Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Secret World of Walter Anderson

The Secret World of Walter Anderson
by Hester Bass
ill. by E. B. Lewis
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
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
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
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


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.