Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Shadow Project

The Shadow Project
by Herbie Brennan
teen action sci-fi fantasy
355 pages
New York : Balzer & Bray, c2010

Danny Lipman is a young burglar who picks the wrong house on the wrong night. Expecting a normal home to pilfer, Danny is surprised by a strange elevator in the basement. Curiosity getting the better of him, he enters and is taken further underground and interrupts a top-secret government project. Of course he is caught and detained. Faced with the choice of jail or joining, he opts for becoming one of them - mostly because they promise to take care of his grandmother who has recently suffered a stroke. Danny is shocked to learn that The Project is involving astral projection and remote viewing to spy on international terrorists without being seen. Shortly after Danny joins things start to go incredibly wrong and he has to literally jump in without any formal training. Someone is using dark magic to try to destroy The Project and another secretive group that has remained in obscurity for centuries. Danny and his companions need to fight a battle they don't understand to essentially save the world.
I absolutely loved the idea of this story. I mean, how cool would it be to be able to spy on people without them knowing you were there? However, I felt this book was too vague and disjointed in places. Some statements seemed to contradict each other and a few too many loose ends for my taste. Again a great premise, but could have been better written. Maybe if I had read it while having an OOBE on the astral plane I would have like it better!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Clone Codes

The Clone Codes
by The McKissacks
juvenile science-fiction
172 pages
New York : Scholastic Press, 2010

A future Earth where there are three classes of people. The Firsts are humans, plain and simple. Seconds are clones of Firsts and not considered human whatsoever. Clones are created as adults and only live for 12 years. Cyborgs were once human but due to accidents necessitating replacement parts (non-human) they are considered only 3/5 human. Cyborgs are not allowed the same rights and privileges as full-humans, but they are treated slightly better than Clones. 13-year-old Leanna has just discovered that her mother and her partner, Doc Doc, were arrested as part of an underground movement fighting for equal rights for all Clones and Cyborgs. Leanna is immediately thrown into a whirlwind of terror, fleeing from all she has known into the protective care of other members of The Liberty Bell organization. Her life has been full of secrets and she had no idea how drastically things were going to change!
The McKissacks did a great job collaborating on this futuristic novel. It apparently is the first in a trilogy. I think I would have preferred a longer more in-depth novel as opposed to three shorter books. It felt like this was definitely an intro to a bigger story. Still a good read with interesting connections to past US history, especially slavery and abolitionists.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Muppet Robin Hood


Muppet Robin Hood
written by Tim Beedle
art by Armand Villavert, Jr.
Los Angeles, CA : Boom! Kids, 2009

The title pretty much tells it all. The Muppets characters in the Robin Hood story. Kermit of course is Robin of Loxley Swamp. The lovely Maid Marian is none other than the fabulous Miss Piggy. Fozzie plays Friar Tuck and so forth. As with all Muppet stories, they are great for all ages. The characters are very kid friendly yet there are jokes that will get adults to laugh out loud while going right over the kids head. Fun for the whole family!

NUM8ERS

NUM8ERS
by Rachel Ward
young adult science fiction
325 pages
New York : Chicken House, 2010

Jem has a unique gift, curse, talent. Whatever you want to call it, it makes her life miserable, causing her to isolate herself from everyone else. You see, if Jem looks in a person's eyes, she sees a number. It is the date that person will die. Despite her best intentions she gets involved with a fellow misfit named Spider. Jem is especially reluctant to grow close to him as his number is only three weeks away. The duo are hanging out in downtown London when she notices that everyone around her is showing the same number, that very date. She freaks out and the two of them flee what moments later is the scene of a terrorist attack. They are now wanted for questioning by the police which sends them trekking cross-country to freedom. The whole time Jem is racked with guilt because she knows Spider doesn't have much time, but she can't very well tell him that. She grapples with tough questions like does she cause these dates to be true, or is there any way she can alter events so the number changes?
An interesting plot with intriguing characters. However, I was quite bothered by the language throughout. I find it hard to believe that normal teenagers in their everyday lives can't say a sentence that doesn't involve the F-word. If the language had been toned down a lot, I would have said this is a great read.

