There's a lot going on thematically -almost too much at times- but the survival/adventure aspect keeps it from getting overwhelming. Jack is realistically flawed and complex, and Early is a great character. The happy ending is a bit much, and I couldn't buy into the premise of Pi ending (by the 1900s, several proofs had shown it was irrational and therefore endless, and numbers disappearing wouldn't have changed that...), but that's me nitpicking.
Good for younger teens who like Hatchet, WWII historific, or who are up for something unique.(less)
The story is The Usual Suspects starring dinosaurs, aliens, and vampires wumpires instead of hardened criminals, and the art is what it would look lik...moreThe story is The Usual Suspects starring dinosaurs, aliens, and vampires wumpires instead of hardened criminals, and the art is what it would look like if Dr. Seuss and Tim Burton had a baby. A quick, funny read that would work well as a read aloud.(less)
After being sent away from Nazi-occupied Austria to live with foster parents on a small island in Sweden, 13-year-old Stephie wins a scholarship to a...moreAfter being sent away from Nazi-occupied Austria to live with foster parents on a small island in Sweden, 13-year-old Stephie wins a scholarship to a grammar school in a nearby Swedish city, and has to leave her foster parents behind.
When she moves in with the family she will be staying with, she quickly finds that although Mr. and Mrs. Soderberg will provide her with food and a room, they do not consider her to be part of the family. Their 17-year-old son Sven is a different matter though, and spends a lot of his time talking to and spending time with Stephie. Will Stephie be able to succeed in school and fit in in the city, and what will she do about her growing feelings for Sven?
This book was originally written in Swedish, and there are a few odd things about the translation, including the present tense narration, but other than that, the writing is fine. There's so much WWII lit out there that a book really needs to be special to stand out for me, and this one didn't manage it. It's perfectly decent historical fiction, but it's not very deep or unique. Younger teens and tweens might like it, especially if they loved the first book in this quartet or Diary of a Young Girl.(less)
Cute graphic novel about a cat who thinks it's his duty as a space cat to protect his humans from "aliens". Good for kids or tweens who want a silly,...moreCute graphic novel about a cat who thinks it's his duty as a space cat to protect his humans from "aliens". Good for kids or tweens who want a silly, quick read.(less)
3.5 10-year-old Jamie doesn't remember anything about his sister Rose except that Muslims killed her. And that's why his father drinks all day and why...more3.5 10-year-old Jamie doesn't remember anything about his sister Rose except that Muslims killed her. And that's why his father drinks all day and why his mother went away with the man from the support group. When he starts a new school, the only person that will talk to him is Sunya, a muslim girl. She doesn't seem like the kind of person that would kill someone, but Jamie knows his dad wouldn't approve...
Great look at how parental prejudice can influence children, how grief can tear apart a family, and the power of small kindnesses. Good for young teens.(less)
Boy with electrical powers has a crush on cheerleader who also happens to have electrical powers. Evil corporation kidnaps boy's mom and cheerleader....moreBoy with electrical powers has a crush on cheerleader who also happens to have electrical powers. Evil corporation kidnaps boy's mom and cheerleader. Action ensues.
I don't know why this is considered a teen book, unless Evans thinks teens are complete morons. Not only do the characters act much younger than their stated ages, but the entire book is over-explained and unsubtle, because apparently the author has no faith in his audience being able to understand things unless they are explicitly spelled out. Newsflash, Evans: "show, don't tell" applies to teen fiction too.
Even leaving that aside, this is just not a great book. The characters and situations are almost comically stereotypical and cliche (bully is mean because he has a hard life! goth girl is outcast who likes to hurt people! smart kid is fat and nerdy! I could go on...) and the situations are ridiculously contrived and convenient - almost insultingly so. There's also a ton of extraneous detail (why was it important to tell the reader that the narrator wanted macaroni and cheese but wasn't sure he had the ingredients, but then it turned out he did have the ingredients, so he made macaroni and cheese? does the reader really need to know which direction the characters turned on Rodeo Drive and a list of the stores they walked past? hint: no, the reader does not.)
So why 2 stars instead of 1? Because I read an interview with the author saying he tries to write for non-readers, and on that level, he succeeds. Many of the things that make this a crappy choice for a discriminating reader make it a good choice for a reluctant reader. I think tween guys and girls who like action or sci fi movies, but who aren't big readers would enjoy this one.(less)
Auggie Pullman was homeschooled his whole life, but the summer before fifth grade, his parents drop a bombshell: from now on, he's going to be attendi...moreAuggie Pullman was homeschooled his whole life, but the summer before fifth grade, his parents drop a bombshell: from now on, he's going to be attending Beecher Prep - a real school filled with real students. That would be scary news for any kid, but it's especially terrifying for Auggie, who has what doctors call 'cranio-facial anomalies', or what jerks call 'a seriously deformed face'. Will someone so visibly different be able to survive middle school?
