Friday, February 19, 2010

Incarceron

Incarceron
by Catherine Fisher
young adult fantasy/science fiction
442 pages
New York : Dial Books, 2010

Incarceron is a sealed prison; no one enters, no one leaves. At least that is what the prison would like you to believe. Legend has it that one inmate did escape, Sapphique, or The Nine-Fingered One. Finn doesn't remember his childhood except for the brief visions he has when he suffers one of his fits. Luckily Finn is now in possession of a strange crystal key. A beautiful young girl, Claudia, lives on the Outside. Her father is the warden of Incarceron. a job which takes all of his attention, leaving none for her. As Claudia seeks a way out of an arranged marriage she finds a strange crystal key as well. Through it she finds Finn and they realize that they can help each other out of their difficult situations. At least they hope to until Incarceron protests, proving it is a sentient being capable of its own thoughts and desires.

Catherine Fisher has outdone herself with this one. I have enjoyed everything I have read by her: Snow-walker, Oracle Betrayed (series), Corbenic, and Darkhenge. The premise of Incarceron is fascinating and the dynamic characters were captivating. I couldn't help but get caught up in their story. A fine book on its own, but left room for a sequel as well. There were a couple of things that were rather predictable, but I believe the author wanted the reader to know what was coming so it didn't really affect the story at all. A great mix of fantasy and science fiction that I would happy to own in my own collection.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters

Ella Minnow Pea. A Novel in Letters
by Mark Dunn
208 pages
adult fiction
New York : Anchor Books, 2002

Ella Minnow Pea is a young girl living on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Residents of the lovely island revere Neville Nollop, the author of the famous pangram, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."  The residents of Nollop enjoy writing letters to communicate as they don't have phones or e-mails like their mainland counterparts. They enjoy a more simple life as their "patron saint" did. When the island's large statue of the man and his lengthy sentence begins to shed its letters life becomes not so pleasant for young Ella and her neighbors. The Head Council decides that Neville is speaking to them from the grave and telling them they should no longer use those letters that fall. Severe punishments are given those that fail to excise the letters from their verbal and written communication. Eventually some of the islands residents come up with a plan to stop the Head Council and their ridiculous interpretation of the statue's deterioration.
Yes, this is an odd little novel, especially towards the end where so many letters no longer exist.  Yet is was a great way to learn about language and alternate vocabulary as the citizens tried to think of other ways to say what they wanted to say. An entertaining read and very clever.

The Long Way Home

The Long Way Home
The Homelanders: Book Two
by Andrew Klavan
345 pages
young adult thriller
Nashville, Tenn. : Thomas Nelson, c2010

Charlie West continues to uncover the secrets and mysteries of his lost year. Returning to his hometown he hides out in a supposed haunted house while conducting his own investigation of his friend Alex's death. Charlie knows he is innocent of this horrible crime, but no one will listen to him except a few of his close friends. With danger creeping up on all sides Charlie has to determine if those he thought he knew best are really what they seem.
This is a fabulous second book. Great action and suspense combined with realistic characters and lots of twists and turns make this a fast and exciting read, clean too.

The Eternal Hourglass

The Eternal Hourglass
Magickeepers Book One
by Erica Kirov
231 pages
grade 5+
Naperville, Ill. : Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2009

Nick Rostov is looking forward to summer vacation. No homework, sleeping-in every morning and riding his skateboard everywhere. Life would be even better if his dad wasn't the worst the magician in Las Vegas. Nick's world turns upside-down on his 13th birthday when his true heritage is revealed. He is a Gazer and is one of a long line of Magickeepers. His lineage extends back to Ancient Egypt,  twisting its way through many important people in history. The family are powerful magicians who also take upon themselves the task of guarding important magical artifacts. The most amazing illusion act the city has ever seen is the perfect cover for real magicians. Nick is astonished and reluctant to be a part of this new act, he would rather be back in his old life. He realizes the importance of his powers when the dark side of the family tree, the Shadowkeepers, try to take his life.
A new series with similar themes to a lot of recent books yet fresh in its approach. The idea of true magicians hiding under the guise of Vegas performers is a fun premise that gives promise to the series.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Inside-Outside Dinosaurs

Inside-Outside Dinosaurs
by Roxie Munro
juvenile non-fiction
picture book
Tarrytown, NY : Marshall Cavendish Children, c2009

The best dinosaur book for little guys (and girls) that I have found. Beautiful full-spread illustrations. Two pages will show the dinosaur skeleton against a white background. The only text is the dinosaurs scientific name as well as the meaning of that name. These are printed in large child-friendly text.
Turn the page and the next double-spread is a colorful scene including the dinosaur with his skin on surrounded by plants and fellow dinosaurs. No text on these pages. This pattern continues throughout the book, introducing several different dinosaurs. A fun book heartily enjoyed by my three-year-old son.

