EMWF Kids & Teens: Book Reviews

Nicki Tesla and the Ferret-Proof Death Ray

By Jess Keating
A review by Hannah (12), Kiana (10) and Sophie (11)

What is this book about?
Hannah: This book is about a girl named Nikki Tesla who invented a dangerous machine she called a death ray. After Nikki blows up her bedroom, her mom sends her to genius academy, where she learns to use her inventions to help save the world.
Kiana: The book ‘Elements of Genius: Nikki Tesla and the Ferret-Proof Death Ray’ by Jess Keating is a very interesting book about a young girl and her mother who have constantly moved from many homes in order to hide their family secret. After an experimental testing of a new invention involving a ferret and her French fries results in the FBI getting involved, Nikki’s mother must send her to a school for genius children like her. All is well—until her invention is stolen!
Sophie: Nikki Tesla and the ferret - proof death ray is about a girl, Nikki, who is told by “officers” from genius academy. Nikki’s Mom contacted the actual Genius Academy months before this event, realizing how advanced Nikki had come in her inventions, but, instead of people from the Genius Academy (who do not come to your house) came an international criminal named “Alexander Zarn”, Who, at the time they did not know was an Interpol criminal. The “officers” said that if she didn’t go to the Academy her Mom would go to jail for having the inventions in her house that Nikki had created. So, she went to the academy and met the six students: Leonardo “Leo” da Vinci, Mary Shelley, Grace O’Malley, Albert “Bert” Einstein, Adam “Mo” Mozart and Charlotte “Charlie” Darwin. They go on countless adventures including Italy and a cage overtop of a pool. In the end, they find Zarn in Ellesmere island and arrest him.

What do you like about this book?
I liked that it was very funny and that all of the characters had a different way of being smart, like how one of the characters was an inventor and another a biologist. I also liked Pickles the ferret because he played such an unusual role in the story and ate so many French Fries. The drawings helped me understand what was happening in the story and to know what the characters looked like. There were also some diagrams that made it easier to understand the science parts.
Kiana: I like that Nikki learns to fit in with her new friends regardless of the secret she tried to hide from them. Even though Nikki tried lying to them, they were still good friends to her.
Sophie: What I like about Nikki Tesla and the ferret - proof death ray is probably how smart the students are and the stories behind why they went to the Academy. I like the fact of how smart they are because I believe that these kids are around eleven years of age, so in my opinion they are exceptionally intelligent for their age. On the pages seventy-three and seventy-four they were given a code of scrambled up numbers and they were able to figure out that the numbers were the day that Houdini did the disappearing act, to my surprise, they knew the ethics of how it worked and they were able to pull the trick off to survive. I liked the stories behind why the other students went to the Academy. For example, when Bert came to the Academy he had a phobia of combination locks because he had been shoved into so many lockers when he had gone to a regular school, just for the reason that he was extremely smart. Leo was the first member at the Academy, and he went when he was just in kindergarten. In conclusion, I really enjoyed this book. 

What’s your favourite part of the story and why?
My favourite part was the beginning, when Pickles was holding Nikki’s death ray at her face. I liked this part because it was funny how her own pet was about to accidently blow her up.
Kiana: My favourite part of the book is when Nikki meets her classmates in the glass box for her trial. It is my favourite part because I enjoyed the way Nikki was so frantic about being locked up there while the others seemed to be having fun.
Sophie: My favourite part of Nikki Tesla and the ferret-proof is when they figure out the solutions to all the problems that Zarn causes and at the end, on page two-hundred and seventy-four when Martha says Nikki, your father is alive. I liked when they figured out the problems because it was quite mysterious and I LOVE a mystery. I also liked when they figured out the mysteries because I felt like I was also learning a thing or two about the characters and STEM as well. I liked when at the end when Martha says that Nikki’s father is alive because it left me wanting to read more.

