Dog Night at the Story Zoo Review (Kids Graphic Novel)

Title: Dog Night at the Story Zoo | Author: Dan Bar-El (site) | Illustrator: Vicki Nerino (site) | Publisher: Tundra Books | Pub. Date: 2017-7-4 | Pages: 104 | ISBN13: 9781101918388 | Genre: Children’s Graphic Novels | Language: English | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Received a copy from the publisher for review consideration |

Dog Night at the Story Zoo

It’s Open Mic Night at the Story Zoo and the dogs are up to tell their tales in this hilarious graphic novel for young readers.
At the Story Zoo, you get to tell any story you want in front of the live audience, as long as it’s about you. And tonight is dog night. So sit back, relax, and let these dogs tell their tales. We’ve got some hilarious but quite touching stories from dogs of all kinds, including a bulldog who doesn’t want to be judged by his looks; a bloodhound who loses her power of scent and turns to a dog called Surelick Holmes for help; an energetic poodle who saves the day with her yapping; and a stray who takes fetching to a whole new level.

These stories will make you laugh, make you cry and maybe even make you howl at the moon. Whether you’re looking for smart, funny, sweet, sharp, silly or just plain fuzzy, The Story Zoo is going to be your new favorite haunt. – Goodreads

Book cover for Dog Night at the Story Zoo

Dog Night at the Story Zoo Review

Dog Night at the Story Zoo was a family-read affair. All of us plopped down on the couch, the kiddo in the middle, and took turns reading out loud. We were all happy with what we had read.  The three main stories told were very different from each other, and they were interspersed with asides from the audience. There were a few jokes included that will go over younger reader’s heads but are perfect to keep parents interested.

The mini-reviewer said that Dog Night at the Story Zoo was one of her favorite books that she had read in a while. She recommended everybody check it out. She loved the illustrations (more so than she liked some of the stories themselves). Her favorite story was The Storm Before the Calm, which was all about a yappy little poodle explaining why she was nervous all the time. It was the tail (heh-heh) of her finding humans that accepted her for the way she was.  The story of the bloodhound who lost her sense of smell in the final story was a runner-up. She wanted me to make it quite clear that it was kind of a sad story, though.

Dog Night at the Story Zoo was generally a fun, easy to read affair. I personally wasn’t a big fan of the illustrations, this is one case where the kid’s opinion is definitely more important. However, regardless of the fact that it was a fairly good read, none of us have the urge to look up more from this author in the future. If your kids enjoy simple graphic novels and are not quite ready for the superhero stuff, Dog Night at the Story Zoo might be a great choice.

The Only Thing Left Was Their Underpants Review (Kids Sci-Fi)

Title: The Only Thing Left Was Their Underpants | Series: Professor Sparky Sciencey Adventure #1 | Author: John Kelly | ASIN: B06XQLKHBJ | Genre: Kids Sci-Fi | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Kindle Unlimited

The Only Thing Left Was Their Underpants

On the planet Duplex an unknown (but probably evil) genius is dematerializing members of the Extreme Cleverness Society leaving only their underpants behind!

It’s time for Professor Sparky, scientific genius and sausage dog*, to interfere without being asked. With Ellie-Ann along for the thrills (and to stop him accidentally killing himself or blowing up the planet) he sets off to prevent more professors from being dematerialized.

It doesn’t go well.

But there is LOADS of exciting stuff about Quadflapple birds, worm-holes, indescribably foul-smelling dog-food, exotic-patterned underpants, reverse-o-alchemy, indoor explosions, lava-cats, and splunge-diving to keep you entertained along the way. – Goodreads

Book cover for The Only Thing Left Was Their Underpants

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3 for 3-to-5: Sci-Fi & Scary Books for Young Readers #8

Featuring: The Boogeyman Investigation by Scott Littleton, The Farting Superhero by Mike Fox, and I’m All Wrapped Up: Meet a Mummy by Shannon Knudsen.

3 for the 3-to-5 is where I give brief reviews of three books that I found in the 3-to-5 age range on Amazon. These books are theoretically in the science fiction and horror genres for little kids. (Although obviously for little readers ‘horror’ basically just means including ghosts and ghoulies.)

