Monday, March 25, 2013

The Whisper

The Whisper
by Emma Clayton
(sequel to The Roar)
New York : Chicken House, 2012
309 pages, paperback
juvenile science fiction

Mika and Ellie are reunited but they have been captured. They have to play along with the bad guy's plans in order to free all of the other children who are like them. In their adventures they will finally learn what is on the other side of The Wall. Is it what they have been told their whole lives? Is it worse? Or could it possibly be better than anything they could have expected? What will the siblings have to sacrifice in order to make things better?
This one was okay as far as sequels go. I didn't love it nor did I hate it. There is still a little too much preachy environmental stuff that doesn't mesh so well with the story.  However, there is a certain aspect to the sci-fi reader in me that liked bits and pieces of it. I do not know if I will read anymore if there are any.

The Gammage Cup

The Gammage Cup
by Carol Kendall
San Diego : Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, c1959
283 pages, paperback
juvenile fantasy

From the back cover:
"Troublemakers? Outlaws? Words like these have never been spoken in Slipper-by-the-Sea!  In this isolated town, the Minnipins, or Small Ones, minded their jobs, dressed simply, and never questioned the leading Family. Now five upstarts dare to be different. it is so upsetting that the only thing to do is banish them forever! Now, high on the mountain, a fire burns in the night. Only the small, courageous band of exiles knows that the Minnipins' dreaded enemies are preparing to attack. Can the outlaws rouse the village in time? Will they survive?"
This is a fabulous book that sends a great message about individual worth. Nobody needs to conform to what everyone else is doing. Everyone needs to stand up for who they are and what they believe and things will turn out all right in the end. If you are looking for a fabulous fantasy adventure with a real moral to it, you should definitely read The Gammage Cup!

The Perilous Gard

 The Perilous Gard
by Elizabeth Marie Pope
Illustrated by Richard Cuffari
New York, N.Y., U.S.A. : Puffin Books, 1992
280 pages, juvenile historical fiction/fantasy

From the back cover:
"Because her sister Alicia sent an impulsive letter to Queen Mary, Kate Sutton, lady -in-waiting to Princess Elizabeth, has been exiled. Sent to Elvenwood, "the Perilous Gard," Kate is intrigued by the master of the isolated castle, Sir Geoffrey Heron, and his strangely silent brother, Christopher. Elvenwood is shrouded in secrets that no one will explain to Kate, so she sets out to find some answers on her own. But her curiosity almost kills her, for she stumbles upon the otherworldly province of the secret residents of the land around Elvenwood - the People of the Hill. And the People want to make Kate a slave for life."
 The Perilous Gard is full of exciting adventure, sweet romance, thrilling fantasy and a whole lot of mystery.
This is a great choice for fans of historical fiction and fantasy. Girls will most likely enjoy it the most as there are some romantic elements. And let me just say one more thing, the black and white interior illustrations add to the creepy factor of the book and the Elvenwood itself.

After the Rain

After the Rain
by Norma Fox Mazer
William Morrow, 1987
249 pages, paperback
young adult, realisitic drama

Rachel was a surprise child to her older parents. Her brothers are several years older and living lives of their own while Rachel is still in high school. At fifteen she is already a worrier, she worries about everything. As she struggles through typical teenage-girl emotions she reluctantly gets drawn into a closer relationship with her elderly grandfather. This at times complicates her life more but also allows her to see some things from a different perspective. As she gets to know her dying grandfather better, she is also getting to know herself better as well.
Oh how I wish young adult novels were still being written more like this! Mazer includes lots of issues in her book but they are dealt with in a more mature and realistic manner. There is no need for excessive swearing, abundant drug-use, detailed intimate relations between teens or all the political issues that seem to run rampant in today's teen literature. I didn't love After the Rain, but it felt more real to me than most books I read today.

Pippi Longstocking

Pippi Longstocking
by Astrid Lindgren
translated from the Swedish by Florence Lamborn
illustrated by Nancy Seligsohn
Scholastic September 1973
116 pages, paperback

Tommy and Annika are intrigued by their new neighbor in Villa Villekulla. She doesn't behave like any other kid they have ever known. She is much more exciting! She doesn't have any parents!  Her mother had died when she was just a tiny baby  and "Pippa was sure that her mother was now up in Heaven, watching her little girl through a peephole in the sky". Her father was a sea captain who had disappeared overboard in a storm but Pippi knew he hadnot drowned. She believed he had "floated until he landed on an island inhabited by cannibals...and he had become the king of all the cannibals". Until he came back she would live on her own in their old house. She would be just fine: she had a suitcase full of gold, a pet monkey named Mr. Nilsson, and she's the strongest person in the world!
This classic is such a fun book to read again and again. It is especially fun to read aloud to young children. Despite it being written nearly 70 years ago and in a whole other part of the world, you can't help but feel the adventurous and independent spirit of Pippi Longstocking.
And if you don't mind dubbed movies, be sure to watch the film from the early 1980's. It combines elements of all the books but is fairly entertaining in it's own right!

