Review: Monkey See Monkey Zoo by Erin Soderberg


Title: Animal Tales: Monkey See, Monkey Zoo

Author: Erin Soderberg

Publisher:  Bloomsbury

ISBN: 978-1599905570


May Contain Spoilers


This is a fun MG read, with a spunky protagonist and her goofy little sidekick.  Willa lives in the Monkey Pit at the zoo.  She loves her family and friends, and she also loves her trinkets.  She climbs up to the ledge of the enclosure when humans drop little treasures, and she cherishes each new find.  Her mother isn’t so enamored, and she thinks it’s dangerous for Willa to climb up on the ledge.  She forbids her from ever doing it again!  Of course, Willa just can’t resist, and when a young human, Carter, leaves his treasure outside the enclosure, Willa escapes so she can return his backpack.

I love books with animals, and this one did not disappoint.  Willa is very clever, but sometimes she is a little too clever for her own good!  She is intensely curious about what it’s like outside of the Monkey Pit, so when she has the opportunity to go exploring, she jumps at the chance.  Literally.  What she forgets to think about is how she is going to get back home!  Ever intent on her mission, though, Willa puts that frightening thought out of her mind and instead tries to maneuver through the scary world of humans to find Carter. 

The world outside of the zoo is more dangerous than Willa could have imagined, but she bravely continues on her journey.  Along the way, she meets up with a scatterbrained chipmunk. I thought he was so cute!  True to flighty chipmunk behavior, his awful jokes and frenzied antics occasionally drive Willa nuts, but since he’s the only friendly face she’s encountered, she learns to deal with him and his silly behavior.  She probably shouldn’t have put so much faith in him, though.  He is utterly clueless, and his sense of direction is worse than hers.

Animal Tales: Monkey See, Monkey Zoo is a fun read with likeable characters who cheerfully get into so much trouble!  Reading along as they get out of it is very entertaining.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: The Samantha Granger Experiment: Fused by Kari Lee Townsend


Title: The Samantha Granger Experiment: Fused

Author: Kari Lee Townsend

Publisher: Sourcebooks

ISBN: 9781402240423


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

When you make a face or cross your eyes, do your parents tease that if you’re not careful, your face might stay that way forever?

Well, my parents said that if I’m not careful, I’ll turn into one of my gadgets.

I thought they were joking, people!

But-somehow, someway-I have become a living, breathing, walking piece of technology. Apparently my head now has a built-in GPS and my palm is equipped with talking and texting capabilities-just like my cell phone!

Now I’m a techno-superhero with powers that seem to have a mind of their own. And, in my case, keeping a secret identity is harder than it sounds. I short-circuit every time Trevor Hamilton looks my way.

Like being a girl isn’t stressful enough.


This is a really cute read.  Samantha is a fun protagonist.  Her parents have decided to call it quits with their marriage, and she is having a hard time dealing with their separation.   To make matters worse, her mother has dragged her from her old friends and her old school to a new home, thinking that she can keep a better eye on her only child.  Little does her mom know how much trouble the gadget loving Samantha is going to get herself into on the way home from her friend’s house!

Samantha comes across a mysterious crystal in the woods, and faster than you can say “Boo!” she’s been fused with her fancy new cell phone.  Now, not only is her mother going to kill her for ruining her new toy, but she’s going to be so annoyed that Sam has been turned into a super hero.  Fighting crime certainly can’t be a safe pastime!

With her newfound abilities, Samantha has a dilemma.  She is compelled to help others, especially when she experiences an emotional jolt – like every time she talks to Trevor Hamilton!  Merely speaking to the cutie sends a shock to her system, which forces her new powers into action.  She is mortified when she loses control of her body and has to go save someone in distress.  As if talking to guys wasn’t nerve-wracking enough!

Samantha’s narrative is engaging and amusing, as she tries to piece together the weird things that are happening to her.  It’s not so bad having a computer for a brain when she’s taking a test, but it really puts a damper on things when she’s trying to flirt with Trevor.  Keeping her superhero life a secret from her family isn’t a picnic, either, and when a bunch of thugs keep trying to capture her, things start to get out of hand. 

