Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Fast and the Furriest by Andy Behrens

The Fast and the Furriest The Fast and the Furriest by Andy Behrens

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
12-year-old Kevin feels like  he has a lot to live up to: his father is a famous former Bears player and his younger sister is a super soccer player.  Kevin, on the other hand, isn’t good at sports at all. Needless to say, his father is not pleased with him.

Kevin prefers staying in the basement with his video games and his lazy dog Cromwell.  While flipping through channels on the tv one day, Kevin comes across a dog agility competition.  He was about to change the channel when he notices Cromwell’s  reaction to the show; he appears excited!  Kevin is shocked by Cromwell’s behavior after this; Cromwell now seems to want to run around and jump through the tire swing in the backyard.  Kevin’s best friend Jack suggests that they find an agility class for them to join as an outlet for Cromwell’s energy.  Kevin is skeptical, but he goes along with the idea (despite the fact that his dad is adamant that dog agility is not a real sport).

This is a great book!  Kevin is a very likable character with funny responses to those who try to make fun of him for being so bad at sports.  Cromwell is entertaining, too.  Readers who enjoyed this book might also enjoy The Problem with the Puddles (Feiffer) and Dog Lost (Lee).

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The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The year is 1899 and 12-year-old Calpurnia (Callie) is trying to survive being the only girl among 3 older brothers and 3 younger brothers.  Her love of nature and questions about living things in general makes her curious to see Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species.  After an unsuccessful attempt to find it at the city library, she comes to find that her grandfather has his very own copy in his library!  Quite unexpectedly, they become partners of sorts—they collect various specimens to study together and keep Callie’s science notebook updated with all of their finds.

Spending time with her grandfather doing scientific things is a bright point in Callie’s life; spending time with her mother learning how to cook and sew is a dark point.  Callie doesn’t have an interest in these pursuits at all, but this is what women do in a home once they grow up and have a family.  How is Callie supposed to find happiness running a home when all she wants to do is run outside?

I really enjoyed this book.  Callie is a likable character who readers will be sure to empathize with.  The relationship she shares with her oldest brother and her grandfather warms the heart.  Suggest this to female readers looking for a good historical fiction story.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

Odd and the Frost Giants Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Odd is a boy who lives in an old Viking village quite contentedly until his father passes away and his mother remarries.  After times passes with his mother’s new husband and all of his awful children, Odd decides to leave his village for a hut in the wilderness that used to belong to his father.

While out for a stroll one morning, he first meets a fox outside the door who appears to want to tag along with him.  He next encounters across a bear with its paw stuck in a tree; he helps the bear, and the bear returns the favor by letting Odd ride on his back on the return trip to the hut.  On the way back, Odd sees an eagle following them.  When they all arrive at the hut, Odd invites them in for something to eat, then lets them stay for a rest.  Hours later, Odd wakes to hear the three animals talking to one another.  After much probing, he learns that they aren’t really animals; they are in fact the gods Loki, Thor, and Odin—they were tricked by a Frost Giant and then changed into animals.  Odd is determined to help these strange creatures return to their true forms and to put a stop to the endless winter the world has been suffering at the hands of these Frost Giants.

This is an interesting story full of magic.  Odd is a likable character—he is kind, gentle, and not at all how one would picture a Viking, but these traits are what help him face the evil Frost Giants.  Recommend  this to fans of mythology and fantasy.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Life with the Lincolns by Gayle Brandeis

My Life with the Lincolns My Life with the Lincolns by Gayle Brandeis

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
In the year 1966 in Downers Grove, Illinois, Mina is convinced that she and her family are the Lincoln family members reincarnated; her father’s initials even spell ABE!  She believes, almost to the point of obsession, that she is Lincoln’s reincarnated son Willie, that her mother is Lincoln’s wife, and that her siblings are Lincoln’s other sons.  When her father’s interest in the Civil Rights movement grows and he starts attending meetings in Chicago (and sometimes he brings her along), Mina is sure that this is his Lincoln spirit shining through.

Although Mina is proud of her father for becoming so involved in social justice, she is terrified that his fate will be that of Abe Lincoln’s—that he’ll die if she doesn’t watch out for him.  As if this wasn’t bad enough, Mina’s mother grows suspicious of her father’s activities with others in the Movement, and people in the neighborhood who don’t believe in social justice are rude to her family.  Will things ever change?

This is a good story written for many reasons, the biggest of which is that it takes place in Downers Grove!  It was so neat reading about The Avery Coonley School and Busy Bee Bakery; about how Mina and her family would walk down Main Street together.  Although Mina is a hypochondriac who believes her family members house the souls of the Lincoln Family, she’s a very likable character who manages to figure many things out by the end of the story.  Recommend Pat Murphy’s The Wild Girls to those who enjoyed this book.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

How to Train Your Dragon (Hiccup) How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Hiccup and his fellow warriors-in-training must capture a sleeping baby dragon as part of the process of becoming true vikings.  After successfully capturing one, the boys have a limited amount of time to train it to obey their commands.  Hiccup does manage to catch a dragon—although he finds that the one he has is the smallest of all the dragons caught!  To make things worse, his dragon is completely toothless!—which leads Hiccup to name him Toothless.

Toothless won’t follow any of the commands Hiccup gives him.  Hiccup even seeks out a book written specifically for dragon training, but the only advice it provides is: “Yell at it.”  When a huge water dragon emerges from the bottom of the sea, Hiccup and the boys must get their dragons to obey them so that they can rid themselves of the huge, evil dragon once and for all.

This is a funny book that boys especially will enjoy; the characters’ and dragons’ funny names will make readers laugh, along with the woefully un-vikinglike Hiccup.  This is the first book in the Heroic Misadventures of Hiccup the Viking.

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