Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Dunderheads


The Dunderheads
by Paul Fleischman
ill. by David Roberts
juvenile fiction
56 pages
Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2009

Miss Breakbone is a terrible teacher. She spends all her time yelling and insulting her pupils. She also confiscates all their possessions from them. The students just sit in silent suffering until one day Miss B goes too far. She takes something from Junkyard that he had planned to give his mother for her birthday. The class brain, Einstein, springs into action. He devises a plan that involves the whole class and each of their special interests and talents. The goal is to reclaim their stuff and show Miss Breakbone that she's not the boss. Humorous and a quick read. I loved the message that all the kids might look different and have different hobbies, but they can get along and even work together to solve a problem.

Wild Things


Wild Things
by Clay Carmichael
juvenile realistic fiction
240 pages
Honesdale, Pa. : Front Street, c2009

Zoe is amazing! She is eleven-years-old (practically twelve!). She has fended for herself from a very early age. Her mother had mental issues and drug issues and man issues creating a lot of instability in young Zoe's life. Zoe learned quickly that the library was a safe haven where she could escape her mother's moods and her arguments with a long succession of boyfriends. After her mother dies, Zoe goes to live with her Uncle Henry, a man she had never heard of until then. Henry is the half-brother of the father Zoe never knew. Uncle Henry is quite a character unto himself. He was an excellent heart surgeon (and a famous one too) until he decided to pursue an art career instead. Now as a successful, yet reclusive scrap metal artist, Henry takes on his young niece with a ready heart. Zoe, however, has a hard time trusting anyone. Why should she trust Henry, he is just going to leave like everyone else in her life ever has! Zoe quickly becomes entranced with a stray cat hanging around, wanting him to trust her enough to come in the house and be petted. Little does Zoe know that she and the cat have a lot in common. The cat has trust issues as well. Zoe needs to learn to trust herself first, then everything else will fall into place. The story is tole mainly from Zoe's point-of-view, with a few chapters from the cat's perspective interspersed. This gives the reader a chance to see the similarities in both characters and how they grow out of their fears.
   So many characters and surprises make this novel rich and full of life. The author has created such a strong girl in Zoe that I loved her instantly and wished I had known someone like her when I was young. A definite contender for the Newbery award this year, Wild Things,will be near the top of my list.

Acceleration


Acceleration
by Graham McNamee
young adult thriller/mystery
210 pages
New York : Wendy Lamb Books, 2003

     Duncan is 17-years-old and spending the summer slaving away in the depths of the Toronto subway system. His father helped him get the exciting job in the Lost & Found Department. Let's just say it is not his dream job! His co-worker/supervisor is a cranky old man who never talks unless absolutely necessary. The shelves are overflowing with years of accumulated junk and dust. Duncan spends a lot of time sorting and organizing, but he finds time to browse some of the books that have made their way underground. One day he finds a little leather book, no title, no name, just a handwritten journal of strange experiments and even stranger thoughts. Duncan is disgusted yet fascinated that such a deranged person was wandering around his city streets somewhere. Duncan can't seem to stop reading the record of stalkings and descriptions of intended victims. You would think it be easy to just turn the book into the police and let them deal with it and figure out who the sick mastermind is behind it. Maybe that isn't the best option for Duncan. So he takes it upon himself to track down the serial killer, hoping it isn't too late.
     Acceleration is rather a dark and dreary read. Yet Duncan is a likable character who has had a bit of a rough time the past few years. This book is not overly violent or explicit. There are a few suggestive comments and mild language. Not a fabulous must-read, but interesting.

Littlenose the Hunter


Littlenose the Hutner
by John Grant
ill. by Ross Collins
122 pages
intermediate chapter book
London : Simon and Schuster, 2006

Littlenose acts like your typical young boy. He loves to pester his parents and gets into tons of mischief. However, he doesn't quite look like the average youngster we see today. For starters, he only wears furs. He is learning how to hunt and fish with the rest of the village boys. He lives in a cave with his mom and dad. He is a Neanderthal. Littlenose has lots of adventures involving fire, Bigfoot, fire, giant salmon, fire, and the dreaded Straightnose people! Read along to find out how he gets into and out of so much trouble! And maybe one of these days his mother will tell him not to play with flints!

Probably will be most popular with 2nd & 3rd grade boys, 1st-graders if they are pretty good readers.
This is first in a 6-book series.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Raiders' Ransom


Raiders' Ransom
by Emily Diamand
Juvenile Fantasy/Science Fiction
334 pages
New York : Chicken House, 2009

   Great Britain in the 23rd century is considerably changed from its current state. The ocean has reclaimed a great portion of the land leaving tough survivors precariously clinging to existence wherever they can. Lilly lives in a fisher village with her Granny and Cat, a rare seacat vital to her fishing endeavors. Life is rough, and only gets more complicated when the Prime Minister's young daughter, Lexy, is kidnapped from her village while visiting her aunt. While Lilly is trying to rescue Lexy and stop a war between the English and the Raiders, she meets Zeph. A son of the Angle Isling Family Boss, Zeph is all about war and raiding. His encounter with Lilly and Lexy and Cat changes him a great deal.  There is conflict, broken promises and surprise alliances all around these young kids as they try to understand and survive in a hostile world.
   New author Emily Diamand, won the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition in London for 2007. Deservedly so, I would have to say. I loved the chaotic world she created as a possible future. Her characters have depth and realistic idiosyncrasies. A sequel is definitely in the works and is welcome, as some plotlines were not resolved. However, it is enough of a finish not to leave you dangling for a year or more waiting to see what happens next. 

