The Cat Ninja: and a Cabal of Shadows – Book Review

A Fantastic Tails Adventure Book 2 by: Erik DeLeo
Published on: March 1, 2020

Clearly inspired by Brian Jacques’ Redwall series, Erik DeLeo has created a world where a cat and a mouse work together to secure jobs that require the special skills of a ninja and where humans may live in, but are never seen.

The story opens with Miko in the middle of a job where she has been hired to steal a rare Japanese coin. Scaling walls and walking in shadows with only her kobachi sword in paw. The night doesn’t end the way Miko or her mouse partner, Sukoshi, would have liked and now they are desperate for a paying job. After all, Sukoshi has 12 mouths to feed at home.

Not to long after Sukoshi is able to find a job that gives hope of a nice payout: A young puppy has gone missing and the mother is desperate to find who took her baby. But, the more Miko looks into the disappearance the more danger Miko and Sukoshi find themselves in.

Miko, our cat ninja, is a complex and compelling character. As the story progresses we learn more and more about what has made Miko into the cat she is today. When still a young kitten, she lost her mother and brother and this fact still haunts her and has defined who she has become. Now, her heart is dead set on revenge and she keeps her friends and others at a paws length, even as she fights against some of the negative tendencies. However, her reasons for revenge on one individual dog is never fully explained as we are only given a single name that caused the death of her mother, but never given any information as to how Miko came to this decision. As a reader I wasn’t sure if Miko was just jumping to conclusions or if the information was based on facts.

Although there is quite a bit of action that keeps the story moving forward, the center and heart of the story is Miko’s journey to forgive and open herself up to friendship. As a reader, I really enjoyed reading the story, but there were lingering questions about the cabal and other things that I felt it missed. The cabal is only seen or known about at the end of the story and you never quite see their full influence in society. I do think a second book would help flesh some of these things out.

Thanks to Netgalley and the author for an advanced reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Description:

A missing puppy. An evil gang. And a hidden enemy lurking in the shadows.

She’s a cat. She’s a ninja. She’s a cat ninja. When Miko’s friend Sukoshi the field mouse comes calling with a new job, she agrees to investigate. But when it turns out the job entails helping the family an old enemy, little does Miko know that she’ll need to face her past in order to solve the case before it’s too late.

If you like talking animals, stealthy ninjas, and beating up bad guys, then you’ll love The Cat Ninja. This chapter book deals with many themes including anger, loss, abandonment, and fear. It is perfect for fans of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Redwall by Brian Jacques and The Green Ember by S.D. Smith, along with other fantasy series including The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Please check out the link for more middle grade book reviews.

Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters – Book Review

By: Suzanne Kamata
Published on: March 3, 2020

It was winter when I was first offered this book to review and I was missing baseball. I enjoy watching youth/little league games – there is much more action (and scoring) than major league and this book was a good way to tide me over until baseball season started. But as February and then March events occurred, we now know that baseball season is delayed or will not be starting this year due to the pandemic. So, as I am missing one of my favorite sports I found this book to be the perfect read for me as it reminds of all that I enjoy in the sport.

In Pop Flies, Robo-Pets, and Other Disasters, Satoshi Matsumoto is returning to Japan after a few years of living in Atlanta, Georgia. He misses his friends from America and quickly realizes returning isn’t as easy as he had hoped. In addition to readjusting to the different customs and culture, he also has a special needs sister, a grandfather with dementia, and has to deal with bullying at the school by both students and a teacher. He has one goal though – to join the baseball team. Back in America he was a fairly good player and he once again hopes to impress the coach to let him be on the team.

The story itself includes quite a bit of baseball. There is base-stealing, sign-watching, bunts, and play-by-plays. Just a lot of baseball fun in general. It also includes references to not only Japanese culture, but also words and phrases they may use. Unfortunately, I didn’t find a glossary or appendix at the end and wished there had been. So, while reading the story your middle grader may need to come to you to help explain a phrase or two.

I love books that teach me something new and this one provides just that. Satoshi’s school is named Tokushima Whirlpool Junior High School. In my personal experience, I have found that middle schools in the United States are often named after people, so the name of Satoshi’s school rather intrigued me. Thankfully, the author provides information on just how it got its name, which is named after naturally occurring whirlpools, such as what forms in the Naruto Strait, which is located in the Tokushima Prefecture. 

Overall an easy and fun read focusing on baseball. It also offers quite a bit of illustrations too to help young readers better understand the context of the story. I already know which young baseball player I plan to share the book with.

Thanks to Red Chair Press for the advanced reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.

