Audio & Book Review: Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training

Another fun book for a car ride or plane trip!  This is the second book in the Pip Bartlett series, but I liked the first one so much, I picked up the second one as soon as we got it in at the library.  If you like humor and fantasy, with a little mischief and crazy situations mixed in, this book is for you and your family.

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Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training, by Jackson Pearce & Maggie Stiefvater
Read by Cassandra Morris & Peter McGowan
4 Hours, 20 Minutes – 4 CDs

pip bartlett's guide to unicorn trainingPip Bartlett is still in small-town Georgia for the summer with her veterinarian aunt and her cousin Callie.  Aunt Emma’s Cloverton Clinic for Magical Creatures is still a pretty exciting place to be, even after she and her new friend Tomas have solved the mystery of the fire-starting Fuzzles.  (This is all in the first book, Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures.)  Even though Pip is a little worried that all of the adventures of the summer are over, she’s soon proven wrong when she finds out that the Triple Trident–the most famous unicorn show in the country–is being held right in Cloverton!

Because of her common sense during a crisis at the vet clinic, Pip is hired by Ms. Gould to keep her Rockshines (a sheep like animal that go invisible with any stress) calm and visible before the show.  Pip is eager to get a chance to get behind the scenes at the Triple Trident, and even if Rockshines aren’t very glamorous, they’re still magical!  And when she’s helping, Pip can watch the unicorns, her very favorite magical creature.  Even if they are rather vain, they are beautiful.

Pip finds out that Regent Maximus, the only unicorn she knows personally, is entered in the show and goes to see him.  But poor Regent Maximus is the complete opposite of what show unicorns are supposed to represent. Instead of being proud and majestic, he’s fearful and cowering.  Mr. Henshaw, his owner, promptly hires Pip and Tomas to train him to be able to walk across the threshold of the stable and into the show ring.  Two jobs!?  Can they manage to help both adults with their magical animals?

Training is well underway with Regent Maximus and the rockshines when disaster strikes!  Someone cuts off the beautiful tail of one of the unicorns.  On purpose!  Is someone trying to cheat so their unicorns win?  Or is there a mysterious person trying to sabotage the show? Pip uses her own special talent–talking to magical creatures–to investigate.  If they can discover who is responsible, they can figure out why.  But even the magical creatures are flummoxed.

Can two kids manage to do everything that needs to be done?  Can Pip still train Regent Maximus to compete with this creepy unicorn stalker on the prowl? Will Pip and Tomas solve the mystery before it’s too late?

pip bartlett's guide to unicorn training audioThe audio recording for Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training is absolutely delightful!  There are two readers; one for Pip’s narration, and one to read the entries for Jeffrey Higgleston’s Guide to Magical Creatures.

I love both voices…Cassandra Morris sounds exactly like a girl who could talk to magical creatures, but she also sounds perfect as Aunt Emma, Callie, Mr. Henshaw and every other character who comes into the story.  She does a wonderful voice for all the magical creatures, Regent Maximus in particular is perfect! Her voice is wonderfully paced for the action.

I would highly recommend both of the Pip Bartlett books, both as books and as audio.  The book has lots of great pictures from Jeffrey Higgleston’s guide, with Pip’s comments and changes.  So if you do listen to the book, you should also check out the print copy for all the extras!  I don’t know how many more Pip Bartlett books are coming, but I hope that the series goes on for many volumes!

Pip Bartlett’s Guide books are probably best for third through sixth grade readers, but the audio is good for all ages–kids as young as five should enjoy both the humor and the mystery.  Some similar titles are Fridays at the Castle by Jessica George, The Imaginary Veterinary series by Suzanne Selfors, and The Familiars series by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson.

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As always, if you need help finding a book or need suggestions for books to read, just ask one of our librarians!

::Kelly::

 

Five Delightful Audio Books!

It’s a run of fun books on CD to listen to alone or to share with your family!

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half a chanceHalf a Chance
By Cynthia Lord, Narrated by Maria Cabezas
4.75 Hours; 4 CDs

Lucy has just moved–again–with her parents to New Hampshire.  This is the first time their new home has been on a lake, but other than that, it’s kind of the same.  At least it’s summer, and Lucy won’t be the “new kid” in the middle of a school year.  But since most of the time, summer vacations are spent with friends you meet at school, she’s not sure what she’s going to do all alone.

half a chance audioThen she meets Nate, the kid who’s spending the summer at the lake with his family.  He’s staying with his grandmother,  who practically adopts Lucy into the family.  When Lucy’s father, a professional photographer, leaves shortly after they’ve arrived, Lucy comes up with a different way to stay close to him.  He’s supposed to judge a photography contest when he returns, and Lucy is determined to get his attention by winning.  She doesn’t want him to know he’s looking at her photos though, so Nate agrees to help her.  She’ll do the photography, and he’ll help her find ways to interpret the themes.  They work well together.  But then Lucy realizes that something is up with Grandma Lilah, and her photographs reveal things that Nate would rather not see.  Can they still work together and be friends?