The Samantha Granger Experiment: Fused is a quick, lively read, with a spirited heroine who doesn’t know how to give up.  The blend of comedy and action makes this a fun book.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Ugly Duckling’s Love Revolution Vol 1 by Yuuki Fujinari


Title: Ugly Duckling’s Love Revolution Vol 1

Author: Yuuki Fujinari

Publisher:  Yen Press

ISBN: 978-0759531758


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Everything is pretty average about Hitomi; she’s an average student, has an average brother, average looks …the only thing that makes her stand out is her weight. Weighing in at 220lbs, she’s no elegant swan. But this wasn’t always the case! When she was younger, she would take part in children’s beauty contests and bring home all sorts of prizes. It was only when her sweet tooth took over that she gained all the weight. So when Hitomi moves into her older brother’s apartment, she discovers that his neighbours are the five hottest boys at her school! And when they decide to get Hitomi back to her cute and pretty roots by helping her stay away from sweets and lose weight, it’s a recipe …for disaster!


This random collection of episodic chapters left me perplexed.  I’m not sure what to think of it, and I found the presentation bland, uninteresting, and the more I think about it, insulting.  The characters are all cookie cutouts, and they are boring, boring, boring.  Not one of them has a personality worth remembering.  Hitomi, the overweight protagonist, is as sweet as they come, but she is portrayed as an uninteresting blob.  While all of the pretty boys are drawn with precise details, Hitomi is a caricature, a round, fluffy, shapeless blob.  The other overweight character, Tooru, is also drawn as an unattractive lump. 

The more I think about this book, the more annoyed I get.  Plot? There isn’t one.  Hitomi tiptoes around school, trying her hardest not to offend anybody with her mere presence.  She’s friends with all of the pretty boys, but because she is drawn with no appeal what so ever, there’s not even a glimmer of attraction between any of them.  It’s like Hitomi is their mascot, like she’s some weird animal that everyone wants to pat on the head.

Somewhere along the way, she starts exercising, by swimming and picking up trash during cleanup duty.  She berates herself for craving sweets, and wonders why she is such a bother to everyone around her.  Everyone but her brother, that is.  He has a sister complex that I think is supposed to add some comedy to the book, but falls flat for me.

I don’t know where the series is going to go, but with the first volume, I am unimpressed with the message that I am getting.  Why does Hitomi have to change in order to be attractive to these guys.  Some of them are very shallow and aren’t worth her attentions.  Why does Hitomi have to be a big, blobby lump?  Why can’t she sparkle because of what’s inside, instead of what’s on the outside?

Grade: C-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Binky to the Rescue by Ashley Spires


Title: Binky to the Rescue

Author: Ashley Spires

Publisher:  Kids Can Press

ISBN: 978-1554535972


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

While in hot pursuit of an alien invader (a bug), Binky accidentally falls out the space station porthole (bathroom window) and finds himself in outer space (outside) for the very first time. But just as Binky begins to explore, he discovers that his copilot, Ted (stuffed mousie), is trapped beneath an enemy warship (wasps’ nest)! Binky must rescue Ted from the clutches of these evil aliens. Will he be able to save his best friend? Can Ted survive his ordeal? Does Binky still suffer from space gas? This book will delight graphic novel readers of all ages.


Binky’s back!!  This time around, he takes on an alien warship (wasps’ nest) to save his humans and his best friend Ted. When a mission goes awry and Binky is separated from his loyal copilot Ted, it’s time to take off the kid gloves!  The aliens aren’t going to get away with holding the stuffed mousie prisoner, and Binky will put himself in grave danger to rescue his friend.

LOL!  I just love this series, and I can hardly wait for more.  Binky rocks!  He is so dedicated to keeping the space station free of alien intruders, and every day is an exhausting battle to dispatch the sneaky invaders.  When an accident propels him out into space, Binky has to think fast.  There’s no oxygen or gravity, and his clever solutions to these little problems had me laughing.  Loudly.  The whole book pretty much had me in stitches, and that’s not such an easy thing to do.  After all, I don’t have a sense of humor, don’t ya know?

The art once again elevate Binky’s adventures to high levels of amusement, and Ashley Spires captures wonderfully expressive drawings in every panel.  Binky may not say much, but with those charming illustrations, he doesn’t have to.  Every emotion is clearly evident as they flicker across his football shaped head.