Book cover for The Boogeyman InvestigationThe Boogeyman Investigation by Scott Littleton: One day Mikey overhears his friends talking about a boogeyman. To find out if the boogeyman exists, Mikey engages in an investigation and his tools to find the boogeyman are his five senses.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Review:  The illustrations in The Boogeyman Investigation were kind of creepy. They were probably the best part of the book. The style I would associate with someone like Tim Burton. The font, however, wasn’t the easiest to read. Given that this is in the 3-5 range on Amazon, I would expect nice, easy to read font as younger readers need. My child liked the book, but even though she is almost always willing to give five stars, even she agreed this one didn’t quite make the cut. I do like what the author was doing though. It’s always fun to sneak a little learning in when you can.

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Book cover for The Farting Superhero

The Farting Superhero by Mike Fox: Short chapter book that is ideal for ages 4 up to 9. Good for readers in grades 1-3.

Larry the Launcher is a farting superhero. His amazing superpower has allowed him to defeat many of the bad guys in his town. However, one day all the bad guys decide to team up and fight back. They steal the Rainbow Ruby and all the electricity in the town of Butkins. Now everyone is left in the dark.

Will Larry the Launcher be able to save the day with his farts?  Find out what happens in this funny and exciting book filled with lots of surprises.

Rating: 3 out of 5. 

Review: Well, my 8 year old thought it was hilarious. And I can see younger readers (even the 4 and 5 year olds) thinking it was a great book too. It definitely utilizes body-humor to the maximum extent. I have to admit even I might have snickered once or twice. It’s also a book that can be broken up into reading over a couple of days.However, the formatting on The Farting Superhero does need a little work. Dialogue was not separated out appropriately. Paragraphs ran together. They were little things, but they affected the readability of the text, so that matters.

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Book cover for I'm All Wrapped Up I’m All Wrapped Up: Meet a Mummy (Monster Buddies) by Shannon Knudsen, Renee Kurilla: Meet Ami. She’s a mummy! She used to sleep in a tomb. Now she smashes through walls! But don’t run away. Ami’s not real. She’s one of the monsters you meet in stories. She just wants to tell you about mummies. Find out how a person becomes a mummy. Learn about the treasures in a mummy’s tomb. And discover what brings a mummy back to life. You’ll have a scary time with this monster buddy!

Rating: 4 out of 5

Review: This wasn’t what we were expecting (though that’s not a bad thing). We were expecting simple and silly for the littlest of readers. Instead, this one spelled out the differences between real mummies and monster mummies. Then it told a little bit of a monster mummy tale. That tale was actually the tiniest bit creepy, so parents might want to consider how excitable some of their kids are before letting them read it. (I seriously doubt there’d be a problem, but I have a friend whose kid freaked out over reading about the 3 headed dog in Harry Potter, so…) It was well-illustrated, with nice clear font. It was also short and easy to read.

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Our favorite one for this week was I’m All Wrapped Up: Meet A Mummy, hands down. Miss L had originally rated The Farting Superhero book as her favorite, but when we got to the last few pages of I’m All Wrapped Up, she was in love with it. It was a cute, fun read that we both enjoyed.

Emily and the Spellstone Review (Funny Fantasy Kidlit)

Title: Emily and the Spellstone | Author: Michael Rubens | Publisher: Clarion Books | Pub. Date: 2017-6-13 | Pages: 288 | ISBN13: 9780544790865 | Genre: Children’s Fantasy | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 5 out of 5 | Source: Received a copy from Netgalley for review consideration

Emily and the Spellstone

Emily picks up a stone that looks like a cell phone but has unexpected magical powers. It’s a Spellstone! Now that she has become an unwilling Stonemaster—one who wields the power of the Stone—she has to figure out Spellstone technology fast if she is to survive a hair-raising adventure among giant dogs, demons, clones, mean girls, and deeply wicked people who want the Stone. A witty tale of a quiet girl who discovers she’s a hero when she needs to be. Stonemasters rule!