Why should other kids read this book?
I think other kids should read this book because it made me laugh. One of the funniest parts was when Nikki was in a sinking box and was trying to get Pickles to help her but Pickles was lounging in the pool. It’s also very educational because it teaches you a lot of scientific terms and facts. I liked this book so much I couldn’t stop reading it and I finished it in one day.
Sophie: I think other kids should read Nikki Tesla and the ferret-proof death ray because it is interesting and surprising. It is interesting because in my opinion, it was sort of non-fiction and fiction at the same time. It was non-fiction because there could and probably is a school for children that are extremely intelligent, but on the fiction side of that point, it wouldn’t have seven students. There could be an international criminal (pretty rare, but possible) but the criminal would most likely go to an ultra magnetic island just to reverse the balance of the earth to physically break the banks.  

Who would you recommend this book to?
I would recommend this book to people who like adventure and travel because it is exciting, and they go to Italy, so you get to learn a lot about that country. I would also recommend it to people who like humour because this book has a lot of hilarious chapters.
Kiana: I would recommend the book to kids looking for a good read, and eager to wait for Jess Keating’s next book, Nikki Tesla and the Fellowship of the Bling, which is scheduled to be released in February 2020.
Sophie: I would recommend it to children ranging from the age of ten to twelve. I would recommend it to anyone (like me) who likes science technology engineering and mathematics, but also to someone who likes mysteries and adventures. I would recommend it to kids ten to twelve because I don’t think that young children would understand the concept or some of the things that the book goes into detail about. I would recommend it to children who are into STEM because some of the content is technically advanced, so you might have to understand basic fifth grade - sixth grade science. If you are into mysteries and science this could be the book for you.

If you could ask the author a question, what would it be?
Hannah: I would ask her where she got the idea for the book, because it is a very unique story. I’d also like to ask if she’s written the next book in the series yet!
Kiana: What gave you the inspiration for this book?
Sophie: If I could ask Jess Keating a question it would either be “Do you have an interest in STEM?” or “If you were Nikki Tesla in the book, would you have been scared, nervous or excited to go to the academy?” I really enjoyed this book, and I hope that many other readers will enjoy it going forwards. This book is probably my all-time favourite book so far in my life.

See Jess Keating at Festival Sunday on September 8, 2019!

Fern and Horn

By Marie-Louise Gay
A review by Cadence (9) and Isabelle (4)

What is the book about?
Cadence: This book is about a boy and girl who have big imaginations.

Isabella: He bited his toe.

What do you like about the book?
Cadence: I like that they’re creative with drawing and crafting.
Isabella: Because he bited his toes, that was what I liked.

What is your favourite part of the story?
Isabella: The elephant bited all the stars off the tree.

What do you like about the illustrations?
Cadence: The illustrations are colourful.

Isabella: I like the castle because I do.

Why should kids read this book?
Cadence: I would kids with imaginations would like this book.

Isabella: Because it has pretty pictures.

If you could ask the author or illustrator a question, what would it be?
Cadence: I’d like to know why Marie-Louise Gay chose different media to make her illustrations.

Isabella: Why did the alligator bite his toe?

See Marie-Louise Gay at Festival Sunday on September 8, 2019!

Our Future: How Kids Are Taking Action

By Janet Wilson
A review by Jacob (10) and Jonah (12)

What is this book about?
Jacob: The book I read was about kids who are “taking action” to help people, animals or the earth. They did that by singing, fundraising or talking to their President/ Prime Minister.
Jonah: This book is about kids who are activists working in different ways to make the world a better place for the next generations.

What do you like about this book?
Jacob: I liked how it had lots of info, and interesting facts. And I hope other kids like the book. My favorite section was the one about the person in Kenya who was saving the elephants from being poached, because I love elephants and I think it’s important to protect them.
Jonah:  I like the art that is beside each article and I like the way the book is organized into smaller articles about each person or issue instead of long sections.  I also like reading about the issues and the fact that it is about work being done by kids who recognize that the decisions being made by adults will impact the world that is being left to them.           

What do you like about the visuals (the photos and illustrations)? How do the visuals help to tell the story?
Jacob: I liked the pictures because is showed me what the kids looked like, and how the kids did the thing they did. Some pictures just showed me the kid(s) and some showed me them doing the thing they did.
Jonah: I like the art that goes with each story and how the different parts of the art tell a story too.  I also like that there are pictures of the actual kids who are doing the work.