Monday, December 14, 2009

Clover Twig


Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage
by Kaye Umansky
ill. by Johanna Wright
juvenile fantasy adventure
297 pages
New York : Roaring Brook Press, 2009

Clever Twig is a clever and strong girl. When the village witch, Mrs. Eckles, advertises for a live-in housekeeper, Clover jumps at the chance to help her family (and have her own room). The cottage quickly comes together under Clover's capable hands. However, life is not meant to run smoothly for the little house. The evil Mesmeranza has a diabolical plan for the cottage which of course involves just the right outfit, a spectacular hairdo, and the perfect pair of red shoes! Wait, how could I forget cake?! A scrumptious cake with white icing and a big red cherry is crucial to Mesmeranza's evil doings. Can Clover protect her new home with the help of her clumsy friend Wilf and Mrs. Eckles' familiar, the mangy cat Neville?

A fun adventure full of quirky characters made this a quick and enjoyable read. I don't usually like silly fantasy, but for some reason this one worked. The characters are interesting and I found myself hoping that Wilf would get over his clumsiness and that Neville would get a proper bath so Clover wouldn't be so disgusted by him.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Louise the Big Cheese


Louise the Big Cheese
by Elise Primavera
ill. by Diane Goode
unpaged
picture book
New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, c2009

Louise knows she is going to be on Broadway someday. Or maybe she will walk down the red carpet to recieve her Bosco, or is it Oscar? At any rate, she loves the limelight and is determined to make it big some day. For now she will settle for being Cinderella in her class play. Things get complicated when the audition doesn't go quite how she planned.
Young girls will grab this book just because of the pink and sparkly cover. The illustrations are adorable without overtaking the story. Happily, there is a story, it isn't all fluff and shiny letters. Children will learn a valuable lesson about friendship and attitude from Louise.

Where the Mild Things Are: A Very Meek Parody


Where the Mild Things Are: A Very Meek Parody
by Maurice Send-up
ill. by Bonnie Leick
unpaged
picture book
New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2009

Mog is a young monster who gets mad at his parents. He jumps in his car, a 1974 AMC Gremlin, and drives cross-country to visit the most boring places he can find. He decides to settle in Dullsville with "some very mild creatures". These creatures are Martha Stewart, Jay Leno, Bill Gates and Al Gore, though they are never actually named. They do such exciting things as prepare taxes, discuss binary numbers, fold socks, and change lightbulbs. Eventually Mog decides he would rather be a monster among monsters and he returns to his parents and they all live happily ever after (except the kitten).

There, I have told you the whole story so you have no need to waste your time picking up this book. I understand it is meant as a parody. Parodies should be somewhat humorous, this one is not. It is a picture book so should appeal to children, at least a little bit, it doesn't. Most kids will not get the humor and won't even know who they "mild creatures" really are. The illustrations were kind of cute, but overall a very pointless book. It seems obvious that it was published at this time to reap some fringe benefits from the movie coming out.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gary the Pirate


Gary the Pirate
created and written by Scott Christian Sava
art by Tracy Bailey
110 pages
Juvenile Graphic Novel
San Diego, Calif. : IDW Publishing, c2009

Gary is a young resident of Pirate's Cove, a pirate haven in the sky. However, he is not a very good pirate. In fact he is quite clumsy and frequently incurs the wrath of Stinky, one of the most ruthless and feared pirates. Meanwhile, down on land, Judy is being teased by her friend's for not being interested in boys. Next thing she knows, Gary is trying to steal some jewels from her. She decides she will pay him with the jewels if he will take her to Pirate Cove. They have a fun little bit of adventure and romance. Simple and rather dull story. Boys will be greatly disappointed if they grab this graphic novel as it is more of a silly romantic adventure than a swashbuckling pirate tale. The art was not thrilling either. The panels and layout were boring and the color choices too monochromatic and pastel. I have enjoyed many of Sava's graphic novels, but not this one.

Sticky Burr: The Prickly Peril


Sticky Burr: The Prickly Peril
Sticky Burr Graphic Novel #2
by John Lechner
Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2009

Sticky, Mossy, Scurvy and Spiny are back in all their prickly burriness. Sticky thinks that just because burrs look sharp and disagreeable on the outside doesn't mean they have to act that way. He just wishes they could all get along for one day. That is why he is planning a Harvest Fair, complete with variety show. Scurvy and his silly sidekick Spiny decide they will put a stop to this ridiculous fair. They enlist the aid of the only burr to ever be banned by the community, Burweena! Check out this hilarious graphic novel  to find out if their plan works or not! And if you haven't read the first one, Sticky Burr: Adventures in Burrwood Forest, grab that one too. These are great graphic novels for younger readers. The illustrations are engaging as are the characters. Who knew I would ever find a burr adorable?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

When You Reach Me


When You Reach Me
by Rebecca Stead
Juvenile Fiction
197 pages
New York : Wendy Lamb Books, 2009