Weird & Wonderful Fish

Weird & Wonderful Fish
Nature's Monsters (Water Creatures)
by Gerrie McCall
juvenile non-fiction
Milwaukee, WI : Gareth Stevens Pub., 2006

Fish have always seemed rather strange to me. This book just solidified my opinion. Weird & Wonderful Fish is one of those books that is creepy enough to actually be fascinating. If you think the creature on the front is strange looking, wait until you see some of the others!  The only drawback was the book contained illustrations instead of photographs. It would have been interesting to see real photos of these truly bizarre ocean-dwellers. You will not be finding me exploring the ocean depths any time soon (unless of course it is through a book from the library).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Little Secret

The Little Secret
by Kate Saunders
juvenile fantasy adventure
231 pages
New York : Feiwel and Friends, 2009, c2006

Jane's new best friend, Staffa, is definitley strange. Yet Staffa's mother is even more unusual. However, this doesn't even make Jane hesitate when they invite her to spend summer vacation at their family castle. After a bizarre road trip they eventually arrive in a whole new world unlike anything Jane could have imagined. Everything centers around the box that Staffa's mother treasures and nearly worships. The big question soon becomes will Jane ever be able to return to her beloved family? Does she even want to return to life in The Boy Garden with her six rowdy brothers? This is a great fantasy adventure that also explores friendships and familial relationships.

Big Chickens Fly the Coop

Big Chickens Fly the Coop
by Leslie Helakoski
ill. by Henry Cole
unpaged picture book
New York : Dutton Children's Books, c2008

A flock of nervous chickens are trying to explore the barnyard beyond their hen-house. Their ultimate destination is to see the view from the farmhouse. After many failed attempts to get there, they finally succeed only to find it wasn't as exciting as they had hoped. Not necessarily an amazing story, but the illustrations were great! Don't get me wrong, the story is fun, especially to read-aloud.

One Weighs a Ton

One Weighs a Ton
by Salina Yoon
unpaged interactive picture book
Philadelphia, PA : RP Kids, c2009 

Young children will delight in this interactive book. One Weighs a Ton has a little bit of everything; lift-the-flaps, touch-and-feel, counting, information, humor and great illustrations. The text as well as the illustrated rendition of the number give clues as to what animal you will be learning about once you lift the flap. Entertaining and educational, what more can you ask for?

The Adventures of an Aluminum Can: A Story about Recycling

The Adventures of an Aluminum Can: A Story About Recycling
by Alison Inches
ill. by Mark Chambers
unpaged informative picture book
(made from 100% postconsumer waste recycled paper
New York : Little Simon, c2009

Follow the process as a little speck of alumina is mined then eventually transformed into an aluminum can. The aluminum tells us its story through perky little diary entries complete with "photos". Our little can has a pleasant journey through her life until she reaches the recycling plant. You would think that being shredded and recast into something else might be a little traumatic, but not this upbeat aluminum! Recycling is so pleasant she never stops smiling. Cleverly drawn illustrations give a fun personality to the can and help inform the reader as to the steps of recycling. I also think it is great that the book was made from 100% recycled materials.

Butterflies in My Stomach and Other School Hazards

Butterflies in my Stomach and Other School Hazards
by Serge Bloch
unpaged picture book
New York : Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010

A boy's first day of school is anything but pleasant! He starts by getting up "on the wrong side of the bed". Then on the way to school he gets "butterflies in his stomach". He has a big worry that you eventually find out about towards the end of the story. The story is told purely through idioms that describe his situation. The illustrations were also cleverly rendered. Drawn in black outlines, with only the figure of speech portrayed in color makes for an eye-catching book. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, yet a lot of children might not get all of the sayings used.

A Small Brown Dog with a Wet Pink Nose

A Small Brown Dog with a Wet Pink Nose
by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen
ill. by Linzie Hunter
unpaged picture book
New York : Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010

Amelia really wants a dog, and she knows just what he is going to look like. Unfortunately, her parents don't feel the same. Persistence is Amelia's middle-name as she tries some tricky methods to keep reminding her parents of her desire. Eventually she hatches a very elaborate yet effective trap that her parents can't find a way out of. Simple yet cute illustrations back-up this clever little story of a young girl's determination to have her very own puppy.

The Laugh Stand: Adventures in Humor

The Laugh Stand: Adventures in Humor
by Brian P. Cleary
ill. by J. P. Sandy
Juvenile Humor
48 pages
Minneapolis, MN : Millbrook Press, c2008

Brian P. Cleary is the author of the best-selling series Words are Categorical. His books are always full of humor as well as important information. The Laugh Stand is no exception. You are guaranteed to laugh out loud as you read examples of numerous types of jokes and humorous verse. J.P. Sandy's hilarious illustrations are a perfect match for Cleary's wit. If you need a quick mood-lifter grab this book and read a few pages.

The Lion and the Mouse

The Lion and the Mouse
Jerry Pinkney
Wordless Picture Book
unpaged
New York : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009

Award-winning illustrator Pinkney beautifully adapts the classic Aesop fable. His vivid full-page illustrations are full of warmth and life. This wordless tale is destined to be a favorite for many years. For once I think they chose well for the Caldecott award!
 