Why should other kids read this book?
Jacob: Other kids should read this because, it teaches the reader about other places in the world and what kids have to do in their countries. It also tells the reader how kids can do big things. It inspires kids to help the world.
Jonah: Other kids should read this book so that they know about the things that are happening in the world and that there are people working to fix it.  All of the kids in the book recognized a problem and came up with a solution.  I think that might inspire other kids who have their own problems and help them to see that they can fix things too.

Who would you recommend this book to?
Jacob: I would recommend this book to kids who like info and non-fiction. Ages 7-11, because it has lots of information for kids a little older.
Jonah: I would recommend this book to kids 9-16 years old.  Younger kids might not understand some of the more complicated ideas and issues; it might also be a bit heavy for them and hard to explain. 

If you could ask the author a question, what would it be?
Jacob: How did you get all the information? Why did you write about that topic?
Jonah:  If I could ask the author a question, I would ask why she chose to write this book and what made her choose kid activists as her focus.

See Janet Wilson at Festival Sunday on September 8, 2019!

Crown of Feathers

By Nicki Pau Preto
A review by Olivia Gyuran (12)

Crown of Feathers, by Nicki Pau Preto, is a wonderfully adventurous and magical book, and I am more than happy to write a report to other readers to get them as inspired as I am.

This story is based on a girl in her late teens, Veronyka, whose only desire is to hatch a phoenix, and regroup the exiled and legendary Phoenix Riders.  She shares a lonely life with her older and controlling sister, Val.  Val searches for abandoned phoenix eggs in ancient buildings in hopes that the two sisters could hatch a phoenix egg and look elsewhere for a better life.  Finally, a phoenix hatches for Veronyka.  After a shocking and terrible betrayal from Val, Veronyka must flee and find the Riders on her own.  Disguising herself as a male, Nyk, (Veronyka), finds a rebellion of Phoenix Riders, and desperately tries to fit in.  It turns out to be much harder than she thought…  meanwhile, alarming truths are revealed about her sister, Val… Who is she really?

This book really emphasizes the wonderfully descriptive reality of her story and shows the intricate care Nicki put into it.  It is like I’m there, riding on the back of a fiery phoenix, and soaring through the misty clouds.  The whole thing blows my mind, honestly, with an ABSOLUTELY AMAZING plot, and bold characters, each one uniquely different from the rest (which I think is an admirable talent for authors to have).

Veronyka, (the main character), is likable from the very first page.  Her fiery spirit, strong willed determination, and intense love for animals inspires readers to not let obstacles get in their way.  Brave and quick thinking, Veronyka, once bonded to her fledgling phoenix, Xephyra, is unstoppable.  She will take the long and hard way of things to make her dreams come true if need be…

The themes of this story are vividly clear in this book (as you might agree with me if you read the book): determination, perseverance, and strong friendships that will not be shattered by arguments or lies, build a flowing story that catches the imagination of aspiring readers.   Most importantly, Veronyka sets an example of how her life changed dramatically in importance of her passionate resolve to make her dreams reality.  We can all do that if we really set our minds to it, and truly believe it can happen.

I recommend this thrilling book to early teens and young adults who love fast paced adventure, magic, and exhilarating rivalry in their story.  If you are one of those people, I highly recommend you read this exceedingly amazing book.

A QUESTION FOR THE AUTHOR: Having only read the first book, (I await the second), I have a couple questions for you: If Val is not who we thought she was, then who is Veronyka? I am also wondering how old you were when you first became inspired to write…?

Yours sincerely,
Olivia Gyuran
12 years old

See Nicki Pau Preto at Festival Sunday on September 8, 2019!

Olivia Gyuran is also a runner-up in our Poetry Contest for Children, for her poem “The Siren”. Congratulations Olivia!

The Almost Epic Squad: Mucus Mayhem

By Kevin Sylvester

An Interview with Kevin Sylvester by brothers Jonah (12) Isaiah (10) Jude (6)

How did you come up with the idea for Booger Golems?
I am allergic to everything, so I have spent much of my life blowing my nose. It’s gross. People look at you funny. It was even worse when I was a kid, so with Jess, I wondered what life would be like if you got a super-power that was really more of what you didn’t like about yourself. So her “power” becomes part of her problems. This also means her journey is a journey toward self-acceptance. (You can read more about this in the acknowledgments section of the book).

