Oh, the Thinks You Can Think

Book reviews and other fun for kids and caregivers, by Library Staff

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater

Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater is a charming and silly story set in a world where magical creatures are part of everyday life. Our heroine, the aforementioned Pip Bartlett, is completely capable of talking with and taking care of magical creatures - it’s people she has problems with. Everything changes after an incident involving unicorns at her school and she is sent to spend the summer with her aunt, who is a veterinarian for magical creatures. Pip is having a great time caring for the animals, learning from her aunt, and generally staying out of trouble, until the Fuzzles arrive. Now, while these little balls of fluff may sound cute, their response to any fear or stress is to burst into flame. As more and more flood in the town, it becomes a serious fire hazard and Pip has to help find a solution, not only to save the town, but also to save the Fuzzles from being exterminated by the town government. 

Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke

Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke is a funny fantasy story that flips the classic hero dynamic on its head. Hatke tells the story of a goblin in a dungeon who enjoys a pleasant life counting treasure and spending time with the Skeleton King, when a band of ‘heroes’ barge into the dungeon, pillage his treasure and take his friend. This event sparks the goblin’s odyssey as he leaves the comfort of his dungeon to search for his friend, braving danger and fleeing pitchfork wielding farmers at every step. Eventually, the goblin ends up in a cave far from home, where he finds out that there are in fact, people who like goblins and want to help him on his quest.

The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz

Gidwitz tackles a slice of medieval history in the style of The Canterbury Tales and much of the book is narrated by various individuals being interviewed in a local inn. This story follows a young peasant girl with prophetic visions, a young monk with supernatural strength, and a young Jewish villager who can heal any wound (as well as the aforementioned Holy Dog). Gidwitz mainly focuses on their adventures during the first half of the story, how they got into their current predicament, how they met one another, and the enemies they conquer (such as a dragon, who, due to an unfortunate intestinal issue, breathes fire out of the wrong end). However, this story also covers serious topics within its pages, such as how can three children and a dog stop a book burning, deal with intolerance and discrimination because of who they are, or avoid members of the Inquisition?

The Big Bad Bubble by Adam Rubin

Everyone knows that monsters are scary, but what scares a monster? Bubbles that’s what! Rubin’s picture book humorously depicts monsters dealing with their own problems when the bubbles invade. One monster, after a bad bubble experience, is convinced all bubbles are scary and out to get all monsters. This monster creates a panic in the monster world, which will be unendingly funny to young readers, as these big monsters run, hide, cower, and otherwise embarrass themselves trying to flee the bubbles. Eventually, the monsters are able to gather their courage and learn that the bubbles are not as scary as they once thought, and in fact, can be fun.

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

Peter Brown’s foray into middle-grade literature, The Wild Robot is a heartwarming story about a robot stranded on an island only populated by animals. Our heroine, the robot Roz, must learn how to survive on the island and how to coexist with the variety of animals who already inhabit the island. Roz is programmed to learn and adapt to her surroundings and eventually she learns how to communicate with the animals. After disguising herself as a bush, a boulder, or flower patch, and eventually earns their trust. Roz also has to learn how to be a parent after an unfortunate accident. The novel traces this growth and how Roz and the animals are able to work together and overcome challenges that none of them could have completed alone. This story touches on collaboration, compassion, creativity, and some of the deepest, and best, parts of human (and animal) nature.

The Journey by Francesca Sanna

The Journey by Francesca Sanna is the culmination of interviews the author collected at a refugee camp and is their combined story. This beautifully illustrated book tells the tale of one family as they are forced to flee their home and travel through forests, wade rivers, clamber over walls, and sail across the sea to find a safe place to live. The illustrations are surreal and mysterious, balancing the reader between both the real and the fantastic. While the illustrations are breathtakingly beautiful, the content is scary, inspiring, heartbreaking, and remains precipitously balanced between hope and fear. Pairing the two in this manner allows Sanna to delve into a difficult topic, without becoming too dark for the young readers it is meant to reach. Overall, Sanna offers no answers, she has merely opened a door, and leaves the floor open for conversation and imagination.

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