Book of the Week: Smile!

Smile! by Leigh Hodgkinson

Published: 2009 by Balzer + Bray

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

I love the turquoise colored end papers. The shade of turquoise is so deep, lush, rich. Any of those adjectives would greatly describe the end papers.

Speaking of the end papers, the illustrations of various animals and objects – – animals, flowers, robots – – adorned on them are not only adorable, but extremely funny. And they all have something in common: they’re not smiling ūüė¶

I particularly love the frowning whale.

I love how bright this book is! From bright lemon yellow to hot pink, almost every color is accounted for.

This book not only shows the importance of smiling, but also how easy it is to lose one’s smile.

Main character Sunny has lost her smile, and she’s searching high and low. I love how determined this small heroine is.

I really liked how this book shows that being happy is an important emotion, and how being happy effects not only one’s emotional state, but every aspect of one’s life.

Sunny’s faithful companion is a dog … a weenie dog!

I feel that this book illustrates that children have things that concern and worry them. Just because a person is small, doesn’t mean that life doesn’t affect them or exclude them from the messy bits.

Sunny is a smart and logical girl. A girl who readers will quickly relate to.

I love the illustrations that fill the pages. They’ve often oversized, and look as if a kid drew them. That’s not saying that there isn’t any skill.

I love that the pictures look like a kid drew them. The illustrations are invite both young and old readers in.

Certain words are underlined. I think that design element can really help kids learn to spell long words.

This book shows  the importance of remembering, of keeping memories alive.

The book uses words like “UN-Higgledy-piggledy”.

Sunny’s goldfish looks like one ticked off fish. It’s actually kind of funny. And to make it all the more funnier – the fish’s name is Glittergills!

I want a fish named Glittergills.

I like how Sunny thinks that someone stole her smile. In all serious, I think it’s so possible for someone to steal a smile. I like how this book points them out.

The story points out that smiles are unique to the individual, and that our smiles make us unique.

There’s an illustration in the book, a planet with a small house turning upside down. It reminds me of something out of the Little Prince. And anything that reminds me of the Little Prince is great in my book.

Author Leigh Hodgkinson has an eye for detail. Kids won’t only appreciate that, but will notice those small details. Like the fact that Sunny’s mom is wearing green eyeshadow.

Sunny realizes that even if you’re not smiling doesn’t mean you’re not happy. Sometimes smiles go away cause you’re simply content, and it only takes something you love to bring that smile again.

The story points out a frown really is a smile turned upside down.

I love the very last illustration of the book: Sunny and her family sitting at the table, enjoying a family meal. I like that it ends on that note, showing the importance of a family dinner.

I love the writing. It’s crisp yet whimsical. ¬†And I love how the illustrations and the writing complement each other.





Matched by Ally Condie

For as long as Cassia could remember The Society has never been wrong. It has never made a mistake, especially when it comes to matching individuals. It has always operated smoothly and perfectly.

So when she’s matched with best friend Xander she’s not only happy, but she’s also relieved. Some part of her has always known that she and Xander were perfect for each other. So when The Society confirms it, she knows she’s always been right.

Until the day after her matched ceremony. The day she placed the microchip in the port to learn even more about the boy she has always called best friend, Xander. For a split second though Xander’s picture does not flash across the port screen like it’s supposed to. Instead Ky Markham’s face flashes before her eyes, sending Cassia’s mind and entire life in a whirlwind.

As she learns more and more about Ky she starts to, not only learn more about who she is, but also questions The Society and the life it has offered her up until this point. Cassia soon realizes that even though The Society has given her, her friends, and her family so much, it has also taken so much away.

It’s taken away free thought and other freedom’s that Cassia longs to taste. For the first time in her life Cassia doesn’t know who she’s meant to be with. Does she choose the boy she’s always known and loved, or does she choose the boy who has awakened emotions within her she didn’t even know existed? Does she choose the boy The Society has deems a suitable match, or the boy she deems suitable? And will The Society let her choose?

Matched, book one of the Matched trilogy, is written by author Ally Condie. Matched is a full-fledged dystopian novel that will keep readers entertained and engaged.

Condie has a way with, not only words, but also story building. Matched is an atmospheric read that will let readers see and hear The Society and every aspect of Cassia’s life and world. Condie’s writing is spot on. No sentence drags, but rather flows fluently. And her character’s are fantastic.

