Friday, December 31, 2010

Zora and Me by Victoria Bond

Zora and MeZora and Me by Victoria Bond

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Carrie and Zora are best friends in the small, all-black town of Eatonville, Florida around the beginning

of the 20th century. Zora is considered one of the most creative people in their town, although she’s also known to be a frequent liar. When a young man gets killed trying to wrestle an alligator, Zora’s imagination runs wild with stories of gators—including one about her claiming to see a local elderly man appearing to be half man, half gator.

Her stories grow even wilder when a man is found murdered just outside of their town; Zora, naturally, believes that the gator man did it! All of this is going on while they deal with issues in each of their families; Zora’s father doesn’t want Zora to “act white”, while Carrie’s father left for a temporary job in Orlando a year before and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. Together, the girls face what new challenges life seems to be handing them in a world that isn’t as small and safe as they had once thought.

This is an interesting story based on Zora Neal Hurston, the author of well-known books such as Their Eyes Were Watching God, and her childhood best friend Carrie. Included at the end of the book is a short biography of Hurston’s life. Readers who enjoy stories that take place around the turn of the 20th century might also enjoy The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (Kelly) and The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had (Levine).

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The Death-Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean

The Death-Defying Pepper RouxThe Death-Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In mid-twentieth century France, Pepper’s malicious aunt claims to have had a vision of his death the night before he was born; in it, Pepper dies at age fourteen. Always the well-behaved child, he never thinks to question this and takes it as fact—along with the rest of his dim-witted family. Therefore, he’s forced to spend his childhood confessing his sins at church, memorizing the last rites, and learning about the saints. But when his fourteenth birthday arrives, he realizes that he’s not ready to die, so he decides on a whim to run away to become someone else—and so elude death.

Pepper begins his quest to escape death on board a ship where he pretends to be his own father, who is a captain. Other roles he later steps into include a deli meat slicer, journalist, telegram deliverer, member of the Foreign Legion, and more. He constantly wonders how he’s able to step into these parts so easily: “Well, people see what they expect. Don’t they? Or do they see what they choose?” (16). Despite all of the misfortune Pepper faces during this time, he retains his kind nature towards others, always putting their needs before his own. Luckily, there’s a person out there who’s keeping an eye out for Pepper’s best interests too—unbeknownst to him.

This is an excellent book, full of adventure and humor. Pepper is such a likable character that the reader can’t help but root for him from the very start. Those who enjoyed this book might enjoy Peter Pan in Scarlet, also by this author.

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Picture books for mock Caldecott

Some recent posts here are going to include picture books that are on the mock Caldecott book list that I'm trying to read before there's an actual winner. The winner will be announced on January 10, 2011. More information about this and the books involved can be found here.

The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy)

The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According To Susy)The Extraordinary Mark Twain by Barbara Kerley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this book! The pictures were neat and the colors really pop. There are also pages from the journal written by his daughter Susy attached to some of the pages...and a note about Mark Twain and Susy at the end of the book.

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Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton

Shark vs. TrainShark vs. Train by Chris Barton

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book is just okay. It's too long to use in a storytime and the pictures didn't impress me at all; I feel as though this book is just an average preschooler book.

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My Heart is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall

My Heart Is Like a ZooMy Heart Is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Animals made of hearts; story is in rhyme...nothing special.

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Summer Birds by Margarita Engle

Summer BirdsSummer Birds by Margarita Engle

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Who calls butterflies...birds? This person, evidently.

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Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli

Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of KenyaMama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I [sort of] see how this book is important, but...

Many people visit the lady who comes to be known as Mama Miti; they visit her for help and advice. However, her advice is always the same: to grow Maathai trees. Well, taken literally, the starving family is still going to starve if they plant a Maathai tree--won't it take years to grow and bear fruit? And the family who needs shelter will still need shelter if they plant a Maathai tree--won't it take years to grow enough to take branches from to build a home?

Because this is just so outrageous to me, all symbolism is lost and becomes meaningless. The pictures are nice, though.

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My Garden by Kevin Henkes

My GardenMy Garden by Kevin Henkes

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really liked this book--the pictures are so sweet! I used this in a storytime already and bought a copy for the department's story collection.

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Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow by Gary Golio

Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow: a Story of the Young Jimi HendrixJimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow: a Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix by Gary Golio

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was just okay. The pictures are interesting, but I found the text looking disorganized on the pages because of all the color and fonts used. It may prompt older readers to wonder about Jimi Hendrix and seek out other materials about him.

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Knuffle Bunny Free by Mo Willems

Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected DiversionKnuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion by Mo Willems

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was done with this story after _Knuffle Bunny, Too!_ I mean, really, how irresponsible is this family? Luckily, it should be over now. The author's letter to his daughter at the end is sweet, though.

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Here Comes the Garbage Barge by Jonah Winter

Here Comes the Garbage Barge!Here Comes the Garbage Barge! by Jonah Winter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is based on the true story of trying to find a 'home' for garbage that no one wanted to take responsibility for. The pictures were funny and interesting but not cutesy. This would be a good book to read one-on-one.

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Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo

Bink and GollieBink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I didn't love this book; yeah, it was cute, but I thought that the taller one was an adult, so I thought their relationship was weird. Even later learning that they're friends doesn't make it extra special for me or anything. Kids will probably like it, but it's not really for me.

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Sir Charlie Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World

Sir Charlie ChaplinSir Charlie Chaplin by Sid Fleischman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Charlie Chaplin dreamed of living a better life while he was stuck in the slums of London with his mother and older brother. He did odd jobs around town to help his family get by; as a teen, one of the jobs he

had was as a slapstick comedy performer in vaudeville acts (variety shows). When his small group was touring America, a director saw his act and signed him to do movies (which were silent and only a few

minutes long at that time).

Charlie soon gained enough confidence in his comedic acting ability—and earned enough money—to leave the production company he had originally signed with in order to not only build his own studio, but direct and star in his own films. The public loved these films and couldn’t get enough of him, making him a multi-millionaire—and making his boyhood dreams come true.