Monday, February 1, 2010

January Joker

January Joker
Calendar Mysteries #1
by Ron Roy
ill. by John Steven Gurney
Intermediate Chapter Book
Mystery
77 pages
New York : Random House, 2009

Popular intermediate series author Ron Roy, brings us a brand-new series featuring the younger siblings of the main characters from the A-Z mysteries. Twins Brian and Bradley along with their best friends Lucy and Nate, are having a sleepover when strange things start happening. Strange sounds awaken them followed by bizarre lights out in the yard. When their parents head out to meet friends for breakfast, their older siblings are left in charge. When they disappear, the young friends call in the police who are as mystified as they are. A pleasant introduction to a new series that will surely be a hit with early chapter book readers.

Vacation: We're Going to the Ocean

Vacation: We're Going to the Ocean
poems by David L. Harrison
ill. by Rob Shepperson
Poetry
unpaged
Honesdale, Pa. : Wordsong, c2009

A young boy is excited for his family vacation. He isn't excited about the car trip to get there (his siblings are not the ideal seatmates). His story is told through brief poems and adorable black and white illustrations. His insight into such things as appropriate beach-wear and what makes an ideal pet are laugh-out-loud funny at times. Entertaining story and I especially loved the illustrations

Grown-Ups are Dumb! (no offense)

Grown-Ups are Dumb! (no offense)
by Alexa Kitchen (the World's Youngest Professional Cartoonist)
Juvenile Comics
unpaged
New York : Disney Hyperion Books, c2009

11-year-old Alexa began receiving attention in the comic art world at the ripe-old-age of 6. Now 11, she continues to draw and this book collects several comic strips and short comic series. I must be one of the "dumb grown-ups" as I didn't find it all that great. Some of the stories were funny, and some I didn't quite see the humor in them. The art was cute, but nothing fantastic. I didn't like the fact that it was all printed on pink paper either. I did enjoy her story-telling ability and comic strip layouts; impressive for such a young child. I think young girls will enjoy this much more than I did.

Living With Vampires

Living with Vampires
by Jeremy Strong
ill. by Scoular Anderson
Intermediate Chapter Book
Fantasy/Horror (mild)
59 pages
Minneapolis : Stone Arch Books, 2007

Kevin Vladd is sooooo embarrassed by his parents. They have this nasty habit of biting people on the neck and sucking their blood. You guessed it, his parents are vampires! Kevin is different! Every hundred years, a non-vampire child is born into a vampire family. Kevin is that lucky child! He doesn't want his parents to know about the school dance coming up that is for students and their parents. He just knows his parents will make a mess of things, literally. And there is this super-cute girl, Miranda, that he wants to dance with. He just couldn't handle it if something were to happen to her! Read this clever little book to find out if Kevin makes it to the dance!

Elizabeth and the Royal Pony: Based on a True Story of Elizabeth I of England

Elizabeth and the Royal Pony: Based on a True Story of Elizabeth I of England
by Joan Holub
ill. by Nonna Aleshina
Intermediate Chapter Book
Historical Fiction
48 pages (includes timeline)
New York : Aladdin Paperbacks, 2007

Young Princess Elizabeth loves riding horses with her younger brother Edward and her older sister Mary. Elizabeth is determined to teach her beautiful pony, Pegasus, to jump fences. She asks all those around her for advice on training her pet. Ultimately she gets a chance to truly test the results in the rare presence of her father, King Henry the VIII. A sweet glimpse into the everyday royal life of Elizabeth. The story is completed with beautiful color illustrations on every page.

The Genie

The Genie
by M(ary) Hooper
ill. by Jessica Fuchs
Intermediate Chapter Book
Fantasy/Magic/Humor
57 pages
Minneapolis : Stone Arch Books, 2007

Fiona (fondly called Fudge by family and friends) and her older sister Sarah are struggling to find a gift for their father's birthday. They stumble across a church rummage sale with a great variety of treasures. Fudge finds an old box with stars and moons decorating the outside. After purchasing it she opens it and finds a mysterious note inside. When she does what the note says, magic and mayhem follow. The box's resident genie isn't quite used to life in the 21st century so his magic doesn't always turn out right! A fun and easy-to-read beginning chapter book with quirky illustrations to add to the text.

Damian Drooth Supersleuth: The Case of the Disappearing Daughter

The Case of the Disappearing Daughter
Damian Drooth Supersleuth #1
by Barbara Mitchelhill
ill. by Tony Ross
Intermediate Chapter Book
Mystery
65 pages
Minneapolis : Stone Arch Books, 2007

Damian Drooth is a young Sherlock Holmes wanna-be. He is training himself in the art of  crime detection. He finally gets to truly test his skills while helping his mother's catering business on the set of a movie being filmed in his town. The director's daughter, Trixibelle, is kidnapped and Damian is quick to follow the clues. A fun new mystery series for beginning chapter book readers (1st and 2nd graders). Tony Ross' black and white illustrations add humor to the story.