Book cover for Emily and the Spellstone

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The Monsters on Mars Review (Kids Sci-Fi)

Title: The Monsters on Mars | Series: Cinnamon Sands Academy #1 | Author: Salley J. Robins | Pub. Date: 2017-4-30 | ASIN: B072L6F58Q | Genre: Children’s Sci-Fi | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 3 out of 5 | Source: Kindle Unlimited |

The Monsters on Mars

They don’t call it Crater School A – It’s Cinnamon Sands Academy. That is the first lesson William Glenn learns when he arrives at the Mars Colony. The second is that Vincent Sorenson is a friend he can trust with his secret irrational fears. So when bad dreams and a nagging sense of danger keep creeping into his mind, he tells himself it’s time to grow up. However, when all communications are suddenly cut off, he has time for one course of action. William has to conquer his fear by taking the ride of his life as he attempts to save the Colony from “The Monsters on Mars”. – Goodreads

Monsters on Mars.jpg


The Monsters on Mars Review

There were many things to appreciate in The Monsters on Mars. It seemed to have a little bit of everything in it. There was cool tech (like the skimmers/hoverboard), life lessons, a sci-fi setting that felt very ‘near future’, and -of course – kid heroes. The Monsters on Mars is a middle-grade novel that tries very hard to be a well-rounded adventure novel for the intended age range. There’s even a potential bit of foreshadowing for later books that perked my own interest.

And, for the most part, The Monsters on Mars was an enjoyable read. It was easy to picture the world that Salley J Robins created on Mars. It was also depressingly easy to see the future for Earth that she mentions, as well. She does a great job of making things believable for the kids (and adults reading it) and explaining it well. I appreciated that she even tried to explain how things got the way they did on Earth in a way that would make sense to the kids.

“When he asked his parents why Earth was in such a mess, they had different answers. … His dad said people could not or would not stop using energy to make things they used only once … His mom said it was all about people and countries not taking responsibility for the environment and blaming each other instead.”

It doesn’t go into the specifics that caused the problem, but instead on why it hadn’t been fixed. Sometimes that’s the answer that someone wants. Not the science behind what caused it (though that is obviously important to know too.

The Monsters on Mars did have a few problems. My biggest pick with it is that it was overly dramatic where it didn’t need to be. The actual action sequences, like the monsters attacking, were very well done. But the interactions between the kids felt a bit off at times. Now part of it could be attributed to the fact that we see most of the novel through William’s eyes. Kids do have a rather black and white/ good and evil view on things. It just felt like where the rest of the novel flowed smoothly, it did a bit of a misstep at these sections. (I think most of it was the author trying too hard to impart lessons to the kids. You know, ‘don’t do X because Y might happen to you’ type things.)

The pacing of the novel was solid. The descriptions were great. The action sequences, as previously mentioned, were very well done. The dialogue could have been better, but it wasn’t bad.

I really debated on whether to go with a 3 or a 4 star rating with The Monsters on Mars. It had a lot of good points to it, but the writing just didn’t feel as polished as it needed to be. I did end up going with three stars, but I would be more than happy to try the next book in the series. I think the Cinnamon Sands Academy has a lot of potential. It just needs refined a bit.

3 for 3-to-5: Sci-Fi & Scary Books for Young Readers #5

Featuring: Zombees by Basil Crumb, How to Build a Robot from A to Z by Leslie Ralph, and How to Scare a Monster by Michelle Zimmerman.

3 for the 3-to-5 is where I give brief reviews of three books that I found in the 3-to-5 age range on Amazon. These books are theoretically in the science fiction and horror genres for little kids. (Although obviously for little readers ‘horror’ basically just means including ghosts and ghoulies.)

3 for 3 to 5 #5

Book cover for ZombeesZombees (Smelly Monster Tales #3) by Basil Crumb: Milo Shine receives a mysterious letter written with invisible ink. When he deciphers the message, Milo and Nate are off on their next adventure.  Their new client is a girl named Grace. She’s being pestered by a swarm of buzzing, farting bees. It’s a smelly job. And a weird predicament. But, as the world’s only smelly monster hunters, Milo and Nate accept the challenge to help Grace.

How will the brave investigators resolve their newest case? Learn the answer in ZOMBEES: SMELLY MONSTER TALES NO. 3!