This is a very interesting book about a man that, when in costume, nearly anyone today can identify—but whose personal life isn’t as universally well known. His rags-to-riches rise from poor boy to Hollywood legend is a great and inspiring story. Those who enjoyed this book might also enjoy other biographies by Sid Fleischman, such as Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini (Harry Houdini) or The Trouble Begins at 8: a Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West (Mark Twain).

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Monday, November 22, 2010

The Genius Wars by Catherine Jinks

The Genius WarsThe Genius Wars by Catherine Jinks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was very much looking forward to this book and I found it to be pretty good. This one took a while for me to get into, just as it took me a while to get into the first two books, but it's worth it.

In this book, the third (and final?!) in the series, Cadel is trying to live a "normal" life as a university student (although he's still years younger than the rest of the students there) and as part of a real family (he has been adopted). Prosper English seems to be ignoring him the same way he is ignoring Prosper, and all seems well...

...until strange accidents keep happening that Cadel doesn't believe are really accidents. People close to him keep getting hurt or almost killed and Cadel is sure Prosper has something to do with this. He's tired of running, he's tired of hiding, and he's tired of worrying about those he cares about getting hurt because of him.

This was such a good story (but not as good as the first one--to me) and I can't believe that this is the final book. The ending doesn't tie anything up at all! Maybe there will be another book added because this story is NOT over yet. Assuming that there is indeed another book coming, I would recommend this series to anyone wanting to read an interesting, different type of series.

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The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan

The DreamerThe Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In a small village in Chile, Neftali Reyes is a shy boy whose mind is always wandering; he finds beauty in the simplest things in nature and is fascinated by words. His father, however, wants him to be more focused and hard working so that he might become a doctor or a dentist.

The reader follows Neftali as he grows up; we learn that, as an adolescent, he still has trouble focusing in school and that he still has a love of words. In fact, he has filled dozens of notebooks with his thoughts. He also begins to notice the social injustices suffered by the Mapuche people in his homeland and unites with his caring uncle to spread the word about this. He continues to write once he gets to university, only he changes his name to Pablo Neruda so as not to shame his father.

This fictional biography provides the reader with an idea of what Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda’s life was like growing up. Not only does the book share both heart-warming and heart-wrenching stories from Neruda’s past, it also includes illustrations by Peter Sis and bits of Neruda’s own (translated) poetry. Those who enjoyed this book might also enjoy these other fictional biographies: A Mind with Wings: the Story of Henry David Thoreau (Hausman) or Bear Dancer: the Story of a Ute Girl (Wyss).

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mockingbird by Kathryn Eskine

MockingbirdMockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Caitlyn is a bit different from other kids because she has Asberger’s Syndrome. Although the kids she knows tend to think she’s weird, Caitlyn’s beloved older brother Devon knows that she can’t help disliking recess, most colors, and disruptions in routine (among other things). It seems like he’s the only person who truly understands her.

When Devon is killed at a shooting at his middle school, Caitlyn deals with his unexpected death much differently than others do; while others grieve for Devon, Caitlyn deals with his death in a rather matter-of-fact way—having Asberger’s makes it difficult for her to feel emotions as it applies to others. She continues seeing Mrs. Brook, a friendly school counselor who helps her better understand her emotions and Asberger’s. We see her slowly begin to grasp what it means to miss someone, along with what it means to have real friends.

This story is sure to touch the reader’s heart. Caitlyn is a likable character—along with her kind father, who tries his best as a widower to raise his now only remaining child. Readers who enjoyed this book might also enjoy Anything but Typical (Baskin), a story told by a boy who has autism.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Rivalry: Mystery at the Army-Navy Game by John Feinstein

The Rivalry: Mystery at the Army-Navy Game (Final Four Mystery #5)The Rivalry: Mystery at the Army-Navy Game by John Feinstein

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Stevie and Susan Carol, both high school freshmen who have been writing special sports columns for publications such as The Washington Post ever since they won a writing contest, are invited to write about the annual Army (West Point) versus Navy (Annapolis) football game, which is special that year because President Obamba will be in attendance. Each of them is also allowed to get to know some of the players and coaches, along with learning about the heightened security measures that are going to be in place due to the president’s appearance. Excited about this opportunity, Stevie and Susan Carol plunge into their investigating.

Because Stevie and Susan Carol shadow the Army and Navy teams two weeks before the actual game, they are invited to attend their games against other colleges—which is thrilling to them. However, they notice (along with the crowd, coaches, and players) that the calls the officials make seem unfair, though there’s nothing much anyone can do about it. When unfair calls are made by the same group of officials at the important Army versus Navy game, Stevie and Susan Carol resolve to get to the bottom of it.

This is a story that has a little bit of everything: sports, mystery, a touch of romance, and suspense. This book is actually the fifth book in the Steve and Susan Carol Sport Mystery series, but reading books 1-4 isn’t necessary to understand the plot; in fact, this book stands solidly on its own. Readers who enjoy this series might also enjoy The Million Dollar series (Gutman).

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Librarian on the Roof! by M.G. King

Librarian on the Roof!: A True StoryLibrarian on the Roof!: A True Story by M.G. King

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book is just okay. Readers will admire the determination of the librarian RoseAleta, but it doesn't really excite me in any way.

When RoseAleta was hired as a new librarian at the Dr. Eugene Lark Library in Lockhart, Texas, she discovered that the library was very underused by the people in town (wouldn't she have learned this during pre-interview sleuthing about where she was going to interview?). The current staff seems generally apathetic, so she brings a new energy to the library personnel. When nothing she does-participates in parades, etc.-brings in children or adults, she re-evaluates the children's department and realizes that they need to update the furniture, computers, books, and more.

Of course, upgrades like these take money, and, of course, the library didn't have any money to spare. So RoseAleta endeavors to camp out on the roof of the library until 40,000 dollars is raised for the children's department. (Again, wouldn't she have gotten an idea of what the library's collection and budget were when she interviewed?).

All works out, happy ending, the library gets the money it needed to update the children's department, it is a busy place now, yadda yadda.