The Ear, The Eye and The Arm

The Ear, The Eye and The Arm
by Nancy Farmer

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 1st 2004 by Orchard 
(first published March 1st 1994) 
From the back cover: 
 "The year is 2194, and Tendai, his brother, and his sister - the children of Zimbabawe's chief
 of security - have escaped from their father's estate to explore the dangerous city of Harare.
 Desperately wanting to prove himself to his father, Tendai embarks with his siblings on a
 dangerous vouage throug the Zimbabwe of the future."

Nancy Farmer was inspired by the mythology of the Shona culture to create this fabulous adventure full of bizarre characters and growing friendships. This is definitely not my favorite of Farmer's books but it is a fun read nonetheless.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Flora and the Flamingo

Flora and the Flamingo
by  Molly Idle
San Francisco, Calif. : Chronicle Books, c2013
unpaged, picture book

Flora, in her pink swimsuit, flippers, and swim cap, greatly admires the graceful flamingo. At first she tries to be discreet, but the flamingo is not flattered by the attention and tries to deter Flora's aping ways. Eventually, the two form a friendship and practice beautiful dance moves together.  The stunning illustrations display such personality in the two characters that words are truly not necessary. This gorgeous wordless picture book is sure to delight girls of all ages.

A Leaf Can Be

A Leaf Can Be
by Laura Purdie Salas
illustrated by Violete Dabija
unpaged, picture book
Minneapolis : Millbrook Press, c2012

A leaf is more than just a simple part of a tree. Many of a leaf's uses are described in simple rhyming pairs such as, "skin welter, bat shelter. shade spiller, mouth filler". The cute illustrations add some character to the minimal text while displaying a variety of shades of greens and browns that are befitting to a book about leaves. As a bonus, at the end of the book there are a few pages giving more detailed information for each statement. This is great as it makes this picture book accessible to a wider range of ages.

My Dad, My Hero

My Dad, My Hero
by Ethan Long
Naperville, Ill. : Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, c2011
unpaged, picture book

Ethan Long has given us an adorable picture book where a young boy describes the many ways his father is not a superhero. "He cannot shoot webs out of his wrists...And I know he can't bend steel with his bare hands." The big question is whether or not the boy is okay with not having a superhero for a father. Brightly colored, full-page illustrations are reminiscent of a comic strip from the Sunday funnies. The large text and simple yet effective sentences make it a great read-aloud or a fun story for a beginning reader.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ashes

Ashes
by Ilsa J. Bick
New York : Egmont USA, 2011
465 pages
young adult science fiction/zombies

 From goodreads:
"An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.
  Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.

  For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human."

I like some of the ideas. None of the characters totally grabbed me, except maybe Tom. The cannibalistic zombie kids were a bit much for me. Overall a lot of stuff was rather pushing it as far as believability goes. Yet it is a good action-packed intensely fast read. And yes, I will read the next one - this one ended on such a sudden note - and left many unanswered questions!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Lulu and the Duck in the Park

Lulu and the Duck in the Park
by Hilary McKay
illustrated by Priscilla Lamont
Chicago : Albert Whitman, 2012
104 pages, intermediate chapter book

Lulu loves all animals! She tries really hard to find the perfect pet for her teacher and as a result is banned from bringing any animals to school ever again! Lulu intends to do just that until one day the class is on a field trip and she saves a duck egg abandoned when a group of dogs attack. After all, an egg isn’t really an animal…yet. But will her teacher agree with her?

One of my top 10 picks for intermediate chapter books of 2012.

Maggie's Chopsticks

Maggie's Chopsticks
by Alan Woo
 illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant
unpaged picture book

Little Maggie is finally big enough to use her very own chopsticks. She is determined to use them her own way even if she struggles. Each family member tries to show her their own method although they never seem to work for Maggie. She gets really frustrated until Father says, "You shouldn't worry what other people think. Everyone is different. Everyone is unique." This makes her feel better and she persists with her own learning until she is confident and comfortable. The gorgeous illustrations add another layer to the culture behind Maggie and her chopsticks. This is a great story to demonstrate individuality and that persistence will pay off.