Rating: 4 out of 5

Review: Zombees is the 3rd book in a series, but you don’t need to read the other two to figure out what’s going on. The Kindle edition is only 22 pages so it’s a good sized read for a 5 year old. There are no pictures though, so it would be good to read it as playfully as possible to help keep their attention. There’s lots of mentions of farts which should amuse plenty of kids. It definitely amused Miss L as we were reading it for review.

This was a fun book to read. There were only a few words that younger readers might not understand. And the mystery was easily solved (although how the bird seed also changed them into zombees versus regular bees is something you can debate with your kid). All in all, a pleasant little story.

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Book cover for How to Build a Robot from A to Z How to Build a Robot from A to Z by Leslie Ralph: f you want to build a robot, you’ll need a lot of parts. Some are big, some are small. Some are hard to find. Not to worry. All of the parts you need are right here in this book!

Follow along with Rosie as she gives you a fun look at building her robot named Index. She’ll take you all the way from A to Z with each piece she adds to make one amazing robot.

If you want to build an awesome robot of your own, you can visit for a free printable Robot Building Kit. Build your own robot as you read to bring the story to life.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review: This was a cute book! We (yes, my kiddo helped me with all the reviews for this 3-to-5) both liked the set-up where instead of just listing one or two words that began with the letter, the author tried to include several. Miss L is definitely too old for this book but she still had fun going back and picking out all the words before I ‘revealed’ the answers. The illustrations are simple, but nice. And the site that’s mentioned in the description also has other activities available. It’s a nice online tie in. We loved this!

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Book cover for How to Scare a MonsterHow to Scare a Monster by Michelle Zimmerman: A delightful short story about a young boy who wakes one night to find a monster in his room! After some thought and research, he devises several methods to face his fears and deal with the problem. Full color illustrations accompany the story to help keep your little ones engaged. A great bedtime story that you and your children can share again and again! Children’s books can be entertaining, thoughtful and teach a lesson, all at the same time!

Rating: 3 out of 5

Review: Short and simple with nice illustrations. How to Scare a Monster teaches kids about facing their fears and self-defense. It’s an simple to read book that a 4 or 5 year old could get through very easily. Good for teaching a lesson, but a little low on the entertainment value side.


Our favorite from this week was definitely How to Build a Robot from A to Z. It really stands out as an alphabet book.




Flying Mutant Zombie Rats Review

Title: Flying Mutant Zombie Rats | Series: Moto Maddie BMX Portal #1 | Author: Kat de Falla | Publisher: Ravenswood Publishing | Pub. Date: 2015-6-15 | Pages: 132 | ISBN13: 9781511797313 | Genre: Children’s FictionRating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Kindle Unlimited |

Flying Mutant Zombie Rats

Summer vacation is almost here! And Pea O’Neil is stoked to try out the new local BMX track which is finally open. He and his gang of friends can ride all summer long!

But when Pea tries a back flip, he unwittingly opens a portal to another dimension and hordes of flying mutant zombie rats are unleashed upon the city. With the help of an otherworldly talking cat sent to help prevent the demise of humankind, Pea and his friends must hunt down the hungry mutants and send them back before the portal closes.

But when the zombie rats attack a neighbor man, the boys have to enlist the help of a graveyard looney and the city’s stray cats. With time running out, Pea and his gang track the monsters to the city’s sewer system. But in the city sewer of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it’s eat…or get eaten. – Goodreads

Flying Mutant Zombie Rats

Flying Mutant Zombie Rats Review

I checked out this book because I am a fine, upstanding parental figure and I wanted to make sure the contents were appropriate for my daughter before I let her read it. That is absolutely the reason I chose to read this book. Yep. Ah-huh. Definitely.

Flying Mutant Zombie Rats. Flying. Mutant. Zombie. Rats. Who in Cthulhu’s name can walk away from a book with a title like Flying Mutant Zombie Rats? No self-respecting horror-reading bookworm, that’s for sure! Flying rats? Nah. Zombie Rats? Possibly. Mutant Rats? Maybe. Flying Mutant Zombie Rats? Shut up and take my money.

So, er, now to talk about something more than the title of the book, yeah?

