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.


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
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
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!