If you haven’t read Binky the Space Cat or Binky to the Rescue, give yourself a little treat this holiday season and check them out.  You will be rolling on the floor in fits of laughter.  Resistance is futile.  (Hey, if it worked for the Borg, it will work for Binky!)  Bring on his next adventure!

Grade: A-

Review copy obtained from my local library

Review: Guinea Dog by Patrick Jennings


Title: Guinea Dog

Author: Patrick Jennings

Publisher: Egmont USA

ISBN: 978-1606840535


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Rufus has been dreaming of getting a dog. His best friend has one. His worst friend has one. But his dad has a few objections: They whine. They gnaw. They bark. They scratch. They beg. They drool.

Rufus pays no attention when his mom offers her think-outside-the-box suggestion, because she can’t be serious. She can’t be.

She can be. And she actually comes home with a guinea pig. And if Rufus’s dad thinks dogs are a problem, he won’t know what hit him when he meets the Guinea Pig that Thinks She’s a Dog. She barks. She bites. She’ll eat your homework.


I connected with Rufus from the first page.  All he wants is a dog.  Surely that’s not to much to ask!  He’s a good kid who tries to stay out of trouble, so why can’t he have his dog?

This is where the conflicts in Rufus’ life are explored.  His dad now works at home, and he is having a problem adjusting to his work at home status.  He is a neat freak, he doesn’t like to hear a lot of noise, and he doesn’t like strangers in his house.  He is so anal, in fact, that poor Rufus feels uncomfortable in his own home.  It’s his dad who is putting his foot down about the dog, because dogs are noisy, messing, and need attention.  Rufus and his father constantly clash about the dog question, when his mother comes up with what she thinks is a good solution.

What’s his mother’s great idea?  She brings home a guinea pig for Rufus.  A guinea pig!? What self-respecting boy is going to want a guinea pig for a pet?!  Rufus wants a dog!  A D.O.G.!  Why don’t the adults in his life understand that?  A furry rodent is not going to take the place of a dog in his life!

This is a fun read about expectations, and how they sometimes have to change.  When I was Rufus’ age, all I wanted was a dog (ok, I wanted a pony, too).  I sympathized with him right away.  When he receives Fido, the guinea pig, instead of a dog, he is beyond dismayed.  A goofy little rat-like thing is so not a dog.  When Fido turns the household upside down with her unexpected behavior, Rufus learns to look at things in a new light.  His friends, the boy he doesn’t get along with, even the weird girl in class make him stop and think about things in a new way.  Maybe the people he doesn’t like aren’t really all that bad.  Maybe having a guinea pig instead of a dog isn’t all that bad.  Rufus exhibits convincing character development, which in turn helps him to understand and get along with his dad. 

Guinea Dog is a humorous MG read about finding the good in what at first seems like a bad situation.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires


Title: Binky the Space Cat

Author: Ashley Spires

Publisher:  Kids Can Press

ISBN: 978-1554534197


May Contain Spoilers


This book is hilarious!  I love Binky and his determination to save his humans from aliens, aka bugs.  He is so concerned about the safety of his humans that he becomes a card carrying member of F.U.R.S.T., or Felines of the Universe Ready for Space Travel.  He trains hard, he studies hard, and he devotes his every effort to protecting his humans from alien domination.  There’s only one problem – he’s never been outside of the space station, otherwise known as the family house.  Priceless!

This graphic novel is so much fun, and it really helped to brighten my day.  Told with humorous text and comical illustrations, Binky’s adventures are not to be missed.  From his incredibly plump and oddly shaped body, to his cute little mousie companion, Ted, Ashley Spires’ art delights and enchants. Binky gets himself into just enough trouble to keep the laughs coming and to keep his antics fresh and amusing. 

Grade: A

Review copy obtained from my local library

Review: Luv Ya Bunches – A Flower Power Book by Lauren Myracle


Title: Luv Ya Bunches

Author: Lauren Myracle

Publisher: Amulet Books

ISBN: 978-0810989825


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

What do Katie-Rose, Yasaman, Milla, and Violet have in common? Other than being named after flowers, practically nothing. Katie-Rose is a film director in training. Yasaman is a computer whiz. Milla is third in command of the A list. And Violet is the new girl in school. They’re fab girls, all of them, but they sure aren’t friends. And if evil queen bee Medusa—’scuse me, Modessa—has her way, they never will be. But this is the beginning of a new school year, when anything can happen and social worlds can collide . . .