Flying Mutant Zombie Rats was a fun read. The main characters are a bunch of BMXing seventh grade boys starting their summer vacation. They’re good (albeit rowdy) kids, obsessed with their bikes, a solid group of friends, and they’re going to save the city with nothing more than their wits and bikes. Right? Well, almost. See, there’s not only Flying Mutant Zombie Rats, there’s something else as well. (You’ll have to read to find out.)

This is definitely a kids book, and unless you’re well in touch with your inner child, it’s not going to appeal to adults. It moves along quickly, there’s some icky stuff, some training sequences, some heroic attempts at self-sacrifice, and lots of action. And given the title of the book, hopefully you don’t go into it expecting realism in any area, because other than the biking scenes, there isn’t any.

Flying Mutant Zombie Rats is a great book to engage a reluctant reader who is interested in the gross and icky side of things. Especially so if they like BMX biking. I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

3 for 3-to-5: Sci-Fi & Scary Books for Young Readers #3

3 for the 3-to-5 is where I give brief reviews of three books that I found in the 3-to-5 age range on Amazon. These books are theoretically in the science fiction and horror genres for little kids. (Although obviously for little readers ‘horror’ basically just means including ghosts and ghoulies.)

3 for 3-to-5 #3

A Very Scary Pumpkin.jpgA Very Scary Pumpkin: With all their toys and treats packed away, Chomper and Coco learned it was moving day. After they arrive at their new home they discover they’re not alone. The house is haunted by a very scary ghost named Pumpkin. Will Pumpkin scare the Nuggies away? Or will they find a way to become friends and stay? Find out in Nuggies Volume 3, “A Very Scary Pumpkin”.

Rating: 4 out of 5 

Review:  A Very Scary Pumpkin was actually a lot better than I anticipated, considering it was under the “For 3 Year Olds” category. It very well could be the first taste of a ‘ghost’ story for little readers. It does a good job of introducing them to a potentially frightening situation without actually making it scary. Pumpkin at the end is quite adorable.

I haven’t read any of the other “Nuggies” books, but the illustrations are simple and friendly. The text feels like it wants to have a rhythm, but never quite accomplishes it. But all together it’s a pleasing read for the 3 year old age range.

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The Suburban Monsters.jpgThe Suburban Monsters: When young Harper and her family move into their new home in Doomsville she encounters monsters in her basement. After explaining that there are monsters living in their home with them, and her parents do not believe her, Harper takes it upon herself to discover the true origins of these monsters.

So begins The Suburban Monsters.

Rating: 3 out of 5 

Review: This is a short graphic novel that is definitely suitable for the 4+ age range. Older kids would not be interested in it as the story is basically nonexistent.  It is a good book to introduce the basic ‘classic monsters’ to, as she will see Frankenstein, Wolfman, Dracula, and the Mummy, albeit not named as such. A bit of fluff, but enough to potentially spark a young reader’s interest.

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Fridge Freezer Time Machine.jpgThe Fridge Freezer Time Machine: Luke loves inventing all kinds of awesome machines…. only, not all of his inventions work like they’re supposed to! Join Luke, an intrepid young inventor, for a time travel adventure like no other.

Rating: 4 out of 5 

Review: A cute book about time travel. The Fridge Freezer Time Machine has a genius little inventor with very understanding parents, apparently. The journey he takes sees kids through the age of dinosaurs, the medieval age, and then to more current events. It’s simple, enjoyable, well illustrated, and ends with a nose-wrinkling mention of brussel sprouts which most little kids are going to giggle at.

My favorite out of this week’s list was probably A Very Scary Pumpkin. The others were good, but A Very Scary Pumpkin had a special charm to it.

Ghost Town Detective Agency: One Ghost Too Many Review

Title: One Ghost Too Many! | Series: Ghost Town Detective Agency #1 | Authors: Gavin M. Garza and Michael W. Garza | Publisher: Neverhaven Press | Pub. Date: 2017-5-5 | Pages: 86 | ISBN13: 9780997900422 | Genre: Children’s Mystery | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Received a free copy from the author for review consideration | Purchase on Amazon

One Ghost Too Many: The Ghost Town Detective Agency

The Ghost Town Detective Agency is on the case!

This series targets new independent readers with easy to follow plots and grade level appropriate text. Help build a better reader today!