     Miranda and Sal are best friends when they enter 6th grade. They are street-savvy, latch-key New Yorkers who try to avoid trouble on their way home from school. This can be challenging sometimes as they steer clear of the rowdy boys by the garage and the crazy man who sleeps with his head under the mailbox on the corner. Things go downhill when Sal gets punched by a strange kid for no reason at all. He shuts Miranda out and she is forced to find new friends. Miranda receives a very mysterious note that says, "I am coming to save your friend's life, and my own. I ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter. " The curious messages keep turning up and Miranda has to keep them a secret while she tries to understand them. It is obvious that whoever is leaving the notes, knows a lot about her that they shouldn't know and they know things before they even happen.
     Rebecca Stead is brilliant once again. (If you haven't read her first novel, First Light, I highly recommend it). When You Reach Me, is a well-written novel that is both realistic and fantastic at the same time. I hope you all take the time to read this novel for it's originality alone. If you are a fan of L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time, you will appreciate this book even more. The best part is this book completely and totally stands alone. No cliff-hanger ending, no sequels needed, just one fabulous story all contained within its covers. This is sure to be a Newbery contender!

The Last Thing I Remember


The Last Thing I Remember
The Homelanders: Book One
by Andrew Klavan
Young Adult Action/Suspense
336 pages
Nashville, Tenn. : Thomas Nelson, c2009

     Charlie West is your typical American teenager. He does well in school, has several friends, gets along with his parents, excels in his karate class and has a crush on an amazing girl named Beth. Then one day Charlie wakes up with his arms and legs strapped to a chair in a concrete windowless room. There is a tray with an assortment of blades and other sinister devices on it across the room. He notices they are covered in blood. Reality floors him as he realizes it is his blood and the reason he is in so much pain. Charlie thinks about the last thing he remembers, going to bed in his house with his parents and sister just down the hall. How did he end up here? Why is he here? Then he hears voices outside his prison room. And he doesn't like what they say!
     Another exciting new series for the teen male audience. It is action packed and suspenseful! Surprisingly clean and not as violent as you would think. There is some shooting and other violence referred to, but it is not explicit. Book two, The Long Way Home, comes out in February. I can't wait to see what happens next!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Daring Miss Quimby


The Daring Miss Quimby
by Suzanne George Whitaker
ill. by Catherine Stock
unpaged picture book biography
New York : Holiday House, c2009

We've all heard lots about Amelia Earhart and her high-flying achievements. Did you know that Harriett Quimby was the first woman in the United States to earn her pilot's license. She quickly became a hit at the airshows touring the country. She had a special purple satin flight suit made so she would stand out even more. Her story is filled with amazing feats and pure determination to go after your heart's desire. Unfortunately her dreams were tragically cut short but her life inspired many females to follow in her footsteps. This picture book biography has a great feel to it thanks to the beautiful pencil and watercolor illustrations.

Dogs Don't Brush Their Teeth!


Dogs Don't Brush Their Teeth!
by Diane deGroat and Shelley Rotner
unpaged picture book with fold-out pages
New York : Orchard Books, 2009

Finally, an etiquette book for your canine pal! Essentially this is a wordless picture book. The only text is "Dogs Do" and "Dogs Don't". The book creators combined photography with digital art to illustrate some pretty hilarious situations. Dogs Don't Brush Their Teeth provides a great opportunity for young children to "tell" the story in their own words as they describe what is happening on each page. My three-year-old son couldn't stop laughing as he read this book over and over and over again. In fact, I had to sneak it out of the house to return it to the library!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Secret World of Walter Anderson


The Secret World of Walter Anderson
by Hester Bass
ill. by E. B. Lewis
unpaged
picture book biography
Cambridge, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2009

Many artists have a reputation of being odd or quirky. Some also are quite reclusive and secretive. Walter Anderson fit all these stereotypes. Neighbors would see him riding his bicycle or paddling his patchwork boat and think how odd he was. Walter never cared what others thought, he just wanted to do what felt right to him. Walter would row over twelve miles to a wild  island off the Mississippi Gulf Coast just to paint and get closer to nature. He kept a small room in his home locked at all times, even his wife and children were never allowed in there. Walter painted pottery and such for the public, but his heart was always with his nature studies. Many people have probably never heard of Walter Anderson, I hadn't until I read this book. After getting this brief glimpse into his life, I am curious to learn more and to see more of his work. This picture book biography is very well done. The author captures the enigmatic personality of the subject and the illustrations are gorgeous.

The Plain Janes


The Plain Janes
by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
unpaged
Teen Graphic Novel
New York, N.Y. : Minx, 2007

Jane is in the thick of disaster when a bomb goes off in Metro City. Her parents move the family to the suburbs where they believe it is safer. Jane is distressed about the move and worries about making friends. She falls in with a mismatched group of girls who all happen to be named Jane (or some variation of Jane). They loosely connect and form a slightly rebellious group called P.L.A.I.N. (People Loving Art In Neighborhoods). The group doesn't do any real harm, but they irritate the local police. Hints of romance and lots of normal teen girl friendship drama fill the pages of this black and white graphic novel. It was readable but I didn't love it. I will probably read the second one just because I am a completest and I want to know if Main Jane goes to Poland.