Told in Lauren Myracle’s inventive narrative style—here a fresh mix of instant messages, blog posts, screenplay, and straight narrative—Luv Ya Bunches has been called “enticing” by Publishers Weekly and received a starred review from Booklist, which called it “a fun, challenging, and gently edifying story.”

When I saw this book at the library, I had to take it home for further examination.  I love the size and shape of it and the cover graphics.  There was another thing that drew me to the book; the variety of fonts, their different colors, and the avatars at the beginning of each chapter.  For someone who loves graphics in a book, this one offered up a surprising abundance of interior textures and eye-catches.

The story isn’t as cutting edge, but it was humorous and it held my attention.  Katie-Rose really, really wants to be friends with Milla, but Milla is best buddies with queen bee Modessa.  Katie-Rose and Modessa don’t exactly see eye to eye, and when she accidently calls her tormentor Medusa, the battle lines are drawn.  Will Katie-Rose survive the 5th grade?

While I liked all of the main characters, I could not understand why Katie-Rose wanted to be friends with Milla so badly.  Let’s face it – Milla did not treat her very well whenever she was around Modessa and Quinn.  While Katie-Rose is perky and charismatic, Milla has no backbone and is just a sheep following after the queen bee.  I was disappointed with her behavior, especially at how long it took her to see Modessa for who she really was – a mean, petty bully.  It’s not like Modessa treated her any better than she treated Katie-Rose; she put mud in her milk shake for goodness sake!  What kind of buddy is that?

The other two girls who made up the flower power group were Yasaman and Violet, and I liked them a lot! Especially Yasaman.  She’s smart, respectful of other people’s feelings, and, like Katie-Rose, she really, really wants a friend.  Violet’s life has been turned upside and she’s the new kid at school.  She just wants to blend into the woodwork more than anything else, but Modessa and Quinn won’t let her.  Now she has to decide whether or not to become one of Modessa’s flunkies, or stay true to herself and be friends with Katie-Rose.

Though there’s not a lot of new ground covered, Luv Ya Bunches is a fun book about misunderstandings, a missing bobble-head turtle,  and the pressure of trying to fit in and find friends.  Told through prose, chat room transcripts, and short scripts, the story-telling methodology is different, and it enhanced my enjoyment of the book.  The next book in the series hits stores in October, and I’m curious to see what kind of trouble the girls have to deal with in the future.

Grade: B

Review copy obtained from the library

Review: Katie Kazoo Switcheroo: Horsing Around by Nancy Krulik


Title: Katie Kazoo Switcheroo: Horsing Around

Author: Nancy Krulik

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

ISBN: 978-0448446776


May Contain Spoilers

Bet you can guess why I picked this book up!  Yup,  there’s a girl riding a horse on the cover.   I didn’t know anything about Katie Kazoo, and even though this is the 30th volume, I didn’t need to.  The story and characters are very accessible.  You get all of the information you need to enjoy the story during the read, including an introduction to a surprising number of characters, and even though the book is only 76 pages, all of information didn’t seem overwhelming or slow the pace of the narrative.

Katie has learned the unpleasant consequences of wishes. Ever since she made a wish in the third grade, a magic wind that turns her into someone else seems to follow her around and presto-chango her at the worst time possible.  She has gotten most of her friends into trouble because of it, but she can’t explain why they suddenly did weird things, because nobody would believe her!  When she is invited to a horse show, the worse possible scenario happens; she turns into her friend’s pony!  Humorous chaos ensues. 

This was a light, fluffy read.  I am always curious about how authors describe horsey events and horsey care, and though I question the scene where Becky leaves Brownie unattended in the warm-up ring (there is about a zero percent chance of this happening at the shows I go to!), Becky’s description of the dreaded and boring (for me) Showmanship class was spot on.

The characters are lively, with diverse personalities that don’t always get along.  Katie finds herself playing the peace- maker several times.  I liked Katie, and I thought that the character interactions were a lot of fun.  The illustrations are cartoony and fit the tone of the story perfectly. 

Grade: B

Review copy obtained from the library