The Way We Fall

The Way We Fall
by Megan Crewe
New York : Hyperion, c2012
309 pages, young adult science fiction

It has been awhile since I read this one, so here is an excerpt borrowed from goodreads.com:
It starts with an itch you just can't shake. Then comes a fever and a tickle in your throat. A few days later, you'll be blabbing your secrets and chatting with strangers like they’re old friends. Three more, and the paranoid hallucinations kick in.

And then you're dead.


I liked the idea of the story and I still do. It had so much potential that just didn't come through for me. The format is what bothered me the most. A journal narration I can handle, but a journal written like letters to an ex-friend/crush was quite annoying and unnecessary.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

When We Wake

When We Wake
by Karen Healey
New York : Little, Brown, 2013
296 pages. YA science fiction

Tegen is ecstatic, the boy she has loved forever is finally her official boyfriend. To celebrate their first day together they go to a political rally in their home city of Melbourne, Australia. Unfortunately, Tegen is in the wrong place at the wrong time and takes a sniper bullet meant for the Prime Minister. Fast forward a hundred years: Tegen wakes up in a new century with a whole lot of attitude, but without a clue as to what has happened. The world is not quite what she thought it would be and her presence has awakened a lot of anger in various political and religious factions. With the help of assorted friends she decides to show everyone she is the boss of her own body - not the government that revived her, not the Inheritors who think she is devil spawn and not the journalists that just want a hot story!
This book is a little disjointed and has too many political agendas for my taste. An interesting idea though, I just think it could have been better executed. I didn't love or sympathize with Tegan, yet I had just a little sympathy for Abdi.

Adaptation

Adaptation
by Malinda Lo
New York : Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012
386 pages, YA science-fiction

A couple of teenagers (who may or may not be crushing on each other) are stranded at the Phoenix airport with their teacher after a debate competition. All flights have been cancelled due to random bird attacks that have caused numerous planes throughout the country to crash. The trio decides to rent a car to drive back to San Francisco rather than live in the airport until flights open back up. Of course this entails driving through the back roads of Nevada where bizarre-acting bird causes them to crash. They wake up some time later in an unusual hospital situation with no memories of what happened yet they have some unique abilities they didn't have before. What really happened to them after their car crashed? Did they really crash near Area 51? Will they ever be able to tell each other of their true feelings?

I liked the X-Files feel of parts of this novel, but overall I didn't really like it. Too many parts felt overly contrived and unlikely. Will I read the second part? Not likely.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

BETA

BETA
by Rachel Cohn
New York : Hyperion, c2012
331 pages, young adult novel

Demesne is an isolated luxury island resort for the very wealthy. It was created after The Water Wars and is very exclusive. It has it's own self-contained atmosphere so the air can have a special blend of oxygen that makes the residents happy and relaxed. The water surrounding the island is infused with special healing properties and is free of dangerous waves and currents. The technology is so advanced that the entire work force is made of clones. These clones have been altered so they are not affected by the special air and they have no emotions. Their faces are tattooed revealing their status as clones and their specialty. Elysia is a Beta, an experimental teen clone. She is promptly purchased by a wealthy lady as a companion for her children. Elysia knows from the start that she is different from most other clones. She knows enough to keep it a secret from her owners as she seeks information about the supposed Clone Insurrection that is rumored to be mounting.
You might think life is complicated for all teenagers, it is even more so for a clone teenager.  Elysia is a character who I mostly liked. I had to keep telling myself that she was a clone so she wouldn't react like other kids to a lot of things. I have to admit that I guessed the big climax of the story quite awhile before it happened. The end was wrapping up quite nicely until the very last page when I was kind of thrown for a loop and now I can't wait for the next one. As a caution: there are some rather adult moments in this book so I wouldn't recommend it for anyone under 16 and even then it would depend on the individual teen.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Atherton: The House of Power


Atherton: The House of Power
By Patrick Carman
Little, Brown and Co, 2007. 330 pgs. Chapter book.