When Chase is dared to sleep over at the old Williams house, he stumbles into a haunting situation. The third grade is hard enough for him and his best friend Rosie and cousin Zach, but one night in a haunted house might be more than they can stand. The children discover a family secret that could free the entire town of Gum Springs from the Williams family curse forever.

Are Chase and his friends courageous enough to take the case?

Book cover for One Ghost Too Many

One Ghost Too Many Review


One Ghost Too Many! is the first entry in the Ghost Town Detective Agency series by Gavin M. Garza and Michael W. Garza. It’s a simple, fun mystery series aimed at beginning chapter readers. The font is on the larger side, with plenty of room between the lines of text to make it easy to read. The illustrations in One Ghost Too Many! aren’t my favorite, but they serve their purpose on the pages. The plot is easy to follow and one that young readers can definitely get into.  Who didn’t believe in ghosts when they were younger? Add creepy old houses and the gossip mill to it? Yep, spooky stuff is a definite possibility.

What is it about redheads and trouble-making? One has to wonder when that particular association was made. It’s no surprise that in the trio that make up the Ghost Town Detective Agency, the one that gets them in over their heads is a spunky little redhead with a temper. The nice part is that she’s also a girl. Rosie, Zack, and Chase are normal, inquisitive kids with good hearts. It’s a perfect combination when confronted with a mystery like the on they face in One Ghost Too Many.

The dialogue is solid. The word choice is appropriate, with nothing overly challenging to understand. The plot in One Ghost Too Many! moves forward at a steady pace. (I read somewhere that in kids lit, every single sentence should move the story forward. And I think that’s true here.) And at 86 pages, it’s a story that could be stretched out over a couple of bedtimes, or read in one sitting on a rainy day.

One Ghost Too Many! is a good read, but it lacks that (rather undefinable) quality that makes me think I would pick up more in the series. My young reader had a similar opinion. She enjoyed the story but wasn’t interested in reading any more from it. Still One Ghost Too Many! may be a great choice, especially for burgeoning young detectives. That, or little kids who are really really into ghost stories!

4 Star Rated One Ghost Too Many Review


The Sleeper Review (Kids Sci-Fi Mystery)

Title: The Sleeper | Series: Ravens Pass | Author: Steve Brezenoff | Illustrator: Tom Percival | Publisher: Stone Arch | Pub. Date: 2014-4-1 | Pages: 96 | ASIN: B00ITYUZ4K | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 3 out of 5 | Source: Kindle Unlimited | Purchase on Amazon

The Sleeper

The old orphanage on the outskirts of Ravens Pass? It’s full of aliens ready to take over the planet. – Goodreads

Book cover for The Sleeper


The Sleeper Review


The Sleeper is a 96-page science fiction mystery early chapter book. It comes with a few accompanying discussion questions at the back, as well as with some writing prompts and a basic glossary. These writing prompts encourage the reader to continue to interact with the story on their own terms. It plunges the reader right into a world that is theoretically just a few days away from getting destroyed by aliens.  But the viewpoint the story is being told from is different than you might expect.

The illustrations in The Sleeper are black and white and surprisingly creepy. The illustrator, Tom Percival, does a solid job doing things like showing how even a smile can be rather disturbing. Nothing is graphic or outright scary at all, and yet readers can definitely experience an unease just looking at the pictures.

The Sleeper introduces the concept of a sleeper agent to young readers. I thought this was interesting and wasn’t expecting it even though the title should have been a dead giveaway. In my defense, the cover for The Sleeper and the two line synopsis don’t exactly tell you what to expect other than aliens!

While there are several good points to The Sleeper, I can’t say I particularly liked it. It felt too brief and even though the discussion questions invite the reader to continue the story, it ends on a massive cliffhanger regarding one of the kids’ fate. This may be deliberate, and for younger readers, it may actually work out well. It enables the child to feel a sense of accomplishment that they finished a book, and yet provides the impetus for them to pick up the next one. (Still made me twitch as it reeks too much of the chop-job that some authors like to do to a plot to sell more books.)

Overall, The Sleeper was an okay read. If it gets even a handful of kids interested enough to pick up another book, then it is has done its job. And, as always, it’s nice to see a beginning chapter book that focuses on science fiction!

3 Star Rated book Review on Sci-Fi & Scary