A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to sign up to receive three advanced reader copies of books being published this summer for young readers. I don’t have any children of my own, but I am an auntie– and I have a healthy inner child. I really enjoy reading children’s books!
While working at a local library, I often told people that I was “an equal opportunity reader.” And I meant it! I read everything from kids’ picture books to children’s chapter books to YA to adult stories– and both fiction and non-fiction books (science, space, and history especially). You find the most interesting– and sometimes simply fun— books when you keep an open mind when it comes to reading.
The three advanced reader books that I received were all from Chronicle Books, and I’d like to take a moment to thank Kaitlyn Spotts, Associate Marketing Manager, for providing me with copies of the books to read. Thank you!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the first two books, and I’m looking forward to reading the third (book review coming soon!)!
AstroNuts Mission Two: The Water Planet (AstroNuts #2)
The first of the advanced reader books that I read was “Astro-nuts Mission Two: The Water Planet” which was written by Jon Scieszka and illustrated by Steven Weinberg. The book was a graphic novel and the second in a book series, but they provided enough information in the first few pages for me to be able to enjoy reading the book even though I hadn’t read the first one (yet!).
As the back cover explains, the “Astro-nuts” are four mutant animals that were created by “NNASA (Not-NASA)” for a very important purpose. Since the Earth is currently in crisis (due to pollution and climate change), the team needs to find a new habitable planet for the humans.
First, I have to say– what a fun read! The characters were outrageous (a stink bug super hero, anyone?), and there were numerous laugh out loud moments. I was particularly amused by a lot of the extra details– for instance, there is a hidden message on the copyright page (please, go look for it!). I also enjoyed the page at the end of the book that talks about the writer and illustrator– who, apparently, live across the street from each other. Or at least they did– it all depends on if Steven managed to escape the illustrated fish which is attempting to gobble him up in his photograph… 😉
I also liked how the author and illustrator incorporated real science information and classical artwork into the book. For example, they pause the story to talk about the scientific method and explain to kids the steps involved. I especially liked the section at the end of the book that discussed the original artwork and how Steven Weinberg incorporated it into the graphic novel (using a collage style of illustrating). Once again, it’s educational as it explains to kids what a collage is and highlights both the art and the artists that created the original works. They even provide a link to the Dutch National Museum (Rijksmuseum) and encourage kids to go learn more.
So, to recap: the story was fun, outrageous, and educational– does it get any better than that?
My only critique would be that the underlying message of the book— and the parallels between the clam management of the water planet and the human management of the planet Earth— was a bit heavy handed. Although, I do appreciate the message (and agree with it).
Since the copy I read was an advanced reader edition, most of the pages were in black and white. Unfortunately, the gray-scale “washed out” some of the artwork. There were a few colored pages in the center of the book to provide the reader with a better idea of what the finished product would look like. I have to say that the illustrations looked much, much better in color!
I look forward to reading more about the Astro-nuts in the future! And I intend to track down a copy of book #1…
“Astro-nuts Mission Two: The Water Planet” will be published this month (August 2020) by Chronicle Books.
BenBee and the Teacher Griefer: The Kids Under the Stairs
by: K. A. Holt
The second advanced reader book that I read was “BenBee and the Teacher Griefer” by K. A. Holt. It’s the first book in the “The Kids Under the Stairs” series. This book was a novel, but it does include some drawings and other multi-media material.
As the back of the book explains, the four kids in the book all failed the Language Arts section of a standardized test. As a result, they’re all forced to attend summer school before they retake the test– which the kids call the “FART” (the “Florida Rigorous Academic Assessment Test”).
I absolutely loved reading this book! It’s got everything from humor to heart. I enjoyed the combination of light hearted (and sometimes completely silly) and serious moments. There were times while reading the book that I literally laughed out loud, but there were also other moments where I was reaching for my box of tissues. The book is a fun read; but, it’s also got depth, and it discussed quite a few heavy topics.
It’s a story about misfits and underdogs— and completely relatable. I think the middle school (and later high school) years are challenging for everyone. But, for these four particular kids, they’re a little bit harder (for four different reasons).
“BenBee and the Teacher Griefer” is the type of book that I wish I had been able to read when I was a kid (although, reading it as an adult sure made my inner child happy!).
It did take me a little while to get used to the unusual formatting of the book. But, after a few pages, I realized that the sections from the point of view (POV) of the different kids were formatted to reflect their personalities (and, in some ways, their personal struggles). For example, Jordon J’s sections were large paragraphs with lots of run on sentences and random thoughts. It was pretty much “stream of consciousness” style writing. One of the other kids described Jordon J as “the human version of coffee”— so structuring the portions of the book from his perspective this way was perfect.
I also liked how the author incorporated a fictional video game into the story. It gives the four kids common ground– since they’re all fans of the game– and I think that it’ll give real kids a way to connect with the characters while they’re reading the book.
I don’t know what else to say, but it is a GREAT book! I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for additional books in the series. (I also plan on giving my copy of the book to my nephew to read next!).
“BenBee and the Teacher Griefer” by K. A. Holt will be published in September 2020 by Chronicle Books.
(Note: I also shared portions of both book review on GoodReads).
Thanks for reading! See you next time!
~ H. S. Contino