Description:

Thirteen-year-old Satoshi Matsumoto spent the last three years living in Atlanta where he was the star of his middle-school baseball team―a slugger with pro potential, according to his coach. Now that his father’s work in the US has come to an end, he’s moved back to his hometown in rural Japan. Living abroad has changed him, and now his old friends in Japan are suspicious of his new foreign ways. Even worse, his childhood foe Shintaro, whose dad has ties to gangsters, is in his homeroom. After he joins his new school’s baseball team, Satoshi has a chance to be a hero until he makes a major-league error.

Don’t Check Out This Book – Book Review

By: Kate Klise
Illustrated By: M. Sarah Klise
Published On: March 10, 2020

To say the town of Appleton, Illinois is a bit unique would be an understatement. It’s not because their elementary school has no librarian, although that is a bit different. Instead, it’s that their school has no books. They used to have books, but they were all thrown out due to mold. Now, the “When All Else Fails Grant” has given them the money to hire a new librarian and luckily for them she brings her own books. However, she puts a green dot on some of the books, which causes quite a stir in the town.

Like the town of Appleton, Don’t Check Out This Book is also unique. Told in the form of memos, texts, emails, local newspaper articles, and letters we read the story of the new world Ms. Danjerous, the librarian, brings to the town contrasted against the old-fashioned ideas of the School Board President – Ivana Beprawpa. The story is also full of fun word-plays, such as the character’s names, which correlates to who they are in the story. One example, Cy Durr, is the owner of the apple orchard.

Young readers will probably be very intrigued by the format and layout of the story. I know I would have at that age. Overall, the story a very quick read and I suspect young readers will really feel a sense of accomplishment as they read through each email and letter quickly. The green dot book collection was also an interesting idea – books that are too scary or weird that kids can read without having to check it out of the library.

Thanks to Algonquin Young Readers for the advanced reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.

Description:

From the creators of the award-winning Three-Ring Rascals and 43 Old Cemetery Road series!

Is the sweet town of Appleton ripe for scandal?

Consider the facts:

  • Appleton Elementary School has a new librarian named Rita B. Danjerous. (Say it fast.)
  • Principal Noah Memree barely remembers hiring her.
  • Ten-year-old Reid Durr is staying up way too late reading a book from Ms. Danjerous’s controversial “green dot” collection.
  • The new school board president has mandated a student dress code that includes white gloves and bow ties available only at her shop.

Sound strange? Fret not. Appleton’s fifth-grade sleuths are following the money, embracing the punny, and determined to the get to the funniest, most rotten core of their town’s juiciest scandal. Don’t miss this seedy saga!

The Secret of the White Stone Gate – Book Review

Black Hollow Lane #2
By: Julia Nobel
Published on: March 3, 2020

In The Secret of White Stone Gate, loyalties and friendships are tested as the Order of the Black Hollow Lane blackmail, threaten, and do whatever else they can think up with the goal of convincing Emmy to give them what they want – her father.

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Lizard’s Tale – Book Review

By: Weng Wai Chan
Published on: July 2, 2019

Set in pre-war Singapore during the British colonization, Weng Wai Chan takes us to a time period where everyone is starting to feel the stress over the possibility of war with Japan and their potential invasion. Lizard’s Tale is primarily about a Japanese Navy code book the British are trying to get hold of and that the Japanese are trying to get back.

At the beginning of the story we find that Lizard (his initials are LZD) has been hired to steal a teak box from the general manager of the New British East India Company. He had been warned that this box is dangerous and could get his boss and him killed, which soon after comes true when the person who hired him is murdered before Lizard can deliver the box. Soon after Lizard finds himself in the world of spies and rescue attempts as Lizard tries to figure out what to do with this box.

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Ghost and Bone – Book Review

By: Andrew Prentice
Published on: August 13, 2019

I am such a sucker for interesting and eye-catching covers. If you’ve ever seen the movie Darby O’Gill and the Little People with Sean Connery and Janet Munro there’s a scene where Darby almost gets taken away by Death in a very creepy carriage. That is exactly what this cover reminds me of – that creepy Death carriage.

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The Lifters – Audio Book Review

By Dave Eggers
Published on: April 30, 2018

The cover is mostly what drew me to this book. It wasn’t the colors or the layout, but instead it was what was within the picture. If you look carefully you’ll see tunnels seemingly going everywhere with weird things holding them up. (Like… is that a grandfather clock? And a hockey stick?)

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Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets – Blog Tour

Botanic Hill Detectives Mystery Book 1 by Sherrill Joseph
Published on: January 10, 2020

A story where the kids get to be the investigators and have formed: The Botanic Hill Detective Agency. In this new series four best friends love solving mysteries together and learn a little about Egyptian history and reptiles.

Continue reading “Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets – Blog Tour”