Patrick Carman's new series begins with Atherton: The House of Power. Carman writes for an older audience than he did in The Land of Elyon trilogy. The tone of Atherton is darker and more serious, sometimes it is downright grim. Atherton is a unique world of three levels: The Highlands, Tabletop, and The Flatlands. The majority of the world's populace resides on Tabletop where figs, rabbits and sheep are raised for food. The rulers live a life of luxury on the Highlands. The House of Power is so called mainly because they can control the output of water to the lower levels. And you probably don't want to know what lives in the Flatlands. Only one boy is brave enough to explore his world and wonder what might be on the other levels. Edgar learns that he can only reach his goals with the help of some friends, something he thought he would never have. Friendships are discovered and social status ignored as Edgar, Samuel and Isabelle try to understand and cope with their changing world. I liked the feel of this novel, but was bothered at times by the author's narrative style. The book is written mostly in the third person, but occasionally the author speaks to the reader using 'I' and 'we'. It is unnecessary and distracting. Overall I enjoyed reading this book and am curious where he will take the series. This should definitely be recommended to those who liked City of Ember and other post-apocalyptic books.

Truesight


Truesight
by David Stahler Jr.
Eos, 2004. 168 pgs. Chapter book.

Truesight is a futuristic story of a Utopian society on a distant planet. There are two cities on this planet Melville is home to the Seers, people who can see. Harmony is the city of the blind. The people of Harmony are descended from a group of people on Earth who decided to embrace their disability of blindness and create a Utopian society of only blind people. They decide to carry the concept of their society even further and genetically alter their unborn children so they would also be blind. 13 year-old Jacob is an active member of Harmony until he starts experiencing severe headaches. His physical suffering causes him to act and react differently to his environment and the people around him.
This book falls right in my favorite genre of children's literature, futuristic science fiction. It is the first of a trilogy. The library has copies both in Juvenile and YA. It will probably find more readers in the YA section, but will also appeal to some of our mature fifth and sixth graders. Content-wise there is nothing wrong with it, it is just of a more serious nature.

a is for musk ox

 
a is for musk ox
by Erin Cabatingan  and Matthew Myers
New York : Roaring Brook Press, 2012
unpaged picture book


In this creative and informative alphabet picture book Musk Ox is in trouble from page one. He is caught with the apple (of A is for Apple fame) in his mouth. When he is confronted by Zebra he says he did it to save the book from being just like every other alphabet book out there. He then proceeds to show Zebra how every single letter in the alphabet can refer to a musk ox. Patient Zebra humors him although it tries his patience immensely. When you reach the end you have not only worked your way through the alphabet, but you will know more than you ever wanted to know about musk oxen. If you are a fan of the non-traditional ABC books like Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and AlphaOops!: The Day Z went First by Alethea Kontis,  then you will be very entertained by A is for apple musk ox.

Chu's Day



Chu's Day
written by Neil Gaiman
illustrated by Adam Rex
New York : Harper, c2013
unpaged picture book

Bad things happen when the adorable baby panda, Chu, sneezes. His ever cautious parents are always asking him, "Are you going to sneeze, dear?" Thankfully neither the "old-book-dust" at the library nor the pepper in the restaurant trigger Chu's nasal reflex. But of course, the one time his vigilant parents let down their guard...you better hold onto your hats.
Gaiman's story is cute yet unremarkable. However, when you pair it with Adam Rex's fabulous illustrations, you have a picture book for all to enjoy.
For more sneezing, check out Zoo Ah-Choooo by Peter Mandel or my personal favorite, Robert the Rose Horse by Joan Heilbroner. 

Time for Bed, the Babysitter Said



Time for Bed, the Babysitter Said
by Peggy Perry Anderson
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012
easy reader. unpaged.


No matter how many times the babysitter asks Joe to go to bed, he always answers, "No!" After numerous attempts and lots of mischief on little Joe's part, the babysitter finally asks, "why, oh why won't you go to bed?" Joe's answer might surprise some with it's magical simplicity. Adorable and uncluttered illustrations paired with short and simple rhyming text make a fun book for beginning readers.

Mud Puddle



Mud Puddle
written by Robert Munsch
illustrated by Dusan Petricic
Toronto : Annick Press ; Richmond Hill, ON : Distributed by Firefly Books Ltd., c2012
picture book. 32 pages.

Every time little Jule Ann plays outside a mischievous mud puddle is sure to find her. Maybe  it's hiding up a tree or in her sandbox, she never knows where it is going to turn up. Jule Ann goes to great lengths to disguise herself and hide from this filthy nuisance yet she always ends up splattered in muck. Her exasperated mother has long since given up on bathing her so Jule Ann decides to confront the sneaky slime with a secret weapon. Whether you are a long-time fan of the incredible Robert Munsch or not, you will surely enjoy this clever tale.

Earthling!

Earthling!
by Mark Fearing
San Francisco, Calif. : Chronicle Books, 2012
graphic novel. 244 pages.