I understand that a suspension of belief is needed (maybe) for a story like this to succeed without having readers feel the need to ask questions like mine, but, like I said, I just can't get excited for this book.

I hope she got a raise after all she did for her library!

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A Million Shades of Gray by Cynthia Kadohata

A Million Shades of GrayA Million Shades of Gray by Cynthia Kadohata

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It’s 1973: Y’Tin and his family live in a distant village in South Vietnam, and, for as long as he can
remember, his country has been at war with North Vietnam. While his father works as a guide for the American Special Forces, Y’Tin likes nothing more than to spend peaceful time with his beloved elephant, named Lady. In fact, he dreams of growing up and becoming one of the youngest elephant trainers ever. Yet things turn deadly when the Americans return home, leaving Y’Tin and his people vulnerable when the North Vietnamese troops invade their village.

While some villagers are able to escape into the jungle (including his family, as it turns out), Y’Tin and many others are taken prisoner by the enemy troops. However, Y’Tin and his fellow elephant-trainer friend manage to escape into the jungle. Happily, they find their escaped elephants, but the elephants aren’t their only concern, though, as they are being hunted by the North Vietnamese, trying to stay alive, and trying to catch up to the group of villagers who initially fled.

This is a thought-provoking book that strikes a delicate balance between Y’Tin’s love of his elephant and hate for the enemy troops. The reader is right there along with him as he escapes captivity and tries to stay alive in the jungle. Those who enjoyed this book might also enjoy Kadohata’s other books dealing with the grim realities of war, such as Cracker!: the Best Dog in Vietnam or Weedflower (pre-Pearl Harbor bombing).

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen

Woods RunnerWoods Runner by Gary Paulsen

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Samuel is a thirteen-year-old boy who spends his free time hunting in the woods near the remote home where he and his parents live. In fact, he is in the woods when their home is seton fire, his parents kidnapped, and his neighbors killed—all by the British soldiers who are in America to fight in the Revolutionary War.

Being the skilled woodsman that he is, Samuel undertakes to follow the trail made by the group of soldiers and their prisoners—he is sure his parents are among those taken, as he sees their shoe prints. Although a head wound from a scalping band of Iroquois sidelines him for a number of days, he is determined to keep moving towards British-held New York City. (It is believed that his parents, along with most prisoners of war, have been imprisoned there). Along the way, he meets Annie, a young girl whose parents had been killed right in front of her. She resolves to stick with him from this point forward, so he lets her. The traveling becomes easier when they meet a man named Abner who is willing to take them to New York City on his cart. However, when they get there, Samuel realizes that rescuing his parents isn’t going to be as easy as he thought it would be.

This is an interesting story that drops the reader right into the American Revolution. Samuel’s dedication to rescuing his parents is admirable, and one can’t help but feel for little Annie. Paulsen adds short entries of nonfiction in between pieces of the story to create an even stronger image of what one might face living in the Revolutionary time.

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The Time Quake: by Linda Buckley-Archer

The Time Quake: #3 in the Gideon Triliogy (Gideon Trilogy)The Time Quake: #3 in the Gideon Triliogy by Linda Buckley-Archer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Time Quake is the third and final book of the Gideon Trilogy, and I'm so sad that it's over. I enjoyed this series so much and I'm shocked that it wasn't more popular with the kids.

I was lucky to get my hands on the audio book version; I ended up having to request it from another library in this state. It's so good to listen to and was totally worth it!

Admittedly, this was my least favorite of the three books, only because the reader not only follows Peter and Kate, but also Lord Luxon, the Tar Man, Anjali and Tom, and of course Peter and Kate's families...which makes for a lot to keep track of. Plus, Peter, Kate, and Gideon were the characters I was most interested it and found myself a little impatient that so much time is dedicated to other characters. For example, Lord Luxon's plans on changing history were interesting, but I felt like I didn't know him well enough to really feel anger towards his character; rather, I disliked what he wanted to do more than the character himself. I found myself sort of sighing whenever the story focused on him.

There were also very serious parts to this story, such as Kate becoming more and more transparent (and fast-forwarding), Tom wanting so badly to go home (after we thought he was dead!), the Tar Man's ability to somehow travel back and forth between times, the secret about Gideon and the Tar Man, and, finally, the big ending where Peter has to make a choice about fixing everything that went wrong with time.

Speaking of the ending, I found it to be confusing--so much that I went back and listened to it again to see if I was missing something. I suppose that, when writing about time travel, events are bound to get jumbled up in a way that makes things difficult to keep track of. I kept playing the scene over and over in my mind (keeping in mind the other time travel book I read and loved: The Time Traveler's Wife) to make everything work out and makes sense.

Despite these issues, I found the series in its entirety very enjoyable and I look forward to watching for whatever Buckley-Archer sets her sights on next.

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Always with You by Ruth Vander Zee

Always With YouAlways With You by Ruth Vander Zee

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I came across this book while working on my library's weeding project. (I didn't weed it!) The book grabbed me because it looked like it would be very sad; I knew that a death was somehow involved, but I didn't know who or what the circumstances were.

It's a very quick read; it's a longer picture book that has a subject not so acceptable for browsing children/parents in the picture book section. I was right about my first impression though; it is indeed about a death.

This story is about a girl named Kim whose village is bombed during the Vietnam War. Her loving mother is killed and her dying words to Kim are: "I will always be with you."

An enemy soldier hits Kim with his gun, which ends up hurting her sight for the rest of her life. She is, however, eventually found by United States soldiers and taken someplace safe. Because she needed special surgeries for her eyes, she was sent to the United States for medical help and ended up staying in an orphanage there.

She ends up living a happy life overall, but she always remembers her mother's last words to her.

The story was so sad! But I think it's important to have pieces of literature like this so that we will always remember that events like this happened in our history.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott

The Alchemyst (Nicholas Flamel, #1)The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I did not enjoy this book very much. I felt as though it wasn't very well written, although it's very popular with the kids; in fact, book four, _The Necromancer_, came out recently and kids are asking for it. Because of this, I decided to listen to, at the very least, book one...and now I know that this series isn't for me.