Do you have any ideas for your next book?
I always have lots of books on the go. So, since Mucus Mayhem came out I’ve had two other books released – a picture book – Gargantua Jr: Defender of Earth and Follow Your Stuff. And I’m also working now on a graphic novel about 6 super-hero kid/hockey players, another couple of mystery novels, Neil Flambé 7, a wordless picture book about two leaves…. lots of stuff.

Do you have any favourite snacks you eat while writing?

Do you think you might ever create a graphic novel?
See above.

How did you become an author?
I love telling and hearing stories. So, like every author I know, I was a reader and a listener first. Then I wanted to tell my own stories.

Describe a day of writing for you.  What do you need to feel inspired to write?
It depends. I’ll spend as much time in my office as possible – usually a couple of hours after my morning coffee, then again after lunch, etc. But I also do a lot of school visits so I’m on the road a ton – which means I’m always scribbling in notebooks, on the back of napkins, etc. I also love talking about ideas for books with my family or other writers and illustrators. 

Which Neil Flambé book is your favourite?
It’s a six-way tie for first… and last.

Which of your broadcasting skills have you found applicable to your writing?
Short sentences, active verbs. Telling a story about a specific thing I find interesting to a larger audience that might not share that same passion.

What is your favourite book to read (that you didn’t write)?
Where the Wild Things Are
The Great Gatsby
Harry Potter #1

Thanks Kevin!

See Kevin Sylvester at Festival Sunday on September 8, 2019!

Moon Wishes

By Guy & Patricia Storms, Illustrated by Milan Pavlović
Reviewed by Hunter, 7 years old

What is the book about?
Moon Wishes is about a kind moon giving light and guiding the way for people and creatures everywhere in the world who might need help.

What do you like about this book?
I think the book has really great illustrations of different animals from around the world.

What is your favourite part of the story?
I liked the part in the story where the happy moon is shimmering over the polar bears and protecting them from climate change.

What do you like about the illustrations?
I liked the fact that the illustrations look realistic and really pop off the page, and the creatures are happy and cute.

Why should kids read this book?
Kids should read this book because it’s a good bedtime story poem about being helpful.

If you could ask the author or illustrator a question, what would it be?
I would ask the illustrator: What inspired you to draw certain animals for the words? I would ask the author: What inspired you to write such a beautiful poem?

See Guy and Patricia at Festival Sunday on September 8, 2019!

Sergeant Billy  

By Mireille Messier, Illustrated by Kass Reich
Reviewed by:
Hunter (7), Izzy (10) Jude (6), Mason (7) 

What is the book about?
Hunter: Sergeant Billy was about a cute goat that was borrowed from a little girl named Daisy that went to war as a mascot with the 5th Battalion and then became a decorated war hero. Billy travels with the soldiers from Canada, to Europe and he experienced the war – he got trench foot, he went to jail and was shell-shocked, but he didn’t die in the war and was returned home to Daisy.
Izzy and Jude: The book is about a goat who when to the First World War.
Mason: The book is about a goat named Billy who went to war with the Fifth Battalion in the WW1. He belonged to a girl named Daisy. During the war he travelled to England and France keeping the soldiers company and helping to stay happy. He stayed in the trenches and ate what he could find. He returned to his owner after the war covered with metals.

What do you like about this book?
Hunter: I liked this book because it is a true story that had a happy ending, and the goat is really cute.
Izzy: I liked that it was about WWI, because I love books about history
Jude: I love goats
Mason: I like this book because it is a true story and it is cool that a goat went to war.

What is your favourite part of the story?
Hunter: My favourite part in the book is when the war is over and the soldiers are celebrating Billy who they think is a good luck charm. But he’s not a good luck charm, he’s a goat that brought them happiness when they felt sad and missed their families back in Canada because they were fighting in war.
Izzy: I liked that he didn’t mind being in the trenches.
Jude: I like that he comes home at the end.
Mason: My favourite part of the story was when Daisy gave Billy to the soldiers because it helped the soldiers be focused and happy.