They are deep, complex creatures who reader’s will find realistic and relatable. Cassia is a strong protagonist who, when push comes to shove, thinks for herself and questions the life that The Society has forced upon her. She’s smart, strong-willed, and passionate – three characteristics reader’s want in a heroine. Ky is yet another strong character. Beyond that he adds an extra layer of mystery. Readers will be attracted to Ky’s alluring qualities, and will instantly want to know why this boy is so important to Cassia, even though he isn’t supposed to be.

Matched is evenly paced. Moments are fast paced. Those moments were action packed moments that kept readers wanting – craving – more. Other parts were slower paced, building tension and answering questions along the way. Whether fast paced or slow-paced, there was a great balance to the overall book. Condie has a way of creating an undeniable tautness that reader’s will thrive upon.

Even though Matched is a great read, there is one pitfall. At least for me. That one pitfall was that it was a bit predictable. Admittedly, from the get go I did not see what was coming, but by the time I fully understood Cassia’s world, I pretty much figured out what was going to happen. Even though there were predictabilities, it was still a fun and fulfilling read.

Book of the Week: Lost & Found

Lost & Found by Shaun Tan

Published: 2011 by Arthur A. Levine Books

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book Of the Week:

Let me just mention the end papers – readers won’t be able to pull their eyes away. There’s so much going on, but not in an overwhelming way.

I love how author Shaun Tan blends soft, muted, almost overcast illustrations with bright, catchy, and passionate ones. Readers will experience the best of both worlds.

Tans incredible stories featured in this book, reflect the styles of his illustrations. Soft, suble, bright, and passionate.

I love how I found this book in the picture book section of my library – yet it is broken down into three chapters, featuring three very different stories.

I love how the three stories featured within the pages reflect the title. All the stories feature something both lost and found.

The Red Tree is the first story, and quite possibly my favorite one in the whole book.

The main character in this story is nameless. I know I said this once before, but I’ll say it again, I love nameless characters because I feel that it allows the readers to really identify with the characters, to let them see themselves in characters.

I love the emotions this story evoked.

This story shows that children too face both good and bad days. That even though they are small, and may not have as much as an adult on their plates doesn’t mean that they don’t worry, or stress out, or get a bad case of the blues.

The illustrations are thought provoking. I especially love the illustration of the young girl sitting inside a glass bottle, with a deep sea divers helmet on.

This story, along with the other two featured in Lost & Found, don’t underestimate children’s ability to understand profound artwork.

I love how some of Tan’s illustrations had a collage-styled ¬†feel.

Readers, both young and old, will sympathize with the character in this story.  Both children and adults know and understand the feelings of isolation, finding who you are or who you are meant to be, feelings of trouble crashing down upon ones shoulders.

It seems that The Red Tree is a story of dispair, but really it’s a story of positivity, of hope.

I shows that there is always a silver lining to every bad day.  And that bad days are inevitable.

I love how the stories fad seamlessly into the next. And also how the pages between stories reflect the coming story. For example, before the second story, The Lost Thing, two pages are full of bottle cap illustrations.

Even though one of the main characters in the second story is a thing it’s relatable. We’ve all been lost at some point or another – figuratively and literally speaking.

While reading this, I remember the one time I was lost (actually, literally lost). I felt the same way as The Lost Thing felt – scared, alone, and yet hopeful that I wouldn’t be lost much longer.

I love how this story has a real steam punk feel. It’s industrial, yet soft.

I love how the main character has a bottle cap collection, and he carries around a book called “What Bottle Top Is That? 4th Edition”.

I especially love Tan’s eye for detail.

The Lost Thing looks like a teapot with legs and arms. It will make readers laugh, even if it isn’t a laugh out loud kind of story.

I love the character Pete, he’s real mellow and laid back. I especially love how he and main character sit upon the roof discussing life’s big questions.

I think this story shows that there’s always a place for us, a place we feel safe, where we belong, where we feel most at home.

The narrator says that this story of The Lost Thing isn’t exceptionally profound, but it is.

I love how the third story is a story written by someone other than Tan, but somehow Tan made it his own.

Especially in the last story – The Rabbits – the illustrations are intricate. For example one illustration depicts a mountain range in the desert, but upon closer inspection, there’s a sinister looking snake present. And not one, but a whole pile of them that resemble a rock pile.

I love how this story is all about changes – both good and bad. And the natural progression that change brings with it.

Since this is a bold story, and the illustrations reflect that. There are lush golds, and deep blues, bold, fiery red. The illustrations really are breathtaking!

I especially love the illustrations of the rabiles and the rats eating the lizards.

I love how The Rabbits is a serious, yet fun story.

I also love how this story have an industrial feel to it.