Before I discuss the plot, I also want to mention that my dislike of the book also has to do with the reader on the audio book; I had a huge problem with him. His 'voices' for each character are a bit annoying and his mispronunciation of words is simply unacceptable; "disoriented" is NOT pronounced "dis-or-ee-en-TATE-ted" ; "allied" is NOT pronounced "a-lied"...those were the ones that stuck out to me the most. I mean, come on!

Josh and Sophie are fifteen-year-old twins who get mixed up, completely by accident, with magical beings. It all starts when Josh, who works for a man named Nick Fleming, is in the store when a man comes in and attacks Nick; he forcibly takes a book from him, but Josh manages to save the last few pages. The fight between the men involve things Josh has never seen before--magical things. Josh and Nick are able to safely escape with Sophie (who saw the fight from across the street and joined them).

It turns out that Nick and his wife--who was kidnapped during the fight--are magical beings who are hundreds of years old. The book that the evil man took from Nick (whose real name is Nicholas Flamel) is a codex that is thousands of years old and holds all sorts of magical information. He tells the twins that they are in danger now that the evil man (whose name is Dr. John Dee) knows who they are; and now that he has most of the book, he will allow dark magic to rule the world.

Nicholas and his friend Scathach (who is also hundreds of years old) learn that Josh and Sophie could very well be the twins foretold in a prophecy. They all need to work together to fight the evil Dr. John Dee and his plan for a world controlled by dark magic.

This plot sounds pretty interesting, doesn't it? I mean, this is the type of book I reach for when reading children's literature; I enjoy these types of fantastical elements in a book. However, this book is just so poorly written that I couldn't get into it. I felt like it could have been shorter had it been edited some; because the omniscient narrator oscillates between Josh and Sophie depending on whether or not they are together in a particular scene, there is a repeating of facts that weren't even necessarily to understand the plot; for example, they each say a number of times that they have always had to stick together because their parents work a lot and they move a lot. Okay--after hearing one of them say it, let's move on!

Nonetheless, kids seem to like it; maybe the writing gets better in the later books; however, this reader isn't going to find out.

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The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

The Queen of Attolia (The Queen's Thief, #2)The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book picks up pretty close to where book 1 leaves off. We find Eugenides in very poor health in his room in the palace of Eddis (sp?), suffering from the amputation of his right hand. In fact, doctors aren't sure if he'll be able to survive the trauma. After a long while, he finally improves enough to leave his private room beside the library.

It turns out that Eugenides is, indeed, an important member of the palace, as he is the Queen's Thief. However, during the few journeys outside his room to appear at dinner or meetings, he is ashamed of his missing hand.

After a long while, he asks to take leave of the queen for approximately ten days. During his absence he spies on the queen of Attolia so that he may improve the lives of not only the Eddisians, but of himself as well.

This book was, again, just okay. The friend who recommended this series said that book 3 is her favorite, so I'll have to wait to see where the series goes.

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The Floods: Good Neighbors by Colin Thompson

The Floods #1The Floods #1 by Colin Thompson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Flood family isn’t what you’d call totally normal—Nerlin and Mordonna, the parents, are a wizard and a witch, respectively; Valla, the oldest of the seven children, works at a blood bank (and brings his work home with him!); Satanella was once a cute little girl, but after a terrible magic accident involving a shrimp and a faulty wand, she turned into small dog; Merlinmary is completely covered in hair, so nobody knows if it’s a boy or a girl; Winchflat is the family genius—except that he looks like he’s already dead; the twins Morbid and Silent only speak to each other telepathically; and Betty, the youngest, is the only “normal-looking” child in the family—but she still possesses magical powers. The Flood family thinks that everything in their lives is perfect—except for their next door neighbors, the Dents.

The Dents are as obnoxious as can be! Their lawn is littered with garbage and old cars, their dog Rambo attacks anyone who comes near the house, the television stays on at full volume all day and night, the family communicates with one another by yelling, and the children are bullies. It comes to a point where the Floods decide that they aren’t going to stand for this anymore and take measures to change the Dent family’s ways.

This story is hilarious! The Flood family brings to mind those in The Addams Family and The Munsters—spooky and weird, but in a funny way. The author’s tone is humorous throughout the entire book, which is sure to make readers snicker. Continue reading about the Flood family in the rest of The Floods series!

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Paintings: A First Discovery Book by Claude Delafosse

Paintings (A First Discovery Art Book)Paintings by Claude Delafosse

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I came across this book when I was assisting a patron in the art section. She didn't end up needing this book, so I took it!

This book is very basic, but what drew me to it was the cool pages; it's one of those books that have clear pages with only a bit of text/picture on them, so when you turn the page you get a whole new picture!

I know nothing about art, so it was nice seeing a handful of famous paintings with only a few facts and cool pictures!

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Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare by Darren Shan

A Living Nightmare (Cirque Du Freak, #1)A Living Nightmare by Darren Shan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Twelve-year-old Darren Shan (that’s not his real name—he had to change it to protect everyone he knows in order to tell his story) and his friends find out that there is a freak show visiting their town, and they really want to go, even though it’s illegal and cruel (according to adults). Darren and his friend Steve decide to go anyway when Steve gets his hands on some tickets.

Darren enjoys the show very much (he was only a little bit scared), but is concerned when Steve tells him to go on home without him; Steve plans on staying and talking to one of the freaks: Larten Crepsley, a creepy man who performs with a huge and dangerous spider. Instead of leaving, Darren hides and watches their exchange and learns that Mr. Crepsley is really a vampire and that Steve wants to join him and become his vampire apprentice; however, Mr. Crepsley denies this request and sends Steve on his way.

Weeks later, Darren is forced to seek out Mr. Crepsley’s help when Steve’s life is in danger. In exchange for his help, Mr. Crepsley wants Darren to be his assistant. What other choice does Darren have but to accept?

This is a story full of action and suspense—with vampires! Although this first book is mostly a set-up for the real vampire lifestyle that Darren will experience in the following books in The Saga of Darren Shan, readers are sure to be glued to the pages.

