Monday, July 26, 2010

The Dancing Pancake

The Dancing Pancake
by Eileen Spinelli
ill. by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
juvenile realistic fiction - in verse
248 pages
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2010

Bindi is struggling with life. Her parents are separated for reasons she doesn't understand. She is good friends with a couple girls and a boy, but the dynamics of the friendships seem to be undergoing a change. Her mother join her aunt and uncle in opening a cafe called The Dancing Pancake. All of these things together require her to move out of the house she has always known into an apartment over the restaurant. As she comes to terms with all the changes surrounding her, Bindi grows up and realizes changes aren't always a bad thing.
As I read this, I was frequently reminded of another book I read recently - It's Raining Cupcakes. The similarities include family and friendship issues and mother opening a themed restaurant. That being said, they are quite different as well. The Dancing Cupcake is told in verse and overall has a lighter tone. Eileen Spinelli writes great stories about young girls dealing with life.

Token of Darkness

Token of Darkness
by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
teen supernatural thriller
197 pages
New York : Delacorte Press, c2010

High school football star Cooper is severely injured in a car accident over summer vacation. Returning for his senior year he is a changed person. He won't associate with his former friends anymore, he doesn't sleep because he is haunted by recurring nightmares, and he has an invisible friend. Actually, he thinks Samantha is a ghost. She has been by his side since the moment he awoke in the hospital. She is a troubled spirit with amnesia, yet Cooper would have given up on his recovery without her friendship. Wanting to help Samantha, Cooper gets involved with some local sorcerers and discovers that she might not be what they think she is. Danger surrounds them as amateurs dabble in the dark arts. Who will be left standing when it is all over?
 I was expecting just your basic ghost story when I began reading, quickly I realized I was wrong. The plot had a few things that made me roll my eyes because I was reminded of a Scooby-Doo plot, but overall an exciting paranormal story.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Small Free Kiss in the Dark

A Small Free Kiss in the Dark
by Glenda Millard
teen adventure/drama
New York : Holiday House, 2010

Skip is full of plans. But will they work? He escapes from his foster home on the last day of school only to realize his great plan didn't cover where he was going to sleep at night. A homeless man, Billy, halfheartedly takes Skip under his wing. As Skip gets to know Billy he comes to think of him as family. Billy is supportive of Skip's artistic endeavors unlike his own father was. There routine existence is interrupted by that terrible thing called war. As the pair flee the burning city, their family grows. Skip strives to hold his new family close despite the devastation around them. And maybe this time his great plan will work and they will live happily ever after. While this is a story with a war in it, it is not a story just about war. It is about people, especially one young boy, becoming at peace with themselves and what the future could hold. Skip is an endearing character that I just wanted to hug. The characters contrast yet blend with each other so well that they feel quite realistic. A great story full of hope and love. Just a side note: the cover is not my favorite and doesn't really convey to me the depth of the story within.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Gardener

The Gardener
by S. A. Bodeen
teen science fiction
232 pages
New York : Feiwel and Friends, 2010

Mason doesn't understand why his mother is so against him applying for a summer work program at the local lab complex, TroDyn. She has an irrational hatred for the place and she won't provide an explanation. Mason is planning to forge her signature on the application when he uncovers some secrets his mother has been keeping. As he confronts her at her workplace, a nursing home, he meets a beautiful girl. This is a girl he should never have seen, let alone spoken to. Now they are on the run together from the mysterious and evil Gardener.
If you are looking for a real page-turner that you just can't put down, this is the book for you. It's creepy, suspenseful, and fast-paced. S. A. Bodeen, I love your style and can't wait to read more of your imaginative creations!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Anna Maria's Gift

Anna Maria's Gift
by Janice Shefelman
ill. by Robert Papp
intermediate historical fiction
100 pages
New York : Random House, c2010

Anna Maria Lombardini is only eight-years-old when her beloved father passes away. Already having lost her mother years ago, she is sent to an orphanage in Venice. Her father had given her one last gift from his death-bed, a new violin made just for her. The master Antonio Vivaldi becomes her music instructor at the Pieta, pleased with her mastery of the violin. A fellow orphan is jealous of Anna Maria's talents and throws her precious instrument into the canal. Anna Maria is distraught from losing this last link to her father. She enlists the aid of some friends to scour the city for her violin. An intriguing historical fiction story for beginning chapter book readers. Who doesn't love books about orphans and their adventures?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

It Creeps!

It Creeps!
Ghost Detectors #1
by Dotti Enderle
ill. by Howard McWilliam
Intermediate Mystery/Adventure
79 pages
Edina, Minn. : Magic Wagon, c2010

Malcolm is your typical young nerdy inventor. He has turned the family basement into his laboratory complete with chemistry set and lingering smell of a stink bomb. Malcolm loves getting magazines in the mail, but not for their enlightening articles. He flips straight to the advertisements in the back to see what strange contraptions he can order through the mail. Sometimes he is disappointed with his purchases, but that all changes with one particular package. The arrival of the Ecto-Handheld-Automatic-Heat-Sensitive-Laser-Enhanced Specter Detector (for serious Ghost Hunters Only) is the BEST thing he has ever received! Now he just has to find the perfect place to do some ghost-hunting. The McBleaky House is perfect: gray, gloomy and overgrown. Reluctantly helped by his best friend Dandy, he waits until nightfall to test his Specter Detector. The results are hair-raising, spine-tingling and pretty funny too! The Ghost Detectors is a fun new series for readers who are just starting to read chapter books and like things a just a tad spooky.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


by Laura Peyton Roberts
juvenile fantasy
261 pages
New York : Delacorte Press, c2010

Lily Green feels like she never fits in. It doesn't help that her mom has moved them yet again for her job. The day of her thirteenth birthday finally rolls around and she is looking forward to hanging out with the only friend she has made in the new town. The doorbell rings and Lily finds a little box on her doorstep. When she opens it she finds a key that had belonged to her beloved grandmother who passed away a year ago. The key arrives with a bang and Lily's life literally explodes into total chaos. As she travels the unknown she learns more about her grandmother and herself.
It was great to read a middle-school fantasy that also showed the main character as a realistic pre-teen girl with issues. She truly grew as a character and as a person, gaining confidence and self-respect. Green is a book I will definitely recommend to girls in fourth grade and higher.