The Line

The Line
by Teri Hall
juvenile science fiction
219 pages
New York : Dial Books, c2010

Rachel leads a lonely life as the daughter of the housekeeper on The Property. She spends her time studying "official" government texts, hiding in the orchid greenhouse and searching online for stories about The Others who live Away on the other side of The Line. In fact pretty much all of her spare time is spent obsessing about Away. One day she discovers a recorded plea for help from the other side of The Line. She bravely steps forth to give aid to the unknown. Things start to spiral out of her control and she is faced with facts about her parents that she never dreamed of.
The futuristic Unified States is only vaguely described and I was a little confused about the back history that led to the creation of the Line. Initially the story seemed a little slow to take off, but I was fairly okay with this as it gave me a good understanding of the characters. Adversely, the end seemed a bit too rushed to me concluding quite abruptly. Obviously there is going to be a sequel, but such sudden endings aren't always the best. Certain aspects were predictable, but all in all, this was a decent futuristic sci-fi novel for elementary school-age kids. For an author's first novel this was good, but I definitely hope the sequel is better. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mickey Mouse Classics: Mouse Tails

Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Classics
Volume One: Mouse Tails
Various authors and illustrators
all-ages comic collection
Los Angeles, Calilf : Boom! Studios, c2010

Mickey and friends arrive in a brand-new collection for all-ages. Included are stories with Goofy, Donald, and Minnie, just to name a few. Each story is a self-contained story in just a few pages. Whether you are a long-time fan of these characters or a young kid just being introduced, there will be something here to make you laugh.

A Family Secret

A Family Secret
by Eric Heuvel
Juvenile Graphic Novel
62 pages
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2009

Jeroen is a young boy not much interested in family history until he stumbles upon his grandmother's scrapbook from World War II.  As his grandmother tells the story of her best friend, a Jewish girl, whose family was seeking shelter in the Netherlands. Eventually she had to go into hiding as her parents were taken away to a concentration camp. Jeroen's grandmother never saw her best friend again, but what an impact that relationship had on her life and now her grandson's just from hearing the story. Originally written in Dutch, this engrossing historical graphic fiction is very accessible to upper elementary and above.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Goodbye Season

The Goodbye Season
 by Marian Hale
juvenile historical fiction
271 pages
New York : Henry Holt and Co., 2009

Mercy is the oldest child in a sharecropper's family. She is determined to be independent and nothing like her mother. She does not want to be poor, doing nothing but housework and having children. One year the crop totally fails forcing her father to leave home looking for work. Mercy seeks a position somewhere away from home as well so there is one less mouth to feed at home. She is lucky to find a job with a wealthy family in town caring for their young son. However it is 1918 and a deadly flu epidemic is tearing across the country. Mercy discovers that her employer has some deep, dark, mysterious secrets affecting her mentally. There is also a handsome young step-son in the home who nearly sweeps Mercy off her feet. Historical fiction at its best, death, love and a strong female character.

Gwen

Gwen
by Carolyn Pogue
juvenile historical fiction
157 pages
Toronto : Sumach Press, 2009

Gwen is orphaned at a young age and thanks to the quick-thinking of a concerned neighbor she is placed in a decent orphanage. She becomes a "Home Girl" being trained in all practical things needed to run a household. Once she has attained a certain level of capability she is sent to Canada (from England) to be taken in as an employee of a family. She is supposed to be hired help, not a slave. However, her first placement is anything but ideal. Being treated like dirt just because she is an immigrant and fending off inappropriate advances from her employer cause Gwen to flee back to the only safe house she knows of in Canada. After a long trek she finds comfort and people willing to listen to her story. Based on true events, Gwen is a fascinating glimpse into an immigrant orphan's life in the late 19th century.