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ghost Canoe by Will Hobbs

Ghost Canoe (Avon Camelot Books)Ghost Canoe by Will Hobbs

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Listening to this book reminded me of why I avoid books like this.

I suppose that's a bit unfair; years ago I read _Jason's Gold_ and didn't mind it, and a coworker read and enjoyed _Go Big or Go Home_. But I just couldn't get into this! What kills me is that this book won all sorts of awards when it came out (1997), and literary reviews call it exciting! *sigh*

The story is about a younger teenage boy named Nathan who lives off the Pacific Northwest Coast in 1874. One of his favorite things to do is fishing with his adult friend Lighthouse George, a Makah fisherman.

One day they learn that a ship has crashed and that the captain's murdered body has floated to the shore. Nathan decides to figure out what exactly happened. Also involved in this twisted tale is the weird behavior of the local store owner Captain Dan, a canoe that Nathan finds lodged in a tall tree, and a man who's interested in becoming the new store owner. All of this is going on while Nathan's father is away and his mother is ill.

I have to admit, I couldn't wait til this audio book was finished. There's a lot of Makah culture weaved into the story, which is fine--but not necessarily interesting to me. I didn't hate this audio book as much as I hated _The Dark is Rising_ (Susan Cooper), but this was a close second.

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The Boy Who Looked Like Lincoln by Mike Reiss

The Boy Who Looked Like LincolnThe Boy Who Looked Like Lincoln by Mike Reiss

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I picked this book up at the library because the illustrator David Catrow was a speaker at the Youth Services Author Breakfast at ILA 2010. Someone in the audience mentioned that Scholastic refuses to sell this book based on some readers' complaints. It was a long morning and I was sort of spacing out and didn't catch what exactly about the book made it so undesirable to Scholastic...which is why I read it yesterday.

The story is straight-forward enough; a boy tells about how people have thought that he looks like Abraham Lincoln ever since he was born, and how he's given stove pipe hats and Lincoln Logs as presents, etc. He realizes that he's happy to be the way he is after he attends a camp that specializes in kids who look like things/people.

As I read the story, I kept watch for something offensive and didn't see it. Yeah, the pictures aren't cute at all (or, rather, what I consider cute) and the child, quite honestly, is ugly!!

Then I arrive at the final page, where he states, "Now I just have to figure out how to help my baby brother, Dickie." ...Dickie is portrayed as Richard Nixon--"Tricky Dick"--with a very phallic-looking nose. BINGO! Of course, a child wouldn't recognize this, but adults surely will--and have!

I'm not for pulling this book from the shelves or banning it or whatever, and I think Scholastic is being a bit dramatic about it. When it comes down to it, the story isn't anything special and the pictures are yucky! Just pass this book on by when cruising the picture book section for a good read.

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The Sound of Colors: A Journey of the Imagination by Jimmy Liao

The Sound of Colors: A Journey of the ImaginationThe Sound of Colors: A Journey of the Imagination by Jimmy Liao

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I came across this book while weeding the fiction section at work and I just had to put it aside to look at it more. This story is about a nearly blind lady who describes what she "sees" in her imagination as she walks through life.

The pictures are amazing; they are all interesting, if not what one would picture while on an acid trip--not disturbing...just sort of strange.

I got a feeling of wistfulness at some parts of the story; in fact, I felt it right at the beginning: "A year ago / I began to notice / that my sight was slipping away. / I sat at home alone / and felt the darkness settle around me. / But today I walked outside..."

And this part near the middle of the story: "Home is the place / where everything I've lost / is waiting patiently / for me / to find my way back..."

And also this part in the middle: "There must be someone / who'll sit beside me / sip tea, / tell me her hopes for the future, / and listen to mine..." (Aww! *wipes away a tear*)

There's an author's note in the back; I was curious to learn whether he is blind or losing his sight himself. It doesn't mention that, though it does state that he is a cancer survivor.

I don't know that I'd recommend this book to kids, though I'm sure they'd enjoy the pictures. Maybe if a child read it along with an adult...? Regardless, this book warmed my heart.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

The Thief (The Queen's Thief, #1)The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I began this series due to a recommendation from a friend. I dutifully read it but, admittedly, I didn't find it super-wonderful.

This story is about a young teen named Gen who is locked in a prison cell when the reader is introduced to him; he had been arrested in a wine shop after gloating about something he stole. He is approached by someone who works for the king who is interested in using Gen to help capture a very elusive item. Having nothing better to do, Gen agrees to help the man get the item for the king.

Gen accompanies not only the man who approached him, but also two other boys around his age who are apprentices--more or less--to the man, and also a royal guard.

This book is mostly about the group's travels to get to the location of the elusive item. It reminded me of book one of _The Lord of the Rings_ trilogy--walking and walking and sleeping and eating and walking and walking. I didn't particularly love all of the traveling in the LOTR series, and I didn't particularly enjoy it here, either.

The reader grows to dislike Gen due to his snotty, smart-mouthed personality. I began to feel a bit of sympathy for him when he is in the place where the item is because it is so scary in there, but on their trek back, my sympathy would ebb and flow for him.

Once they reach their destination after the adventure, we learn that there is much more to Gen than we originally thought, setting us up for book two of the series, _The Queen of Attolia_.

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Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay (Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was looking forward to reading (listening) to this book and I was -mostly- not disappointed. I love love LOVED the first book _Hunger Games_ and have faithfully continued to make my way through the trilogy.

This story finds Katniss rescued from the second Hunger Games she is forced to participate in by an underground group that has been attempting to fight the Capital. However, they weren't able to rescue Peeta, so he is captured by the Capital's people.

The rest of the story is about how they get Peeta back, the chaos all of the districts are experiencing, and how the underground group tries to fight the Capital. The epilogue brought to mind the epilogue in the _Harry Potter_ series, in that it completes the series so that there is no speculation as to what happens to the characters.

I thought that this book was fine; nothing can compare to the first book in the series, and this was a fine way to end it. There were a few parts in the book where I was like, "noooo!"--so I was pretty attached to some of the characters.