Half a Chance is a poignant story about life and friendship, beginnings and endings.  I really enjoyed the narrator, who made the story come to life.  Highly recommended for kids in grades four through seven.  If you vacation in New Hampshire, like loons, or are a photographer, you have to read or listen to this story!

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flushFlush
By Carl Hiaasen, Read by Michael Welch
5 Hours, 23 Minutes, 5 CDs

Noah always knew his father could be a little irrational about saving the environment, but there’s irrational and there’s just plain crazy!  When his father is arrested for sinking a casino boat, Noah is prepared to deal with the fallout of fines and a grumpy mother, which is usually what happens.  But this time, his father refuses to pay the fine, declaring he will stay in jail until the casino owner answers for his crimes–namely, dumping the raw sewage from the boat’s waste tanks every night into the Florida Keys.  And there are reporters from newpapers and TV talking to him about it in jail!

But there’s no proof, and soon the casino is up and running again.  Noah’s father is still in jail, and his mother is talking the D word…divorce.  Noah decides that he has to prove his father is right, and his little sister Abbey plans to help.  Together, they come up with a plan.  But when the guy who was going to tell the truth on the casino order vanishes, leaving behind a blood-stained car, Noah and Abbey realize that maybe they’ve bit off more than they can chew.  With the bad guys after the whole family, can they prove their father is right in time?

flush audioIt’s not perfect, but the audio recording of Flush is enjoyable. The narrator of this sound recording has a pleasant voice, but he does tend to swallow some of his words when he’s reading, and it’s sometimes a bit difficult to tell who is talking.  However, the story is compelling, the characters are quirky and fun, and the mystery will keep you guessing, so it’s easy to ignore a few flaws.

Flush is best for kids in fifth through eighth grades, and it’s good for a car trip too, especially if your final destination is Florida!

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fantastic family whippleThe Fantastic Family Whipple
By Matthew Ward, Narrated by Steven Crossley
10.25 Hours, 9 CDs

To the Whipple Family, the most important thing in the world is achieving World Records.  From the moment they’re born (on March 1st for Mr. and Mrs. Whipple, Henry, Simon, Cordelia, Penelope, Edward, Charlotte, Lenora, Franklin, Abigail, Beatrice, George and Ivy) –they’re breaking records for everything from holding heir breath to competitive eating.  The only exception is Arthur, who was born on February 29th and who, try as he might, can’t manage to break a record for anything.

But when his latest attempt at record breaking by hopping on one foot while cracking a bullwhip fails in front of the birthday party audience fails, Mr. Whipple makes a slip and reveals to Arthur that there might be a curse on the family.  Arthur manages to put a few random clues together and is soon tracking down an unusual pair of menacing clowns.  With the help of the family’s cook and butler, and Ruby, the daughter of Mr. Whipple’s nemesis, Arthur is soon tracking down the source of the curse.  But will he be in time to save the Whipple Family?

fantastic family whipple audioI loved the narrator of The Fantastic Family Whipple; Stephen Crossley did an excellent job creating many different voices, filling out a huge cast of characters with creativity.  I enjoyed the narration more than the story, in fact.  (But that may be that pesky problem I have with trying to read real-life logic into fantasy worlds.)   If you don’t mind not thinking about things like how a family of fifteen can spend all their time trying to break world records or how a four year old can be a competitive eater, then you’ll probably love The Fantastic Family Whipple.  If you Do have a problem with that, just sit back and listen to the voices and imagine the characters.  You’ll still enjoy it.   The book is for kids ages 8 to 12, and the recording is good for all ages.

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escape from mr lemoncello's libraryEscape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
By Chris Gravenstein, Read by Jesse Bernstein
6 Hours, 20 Minutes; 5 CDs

Kyle Keelly has spent all of his life competing with his two older brothers–one a jock, the other a brain–and the only time he wins, sometimes, is when it comes to the games they play created by Mr. Lemoncello.  Most of them are board games, but with dice and wacky rules and physical components that give anyone the opportunity to win!  So when Kyle learns that Mr. Lemoncello, the world-famous game maker and library enthusiast, is building a state-of-the-art library in his very own town, he’s intrigued.  And when he learns that there’s going to be a contest for all ten-year-olds to write an essay where the winners get the chance to be the first to stay overnight in the new library, he plans to win.  Too bad that he didn’t realize what the prize was until five minutes before the essay was due.

