Thursday, August 27, 2009

life on the refrigerator door

life on the refrigerator door
by alice kuipers
220 pages
adult fiction
New York : HarperCollins Publishers, c2007

Claire is a busy teenager, filling her time with friends, boys, shopping and homework. Her mother has the typically erratic schedule of a doctor, out delivering babies at the hospital at all hours. The two are rarely home at the same time, so they communicate mainly by leaving notes on the refrigerator door. This is fine for the mundane things like grocery lists and chores to do, but it makes things a little awkward when life starts to throw obstacles in their path. However, both mother and daughter are so accustomed to this form of communication they use it to ask the really tough questions and to give the even tougher answers.

If you are interested in a fast yet touching read, this is the book for you. The whole novel consists of the notes that are left on the refrigerator door. You might think this wouldn't be enough to build character and tension, yet it definitely is. This was interesting to read in today's world where everyone over the age of 10 seems to have a cell phone. You would think that most parents and children would communicate similarly through cell calls or texting. Apparently this mother, despite being a doctor, did not have a cell phone. (I can only assume she had a pager)!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Darkwood

Darkwood
by M. E. Breen
273 pages
juvenile fiction
New York : Bloomsbury, 2009

Welcome to Howland, where you don't want to be outside after dark. And dark falls fast and sudden here. One second it is light, the next pitch black for there are no moon or stars. The people know of the moon, but several centuries ago it disappeared. Now night time is ruled by the Kinderstalk, fearsome creatures known to steal and eat small children in the darkness. Annie overhears her uncle's disturbing plans for her so she escapes into the darkness. With the help of her two cats she is actually able to survive a night in the forest! With no family and no place to call home, Annie embarks on a perilous and exciting adventure to find out the secret of The Drop and the true nature of the Kinderstalk.

Annie is a headstrong young girl who grows up as she journeys through the forest. While parts of the story are predictable and typical of fantasy adventures, there are some unexpected twists and turns! A book to be enjoyed by boys and girls in upper elementary and higher. Darkwood is the authors first novel, hopefully the first of many!

Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-so-Fabulous Life

Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-so-Fabulous Life
by Rachel Renee Russell
282 pages
juvenile fiction
New York : Aladdin, 2009

Nikki Maxwell's dad is a bug exterminator. Thanks to his contract with a prep school called Winchester Country Day, Nikki is on scholarship at the school. As with most 8th-grade girls, her biggest concern is getting in with the popular crowd at school. Of course, the best way to insure this is to have a top-of-the-line cell phone. When her mom gives her a blank book to use as a diary instead of a phone, Nikki is devastated. Determined to never write in the book Nikki starts school. Very quickly she begins to fill up the diary with all of the drama of junior high as well as lots of fun drawings. Read the Dork Diaries to hear all about the popular girls, the cute boys, the maybe best friends, the art contest and so much more.

The main character is 14-years-old and in 8th grade. However, most 5th and 6th grade girls will be entertained by Nikki's trials and triumphs at Winchester Country Day.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dessert First

Dessert First
by Hallie Durand
Ill. Christine Davenier
151 pages
intermediate reader
New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2009

Dessert Schneider takes her teachers words of wisdom to heart. She does things her way, marching to the beat of her own drum. However, this can lead to mischief sometimes. Especially when faced with the scrumptious temptation of Grandma Reine's Double-Decker Chocolate Bars. Dessert tries to cover-up her mistake and only succeeds in making matters worse. She needs to come up with a plan to apologize to her parents as well as a way to participate in her school's fundraiser without causing more trouble.

Adorable black and white illustrations and a fun little story make for an entertaining tale. Learn the consequences of disobedience along with Dessert as well as some great ways to make amends.

The Phantom of the Opera


The Phantom of the Opera
based on the story by Gaston Leroux
retold by Kate Knighton
63 pages
intermediate readers
[Tulsa, Okla.] : EDC Publishing], 2008

The members of the Paris Opera House gossip about the ghost or phantom that lurks beneath the stage. Christine, formerly unknown, is called to stand-in for the lead singer. Her beautiful voice attracts much attention. She has been taught by an "angel of music" who speaks to her yet never shows himself. What is the connection between Christine's secret teacher and the world underneath the Opera House?

Recently I discovered this attractive intermediate chapter series from Usborne. The story of The Phantom of the Opera has been retold in an easy-to-read yet exciting way for young readers. The illustrations are colorful and add much to the story. If you are looking for simplified versions of classic stories check out the Usborne Young Reading Series.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Escape Under the Forever Sky

Escape Under the Forever Sky
by Eve Yohalem
220 pages
juvenile fiction
San Francisco : Chronicle Books, c2009


Lucy is the young daughter of the American Ambassador in Ethiopia. She lives a fairly restricted life within the walls of the compound. However, every few weeks she joins her friend Dahnie, a game warden, on his drives through the beautiful African wilderness. Lucy lives for these days as she is obsessed with African wildlife. Due to some bad behavior she is grounded for a month and can't leave her house at all. Being the stubborn child she is, she sneaks out at the first opportunity, putting herself in easy access to kidnappers. Once she faces the facts of her predicament she does everything she can to escape.
Can I just say disappointment! The plot sounded interesting, the setting fascinating and exotic, what went wrong? Lucy was spoiled and obnoxious, not to mention selfish. Not exactly endearing qualities in a main character. All the supporting characters were flat and undeveloped, even the kidnappers were not very intimidating. Moments of action and adventure were brief. Although lacking in character and plot, the book was informative about Ethiopian culture and animals. Despite what I have said, I would still recommend this to 4th and 5th grade kids who wanted to read a story that took place in another country. It is an easy read with enough to keep some kids reading.