I've recommended book one to others, also mentioning that they don't necessarily need to read the rest of the trilogy.

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The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane by C. Millen

The Ink Garden of Brother TheophaneThe Ink Garden of Brother Theophane by C. Millen

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When I read the review of this book in a literary journal, I was really excited! I have a love of anything Medieval (my MA is in Early English Literature) and I thought this story would be right up my alley. But, as it turns out, not really...

This story is about a monk named Brother Theophane whose job is to copy text (along with other monks). However, Theophane isn't that great at his job because he daydreams all the time and feeds birds crumbs on the nearby windowsill. He eventually gets demoted.

His new job is awful; he must crush bark in a cauldron to make the ink used by the other brothers. One day, while out to retrieve more bark, he trips and falls on some blackberries and realizes that the juice he figures he can use this for ink. He goes on to discover other colors of ink in the nature around him.

Eventually, he no longer stirs bark in the cauldron, but grows a garden full of things he can get colors from.

In reality, it was early chemists who experimented with creating ink from things in nature (minerals, herbs, shrubs, etc.)...not necessarily a dreamy monk.

The pictures are nice, and the story is told in a poetic form, but those two things are really the only things I liked about the book.

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Making the Moose Out of Life by Nicholas Oldland

Making the Moose Out of LifeMaking the Moose Out of Life by Nicholas Oldland

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I admit that the pictures in this book are really cute, but that's where my praise ends.

The story is about a moose who is unfulfilled in life, so he decides to go on a boat trip to see if he can find what he's missing in life. He runs into bad weather and ends up on a deserted island.

However, it's not as deserted as he first thought, as he meets a turtle named Tuesday and they have all sorts of fun adventures together. One day, they spot a cruise ship, so they build a large fire to get its attention and the moose is rescued.

The cruise ship isn't heading home for a few weeks yet, so the moose enjoys all sorts of activities while on board. When he finally gets home, he decides that he's found what was missing in his life and invites his friends to go cliff jumping.

This story seems more geared towards adults stuck in a rut than small children wanting to hear a story. I just wasn't that impressed with it, but, like I said, the pictures are really cute.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Red Blazer Girls: The Vanishing Violin by Michael Beil

The Red Blazer Girls: The Vanishing ViolinThe Red Blazer Girls: The Vanishing Violin by Michael D. Beil

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the second book in the Red Blazer Girl series. I listened to the first book and surprisingly enjoyed it (I normally don't like mysteries). I think a lot of it had to do with the reader of the book on cd being very good. So, when book two came out, I thought I'd give it a try.

There's nothing wrong with the story or anything like that; maybe my heart wasn't wholly into listening to another mystery or something...but I found my mind wandering during the story--not so much that I wasn't following the story, but enough where I felt that maybe I shouldn't listen to any more books in this series.

This story involves the same four girls as in the first one; this time they start out trying to find out who is mysteriously cleaning their school after hours, which then turns into a need to discover who stole a violin from the shop where Margaret goes...which is going on while Margaret receives a bow from an unnamed source that leads to the girls needing to solve a whole other set of clues provided by the sender (that would probably be impossible for most adults to solve, but that's beside the point!).

Maybe I got lost in the three big storylines, along with the bunch of new characters that are added to the ones from book one. It was kind of a lot to keep track of! Again, it's not impossible, but I suppose all of this added together soured me a bit on the story (and I want to know how these girls have so much energy--they go from meeting at the coffee shop before school, attending school all day, stopping at someone or other's house, practicing with their band, doing homework, etc., etc. EVERY's simply exhausting to think about! Maybe I'm just jealous).

All in all, girls who enjoyed the first one will undoubtedly enjoy this one. Not only do the girls have mysteries to solve; there are also snotty classmates and boys to handle as well!

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Life-Size Zoo by Teruyuki Komiya

Life-Size Zoo: From Tiny Rodents to Gigantic Elephants, An Actual Size Animal EncyclopediaLife-Size Zoo: From Tiny Rodents to Gigantic Elephants, An Actual Size Animal Encyclopedia by Teruyuki Komiya

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first of the _Life-Size_ books; I received the next one, titled _More Life-Size Zoo_, first...but they don't need to be read in order; after all, it's a nonfiction book!

This book is just as neat as the first one I read: the photographs are big and clear and have a handful of facts about the animal on each picture.

My favorite animals in this book include the red panda and the sloth: interesting animals include the aardvark and the anteater; and the animals that grossed me out were the armadillo and the rhinoceros.

I just found out that there is an aquarium version as well, so I put it on hold.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

More Life-Size Zoo by Teruyuki Komiya

More Life-Size Zoo: An All-New Actual-Size Animal EncyclopediaMore Life-Size Zoo: An All-New Actual-Size Animal Encyclopedia by Teruyuki Komiya

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I found out about this book from one of the journals the library subscribes to. I interlibrary loaned it because the library doesn't own it, and I discovered that I'd really like to add this to the collection!

It is a book of photos of animals one might see at the zoo, which is always cute, but what makes this book special is that all of the pictures are the actual size of the animals! Noteworthy photos include the polar bear and the lion...but my personal favorite is the lion cub and the baby gibbon. (I was kind of grossed out by the hippo and the bison).

Kids will love this book! It's taller than most books, so it'll be a pain to shelve...but hopefully it'll be checked out more than not.

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Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer

Gideon the Cutpurse: Being the First Part of the Gideon Trilogy (Gideon)Gideon the Cutpurse: Being the First Part of the Gideon Trilogy by Linda Buckley-Archer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

_Gideon the Cutpurse_ is the first book in this trilogy. I had wanted to read this story for a while, and I’m glad I finally got around to it! I enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading (or listening to) the second one.

The story begins normal enough—in present-day England—with a young teen named Peter. His parents are very focused on working, so his birthday gets pushed to the side. He ends up having to spend the day with his nanny (?) and accompanies her to her friend’s farm. There, he meets the Dyer family and gets to see the special area where Mr Dyer works on science experiments. During a tour, the family dog gets spooked so Peter and Kate (the oldest daughter and Peter’s age) chase it and suddenly find themselves in a totally different place.