However, Kyle manages to be one of the kids spending the night.  And after an exciting night finding solving one mystery, when they wake up the next morning, they learn that there’s an even greater contest they can choose to participate in–the first kid to follow the clues hidden throughout the library and escape the building wins an unbelievable prize!  Kyle is determined to be that kid.  As the games get harder, Kyle figures out that working together may be the best chance to win.  But with the other kids go along with that?  See if you can figure out the clues as the story unfolds!

escape from mr lemoncello's library audioMaybe it’s the librarian in me, but I thoroughly enjoyed Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, both the book and the sound recording.  It’s sort of a cross between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Kingdom Keepers series, and the Summer Reading Program!  If you read the book, the clues are pictured and slightly easier to put together.  The book on CD is good too, even if it’s a little harder to follow audio clues.  The narrator is wonderful, with distinctive voices for the kids and great voices for the adults.  Pure enjoyment all around!

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is a thrilling puzzler–or a puzzling thriller—right to the very end.  For kids in fourth to seventh grade, this adventure would be a mystery for the whole family to enjoy!  (And I’m really looking forward to reading  The Island of Dr. Libris, Chris Grabenstein’s new book that just came out this week!)

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smek for president 2Smek for President!
By Adam Rex, Read by Bahni Turpin
6 Hours, 5 CDs

My absolute favorite of the bunch!  🙂

This sequel to The True Meaning of Smekday (my favorite audio book EVER–see the original review here) is just as impressive as the first book.  My only complaint is that it ended–it’s just not long enough!

A year after all their adventures saving the world from the alien Gorg (and a bit from J.Lo’s people, the Boov) Tip and J.Lo are a little bored just staying close to home.  They need a vacation.  And also, they kind of have to escape town so that J.Lo won’t get into trouble for attacking and partially eating some college girl’s furry purple boots.  So they decide to take their hovercar Slushious out of mothballs and fly to New Boovworld, one of the moons of Saturn which has become the new home of the Boov.  Except that Tip’s mother isn’t in agreement with their plan.  Tip tricks J.Lo into going anyway, and soon the pair is on their way.

smek for president audioBut once they get there, things become complicated.  J.Lo had planned to wear his disguise helmet (which are sort of like sunglasses for humans) because he knows the Boov are still angry with him for being the reason the Gorg came to Earth.  But when Tip and J.Lo find out that they’ve reached New Boovworld just in time for the presidential elections, with J.Lo’s hero Smek running, J.Lo wants to explain what happened back on Earth.  Little does he know that the Boov call him The Squealer, and he’s considered Public Enemy Number One.  Even though Tip protests, that doesn’t stop J.Lo, he still convices her to come with him to meet Smek.  But right after that meeting, J.Lo and Tip are on the run from Smek, the entire planetful of Boov, a masked Boov assassin, and Dan Landry, the only adult human on New Boovworld, the man who took credit for their hard work saving Earth.  It’s a mess!  But this is Gratuity (Tip) Tucci, and J.Lo.  If anyone can handle it, they can.  Can’t they?

I love both Smek books, I love this author, I love this narrator, I love the whole package!  (Other people must have understood how good it is too, as The True Meaning of Smekday is hitting theaters this month, retitled as Home, a new animated movie from Dreamworks Pictures, starring Jim Parsons and Rihanna.  My only complaint is that they should have used Bahni Turpin as the voice of J.Lo, who was renamed Oh in the movie.)

Anyway, Bahni Turpin is the best, and the sound recording is excellent.  You’ll laugh out loud at the voices she creates, and probably forget that only one person is reading!  Make sure to check out the artwork, either in the book or on the PDF files on the CDs).

Smek for President is best for kids in grades four through seven, and it will be much better if you read The True Meaning of Smekday.  The sound recording for Smek for President is great for all ages, and it would definitely enhance a family car trip.  I highly recommend both books!  I hope that there’s a book three, continuing the adventures of Tip and J.Lo, coming out sometime soon!

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Try one of these books, or one of our many other enjoyable audio selections on your next trip.  Or just to listen to on your drive around town, because it will definitely make it pass faster.  If you need other suggestions, please ask a librarian any time for help!

::Kelly::