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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Friday, June 11, 2010

Falling In by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Falling In Falling In by Frances O'Roark Dowell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Isabelle has always felt as though she doesn’t belong; she knows that other kids think that she’s strange. For this reason, she is not too upset when one day she opens a door in the nurse’s office and inexplicably falls into another world.

The world Isabelle falls into appears to have a witch; the children she meets are hiding in the woods to avoid being eaten by her. Isabelle thinks that the witch sounds interesting, so she heads in the opposite direction of the children to find her. On the way, Isabelle meets a girl named Hen who has gotten separated from her siblings. They soon come upon an elderly healer named Grete, who sees that they need help and invites them to stay with her. Isabelle is happy where she is and has no desire to return to her normal life—plus, how would she even get back?

I liked this story; Isabelle is a great narrator and a sympathetic character. I didn’t think she was “strange” or “weird”—rather, I think the other kids at her school were the uninteresting ones! For those who enjoyed this book, recommend Now You See It— (Vande Velde) or The Great Good Thing (Townley), as both of these have regular girls being thrust into new worlds unexpectedly.

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Monday, June 7, 2010

My (not-so-successful) 48-hour Reading Challenge Results

I tried to do as much reading and listening to books as possible for the challenge, but I didn't measure up very well next to others competing in this challenge. I broke down my reading time into what I read and when, but it's not very impressive. I suppose that it's okay for someone who had places to be for many of the 48 hours!

--Friday morning: 7:30-8:30--Read the [adult] book _House Rules_ by Jodi Picoult
--Friday morning during errands: 9:30-10:00--continued listening to _The Giant-Slayer_ by Iain Lawrence
--Friday afternoon during errands: 10:30-11:00; 12:00-1:00--continued listening to _The Giant-Slayer_ by Iain Lawrence
--1:15-3:15--continued listening to _The Giant-Slayer_ by Iain Lawrence
--Then, after all of my errands, I was cranky and didn't feel like doing anything but taking a nap! That's not very good for I lost a lot of time that way. After I woke up, I only read for another hour or so: 6:00-7:00--continued reading _House Rules_ by Jodi Picoult

Friday's total=6 hours

--Then, on Saturday, I had to work all day! On my long commute to work: 8:00-9:00--I finally finished _The Giant-Slayer_ by Iain Lawrence and then started right in on _Falling In_ by Frances O'Roark Dowell. (If I was already listening to an audio book and then I started another one, does that bypass the rule that I can only listen to one? I hope it does.)
--I tried to read while on the service desk, but that is much easier said than done; I kept getting interrupted or distracted by things going on in the department. I began _Redwall_ by Brian Jacques around 10:30 and only managed to read the first 10 chapters by 4:30. When I add all of the starting and stopping that took place throughout the day, I'd say that I only read maybe an hour and a half, total. Reading FAILURE!
--Breaktime at work: 12:15-1:00--I read a WWE magazine.
--On an errand and then to my parents' house: 5:15-6:30--I continued listening to _Falling In_ by Frances O'Roark Dowell.
--On the way home from my parents' house: 12:30-1:15--I continued listening to _Falling In_ by Frances O'Roark Dowell.

Saturday's total=5.25 hours

48-hour reading challenge total= 11.25 hours's something to beat next year! Maybe I won't have errands for most of the day one day and have to work most of the day for the second day. Sigh.

The Giant-Slayer by Iain Lawrence

The Giant-Slayer The Giant-Slayer by Iain Lawrence

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
It’s 1955 and everyone fears polio, a horrible disease that affects nerves and can lead to full or partial paralysis; a vaccine against it doesn’t yet exist. Laurie’s close friend and neighbor Dickie is suddenly struck with polio and must be hospitalized because he needs a ventilator (iron lung) to help him breathe. Laurie’s father forbids her to visit him because he’s afraid that she, too, will catch polio, but she visits him anyway. There, she meets another boy named Chip and an older girl named Carolyn, both of whom are also in iron lungs.

To help pass the time for them, she starts telling a story and adds to it each time she visits. Eventually, the three of them begin to see parts of themselves in Laurie’s characters and become very attached to them. Through the story, Laurie provides her ailing friends with a little hope—something they haven’t felt for a long time.

This is a very good book—it is titled The Giant-Slayer because Jimmy, the main character in Laurie’s story, is destined to slay a giant even though he is so small. The chapters alternate between Laurie’s realistic experience and the story she tells to the other kids. Recommend this to those who enjoy a bit of fantasy in a realistic story, much like the book No Castles Here (Bauer).

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Great Reading Challenge!

The great reading challenge is going on now. I've been trying my best to read & listen to books as much as life will allow me. Yesterday consisted of a lot of errand-running (so I listened to an audio book in the car) and I read the adult book I have at home because I forgot the children's book at work that I was planning on reading. So, here's where I stand so far:

[Adult] Book: _House Rules_ by Jodi Picoult -still reading
Audio Book: _The Giant-Slayer_ by Iain Lawrence -finished
Audio Book: _Falling In_ by Frances O'Roark Dowell -still listening
Book: _Redwall_ by Brian Jacques -still reading

Not that great, but there are hours to go! I'll check in later.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse

The Music of Dolphins The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Told in journal format, this is a story about a teenage girl who is found in the ocean off the coast of Cuba by the Coast Guard. They name her Mila (Spanish for ‘miracle’) and discover that she has been living with dolphins for most of her life. She is placed into a special hospital/school where she can learn how communicate and behave like a human.

Mila’s progress is clearly documented in her journal entries; her entries start off very short with little vocabulary, then grow longer as she learns more. She likes her doctors/therapists very much and is happy where she is…but she also desperately misses the ocean and her dolphin family. At times she feels trapped living in the special house; she is always under someone’s supervision and unable to live freely, the way she did in the ocean. She has learned so much about humans, but will she ever really feel like she fits in?

This was a very interesting story. I think it’s remarkable that someone who lived wildly for so many years, not clearly remembering being around other humans, would be able to progress so rapidly with her speech and human behaviors. Readers who enjoyed this book about a wild child might also enjoy the classic The Jungle Book (Kipling) or Passager (Yolen).

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Small Steps: the Year I Got Polio by Peg Kehret

Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio by Peg Kehret

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I'm currently listening to an audio book called The Giant Slayer (Lawrence) and it's about a girl whose friend is in the hospital being treated for polio in the mid-1950s. This made me interested to learn more about polio and how others who had it were treated.

In the children's department at my library, I found that children's author Peg Kehret (Terror at the Zoo, Danger at the Fair) had polio and that she wrote a book about her experience geared toward younger readers.

I really enjoyed this book; it was a quick read, as she tells her tale like a fictional story. She includes some pictures, too.

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