After a while, Peter and Kate learn that they are no longer in the 21st Century; rather, it is 1763! They are at a total loss as to what to do until a kind man named Gideon helps them find “proper” clothing, somewhere to stay, and plan how to locate the man who took the machine they appeared in 1763 with before he sells it.

This is story has likable characters and is told at a good pace. It ends on a cliffhanger, and I’m very interested to see what will happen next! Suggest the Ulysses Moore series to those who enjoyed this.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Boy Who Drew Cats [adpated] by Arthur A Levine

The Boy Who Drew Cats: A Japanese FolktaleThe Boy Who Drew Cats: A Japanese Folktale by Arthur A. Levine

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, I have to say that I didn't enjoy this version of _The Boy Who Drew Cats_ as much as the first one I read by Margaret Hodges.

Because this is an old, old folktale, writers who retell this tale can add as much or as little as s/he likes, I suppose. Having read the Hodges version first, this version by Levine feels bogged down with extra details that the reader doesn't necessarily need. Also, the pictures in the Hodges version are much neater!

All in all, the reader gets the idea of the original folktale in each version; I happen to prefer the Hodges version instead.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee Tucker Frazier

The Other Half of My HeartThe Other Half of My Heart by Sundee T. Frazier

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

11-year old Minni and Keira are twins…but not only are they not identical, Minni is white (she has light skin and red hair) and Keira is black (she has dark skin and dark hair). This difference was able to occur because their mother is black and their father is white. The girls never really gave it that much thought, but Minni begins to notice how some strangers treat Keira differently from her (in school, in stores, etc.), and Minni suspects that it’s because of the color of Keira’s skin.

The girls feel this difference even more when they visit their grandmother and enter a beauty pageant for black girls; the other girls competing tell Minni that she’s not really black because of the color of her skin. On the surface of it all, Minni knows that’s not true, but deep down she becomes confused and wonders if she is white, or black, or…maybe, a mixture of both?

This is a great story about how a girl tries to find herself as she enters adolescence, which is made all the more difficult because her sister’s skin doesn’t match her own. For more books about sisters that readers might also enjoy, try The Sisters Club series (MacDonald).

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Boy Who Drew Cats adapted by Margaret Hodges

The Boy Who Drew CatsThe Boy Who Drew Cats by Margaret Hodges

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I learned about this Japanese folktale from the book Wild Things by Clay Carmichael. This is a story about a Japanese boy who is the youngest boy in his large family. Because he isn’t physically built for farm work like the rest of his family, his parents decide to have him apprentice to the town’s priest so that he might become a priest one day.

However, the boy has an odd desire to draw cats all of the time. When he’s at the temple, he draws cats everywhere—enough to make the priest tell him that he would be better off as an artist—so he gets sent away. Before the boy leaves, the priest tells him to remember to not sleep in big spaces—to only sleep in small spaces. The boy doesn’t understand, but doesn’t ask the priest to clarify.

Rather than go home and shame his family, the boy decides to go to the temple in the next town. When he arrives, it appears as though no one is there. While waiting for someone to arrive so that he could ask to be apprenticed to one of them, he finds some ink and draws cats all over. When it gets late and the boy grows tired, he remembers the priest’s words and decides to sleep in a small cabinet.

During the night, the boy wakes to the awful sounds of screaming and fighting. Terrified, he stays still in his cabinet and doesn’t even peek through the crack until daytime. When finally does, he sees the dead and mutilated body of some sort of huge goblin. The boy wonders who could have killed this evil being until he looks around and sees that all of the mouths of the cats he had drawn are red with blood.

He then understood the priest’s advice…and was able to grow up to be a famous artist!

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Wild Things by Clay Carmichael

Wild ThingsWild Things by Clay Carmichael

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After her mother commits suicide, Zoe’s life completely changes—surprisingly, for the better. She goes to live with her Uncle Henry, a doctor-turned-artist, in his big house in a small town. With Uncle Henry, Zoe doesn’t have to take care of anyone except herself, unlike when she had to live with her mother and her male “friends.”

When not in school, Zoe spends her time trying to earn the trust of a stray cat she names Mr. C-mere, writing in her journal, and cleaning up an abandoned cabin she finds in the woods at the edge of Uncle Henry’s property. She is happy with her life with Uncle Henry and with the friendly adults she meets through him.

This is a good story about a young girl who is definitely a survivor. Some of the story is questionable (like how did she learn to read on her own, or how is she so ‘okay’ with her mother taking her own life?) but the good parts definitely outweigh the questionable parts. Another nice aspect of this story is how Carmichael incorporated the Japanese folktale The Boy Who Drew Cats. This prompted me to want to learn more about that folktale, so I read a version adapted by Margaret Hodges (and put another version on hold at the library). My next review will be about the Hodges version.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Red Blazer Girls: the Ring of Rocamadour by Michael D. Beil

The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of RocamadourThe Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour by Michael D. Beil

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a sweet story that I enjoyed--and I normally can't stand mysteries. It was well-written with very likable characters.

Sophie is a seventh-grader who is close friends with Margaret and Rebecca; they all attend St. Veronica's, a private school in New York City. While sitting in class one day, Sophie thinks she sees a figure in one of the windows of the church across the way in a place she thought was unused. She and her friends check it out and end up meeting a kind, if not odd, old lady who asks them to do her a favor.

The favor involves figuring out the series of clues that the old woman's father left for her daughter nearly 20 years earlier for her birthday, but were never solved. The girls accept the challenge and begin working together to solve each of the clues, which begin with a note and end with a ring!

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How to Clean a Hippopotamus: a Look at Unusual Animal Partnerships by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

How to Clean a Hippopotamus: A Look at Unusual Animal PartnershipsHow to Clean a Hippopotamus: A Look at Unusual Animal Partnerships by Steve Jenkins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a cute book! Not only are the pictures adorable, but the information provided is interesting.

