asks the new kids at school to call her Leia, becomes...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: fiction

Cover: 'Orion and the Dark'

"Orion and the Dark" by Emma Yarlett

★★★★★ This adorable picture book is about a little boy named Orion who is afraid of everything, especially the dark! He tries and tries to find ways to not be afraid but nothing works. One night, he decides to tell the dark to go away. When the dark slips through his window and invites him to have an adventure, Orion learns that he doesn't need to be afraid with...

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

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