New Intermediate Series for Boys


Look Out, Jeremy Bean!
by Alice Schertle
ill. by David Slonim
58 pages
Intermediate
San Francisco : Chronicle Books, 2009

Three short little stories about young Jeremy Bean. The first one tells us what he decides to bring for his show-and-tell collection. In the second story Jeremy overhears his mother talking about the dust bunnies under the bed. Jeremy thinks she is talking about a real bunny and does everything he can think of to catch one for his pet. Finally, in the third story, learn what happens when Jeremy forgets to wear green to school on St. Patrick's Day. Cute illustrations and very brief chapters make this a great realistic fiction read for beginning chapter book readers.


Captain Cal and the Giant Straw
by Jan Dallimore
ill. by Richard Morden
47 pages
Intermediate
Minneapolis, Minn. : Picture Window Books, 2010

Captain Cal, Copilot Ebby, and Chief Navigator Dan take off in their trusty spaceship, the Silver Pig. Their mission is to find and destroy the evil Bloggs before they get to Earth.  This story shows great use of a child's imagination. The weapons and space gear are made out of toilet paper tubes and other household junk. This series will be a fun read for those just entering the chapter book phase. Lots of black and white illustrations accompany the text so kids won't feel overwhelmed with reading.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

shiver


shiver
by Maggie Stiefvater
390 pages
young adult fantasy
New York : Scholastic, 2009

   When Grace was 11-years-old she was dragged from her tire swing in the backyard and mauled by some wolves. She was rescued and eventually healed with no permanent damage aside from some scars. You would think she would then fear the wolves who live in the forest behind her house. This couldn't be further from the truth, she is fascinated with them. Okay, maybe obsessed would be a better word for it. She is most especially intrigued by a yellow-eyed male. She feels an intense connection to this wolf and spends hours watching him in the winter and missing him in the summer when the whole pack disappears. Little does she know that Sam, her personal wolf, also feels a connection with her. Sam's world is divided into two lives - his winters living as a wolf and his summers as a human. Now that they have finally been brought together they will do anything to prevent Sam changing back.
    I am sure people will compare this book to that other book about vampires. However, I found shiver much more intriguing and captivating than that book. I loved the characters and the mood created by the author throughout the novel. There were parts that I found a bit dull yet I know they were necessary for showing Sam's human side (his poetry and lyrics). A fast-paced read for teens and adults who love everything werewolves!

The Walls Have Eyes


The Walls Have Eyes
sequel to The Sky Inside
by Clare B. Dunkle
juvenile/teen science fiction
225 pages
New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2009

Martin Glass just wants to live outside the bubble he grew up in. His sister Cassie, a Wonder Baby, is safe for the moment. Martin and Chip, his modified bot dog, love being outdoors in the sunshine. He decides to return to his dome city to tell his parents about the outside world and bring them out too. Martin is wanted by government agents on many levels so their escape is a dangerous one. Finally, when faced with a chance to speak his mind to the President, his whole world is turned upside-down. Will Martin have any of his family left when his ordeal is over? What about Chip, hid beloved canine companion?
I enjoyed the first book better, but this was a good sequel. This would be a hard book to enjoy if you hadn't read the first one. Parts of the ending seemed a little vague and confusing, but it all worked out okay. Both books are listed as young adult on most sites (amazon.com), but I think they are actually more intended for middle school or 5th-8th grade.

The Stone Child


The Stone Child
by Dan Poblocki
274 pages
juvenile fantasy/horror
New York : Random House, c2009

Eddie and his parents have just moved to the small town of Gatesweed. People rarely move to Gatesweed, usually they move away. Eddie is excited to find out that his all-time favorite author, Nathaniel Olmstead, lived in the same town. At least he did until he mysteriously disappeared 13 years ago. Eddie along with a couple of other misfits from school band together to solve all the mysteries of the town. These mysteries include a Nathaniel Olmstead manuscript written in code, demonic monster sightings, mystery graffiti and of course, the famous author's disappearance.
Elementary school children will probably get the creeps when reading this book. However, I don't think I would have when I was younger, I certainly didn't now. The first half of the book was boring and the characters were flat and unappealing. The second half was better though the characters were still uninspiring. The demons and monsters didn't really seem that scary or threatening. I will probably still recommend this to 4th-6th graders looking for a scary book just because they might find it scary, and it has a great cover!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Book Blogger Holiday Swap



Are you a fellow book blogger? Sign up to be a Secret Santa for another blogger! What a fun idea to get in the holiday spirit. Follow the link to sign up http://holidayswap.wordpress.com/. I think it will be fun to see what everyone gets!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Academy 7


Academy 7
by Anne Osterlund
259 pages
teen science fiction
New York, N.Y. : Speak, 2009

     Aerin Renning is brilliant but mysterious young girl attending the most prestigious school in the universe, Academy 7. Her classmate, Dane Madousin, is a rebellious boy from a wealthy, prominent military family. Their lives are intertwined in ways even they don't know. As they navigate their way through the competitive life at the Academy they develop a strong friendship that defies those around them.
      Ignore the cover of this book. I actually debated on not including it as it really doesn't give the right feel for the book. The cover gives the suggestion of a romance book (at least to me), when in fact it is a futuristic adventure. There is some typical high school-type drama as well as some light romance, but that is not the main point of the story. The political unrest of the universe is at the heart of the book. I certainly hope the author plans a sequel or two to further explore the situation with the Alliance and the trade Union. Of course I won't mind seeing how Aerin and Dane further their relationship also!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lunch Lady


Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute
Lunch Lady #1
Jarrett J. Krosoczka
juvenile graphic novel
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2009


Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians
Lunch Lady #2
by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
juvenile graphic novel
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2009

What do you get when you cross James Bond with a cafeteria worker? Why the Lunch Lady, of course! Not only does she serve a fabulous pizza (with gravy), but she can wield those fish stick nunchucks like a pro! Lunch Lady and her trusty partner, Betty, are on the case when the new substitute teacher piles on the kids homework for no reason. Three kids happen to uncover their secret and unwittingly become involved in a battle with an evil teacher. In book two the kids overhear the nasty librarians plan to overtake the world.  You must read this to find out what dangerous weapons the librarians used, they gave me some ideas that's for sure! These graphic novels should be a big hit with kids, teachers and librarians alike. The text is minimal and the panels carry the story and the action. The art, done in black, white and yellow, is fun and eye-catching. Look for book three soon, Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta!

Cat O'Nine Tails


Cat O'Nine Tails
Cat Royal Adventure: Book Four
by Julia Golding
373 pages
juvenile/teen historical adventure
New York : Roaring Brook Press, 2009

Cat Royal returns in another exciting, non-stop adventure. Having been exiled from Drury Lane she has taken up residence with her wealthy friends in the country. She is bored, bored, bored with all the sitting around expected of young girls in society. Of course, Cat is never long without mischief and mayhem. She enlists the help of Frank and Pedro to track down Syd who has disappeared. They quickly learn he was caught by a press gang of the British Navy and is serving on board a ship. I am sure you are not surprised to find out that Cat and her friends get caught and forced aboard a ship as well. Where will Cat end up this time? Or has she finally gotten herself stuck in a situation there is no escaping from? If you haven't read the Cat Royal series, please do so. They are fun historical adventures with a fabulous fiery redhead as the main character. Hints of romance abound in these books. Do you think she will end up with Frank? Syd? Billy?

The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance


The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance
Candle Man: Book One
by Glenn Dakin
300 pages
juvenile fantasy
New York : Egmont USA, 2009

Theo lives an extremely secluded life. His guardian, the butler and the maid are the only three people Theo has ever known. He is kept within three rooms in the mansion. His only outside excursions are to the neighboring cemetery on his birthday. His guardian says he has a very rare and mysterious disease so keeping him isolated from the outside world is necessary for his own safety. As Theo grows older he begins to question this because he feels fine except for when he has his treatments in the Mercy Tube, then he feels horrible. One particular birthday he discovers a mysterious package with his name on it at the cemetery. This is only the beginning of a chain of strange events that change his life forever. As the mystery of his illness unfolds, Theo's world is turned upside-down and he has no idea who to trust.
An engaging new fantasy hero has arrived. Theo is an appealing, innocent young man who has been dealt a bad hand in life. I absolutely loved the beginning of this book, then things got a little iffy for me. The bad guys are rather a silly lot. They didn't quite mesh with me at first, but only for a short while. The characters never got less silly, but it worked into the story. In a way, the silliness kind of distracted the reader away from the violence that was going on as the story climaxed. Yes, there is violence, but it is not overly abundant or descriptive. Overall, an exciting story that will grab you. As usual, I am now annoyed I have to wait another year to read book two.

Friday, October 23, 2009

out of time


out of time
time thriller trilogy: book 2
by Paul McCusker
236 pages
Young Adult
Grand Rapids, MI : Zonderkidz, 2009

   Once again Jeff and Elizabeth are caught in a time-tangle in their hometown of Fawlt Line. This time they aren't the ones who time travel (see Ripple Effect), King Arthur makes a flesh and blood appearance in an historical ruin Jeff's Uncle Malcolm had imported from England. Things get hectic when King Arthur, speaking only Latin, has a hard time communicating and gets put in the psychiatric ward of the local hospital. Jeff, Malcolm, Elizabeth and her dad (Latin translator) do everything they can to return Arthur to England all the while trying to figure out what his mission is. The hardest part is keeping him away from local authorities who might misinterpret his behavior, especially when he decides to unsheathe Excalibur! There is a man who may or may not be Merlin, and a man who may or may not be Mordred who complicate things further.
   Though this is the second book in the trilogy, it can be read fine on its own. The author makes a couple of references to the teens adventure in the first book yet it doesn't really have any impact on the adventure with Arthur. I have the final book in the trilogy that I will be reading in the next few weeks so it will be interesting to see how they all tie together. So far an interesting and adventurous series, but nothing spectacular.

Grumpy Old Monsters


Grumpy Old Monsters
created and written by Kevn J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta
art by Guillermo Mendoza and Paco Cavero
99 pages
comic/graphic novel
San Diego, Calif. : IDW, 2009

     All the classic monsters can be found at Rest in Peace: A Retirement Care Facility for Mature Monsters with Special Needs. Yet none of them are at peace, they all miss the good old days when people were frightened of them. Now they are the ones frightened by the nursing staff at the home. Everyone seems to have forgotten about Dracula, The Invisible Man, The Hunchback, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Werewolf, Frankenstein's Monster, and The Mummy. Only young Tiffany Frankenstein, granddaughter of the infamous creator, takes time to visit them. On one of her visit's she breaks the tragic news that Castle Frankenstein is going to be demolished by the Van Helsing Corporation to make way for some high-rise condominiums. The monsters decide to escape from the rest home and help their friend save the family estate.
     A silly tale with mediocre art that is pretty much appropriate for all ages. A couple of unnecessary panels showing the monsters' apparent fascination with breasts means this particular graphic novel will be available in the teen section of our library and not the children's department. This probably would not be an issue at most libraries but I work in a rather unique environment where parents are a bit more offended. There are also numerous pop culture references that will mean something to adults who read it and make teens and children wonder. Not one I will purchase for my personal collection or even read again.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Shifter



