Posted in History, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Welcome to the #Dinosaurium!

Dinosaurium, by Lily Murray/Illustrated by Chris Wormell, (April 2018, Candlewick), $35.00, ISBN: 9780763699000

Recommended for readers 7-12

This gorgeous volume from Candlewick imprint Big Picture Press’ “Welcome to the Museum” series is part museum, part archive. Dinosaurium gives readers a tour of the prehistoric world, from the breakup of Pangea, through the dinosaur/prehistoric non-dino eras, to the mass extinction and the survivors.

Dinosaurium presents readers with six galleries and a library (whoo hoo!). Laid out like a museum plan, we enter the book and see a two-page spread of the dinosaur family tree, illustrating how various dinosaurs are related; maps present us with views of the world through each era, and dinosaur exhibits – the artwork – are breathtaking color illustrations, with a view of the dinosaur as it looked when it roamed the earth, and, where applicable, fossil artwork.

I’ve been a Christopher Wormell fan for a while: his Teeth, Tails & Tentacles was on the heavy duty reading rotation when my now 14-year-old was a toddler and preschooler, and I fell in love with his woodcut artwork. Here, his digital engravings lend a museum-like quality to the work; paired with author Lily Murray’s kid-friendly, detailed text, Dinosaurium becomes a book that dino fans will return to again and again. It’s an oversized book, really allowing the illustrations to breathe and take up the space we expect from dinosaurs. The forest-like endpapers give you that “stepping into a primeval forest” feel that comes with walking into a museum exhibit. There’s an index, a word on the curators of this project (author Lily Murray, illustrator Christopher Wormell, and consultant Dr. Jonathan Tennant), and a list of resources for further research and reading.

Dinosaurium is a great gift for dino fans, and a nice add to dinosaur collections. It was originally released in the UK in 2017.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Time Museum has something for everyone – no matter what time you’re from!

time-museum_1The Time Museum, by Matthew Loux, (Feb. 2017, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781596438491

Recommended for ages 8-12

Delia’s the class bookworm, the class nerd… you get the idea. When school’s out for the summer, all her brother wants to do is go swimming, but Delia has found something much more exciting: the possibility of an internship at The Time Museum, courtesy of her Uncle Lyndon! The Time Museum is kind of like the Natural History Museum, but on an Earth-wide basis. All time eras are welcome, as Delia learns when she meets some of the kids she’s competing against for the internship: Michiko, a Japanese girl from 2217; Titus Valerius Marianus, from Ancient Rome; Dex, who’s a Neanderthal, thank you very much, not a caveman; Reggie, a 51st century Canadian boy genius, and Greer, a prickly Scottish girl who’s already been time traveling. As they train for the internship, they must also go through time trials – going back – or forward – in time to find and collect anachronisms. They’ll also learn that working as a team is much harder, but more beneficial, than going it alone.

The Time Museum is a fun middle grade romp for every kid that wants to live Night at the Museum or catches every episode of The Librarians. Whether Delia and her friends are running away from dinosaurs or discovering a robot playing strip poker, there’s something here for everyone to laugh at. There’s a positive message about healthy competition and teamwork going hand in hand, there’s a giant, talking brain, and a super-cool android librarian that uses android cats to fetch books. If I had a library like that, I’d never leave; I’d just hang out at my reference desk, covered in robot kittens.


The Time Museum is a lot of fun, and maybe it’ll turn even reluctant readers into readers who see the fun in history. Add to your graphic novel shelves, and talk this one up with some good, tried and true Geronimo Stilton, our favorite time-traveling journalist mouse. Get out your Time Warp Trio series to create a fun display for everyone.





Posted in Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Book Review: Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick (Scholastic, 2011)

Recommended for ages 9-13

Wonderstruck tells the stories of two different people in two different time frames whose lives converge in an unexpected way. One story is told primarily through words and one through pictures; those familiar with Mr. Selznick’s Caldecott-winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret will recognize his artwork immediately.

The story, alternately told in 1927 and 1977, follows a young, girl named Rose who yearns to leave her New Jersey home and travel to New York City to see her favorite actress and a 12-year old boy, Brian, who is reeling after his mother’s sudden death. New York City, particularly the American Museum of Natural History, plays a major role in the book as we see the stories converge.

Wonderstruck relies as much on Selznick’s artwork as it does his prose in creating this story. The art is detailed and provides a comprehensive narrative on its own; his prose is simply stated and powerful. He weaves these two seemingly unconnected stories together and creates a powerful, emotional tale that readers will not want to put down. It is a love letter to New York City and a loving look at families lost and found.

 Brian Selznick’s novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, won the 2008 Caldecott Medal and has been made into a movie directed by Martin Scorcese. Scholastic’s Wonderstruck website offers features on American Sign Language and constellations, a link to the author’s website, and a sneak peek at the book for those visitors who haven’t gotten the book yet.
Posted in Fiction, Tween Reads

Book Review: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsberg (Athenum Press, 1967)

Recommended for ages 9-12

After reading this Newbery Medal award winner as a child, I wanted to run away and live in the Museum of Natural History. Yes, the museum was different from The Met, where the main characters ran away to, but I wanted to live with dinosaurs.

Claudia is a precocious 11-year old who lives in Connecticut with her family and feels unappreciated and bored. She decides to teach her family a lesson in “Claudia appreciation” and plans to run away. She invites her 9-year old brother, Jamie to go with her because he’s cheap and has money. When he agrees, she sets her elaborate plan in motion, and the two run away and spend a week living in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

While wandering around all of the exhibits, Claudia and Jamie happen upon a new exhibit of Angel, a statue rumored to be one of Michelangelo’s earlier works. Focused on solving the mystery of Angel’s origin, Claudia cannot go home until she has figured it out. She feels that knowing the secret will change her somehow; give her running away a purpose.

 Their search for information takes them all the way to the statue’s previous owner, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, a wealthy widow living in Connecticut. She manages to get the children to tell her where they have been for the past week, and offers them, in return for their story, an hour in her file room where the secret to the statue lives; they are then driven home by her chauffer.

This story is still relevant over 40 years later.  Parts of it may not resonate with new audiences – maybe an 11- and 9-year old wandering the streets of New York City sounds riskier in this day and age – but it is, at heart, a child’s fantasy. What preteen hasn’t felt unappreciated by his or her family and dreamed of running away? This is a New York adventure that boys and girls alike should read and enjoy.

Konigsburg does not speak down to her audience; rather, she details how intelligent Claudia and Jamie are as she details the planning process for running away, their complex hiding arrangements, and their need to stick to a budget. They make mature decisions: Jamie nixes the idea of a bus or a cab for transportation, saying it will eat into their money too quickly; they take care of themselves by bathing in the fountains (and also collecting some of the coins tossed in there to add to their nest egg) and doing their laundry; they strive to learn something every day, despite not being in school.

E.L. Konigsburg received Newbery Medals for From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The View from Saturday; she also received Newbery Honors for Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth. There is a wealth of information about the book online, including discussion guides through Scholastic and the Wake County Library system.