A Jewel on Sapphire by Catherine Fitzsimmons
Review 4 star
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A Jewel on Sapphire is a brisk, action-packed chapter book by Catherine Fitzsimmons. Perky young Mia lives on a futuristic space station—the Terran Exoplanetary Outpost—called Sapphire. Mia is actively involved in a fundraiser for her school. But her mother, the station director, is trying to investigate some strange electrical problems that have hit Sapphire. When Mia finds a cute little alien creature that looks a lot like a dragon, she’d do anything to keep it—and pretty soon it looks like she might have to. Ruby the dragon-alien has been causing the station’s power outages. Once Ruby gets sick Mia can’t lie anymore to hide her new friend and there’s still the fundraiser to think about. What will be the consequences?
Very appealing for girls ages 7-10, A Jewel on Sapphire offers good role models and a positive multi-cultural cast. There is strong underlying creativity in the space station’s world so that living on a spinning tube in space feels like real life a girl like Mia might experience on Earth, a noteworthy accomplishment when the situations are so fantastical. Part girl-finds-her-own-dragon tale and part Star Trek for children, Catherine Fitzsimmons’ story is a pleasant book with a delightful feeling of safety. I liked how people on Sapphire look out for each other and that would make me very comfortable giving the book to children. The idea of finding a creature that eats the electricity in a planet’s magnetic field is also tantalizingly inventive, like many things about the world of Sapphire, and a great launching place for kids to start using their own imaginations.
Review 5 star
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The Box: The Adventure of Katie and Karl Wallaroo is a children’s picture book that encourages kids to be imaginative. It is written by Rhonda and Rodney Brooks and stars two little kangaroos, a brother and a sister, who imagine things that come alive. After they are gifted an empty box during playtime, their journey begins. Ladybugs start to fly everywhere. When Katie and Karl close their eyes and wish to see something, it happens! They are transported to a field of strawberries, a pirate ship, a jungle—whatever they ask to see. The box turns into the transportation they need for their journey. Their mother is pleased they are having fun, but she thinks they are just imaginative. But then a ladybug lands on her nose too!
This book is pretty awesome. The ease and immediacy with which children can believe and open their minds is not only a vital learning skill, but an important part of being happy. During The Box: The Adventures of Katie and Karl Wallaroo, the young kangaroos never hold back or limit themselves. Instead, they are boundlessly and flexibly creative. They want to see things and those things appear for them. The sense of adventure—or to be specific, “funventure”—within this tale is tangible and something any kid can relate to instantly. The exuberance of little Karl and Katie is their greatest strength in this pleasant story—the courage to embrace the joy of exploring and having fun. Rhonda and Rodney Brooks have coauthored a good read-aloud book that’s a nice addition to any children’ library.
You Don't Belong Here by Sean O'Toole
Review 4 star
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You Don’t Belong Here is a fun beginner book by Sean O’Toole. It’s a good match for kids who like animal stories and tells the tale of two muskrats who are brothers. When Marty and Manny stray into an older lady’s yard, she feels they are pests because they eat all her vegetables. The pest controller plans to relocate them gently to a distant pond. Marty is caught first and separated from bis brother. Marty is scared, but he soon finds the animals around the pond have problems too. A hooligan raccoon is running around trying to eat them. Marty cleverly confronts the raccoon and gets him to have a new outlook on life. And it might be that acceptance from his new friends isn’t the only good thing that will happen to Marty.
You Don’t Belong Here is noteworthy for its straightforward, in-the-action style of writing and its realism. Animals in fiction often act behave a lot like people, but the characters of this book act very much like real animals as well. Although they can speak and think, their origins as creatures out in the wild are very clear. Marty has just enough humanness to provide a little humor and a little problem-solving too. You Don’t Belong Here could keep a young child genuinely entertained if they have an interest in the wildlife in their backyards or in nearby woods. The most entertaining bits in the story occur when Marty packs a good punch of tough and reasonable while dealing with the bullying raccoon, Ronny. Standing up for yourself should always go hand in hand with solving problems so they don’t happen again, and Sean O’Toole does a commendable job with the moral message in the storytelling. A perky book that stands out from the crowd a little bit.
This is the companion for Sarah Scheele's newsletter blog. In it I share reviews for books I'd recommend/are similar to my own.