The writing is crisp, and smart.

The illustrations will stroke one’s imaginations.

Readers will not be disappointed in this book.

Small Celebrations (Giveaway!!!)

On April 3rd, 2010 a review of The Mozart Question by Michael Morpurgo was posted on this very blog. The review is very special to me, as it marks the official start of The BookBandit Blog. That little review, no matter how bad or good it was, made me a reviewer and a blogger.

I have been blogging steadily for two full years. I know, two years isn’t a long time, but to me it’s a real feat. I’ve had several blogs previous to this one, and never followed through on any one of them. Maybe I felt awkward at throwing my personal, private thoughts out there to the entire world. Maybe I felt there was no purpose to it, that no one would actually want to read the ramblings of a Jersey girl. Maybe because I had no clear thought or direction of where I wanted the blog to go, what I wanted to give to it and what I wanted to get from it.

The BookBandit Blog is different. I’ve stuck with it, and it became something I’m proud of. It became something that is a part of me. It became something that I’m whole heartedly passionate about.

Though it I found out that I love, not only reading, but also reviewing everything (or almost everything) I read. ¬†It’s been two years and I feel like not only have I grown, but so has this blog. And so has my reviewing skills. Or at least I ¬†like to think that.

I have (obviously) gotten so much out of running this blog. ¬†I hope that my readers/subscribers have gotten something out of it to. With that I just want to say Thank You to everyone who has read, commented, and participated in any way this blog. The BookBandit Blog wouldn’t ¬†have lived to see its two-year blog-iversary .

As a Thank You to all your readers and followers I thought it would be nice to host a giveaway.

I’m giving two lucky winners the chance to win one of two prize packs. This giveaway will be open from Thursday April 5, 2012 (noon) until April 12, 2012 (noon). Two winners will be selected randomly through a random number generator and will be contacted on by April 13, 2012. ¬†Winners will be notified via e-mail. Winners will have two days to reply to e-mail and claim prize. If no response is received new winner(s) will be selected.

What’s up for grabs?

Prize Pack # 1 Includes:

A (used) copy of The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan and a (used) ARC of Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick (please be aware that the ARC of Ashes has a loose page, but it is NOT missing any pages).

Prize Pack # 2 Includes: 

A (used) copy of Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles and a (used) ARC of Wither by Lauren DeStefano.

To enter this giveaway simply leave a comment on THIS blog post. Comment telling me what you would like to see from this blog, and what prize pack you want to win. When commenting please make sure to leave a VALID E-MAIL ADDRESS!  You DO NOT have to subscribe to this blog. However if you do, you will receive one extra entry.

Again, Thank You for making this a successful two years. And Good Luck!


Book of the Week: Extra Yarn

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett Illustrated by Jon Klassen

Published: 2012 by  Balzer & Bray

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

I love how soft-spoken this book is. It’s not full of flashy images, proving that all children need is a great, solid story to enjoy reading.

I love how the colors of the book go from muted before main character Annabelle found the yarn filled box, to lively after uncovering it’s wonderous insides.

It shows children the joys of crafting.

Knitting is a craft of the past that is quickly making a comeback. I like how this book proves that.

This book makes me want to learn to knit, to learn to do something new, interesting, and fun.  It also reminds me of my best friend who has discovered knitting and loves it!

This book shows kids that possibilities are endless – and not just when it comes to knitting.

Main character Annabelle is a giving person. She doesn’t just knit sweaters for herself and her faithful dog, Mars , but she goes on to knit something for everyone and everything in her small town.

With her knitted wear Annabelle single-handedly brightens up the town.

I love how this book has a villain – it’s a true good versus evil kind of story.

No matter how much she’s offered Annabelle refuses to give up the box of yarn. I love how this shows children to stand their ground, and never give up on something you love.

It also shows that money can’t buy everything you want and need in this life.

For me, as a reader, the yarn-filled box represents everlasting love and happiness. That’s why when the villain archduke steals it, he does not get what he wants.

The writing is spectacular. Readers can see the imagination it took to create such a great storyline.

The illustrations are the perfect complement to the writing. They really bring the story to life.

I love how the writing and the illustrations complement each other, one never outshining the other. But equally working together.

I loved how even though this was a children’s picture book, it was smart and mature. It doesn’t underestimate children.

This book is as much for adults as it is children. ¬†It’s the kind of book I would love to own and include in my own personal collection.

I especially love the very last image on the very last page. Not only are all the animals wearing a knitted sweater but so is the tree they are sitting upon.