Well written, with likable characters and some funny moments. Although some lousy and sad things happen, there's still a positive vibe that runs through the book, and the focus on kindness is a good thing for kids to see. Good for tween guys and girls, and anyone who wants to get inside the head of someone 'different'. (less)
The boy everyone called "Asta's Son" lived with his outcast mother in a poor English village during the middle ages. For thirteen years, his life cons...moreThe boy everyone called "Asta's Son" lived with his outcast mother in a poor English village during the middle ages. For thirteen years, his life consisted of little more than praying, going to church, and trying not to starve, but when he is accused of a crime he didn't commit and forced to flee from his town, he quickly learns there is much more to the world than he ever dreamed...
I didn't love this, and am surprised it won the Newbery Award. The details were good, but authors like Tamora Pierce include comparable details in a less dry manner. The constant religious talk might make it hard to use in public schools, while Bear's skepticism about Christianity would make it hard to use in Christian schools. There were other things that I found strange - for example, early in the book, Crispin freaks out upon seeing a dead body, but later, he participates in a murder and literally walks away laughing and playing the flute - but in general, it just felt very shallow, even for a children's book. I'm looking forward to discussing this one in my book group to see what I missed...
Good choice for tween boys who want historific.(less)
13-year-old Capricorn Anderson has spent his whole life as one of two members of the Garland Farm commune. The only other person he knows is his gr...more3.5
13-year-old Capricorn Anderson has spent his whole life as one of two members of the Garland Farm commune. The only other person he knows is his grandmother, Rain, who created the commune back in the '60s as a place apart from the cynicism and materialism of the outside world.
When Rain falls out of tree and injures her leg, Cap is sent to stay with a foster family during her 8-week rehabilitation. Since Rain is no longer able to homeschool him, Cap is also enrolled in the local public middle school.
Of course, the students take one look at Cap's long hair and tye-dyed clothes and decide that since he's the biggest freak in the universe, he'd make the perfect 8th grade president...
Basically a less cloying male version of Stargirl. The multiple POVs keep things somewhat shallow, but it's still an enjoyable read about being true to yourself. Middle school guys seem to like this one.(less)
Rissa Bartholomew is about to enter 6th grade, and she's decided it's time to declare her independence. She does't want to be like all the other girls...moreRissa Bartholomew is about to enter 6th grade, and she's decided it's time to declare her independence. She does't want to be like all the other girls who dress the same, get the same haircuts, and talk endlessly about boys. Of course, becoming your own person isn't the easiest thing in the world... In fact, sometimes it can be downright lonely. Will Rissa be able to stick to her guns and remain unique and independent, or will she give up and re-join the herd?
This book has a good message, but it is pretty young & not very deep. The writing is fine, but some of Rissa's quirks are a little much (naming and talking to her gnomes?), and I feel a little grossed out by the friendship between Mrs. White and Rissa's mom. Despite that, this would be a good choice for late-blooming girls, tomboys, misfits, and girls who prize independence. It's like Into the Wild Nerd Yonder's little sister.(less)
I'm a fan of Emily Martin's art, so when I heard she had written a children's book telling the story behind some of her characters, I was pretty excit...moreI'm a fan of Emily Martin's art, so when I heard she had written a children's book telling the story behind some of her characters, I was pretty excited.
I read an arc of the book, so it only had rough pencil sketches of the art instead of the B&W illustrations that will be in the final edition. Unfortunately, the story felt like a rough pencil sketch too.
Essentially, students at a suspiciously Hogwartsian orphanage have some mildly amusing adventures and then everyone is happy because although they're not actually related, the orphans and orphanage staff are still a big, wonderful, lovely family! Tra-la-la, sunshine and butterflies, our parents are dead, but we have rabbit-shaped pancakes, so isn't life just marvelous?, etc. It's like a really long Etsy description that's aiming for enchanting whimsy, but ends up just seeming saccharine and vapid. Unless some heavy-duty editing goes on before publication, Oddfellow's Orphanage is just a bunch of pretty pictures in search of a story. Ten bucks says 20-something hipster girls who prize style over substance will be beating down the doors at Urban Outfitters to get their hands on a copy.
Side note: the decision not to print the illustrations in color is baffling. I don't think Martin's style works nearly as well in black and white.(less)
Hmm... I liked Franny's story and found the vintage scrapbook sections and descriptions of American life during the 1960s very interesting, but for so...moreHmm... I liked Franny's story and found the vintage scrapbook sections and descriptions of American life during the 1960s very interesting, but for some reason I just didn't love this book. It seems like I'm definitely in the minority here, so maybe it's just because middle grade fiction isn't my thing.
Good for tween/young teen girls who like historical fiction, and kids who are doing school reports on the early '60s.(less)