The Shifter
The Healing Wars: Book 1

by Janice Hardy
juvenile fantasy
370 pages
New York : Balzer & Bray, 2009

Geveg and its neighboring countries are being overtaken by the Evil Duke of Baseer. He is greedy and wants all of their pynvium, a special ore used both for healing and weapon-making. Nya and Tali are two sisters orphaned by the war. To survive, Tali enters the Healer League to learn how to master her ability to heal and draw out someone's pain. She and all the other Healers, or Takers, then transfer the pain into the pynvium so they don't have to carry it longer than necessary. Pain-filled pynvium is then used to make weapons. Nya too is a healer, yet she does not have the ability to transfer the pain into pynvium, instead she can transfer the pain into another person. You can imagine the many wrong-ways someone could use this power. Considered an Abnormal Taker, she can not enter the League and has to scrape out an existence on the streets while trying to hide her talents. When her beloved sister is in danger, Nya is forced to reveal her secret to a pain merchant. She will have to make sacrifices and hard decisions, always thinking of her sister and her fellow Gevegians. She has a couple of great friends to help her in and out of some tough spots, including a possible romantic interest. This is an enjoyable fantasy adventure for middle school and upper elementary students (boys and girls alike). High-school age kids would probably enjoy it, but would think it a bit tame compared to a lot of the teen literature out there right now. It is obviously the first in a series, yet it wraps up enough I am not going to be as frustrated with the wait as I usually am with other series. 

Hannah's Winter



Hannah's Winter
by Kierin Meehan
juvenile mystery
205 pages
La Jolla, Calif. : Kane/Miller Book Publishers, 2009
(originally published in Australia 2001)

Hannah is a 12-year-old redhead from Australia. Her mother has dumped her with family friends in Kanazawa, Japan while she tours the country getting information for her next book. Hannah would much rather be home with her dad and going to school with her friends. However, her mother decided this would be the perfect opportunity to improve her Japanese language skills. Resigned to make a go of it, Hannah settles into the household. She quickly makes friends with Miki, the daughter, which is a good thing considering they immediately get drawn into a ghostly mystery. It all began when Miki's father received a box of old paper stuff at his shop. The girls find a box with old paper toys and a riddle about an ocean boy. When the riddle starts mirroring their daily life they begin to take it seriously.The girls friendship strengthens as they dodge flying donuts, slosh through the snow to visit obscure shrines and visit with the keeper of old frogs.
This was a nice little mystery, ghost story, international friendship book. It was nothing super fantastic, but would appeal to upper elementary girls who like ghosts and mysteries. However, the cover is going to be a big drawback. The cover is nice and artistically pleasing, if it were and adult novel. Young girls will not be drawn to it, and the especially will not be thinking it is a ghostly mystery story. Hopefully the paperback will have a more appropriate cover so I can get the girls that come to the library to read it.

Highway Robbery


Highway Robbery
by Kate Thompson
ill. by Jonny Duddle and Robert Dress
juvenile historical fiction
118 pages
New York, NY : Greenwillow Books, 2009

The young narrator of this story is a scrawny little urchin begging his way through life on the streets of London. One cold and dreary day a gentleman asks him to hold his horse until he gets back, promising him a gold coin if he successfully does so. As the day progresses and the "gentleman" doesn't return, our young hero ponders all the ways he could spend the promised coin. His reflections are frequently interrupted by would-be horse thieves, obnoxious girls, and the King's soldiers.  The soldiers inform him that he is guarding the horse of the infamous highway robber, Dick Turpin. They then use the boy and the horse to set a trap for the criminal. Our youngster's thoughts are in turmoil about this change in events, and he is only sure of one thing, he was promised some money and no matter, he was getting paid for the job! A fun, short, historical fiction with pleasant black and white illustrations throughout.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down, Thumbs Sideways?

Thumbs Up



Opposnakes: A Lift-the-Flap Book About Opposites
Salina Yoon
New York : Little Simon, c2009

Clever fold-out pages. Fun way to teach opposites to small children.

Thumbs Sideways

The Strange Case of the Missing Sheep
Mircea Catusanu
New York : Viking, 2009

Strange, slightly bizarre illustrations to go with a strange, slightly bizarre story. Kind of fun though.


Louisa: The Life of Louisa May Alcott
Yona Zeldis McDonough 
ill. Bethanne Andersen
New York : Henry Holt and Co., 2009

Nice simple biographical story. Illustrations not my favorite.

Thumbs Down

Guess Again!
Mac Barnett
ill. Adam Rex

Can I just say random!! Slightly frustrating for some young children, things aren't at all what they expect. Although Adam Rex is one of my favorite illustrators, this was not my favorite work of his.


Spells
Emily Gravett

Love the cover. That's about it. Story idea cute, but I didn't like the execution of it. Interior illustrations nothing too exciting.
 