Stink: Solar System Superhero

Stink: Solar System Superhero
by Megan McDonald
ill. Peter H. Reynolds
intermediate chapter book
realistic fiction
118 pages
Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2010

Stink Moody is back and better than ever, trying to save Pluto from losing its status as a planet. Stink feels a certain kinship with Pluto as he is the smallest in his class as well and doesn't think anyone or anything should be picked on just because of their size. His class is divided on this problem of galactic proportions so the teachers tells them to organize their arguments and present them to the class. The class will vote and whoever wins will determine how their own class treats Pluto, no matter what the scientists say. As always the author tells a fun story that teaches the reader as well. This particular book has tons of information about the solar system and also demonstrates how a classroom debate might work. Some parents are turned off by the title characters name, but don't be. Stink (and Judy) Moody books area great for beginning chapter book readers.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Sixty-Eight Rooms

The Sixty-Eight Rooms
by Marianne Malone
Juvenile Mystery
269 pages
New York : Random House, c2010

Deep within the Art Institute of Chicago is an amazing collection of miniature rooms. Rooms so detailed in their minute decorations as to cause great wonderment as to their creation. On a school field trip to the museum, two children discover a magical key that enables them to shrink down to the perfect size to wander around the display. All is not magic though when they discover that the rooms are doorways into past history. Blend that with a modern day mystery involving a security guard and you have a fabulous adventure story for boys and girls alike.

The Unexplained: Encounters with Ghosts, Monsters, and Aliens

The Unexplained: Encounters with Ghosts, Monsters and Aliens
 by Jim Pipe
Juvenile Informational
96 pages
[North America] ; Tunbridge Wells, Kent : ticktock Media, Ltd., c2008

If you like creepy, bizarre and slightly disturbing things, this book is perfect for you! The text is brief yet informative in a very reader-friendly format. The photos and illustrations are large, numerous, and very colorful. A great attention-grabbing cover that is sure to snare those reluctant readers in upper elementary school.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Jump!

Jump!
by Scott M. Fischer
unpaged
picture book
New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, c2010

Jump! is an amazingly fun read-aloud book that had my three-year-old rolling on the ground with laughter! Starting with a bug, "a snug little bug...sleeping on a jug" who sees a frog and has to...Jump! to get away the author/illustrator follows a possible food chain up the ladder until it can't go any higher. The text is fun and full of rhyming words sure to catch the attention of most children. The brightly colored illustrations are incredibly eye-catching against the stark whiteness of the page. An absolutely adorable book that is a new favorite on my list!

Chalk

Chalk
by Bill Thomson
unpaged
wordless picture book
New York : Marshall Cavendish, 2010

Three friends walking through the park during a rainstorm discover some magic chalk. Each child takes a turn with the chalk for some surprising results. This beautifully illustrated wordless picture book is amazing! The expressive faces of the children are incredibly realistic and captivating. The story is charming and clever. Wordless picture books are a great way for young children to create their own story and to follow sequential events. Chalk is a sure to be enjoyed by all ages as a gateway to the imagination. I know it's early, but I definitely hope to hear this book in the Caldecott buzz next year!

Dragon Games

Dragon Games
The Books of Umber #2
by P.W. Catanese
Juvenile fantasy adventure
373 pages
New York : Aladdin, 2010

Once again Umber is searching the world for all things strange and bizarre, faithfully accompanied by his close friends. Umber's curiosity leads them into many perilous places including a monster's lair, the kingdom of a brutal ruler, a ring of fire in the middle of the ocean, and a strange floating ship high up in the air. Young Happenstance learns more about his past but nothing becomes any clearer and yet he is beginning to get an idea of how to control his powers. Lord Umber's past is still mysterious as is Happenstance's role in saving the future. Exciting new friends (and enemies) are met. The strange world of Umber and Happenstance continues to fascinate me with such a curious blend of fantasy and science fiction. I can't wait to see what narrow escapes and mysterious secrets are in store for our motley band of heroes. By the way, the first book is called Happenstance Found. If you haven't yet read it, I highly recommend it.