Faith, Hope, and Ivy June

Faith, Hope, and Ivy June
by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
280 pages
juvenile fiction
New York : Delacorte Press, 2009

Ivy June Mosely and Catherine Combs are both seventh-grade girls in Kentucky. That is where the obvious similarities end. Ivy June lives in Thunder Creek, in the mountains near the coal mines. She lives with her grandparents because her parents house is too full. They only live a stone's throw apart so she has chores at both households. There is no indoor plumbing and life is just plain simple in a complicated way. Catherine lives in a large house in a nice neighborhood of Lexington. Each of the children has their own bedroom and bathroom. They have a maid helping their mother as she recovers from an illness. Catherine has a cell phone and her own computer. Someone from Catherine's private all-girls school thinks up this fabulous idea of an exchange program between the two drastically different schools. Catherine and Ivy June are the lucky winners. Will they be able to form a friendship despite the prejudices and stereotypes held by those around them? How will each of them react to tragedy striking close to home?
A book full of fascinating characters. The girls' journal entries gave a realistic glimpse into their emotions and their heart. I am not embarrassed to say that I got a little weepy a few times while reading. I hope that kids who read this book will understand the lessons being taught and will learn why we shouldn't let stereotypes rule our thinking. Don't be surprised if Faith, Hope, and Ivy June pops up on the Newbery lists.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

awakening

awakening
by Robin Wasserman
Chasing Yesterday #1
young adult
207 pages
New York : Scholastic Inc., c2007

J. D., short for Jane Doe, doesn't have a clue who she is or where she came from. All she knows is she is not safe and she hears voices that tell her to do things that aren't very nice. When a woman shows up claiming to be her mother she is happy, hoping that a return to normal life might make awaken her memories. Her nightmares get in the way. She soon learns she can't trust anyone, even herself. She has to wonder if she really wants to remember her life before she was found on the sidewalk or can she just become J. D. for good. A new personality, a new life, sounds good to her! But can she escape her apparent super powers and avoid whoever is trying to control her?
An interesting, though not exceptional, new series. I will definitely read the rest of the series if I can convince our teen department to order them.

Wings

Wings
by Aprilynne Pike
290 pages
young adult
New York : HarperTeen, 2009

Laurel is questioning her mother's wisdom in sending her to public school for the first time at age fifteen. If homeschooling was good enough so far, why can't they continue? Then she meets David and his group of friends. Instantly welcomed into their crowd she decides school isn't so bad after all. Then a bump starts growing on her back. As it gets larger she keeps it hidden from everyone, desperately hoping it is nothing serious. Then one morning out pops a large and beautiful flower. The fragrant blossom resembles wings. Her first instinct is to hide them and then to confide in someone. Her budding back leads her to a whole new perception of herself as well as those around her. Pike has written an intriguing novel with action as well as romance.

"Wings" was a very pleasant surprise for me. The book was due and had a waiting list a mile long. I decided to give it my 20-page test (if I am not grabbed in the first 20-pages of a book I just turn it in - only if I can't renew). Obviously, it passed the test. I was a fan of Laurel from the moment I met her. Even then, I feared disappointment as I have read several "fairy" books recently and wasn't sure I was ready for another one. While "Wings" has the typical storyline of "human girl finds out she is fairy and that results in a love triangle with her and a human boy and a fairy boy", Pike has added some unique twists all her own. Now I just have to wait until next May for part two of this four-part series.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hunger: A Gone Novel

Hunger: A Gone Novel
Michael Grant
590 pages
Older teen
New York : HarperTeen, 2009

A quick synopsis of the first novel, "Gone". A town that is near a nuclear power plant experiences a strange phenomena. Suddenly all people 15-years old and older disappear. One second they are there, then they are gone! The children left behind are thrown into a desperate survival situation. Someone has to take charge and make sure everyone is taken care of because nobody knows what happened. All they know is they are enclosed in a bubble with a wall they can not penetrate. They have no communication with the outside world. Will the parents reappear as suddenly as they disappeared? Are they gone forever? Then some kids start developing super powers of varying types and strengths. Alliances and enemies are made. Hunger picks up right where the first one left off. It has only been a few months since the disappearance but due to poor organization at the beginning, food was wasted and not rationed. The children are near-starving and are having to find new ways to survive. On top of that, the town is being divided between mutants and normals.
Wow, I have to admit that I really liked this book. There were definitely some scenes that made me a little nauseous and characters that I couldn't stand. But I love the idea behind this series and can't wait to see what Grant does next. A series that can be compared to "Lord of the Flies" in some ways and is definitely more appropriate for older teens. I say this mostly for the violence factor. Language is not a big issue and there aren't any adult situations, just some references to them.