Monday, October 12, 2009

Recipe 4 Robbery


Recipe 4 Robbery
Marybeth Kelsey
282 pages
Juvenile Fiction
  
Lindy is so thrilled to be helping her mother with the annual Cucumber Festival preparation. She tries to escape with her best friend but gets roped into sampling a lovely dish of stewed cucumbers made by Granny Goose.While choking them down and pretending to like them she finds a gold locket swimming in the muck. A pesky boy from her class informs her that it must be part of the loot that was stolen from the home in the neighborhood. This wealthy family had sponsored a food class at their home only to discover several priceless items stolen shortly after. Granny Goose is a bit of an eccentric. She operates an animal rescue clinic in her own backyard. She has everything from a three-legged croc to a goose named Pickles that follows her around wherever she goes. The evidence seems to point to her as the thief but the kids don't believe it. Someone must be trying to frame Granny Goose. Their investigation begins and the suspect list grows long. Will the trio figure out who the thief is before Granny's goose gets cooked?
Recipe 4 Robbery will lead kids on a fun and silly goose chase as they try to figure out who the real thief is! Not a fabulous book by any means, but definitely entertaining to a degree. Should find popularity with 4th and 5th grade girls. Boys might like it too, but the main character is a girl and that does typically turn a lot of boys that age off a book.

The Circus Ship




The Circus Ship
by Chris Van Dusen
unpaged picture book
Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2009

A selfish and greedy circus owner is on a boat headed to Boston with his menagerie. The ship's captain is concerned about the weather and wants to stop and wait it out. The circus owner forces him to persist and eventually the ship runs aground. The circus owner is saved but the animals are left to their own devices. They finally reach land near a small Maine town. At first the townspeople are frightened by the strange creatures. Eventually they learn to love them and will do anything to save them from their crazy owner when he returns to reclaim them.
Van Dusen loosely based the event on a true story, but this is not a story of the true event. His illustrations are wonderful, full of charm and humor. My son read it like an hidden object book, having to find all the animals in every scene. Good stuff, I hope we see much more of this talented author/illustrator.

Spot the Plot: A Riddle Book of Book Riddles



Spot the Plot: A Riddle Book of Book Riddles
by J. Patrick Lewis
ill. Lynn Munsinger
unpaged
poetry picture book
San Francisco : Chronicle Books, 2009

How well do you know your children's books? This clever little book quizzes you on thirteen story plots that range from Cinderella to Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type. The clues are given through wonderfully detailed illustrations and an accompanying bit of verse. My personal favorite is the tenth one. In case you are wondering, I did get the correct answers, and I have even read all of them!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Monster Sleepover!



Monster Sleepover!
written and illustrated by Scott Beck
unpaged
picture book
New York : Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2009

A whole bunch of monsters get together for a slumber party. Snacks, games, and silliness are just some of the activities going on at this party. The monsters include a dinosaur, skeleton, mummy, vampire, ghost, alien and robot. The illustrations are cutely simple. The text at the bottom of the page is unnecessary and a little annoying for the most part. The square panels with the illustatrions are laid out like a very basic comic book. This part of the book is the best part. Pay particular attention to the robot, he was the cause of much laughter for my son. Overall, not a great story or illustrations, but some humor makes it not a total waste of time.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dragonbreath


Dragonbreath
written and illustrated by Ursula Vernon
152 pages
New York : Dial Books, 2009

Danny is a young dragon who hasn't found his fire yet. This brings him no-end of teasing from the big bad  Komodo Dragon,, resident bully at his school for reptiles and amphibians. I  must admit I did not finish this book. I just didn't have enough time to read something I was only mildly interested in. The book is half text-based novel and half graphic novel. All the fun pictures are drawn in green, black and white ink. Dragonbreath will probably find popularity with 3rd - 5th grade boys. With the graphic elements it will also appeal to reluctant readers.

Kaleidoscope Eyes


Kaleidoscope Eyes
Jen Bryant
257 pages
juvenile mystery
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2009

It's 1966 and the Lyza's world is in turmoil. Her mother abandoned her family and left no way to keep in touch with her. Young men from her neighborhood are being drafted to fight in Vietnam and some of them are coming home in flag-draped coffins. Her older sister Denise is something of a wild child and hanging out with a questionable crowd. Their father spends every moment at his job teaching at the university. Lyza's best friend has a color of skin not widely accepted anywhere at this time. To top everything off, her grandfather passes away. While cleaning out his house, Lyza discovers an envelope addressed to her. It contains some unusual maps and a key. With the help of her friends Lyza embarks on a secret mission to complete her grandfather's project.
A unique mystery adventure involving ancient maps and lost pirate treasure. I did like the story but I have a big problem with the book overall. The text is written in a free-verse format. A lot of the paragraph breaks and sentences structures were confusing and distracting. Only by telling myself to ignore all breaks and read it as a regular novel was I able to finish this book. I worry that a struggling reader might be a little put-off by this format. Hopefully the characters and intrigue will be enough to keep them turning the pages. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


The Knife of Never Letting Go
Chaos Walking: Book One
by Patrick Ness
479 pages
Young Adult
Fantasy/Science-fiction
Cambridge, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2008