Bud's first day at his new school is out-of-this-world! Literally. He got on the wrong bus and ended up at Cosmos Academy: "the best in the galaxy!" To make matters worse, the school is run by an alien species that hates humans. Bud pretends he is not human which proves more difficult than he thought it would. Despite the galactic nature of the school, Bud still has to deal with typical school stuff: bullies, teachers, principals, competitive sports, etc... Somehow he gets tangled up in a plot to invade Earth and realizes he is the only one that can save his home planet. Earthling! is an entertaining and fast-paced read for 4th graders on up.

Bad Kitty: School Daze


Bad Kitty: School Daze
by Nick Bruel
New York : Roaring Brook Press, 2013
intermediate chapter book. 158 pages.

 Poor misunderstood Kitty is always getting blamed for everything. When she can't seem to behave the owner's decide to send both Kitty and Puppy to school. Diabla von Gloom's School for Wayward Pets is just the place! Of course Puppy is nearly perfect, he just has to learn to control his drool. As the animals endure their time at school they learn a lot about each other and themselves. Maybe Puppy isn't as perfect as everyone thinks. And maybe, just maybe, Kitty isn't such a bad egg after all.  Will their owners ever realize this? Bruel has given us yet another fabulous Bad Kitty beginning chapter book . And for you Uncle Murray fans out there... he does make an appearance, though he is slightly less verbose than in previous books.

Amazing Amusement Park Rides


Amazing Amusement Park Rides
by Meish Goldish
New York, N.Y. : Bearport Pub., c2012
Juvenile Non-Fiction, 24 pages

Thrill-seekers have been enjoying death-defying rides since the late 1800's. The Gravity Pleasure Switchback Railway was one of America's first roller coasters. Riders raced along at the astonishing speed of 6 miles per hour! Today people can get on board the Steel Dragon 2000, the longest coaster in the world, and fly along at 95 mph! The first Ferris wheel was introduced in 1893, reaching the staggering height of 26-stories. Today, the Singapore Flyer is twice as tall and holds nearly 800 passengers. These are just a couple of the stomach-dropping, scream-inducing attractions you will read about in Amazing Amusement Park Rides.

The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot!



The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot!
by Scott Magoon
New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, c2013 
 unpaged, picture book

Ben likes to tell stories. He tells his family and friends all about seeing Bigfoot in the woods. He tells them many, many times. Ben even embellishes his story with "evidence". Despite his best efforts no one believes him and soon he is ignored completely. Then one day....well I won't tell you what happens so you can find out for yourself. The author/illustrator provides us with a fun and clever spin on the traditional Boy Who Cried Wolf tale that will appeal to young children.

Amy and the MIssing Puppy



Amy and the Missing Puppy
by Callie Barkley
ill. by Marsha Riti
New York : Little Simon, 2013
intermediate fiction, 116 pages

 Amy and her three best friends rotate houses for their Friday sleepovers. The Friday before spring break the other girls are exuberantly discussing their vacation plans making Amy, who doesn't have any, feel left out. She is resigned to just helping out at her mother's veterinary practice and reading her favorite series, Nancy Drew. Little does she know that she will soon be living her very own mystery. As she carries out her investigation she not only finds clues to the missing puppy but a new friend as well. This sweet little story filled with adorable black and white illustrations is perfect for girls just starting into chapter books.

GERMS!





Germs!
by Alan MacDonald
ill. by David Roberts
North Mankato, Minn. : Capstone Stone Arch Books, 2012
intermediate fiction, 111 pages

Bertie is very frustrated! He never washes his hands and is always filthy, yet it is his sister who has chicken pox and gets to miss school. Bertie is determined to catch the chicken pox too, or at least convince his mother that he has. After all, that has got to be easier than doing his homework. Later, Bertie's grandmother asks him to help her win a dance contest. Dancing is probably the last thing he wants to do until he discovers there is a prize involved. Now Bertie is itching to win. Or is that his competition that is itching? Finally, Bertie is left at home with a new babysitter. Let's just say his parents must not have been thinking clearly when they hired Kevin. Bertie realizes that too much freedom might not be such a good thing after all! These three humorous short stories will appeal to young boys who find more joy in getting dirty than in doing their homework!" WARNING: DON'T BE LIKE BERTIE! ALWAYS CATCH YOUR GERMS IN A TISSUE AND THROW IT AWAY. AND REMEMBER TO WASH YOUR HANDS! IT'S EASY-SNEEZY!"