Book Reviews: Mostly Kid Edition

“You want to be a supermodel?”
“It’s not that I want to,” she sighed brightly, “but ya gotta work with what ya got.”

Starr and the High Seas Wedding Drama
Not sure how old the main character is, but let’s say pre-teen Starr and her family join her grandmother on a cruise where she’s getting married. Starr isn’t keen on the marriage and, with the help of the groom’s granddaughter Ivy, schemes to mess up the blessed day.
Starr takes her name too seriously; she wants to be a movie star, whereas Ivy plays a mean electric guitar. At first reticent to get to know each other, they bond for all the wrong reasons. At one point they justify their actions by saying they’re putting the grandparents’ “love to the test.” Yeah, that’s not ominous at all.
The story is good, but the presentation is what sets it apart. The characters are beautifully drawn, and I mean that literally. The perfect drawings continue all the way down to the cute dolphin chapter header. The graphics are great too, most of them funny. One invitation reads “Dress fancy!” while a chapter heading screams, “Go team!” It’s like good emoji choice.
All very cute and perfect for upper grade school, maybe junior high.

Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloom in Katong
The first in a pretty long series of detective novels for kids, with a few drawings sprinkled amongst the text.
Every Sherlock—which is almost his real name, close enough for him to insist on it—needs a sidekick, so he builds a talking robot; what could be better, right? His dad blunders in at the wrong time and inadvertently names the robot perfectly.
Besides science and solving crimes, Sherlock’s great passion is food; he’s chubby compared to his older sister, though he’d never admit it. It’s a bit tough understanding all this unknown food, though there is a glossary at the end. All of this leads to more fart jokes than one would expect.
The background is interesting; the writers are Americans who moved to Singapore, which is where the novel is set. There’s plenty of humor, especially from the robot. Sherlock isn’t perfect, thankfully; he just a smarter-than-average kid who learned how to put his nerdiness to good use.
Along with the glossary, mostly of cooking terms, there’s a character study at the end. I’d put the reading age of this around third grade and above.

Sherlock Sam and the Ghostly Moans in Fort Canning
Second in the series, but the first isn’t necessary to understand this one.
Like the first one, this has a lot of food, but it’s mostly historical, taking place in an old fort that’s now a monument I’ve actually visited in Singapore. Sherlock and his old pals, as well as a new one, find strange goings-on while on a school field trip. It’s amazing how no one—other students, teachers—ever question Watson, like everyone has a robot following him around. And I’m sure that new recording app won’t come in handy at all. . .
Of course he and his sister don’t get along. Perfect example: he can’t give her any kind of compliment, at least not right now. “I’ll only tell her when I’m older. And taller.” Twice.
If you’re equipped to deal with a zombie attack, you’re ready for anything else that might happen. But there’s no evidence of zombies: no disturbed graves, upturned soil, overturned headstones. . . or choreographed dancing. I’m loving this writer. . .
I love the drawing that shows the difference—sorta—between the sandwich in the backpack and in his stomach. Even better is when Sherlock and Dad strike a Gangnam/MC Hammer pose when they’re shouting “Science!” I’m surprised they didn’t so the song. . . Blinded Me With Science, not. . . never mind.
As though having caught a good rhythm, this one builds on the first and is even better.

When Crocs Fly
Now we get to the non-kid part.
A collection of comic strips of the long running Pearls Before Swine, it’s a good introduction for those who’ve never enjoyed this pun-heavy hilarity as well as people who want an economy-size dose of these wacky animal characters.
Particular jokes to be on the lookout:
Pig shaking hands with a scorpion. . . so perfect. (I have to laugh, because otherwise I’d cry at the memory of being bitten on the hand. . . twice.)
Yeah, spoiler alert on Abraham Lincoln’s assassinat. . . oops, sorry.
Take it as a gibbon. . . almost spewed.
I feel the same way about the Paris sights.
I really don’t feel sorry for the penguin who lost his wife.
French fries go to a happy place.
Puns. . . so many puns. . .



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