Welcome to Prentisstown. Here you will find no females, no children younger than 13-years-old, and lots of Noise. Prentisstown is a colony on a distant New World. The religious settlers were unaware of a native species called "Spackles" until they were already on the planet. Naturally, a war broke out and the Natives unleashed some nasty germ that killed the women and caused the men's thoughts and feelings to project so everyone else could hear them. At least that is the history Todd Hewitt, the last boy in the villate, has always been taught. Now that he is approaching his passage into manhood, Todd discovers some things are not what they seem. He ends up on the run with some interesting companions. Fleeing from the unknown and heading towards the unknown.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is a true page-turner. I loved the feel of this planet and its inhabitants. When you read it be sure to read the chapter titles as they are quite intriguing. I am currently reading the second book so look for my review on that soon. If you are looking for an action-packed fantasy/sci-fi adventure, give this one a try.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Happy Birthday Bad Kitty


Happy Birthday Bad Kitty
written and illustrated by Nick Bruel
159 pages
New York : Roaring Brook, c2009

Bad Kitty is back with a vengeance! His loving owner is throwing him a birthday party. But the silly owner's first mistake is waking Kitty up for that party! Doesn't he know that cat's are generally quite grumpy if woken up from a nice pleasant nap? Despite all the neighborhood cats bringing him gifts and having a birthday cake that defies description, Bad Kitty's birthday is just not what was planned. It is made slightly better at the end by a surprise visitor and an especially thoughtful gift. While not quite as hilarious as Bad Kitty Gets a Bath, Bruel's lovably naughty Kitty still made me laugh out loud. The informative sections were an nice addition to the story, but it was the illustrations that really made the book so enjoyable.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Quick Picture Book Reviews

Felicity Floo Visits the Zoo
by E. S. Redmond
Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2009

Felicity Floo has a cold a no tissue. So what does she do? She uses her hand to wipe her nose then touches everything throughout the zoo with her germy little hands. This wasn't a very pleasant thing for the animals. The story was a little silly and not my favorite. However, the illustrations were great. Geddy especially loved finding what Felicity had been touching, this was shown by little shiny green handprints!


How to Potty Train Your Monster
by Kelly DiPucchio
ill. by Mike Moon
New York : Disney-Hyperion, c2009

Cute idea but I was not impressed with the end result.
I chose this book because I thought it would be fun to
read to Geddy who is pretty much fully potty-trained.
He got a kick out of the pictures and some of the text.
Yet a lot of the text was definitely geared towards giving
parents some tips on potty training their kids so it ended
up not being very cohesive.




The Super Hungry Dinosaur
by Martin Waddell
ill. by Leonie Lord
New York : Dial Books for Young Readers, c2009

Hal and his dog, Billy, are playing in the backyard when a dinosaur comes to visit. An extremely hungry dinosaur! It wants to eat Hal and Billy. Hal takes charge of the situation and calmly convinces the dinosaur that there are other things to eat besides little boys.
A cute story, fun to read-aloud. Great example of how kids can take control of situations and not be afraid. Illustrations were simple, yet effective.


A Crazy Day at the Critter Cafe
by Barbara Odanaka
ill. by Lee White
New York : Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2009

The cook and waiter of the Critter Cafe are enjoying a pleasantly slow-business day until a busload of critters stops by. Everything quickly spins out of control and they are wishing for peace and quiet again.
The story was a little weak, especially some of the rhymes. They seemed quite forced and did not have a good flow in parts. Yet the quirky illustrations made it a fun book to read with my son.



Cheech and the Spooky Ghost Bus
by Cheech Marin
ill. by Orlando L. Ramirez
New York, NY : HarperCollinsPublishers, c2009


 Cheech the bus driver stops and picks up some funny looking kids one morning. That is what a bus driver is supposed to do! After the initial panic when it turned out the new kids were ghosts, everyone ended up having fun and quite an adventure.
How could I not read a picture book written by Cheech (yes the one from Cheech and Chong fame). Especially one with a ghostly theme this close to Halloween. The illustrations were cute, but nothing special. Make it a fun read-aloud by adopting a "south-of-the-border" accent!

Sorry!
by Norbert Landa
ill. by Tim Warnes
Intercourse, PA : Good Books, 2009

Bear and Rabbite are best friends. They share everything and they do everything together. This perfect friendship was put to the test when they found a sparkly, shiny thing.
A pleasant little story that shows how greed and selfishness can ruin friendships and how the simplicity of a single word can make everything better. Sweet illustrations too.




The Goblin and the Empty Chair
by Mem Fox
ill. by Leo & Diane Dillon
New York : Beach Lane Books, 2009

A goblin is so distraught when he sees his own face that he decides to hide it from the world. As he tries to avoid any attention he discovers a little family who is suffering. Quietly and secretly (at least he thinks) he does all the little things he can for this family. In the end it is discovered that kind thoughts and deeds do a lot to heal those in need, and that healing goes both ways.
Fabulous in story and spectacular in art. When you read it, don't ignore the small details found at the top of each page.






All the World
by Liz Garton Scanlon
ill. by Marla Frazee
New York : Beach Lane Books, 2009

A book of discovery for family members and neighbors. They find the beauty in everything around them including the shells on the beach, the sunset and more.
The text was well-placed to add to the wonderful illustrations. Reading this book gave me warm fuzzies. Do I smell another Caldecott for Frazee? Maybe the winner this time. I sure hope so!