What do you like about the illustrations?
Hunter: I like everything about the illustrations, they kind of look realistic and the goat is cute. I also really like how the illustrator drew the noses on the soldiers.
Izzy and Jude: They look like a painting and Billy is cute!
Mason: I like the details in the illustrations of the boat because it is big and colourful. The colours are dark and old like the war times. I like to paint watercolours and I like the way it looks.

Why should kids read this book?
Hunter: Kids should read this book because it’s an interesting true story about an animal’s adventures in a war, and it has really good illustrations.  
Izzy and Jude: It is funny that they borrow a goat and Billy does some funny things like eating important documents.  It’s important that the soldiers had something that made them happy when they were doing something scary like going to war.  And it has a happy ending.
Mason: Kids should read the book because it is interesting and gives information about the war and it is a true story which was surprising to me. I did not know that animals went to war and I think other kids will think the animals going to war is cool. I took it to school and shared it with my grade 2 class. They liked it too.

If you could ask the author or illustrator a question, what would it be?
Hunter: A question I would ask the author is: Why did you want to make a book about the war?
Izzy: What other books have you written/illustrated? (EMWF: Pssst… Mireille is also presenting her new book Treasure at our festival in September)
Jude: How old are you? 
Mason: If I could ask the author and illustrator a question I would want to know how old they are? Why did you write about a goat?

See Mireille at Festival Sunday on September 8, 2019!

Gargantua (Jr!)

By Kevin Sylvester
A review by students in Mrs. Darling’s, Mrs. Lush’s and Mrs. Meagher’s classes at Rockwood Centennial Public School.

What was the story about?
The mommy breaks down old buildings and then the baby tries and it almost falls on him. The mommy says, “Maybe wait til you’re a bit bigger!” –Cara, age 5

In the end the momma helped the baby to fire the old buildings. They worked together as team. –Issy, age 4

What was your favourite part?
I liked when the momma was fixing the buildings. –Maggie, age 4

I liked when the mom came to help the baby. –Alannah, age 5
I liked when that baby dragon snuck out of the water to go break down old buildings. –Tyson, age 5

What did you like about the illustrations?
I like the fire pictures because it was cool colours. It was a wonderful picture. –Hannah, age 5

I like the water picture. I was surprised he slept under water. –Brody, age 6
I noticed the baby spikes are yellow and the momma spikes are red. And the baby fire is red and yellow and the momma fire is blue.

What questions do you have for the author?
Why did the mom change from breaking things to fixing things? –Henry, age 6

Why are the spikes a different colour? Why is the mom’s fire different than the babies? –Cara, age 5
We also had a big group debate about whether it was a dinosaur or a dragon!

Why should kids read?
Your brain will grow. –Audrey, age 4

It will help me learn to read. I know my letters now. –Issy, age 4,
You will learn stuff. –Alannah, age 5

Thank you Rockwood Centennial!

See Kevin at Festival Sunday on September 8, 2019!

Harry’s Hiccups

by Jean Little, illustrated by Joe Weissmann
Reviewed by Jasper, 5 years old

Join us for Forest of Reading Comes to Guelph! on May 11, 2019 at Guelph Public Library – Main Library
with authors Jess Keating, Deborah Kerbel, Jean Little and illustrator Joe Weissmann

So Jasper, what’s this book about?
He hiccuped! And then his dad said drink some water, nine swallows without breathing.  Um, then he tried it (laughs) and he still hiccuped.

What do you like about the story?
I like when he talks to a frog, then the frog has the hiccups.

Is that your favourite part?

What do you like about the illustrations?
When they were sticking their fingers in their ears and they crossed their eyes and they sticked their tongue out and they put the heads in their legs and hummed Mary had a little lamb. (Laughs. Acts it out. Sings Mary had a little lamb. Silliness ensues.)

Okay, so why should kids read this book?
Cause it’s funny!

If you could ask the author or illustrator a question, what would it be?
How did you make the book?

And why do you think kids should read books?
Cause. Don’t watch TV the whole day.

Thanks Jasper!