The information is presented in an almost comic book format, which is different for a nonfiction book. We learn about animal symbiosis--how certain wild animals/insects/fish/etc. work together to eat, get clean, hunt, and more.

Only 32 pages, it is a quick read!

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Friday, August 6, 2010

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

The Strange Case of Origami YodaThe Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book is fine, it's just not really what I'd normally read--considering that I've only seen parts of the movie Star Wars 1 (or is it 3 now?). Since little boys these days love Star Wars and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, this book covers both subjects and is sure to be a hit!

The story is about a boy named Tommy who collects his fellow students' experiences while interacting with the weird boy in class's origami puppet of Yoda. Because of this, each chapter is written by a different student--with comments and drawings added by Tommy and his friends.

One would think that Origami Yoda would be something stupid created by the weird kid Dwight, but Origami Yoda isn't at all like Dwight; rather, he seems to be wise and full of good advice! So if Dwight was actually putting words into Origami Yoda's "mouth", wouldn't everything it said be stupid and weird? This is the dilemma the kids in Tommy's class face.

Recommend this to any reader who likes the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series OR Star Wars movies.

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The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Mysterious Benedict SocietyThe Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a good book! I liked the four characters very much. We first meet Reynie at the orphanage where he's lived ever since his parents passed away when he was a baby. Having only one (sort of) friend--who's actually his tutor--he feels quite alone. Everything changes the day he sees an ad in the paper asking for gifted children to come take a test to see if they would qualify for a special 'opportunity.' Having nothing to lose, Reynie decides to take the test.

Reynie and 3 other children (Sticky, Kate, and Caroline) qualify for the special opportunity, which requires them to infiltrate, more or less, a special school to see what the headmaster is up to. If any of this group, self-named The Mysterious Benedict Society, wants to quit at any time, s/he is welcome. No one quits, so they head off to the school to see what they can find out.

This is an entertaining story that will keep the reader on the edge of his/her seat at certain points. This book is the first in the series, followed by The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, then The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma.

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Eva by Peter Dickinson

EvaEva by Peter Dickinson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This futuristic story is about an adolescent girl whose brain is put into a chimp's body in order to save her life after an accident destroys her own. This happens because her father works for a company that studies chimps, so she becomes part of the company's research.

I would have thought Eva would be more angry about having to live as a chimp for the rest of her life, but she seems to take it well--I think this is because she had spent a lot of time with her father and the chimps he studied. In fact, she knew the chimp whose body she now inhabits. She is able to communicate orally using a specialized keyboard that gives a voice to her words.

It was interesting to witness the changes that Eva goes through as her mind comes to terms with having lived as a human for over a decade, but then having to live as a chimp. At first Eva spends more time in the human world--she lives at home with her parents and she even attends school. But, as time passes, it appears as though she feels more of a connection with the chimps being studied.

I liked this book; I listened to the audio version of it, and I have to admit that it was entertaining listening to the reader make chimp grunting noises.

I'd recommend this book to readers who enjoy futuristic stories, human/animal relations stories, or simply like stories about the strange and bizzare.

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Monday, July 5, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games (Hunger Games, #1) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In this future society, there is no more United States; instead, Panem is divided into twelve districts, each of which must hold a drawing once a year to see which boy and girl will compete in that year’s Hunger Games. The Hunger Games were designed to remind the people of Panem that the Capitol has complete say over what goes on everywhere and that fighting back is futile. So this is why, every year, 24 adolescent participants kill each other off in a Capitol-made arena until there is one participant left—the winner.

Katniss’s name is drawn as that year’s female participant, while a boy she hardly knows named Peeta is drawn as that year’s male participant. Before she can truly grasp what has happened, she is saying goodbye to her mother, sister, and best friend, then being whisked away on train headed to the Capitol, where they provide her and Peeta with all the luxuries one could ask for before being left to fight for her life in the arena.

This is an excellent book that had me hooked from the beginning. The Hunger Games is the first book in The Hunger Games Trilogy. I can’t wait to find out what happens to Katniss and Peeta as they move forward from the terrifying experience of the Hunger Games. For those who enjoyed reading about the fight for survival in a futuristic society, give the Exodus trilogy (Bertagna) a try.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman

Alchemy and Meggy Swann Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
When Meggy’s mother unexpectedly sends her to live with her father, a man she’s never even met, Meggy accepts this without much hesitation because her mother has never loved her. Her father wants an apprentice in his alchemy lab, although he decides that he does not, in fact, want her to assist him once he sees that: 1) she’s a girl, and 2) she needs sticks to help her walk.

Having lived in a small town up until now, Meggy immediately hates London; it’s too loud, crowded, and confusing to her. She relies on her bitterness about her disability to help her get through each day. However, once she’s there awhile, she gets used to the city and begins making friends...and becomes less bitter. And when she learns about her father’s involvement in a sinister plot, she does all she can to protect him—although he barely acknowledges her existence.

This story is interesting because it follows the life of a sort of girl not typically written about in historic London—she’s not a princess (or rich) and she has a disability. Readers might also enjoy Avi’s The Book without Words: a Tale of Medieval Magic—another book about girls in long-ago England dealing with alchemy.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Pop by Gordon Korman

POP POP by Gordon Korman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Marcus isn’t sure about liking his new town, but he is sure about wanting to get onto his new school’s football team. This isn’t easy—the existing team is a tightly knit group that isn’t too wild about mixing everything up by adding a new guy.

When Marcus isn’t training on the football field, he is training at a nearby park—albeit by himself. When someone his father’s age shows up one day and starts helping him train, Marcus is skeptical at first, but quickly realizes that this guy knows his stuff. There’s something off about him, though: he never calls Marcus by his real name, he is consistently distracted, and he tends to forget (or ignore) practice times they set up together. What is the deal with this guy?

I enjoyed this book; Marcus is a likable character with a kind heart who doesn’t mean to get into trouble—trouble seems to find him. Readers who enjoyed this football story might also enjoy Football Hero (Green) or The Million Dollar Throw (Lupica).

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